Karl Marx

Karl Marx

Karl Marx (1818-1883) is often named as one of the two great­est intellectual innovators of the 19th century, the other being Charles Darwin. He helped to rede­fine the fields of sociology, history, economics, and anthropology. Much of what followed in these disciplines is a response to the theories he outlined in his writings. Known as the father of Marxism, a revolutionary socialist movement worldwide, he also strongly influenced and in part defined such topics as social stratification, histori­cal sociology, materialist anthropology, cultural ecology, social history, and social economics, just to name a few areas. For example, sociologists since Marx have tried to disprove, defend, or reform his theories. Few can ignore the writings of either Marx or his followers.

Karl Marx was born in the German Rhineland city of Trier on May 5, 1818. Both his mother and father were Jewish by birth. However his father, who was well read in the humanist writings of the Enlightenment, converted to the Lutheran faith to secure employment opportunities at a time when many occupations were closed to Jews. Marx’s mother and the rest of his family converted later. Having been born into a Jewish family and raised as a Protestant in a Catholic city helped mold the character of young Karl.

At age 17, Marx enrolled in law school at the University of Bonn. At Bonn he became engaged to Jenny Von Westphalen, the daughter of a baron who was also a professor at the Friedrich-Wilhelms University in Berlin. The next year, Marx transferred to the University of Berlin. There he became inter­ested in philosophy. He associated with the Young Hegelian movement, which was a radical humanist movement. Because a university career was closed to all Young Hegelians, Marx took up journalism as editor of the radical journal Rheinische Zeitung. This would eventually result in Marx’s exile to Paris.

In Paris, Marx made contact with the French socialists. As a result of pressure brought to bear by the Prussian government, who feared the anti­Prussian underground in France, Marx was labeled a radical and an undesirable foreigner and was forced by the authorities to leave Paris; he moved to Brussels, where he lived for three years. There Marx dedicated his time to an intensive study of history and expanded the materialist conception of history. He developed what later would become known as historical materialism. In 1848, Marx moved back to Paris in support of the revolutions in France and Germany. In 1849, he moved to Britain, where he died in 1883. Marx developed his methodology of historical materialism in the early years, and it served as a model for his later work in political economy. It is important to ana­lyze the evolution of his life from the days when he was influenced by the Young Hegelians until he wrote German Ideology in 1847 as he moved from philosophy to historical sociology.

Marx the Scholar

According to Irving Zetlin, Karl Marx is credited with establishing sociology as a discipline. Since then, sociology has been defined by a debate with the ghost of Marx. Karl Marx was a true heir of the Enlightenment. Marx’s sociology was histori­cal, materialist, and dialectical, and it was part of a social, political, and economic revolution. In his early years, Marx was interested in philosophy, encouraged by his association with the Young Hegelians. These philosophers wore their radical atheism as a public badge of honor. Particularly influential in the life of young Marx was Ludwig Feuerbach. Feuerbach taught that God is a human creation in which human characteristics, requests, requirements, and promise are projected onto an entity that is creative fiction. We then worship that entity as if it were real. He believed that ideas actually come to pass from the lives of real peo­ple. Therefore, only when people come to realize this can they end their alienation and restore their species-being. This is our shared common human­ity. From this, Marx arrived at the idea that we would need to look at how real people live in their environments in order to study properly the content of their cultural ideas, ideology, and religion. Political beliefs, values, ways of life, and religious convictions all develop and change within human communities. These communities are embedded in an ever-changing environment. The environment is rooted in a constantly evolv­ing set of conditions.

In the following sections, the principles Karl Marx espoused are briefly outlined.

Early Marx

Following is a summary of the young Karl Marx’s views on democracy, power, the state, religion, bureaucracy, and law. According to Marx, democ­racy makes the assumption that all people are equal, even if they are not. The nature of any state is the specific historical circumstances that reflect particular social relations. The state is the design of unequal amounts of power that competing groups use to control the administrative system of political institutions.

Power, within the politics of a state society, often appears to operate independently of individ­uals within that society. In point of fact, groups compete with vastly different amounts of political power. Power cannot exist as a force independent of individuals within these competing groups. Economic classes and social groups compete over control of resources that are necessary for wealth and power. The state appears to operate externally to and autonomous of these struggles. This is a hallucination. The state is constantly changing, reflecting changes in these power struggles. While the political appears to be the cause of these changes, it is more like the effect. The state as a neutral arbiter of these conflicts is reflective of power, wealth, and class interests. Not all classes, families, or individuals are equal in their influence on the state. Being a neutral arbiter is an illusion.

Social interaction between real people, like families and the surrounding community, can be observed empirically. This includes how people provide for their material needs collectively in that community through working together. This is called interaction in civil society. Civil society is an abstraction that reflects authentic social relation­ships. Civil society is the private satisfaction of personal desires in a social setting. The state reflects the public expression of power; it is also an abstraction that illustrates genuine social relation­ships. The state is the public manifestation of the private yearnings expressed in civil society; it is made up of real individuals interacting and com­peting for political power. These human beings relate mutually to nature and each other through work, forming groups to cooperate in meeting their real physical and social needs. The state is the public expression of this, and civil society is the private expression.

Because ideology is used to justify one group’s control over economic resources necessary for political power, it is usually declared that the dominant group represents all of society, including the powerless.

The state, according to Marx, cannot be sepa­rated from real individuals. There are real people doing what they must to survive. In order to live, people need access to economic resources. Each group competes for power with unequal political resources. Sovereignty is understood as the abstract reflection of who has more real power. This abstrac­tion is often confused by the fact that appearances mask reality. Sovereignty appears as that which gives people power. Individuals define their citizen­ship within this struggle for sovereignty. However, with control over basic resources, political freedom masks real oppression and exploitation.

Humans are human only in a social context. The “social” is made up of definite individuals. The individual is a social product. The state and civil society are interconnected abstractions, and the separation of the two is an intellectual tool that makes the science of society possible. The govern­ment (state) only appears as outside of and above individuals of civil society. The monarch is a real person who abstractly stands for the state. The state is an abstraction of power used to coerce the people. The monarch uses real power sup­ported by other individuals, the military and police, to enforce his will. Others who work for the monarch use implements of coercion to force people to obey the will of the monarch. This threat of violence is reinforced by ideology, doctrine, and religion. The monarch is the personification of the sovereignty of power. People are excluded from the use of power. The monarch represents the unity of the people, a people without power.

Sovereignty of the people is a concept that stands opposed to the sovereignty of the monarch. The monarch speaks for God and not the people. In a republic or democracy, the government is the imagination of an abstraction called the people.

Instead of sovereignty defining citizenship, it is the belief of the citizen that gives sovereignty its perceived reality. Each type of government reflects real power relationships between groups of indi­viduals. Thus, each government defines sovereignty to meet the interests of the more powerful group. The military, the courts, the church, and the media define what most people believe to be real about sovereignty. Political consciousness and political culture are learned in institutions that are largely controlled by the power elite. These learned expla­nations justify and hide real power in society. In order to operate more smoothly, the established power relations are often falsely represented as being in everyone’s best interest. Alternative views are learned, in opposition to the established politi­cal culture. Each form of government is part of a cultural completeness, which everyone is taught to see as true. Imperial democracy is no contradic­tion. These abstractions reflect the interests of those who control the political resources of the state. Political constitutions operate on faith. A republican body of laws reflects the development and evolution of commerce and private property. Government based on a constitution is a bourgeois artifact. During the Middle Ages, property, econ­omy, and society were embedded in the political structure. In capitalist society, the separation of the economic from the political is possible because of political action and reflects the interests of the eco­nomically powerful.

Religion in a monarchy is the foundation of the political constitution. A republic or democracy uses the private lives of its citizens as its justifica­tion. Private property and commerce are the mate­rial groundwork for the republic. In a monarchy, private property and commerce are political gifts of the sovereignty.

Bureaucracy is the practical structure of the state. It is the social relationship in which the abstract state becomes real. There are hierarchies of power that used specialized knowledge as their justification. The imaginary state functions through a real bureaucracy.

Bureaucracies specialize in carrying out the mundane details of the state. Formal goals are translated into action, coming into conflict with real goals. Specialization creates a hierarchy of knowledge. The upper echelons of the hierarchy are in charge. The lower levels carry out the mun­dane details. The bureaucracy operates outside of government and is a real part of the state. In carrying out the law, the law is changed. This is a daily process, continually causing the constitution to become obsolete; therefore, it must be updated when the discrepancy becomes too great.

The law exists only in people’s imagination. The law becomes real because people, including people who enforce the law, believe it to be real and behave accordingly. Laws must first be interpreted, and the interpretation is constantly subject to change. When people in power replace old laws with new ones, change is amenable. Individuals must inevitably give up their interpretations and accept the official one.

The private realm in a republic is established through economic inequality. In public, the political lives of the citizens appear to be equal. Inequality requires the illusion of equality to make it seem acceptable. Freedom is established through a lack of freedom. This means that persons are free to work for anyone who will hire them. If they do not work for someone and accept that individual’s authority, they die. The republic has freed them from the feuDalí lord only to enslave them to the owners of business.

Marx: Jews in a Christian State

In Marx’s view, the Christian state oppresses everyone. The issue of emancipation of the Jew requires the emancipation of the Christian at the same time. The Jew is a Jew because he says no to Christ. The Christian cannot free the Jew and still be a Christian. The Christian state, because it rep­resents Christianity on some level, must exclude Jews from being treated as fully equal. Religious constraints undermine political emancipation. The official recognition of one established faith as being more important than others oppresses every­one. People must insist on the complete separation of church and state. The legal abolition of any established religious privilege is a prerequisite for popular sovereignty or democracy. Religion must remain a private decision. If one chooses to have no religion, that decision must be protected. Not any one religion should be necessary for political power.

Freedom from religion and freedom of religion are two sides of the same struggle. The ultimate religious freedom is when the state recognizes no religion as superseding any other. Only when reli­gion is recognized as a private decision, and only when one is free not to believe in any kind of higher power, is there freedom of religion for all.

The state must become secular. Humanism is a belief in all religion as superstition. Humanists believe than humans can be ethically decent and richly fulfilled without a higher power. Because secular humanists do not believe in a god, their religious freedom is the test case. If they are free to not believe, all others are free to worship in their own way. Religion becomes a private decision and is kept out of the public discourse over policy. In a secular state, people become the universal abstrac­tion, replacing God as the political explanation of the state. The secular state then unites the believer and nonbeliever. The public realm protects the private realm, allowing for a great deal of diversity in society.

There cannot be much freedom of diversity in a Christian state. Religion limits choices. The state remains incomplete, because it continues to exist only by being attached to religion. Faith supple­ments coercion. In a democracy, the paramount hypothetical excuse for the state is “the people” and not “God.” It is necessary for a democratic state to stay away from any religious commitment to God, or the philosophy of democracy is com­promised. Religious accountability must remain independent of the commonly shared political cul­ture of a nation. The foundation of democracy is the secular state. A Christian state, an Islamic state, or a Jewish state cannot be democratic.

Human rights struggles are historically a contest against tradition. Traditional religions are the heri­tage of the chosen. Even if a Christian state guaran­tees religious freedom, it still favors Christians over Jews. The confinement of privilege divides. Equal rights to diverse opinions in a matter of faith can exist only in a secular community. The state pro­tects the religious rights of all by restraining the religious power of the favored group.

Liberal democracy requires egoism, individual­ism, private property, and freedom of expression in matters of faith. The liberal will claim that the rights of one individual are limited only when they threaten to injure the rights of someone else. This assumes equality, yet because of private property the society is founded upon enormous inequalities. Freedom of egoistic individualism was the result of political revolution. The civil society of religion was replaced by a secular egoistic civil society.

When the individual Christian is no longer Christian, individualism replaces the Christian community. The commitment to “other” as the basis of the Christian community is replaced by the selfish crusade of greed. The new state protects the individual citizen who is atomized in his greedy quest for power and material things.

Beyond Capitalism

According to Marx, people create their religious beliefs from their own imaginations. Religious beliefs reflect the real world and the lives of real people. Faith is the hope of the powerless. The only real power that can overturn the attraction of faith is the power of people who have real demo­cratic control over their lives. The lack of collec­tive control over the political power and the economy of a society make religion a necessity to help people get through each day. Happiness in this life requires people to be the authors of their lives and not victims. Political struggles need to deal with social and economic conditions of life, not merely to provide philosophical debates over religious issues.

Political action and philosophy cannot be dis­connected without making both negligible in changing the lives of the poor. People cannot have genuine political power without first having collec­tive control of their actual lives. This means they must have cooperative control over the economy. This can happen through joint action of a social movement. The capitalist came to power by way of a liberal political revolution. Liberal philosophy and capitalism are tied together and cannot be rent asunder. Private property and individualism are represented in each person’s self-interest. Only when it is questioned whether some groups benefit more than other groups does liberal philosophy begin to unravel. The capitalist now replaces the feuDalí aristocrat as the major oppressor of the direct producers, the poor.

The liberator soon becomes the new oppressor. The capitalist class fights for liberty, human rights, and private property against the ancient feuDalí order. When capitalists gain power, human rights cannot threaten their private property. The working class must be kept in tow. The poverty of the worker becomes a necessary condition for the wealth of the capitalist. Workers need their own revolution to go beyond the liberal society of capitalism.


Workers, wrote Marx, create wealth; the wealth belongs to the capitalist. The capitalist becomes rich and powerful because of the wealth created by the workers. The workers become weak and poor as a result of their labor. This is because the labor of a worker is sold to the capitalist like any other commodity, and the capitalist will try to buy it as cheaply as possible. By selling the products of labor, the capitalist gains his wealth. This wealth is the source of the capitalist’s power over the worker. Workers sell the source of their own slav­ery. The products made by workers become their chains of bondage.

Nature, which is necessary for life, must first be changed through labor into the means by which we are able to live. Humans, being a part of nature, are free only as a part of nature. Because the resources of production belong to the capitalist, nature becomes an unavoidable condition for the enslavement of the worker. They can live only if they get jobs. Their physical survival is possible only if they can find work.

The true nature of work is art. Work is the cre­ative relationship between the worker and the rest of nature. Only through labor can we develop our full creative potential as humans. Yet the planning and design of labor is taken away from the worker. For the capitalist who owns the resource, the final product, the labor power, and the labor process, work becomes a source that cripples the worker. This turns workers into an adjunct to a machine. They can live only at the pleasure of this stranger who has plundered their humanity. Workers, once a vital part of nature, are now foreigners. Nature, their human essence and their birth, is now an unfriendly centaur prepared to devour their lives. The artistic celebration of life through labor is for­ever shattered. Our kinship with nature is eternally vanquished.

Workers stand in open competition with their coworkers. Their community has been plundered from them. Private property separates workers not only from nature but also from their own commu­nity. Greed and envy, as well as lewdness and ill will, become the glue that holds together a society founded upon accumulated wealth, individualism, and private property. The wealthy are always in awe of the wealthier but are also spiteful and afraid of the very rich. Wealth requires the cunning to live off the income looted from the workers. Until everyone becomes a worker and all wealth is held in common, the rich can only survive by steal­ing wealth from the poor.

The abandonment of private property is only the first step in returning the wealth to the poor who originally created it. We can democratically control our own society only after everyone becomes a public employee. Democracy grows only by empowering everyone through democratic control over the process of production. This pro­cess reintroduces the aesthetic and harmonious connection between the workers and nature. The alienation of all workers from nature, from the products they make, and from the community in which they live amidst the very process of creation will come to an end. Only then will the estrange­ment of one’s work that has been plundered be returned. Democracy, socialism, and communism are our rediscovery of nature. Humans are not only a part of nature; they are human only in a natural and social setting.

It is through labor that this unity between the individual, the community, and nature becomes real. Humans are as much a product of social labor as they are a part of nature. We not only produce, we create ourselves. We write our own history through our social interactions in a natural and social setting.

Logic and philosophy become separated from the practical. Intellectual work becomes separated from physical work. This is a counterfeit way to live. Nature becomes alienated from nature, and our lives from reality. Living nature becomes a life­less fact. Workers can regain their souls only if they are able to bring together abstract thought with the natural setting through their joint activi­ties with other workers.

Equality is achieved through the celebration of nature and our common humanity. This is com­munism. Communism occurs where nature and humanity meet through democracy. Socialism is the path to communism. The mind and the body are reunited. Political democracy is transcended by economic democracy. Alienation is replaced by a communal relationship with nature. Thought, action, and creation are brought together as people are reintroduced to nature. We, as humans, live life as a ceremony to be fully indulged and as a burden to be endured. Work becomes entertainment and not drudgery.

Labor can become fulfilling only when private property has been eliminated. When owners possess nature, those who do not own anything become objects for sale. The life of workers becomes sold to the highest bidder; where slaves are abundant, their price is low. Capitalism cannot be reformed, and it can never be democratic. Workers are not human but objects of trade. Their lives are those of slavery and alienation. The ethics of communism require that all people should be the composers of their destinies and not their blood offering. People must be reunited with themselves.

Marx’s Method

The real study of history, in Marx’s view, begins with the material formulation of real people living their everyday lives, with people’s relationship to nature. Through these relationships, humans pro­duce their own means of subsistence. Each genera­tion inherits and reproduces this means of subsistence and then changes it to fit their chang­ing needs. This happens in the context of a his­torically and culturally specific setting and shapes individual human nature. Production determines how people are organized and interact.

Production molds all other social relations. This includes the relations of one nation to another as well as the internal social structure of a single nation. With every new change in the forces of production, there exists a corresponding change in the relations of production. These changes lead to changes in the division of labor. With changes in the division of labor, there are changes in the prop­erty relations of the nation. Ultimately, this means ideology changes as well.

The earliest division of labor is between the town and country. Industrial and commercial interests are separated from agriculture. With these changes in the division of labor, there are changes in property relations. When private property restricts access, the resources of subsistence become constrained. Each type of stratified society is founded upon this unequal access to needed resources. Each society has its own type of owner­ship and its own type of property relations. Historically, specific relations then develop between groups of people.

The first type of property is tribal or communal. This undeveloped stage of production has simple technology. The social structure is based upon the family and the extension of family called kinship. This evolves into ancient communal or state own­ership. Private property develops but remains sub­ordinate to the communal property of the state. With the development of an economic surplus, the town or administrative center stands opposed to the countryside that supports its life.

FeuDalí ownership begins with estate ownership. Peasant serfs are the economic foundation. Property is organized through hierarchical land ownership. Nobles are an armed body of retainers. In the city, the guilds of master, journeyman, and apprentice copy the feuDalí relations of the country. Property ownership changes to meet the changes in produc­tion relations; this causes changes of the status of the serfs and in relations between the town and the rural aristocracy. This occurs because social rela­tions continuously change. The ideas of the age are the direct result of the real material life of the people. People produce ideas through their pro­ductive lives.

The first historical act is production to satisfy material life. Following the first historical act is the production of new needs that are the practical result of satisfying the needs of material life. People reproduce themselves, their families, and their cul­ture daily. These acts of production and reproduc­tion are exhibited by the historical past of a people; but this very activity also changes both the people and their culture. Old needs are changed and new needs are created. With expanding needs, produc­tion of life is both social and natural. Humans are both the animal creations of nature and the social creations of society. Each society creates its own social organization based upon its own historical mode of production. The nature of society is based upon the mode of production and consciousness. People’s relation to nature molds their relation to each other. People’s relation to one another affects their relation to nature. Production, human needs, population pressure, and change will follow.

The division of labor begins within the family. After that, within the rest of society, the division of labor continues to evolve. It subdivides between mental and physical labor. With this division of labor, an unequal distribution of property (both quantitative and qualitative) and its resources occurs. This leads to the development of private property. Private property results from the activity of the property-less and grows as a result of that activity. Because of the development of the division of labor, there is a concurrent development of the contradic­tion between the individual and the community.

With these divisions between ownership and work, mental and physical labor, and the community interests and particular deeds of labor, property becomes an alien force. The alienation of the worker occurs within society. Tools, resources, and human activities appear to control people rather than being controlled by the producing people. Through increasing specialization, labor is imposed upon the individual as a source of exploitation. The job also appears to own the individual. What we produce becomes an objective power over us. These illusions take on a reality that frustrates our best-laid plans.

During the evolution and development of alien­ation, the state develops as a community divorced from the realities of the individual. The state becomes a community unto itself. It is important to remember that the struggles within the state are class struggles. These struggles are class wars for mastery of the political powers of the state, whether peaceful or violent. Each class tries to conquer power in order to best represent the inter­ests of that class. Any cooperation that exists is determined by the division of labor of that particu­lar mode of production and by the class that con­trols the state. This cooperation is not for the benefit of all. The goal of cooperation is to benefit property owners who control the power of the state. Property relations, cooperation, and the state all change as a result of these class struggles. Society changes and the culture itself changes because of events brought about by this class struggle. Any kind of property relation that restricts access to resources causes resistance among the people who have limited or no control over the property that they work with to produce a surplus, which the nonproducers accumulate. Any indige­nous class struggle is always an international class struggle. The world market economy exacerbates this struggle, and international struggles are then expressed locally.

Because property ownership restricts people’s access to needed resources, direct producers become estranged from themselves. Material and intellec­tual production, as well as the producers them­selves, do not belong to the producers but to the nonproducing minority. Until people are reunited with their creativity, work becomes a painful expe­rience. When people become united with their own creative activity, they then achieve the capability to experience a joy that life holds dear. Cooperation must be transformed from cooperation for the benefit of the few into cooperation for the benefit of all, so that work and joy may be reunited. With the universal development of the productive forces of a market economy, a contradiction between the worldwide interdependent social economy and the private control of that economy for the benefit of the few is established. Only a world revolution can resolve that contradiction.

The universal development of production is a precursor to most people becoming property-less on a global scale. At the same time, world history replaces local history. Civil society is the result of the historical development of a new global system of production. Civil society is then seen as the material relation between people, people and nature, and the forces of production. This civil society exists only because of the rise of the bour­geoisie along with the evolution of the modern state, industrial production, world commerce, and professional bureaucracy.

History can be defined as a succession of eco­nomic systems along with changing ideological traditions. History modifies old circumstances by changing activities. The products of consciousness are the products of social life. Ideas reflect material production and its social relations that are histori­cally inherited. Circumstances create people the same way that people make circumstances.

Humans need each other for survival. People cannot be free if they are hungry. Freedom is a historical action and not a state of mind. Freedom, if it is to exist, must have historical and techno­logical foundations. Because the world is altered by the changes in industrial production, it can either increase alienation and exploitation of the direct producers, or it can increase freedom, depending on who controls the means of produc­tion. In the end, society changes according to the changing needs of social production.

Human unity with nature exists through industry. Social science must reflect this if it is to understand the deeper underlying connections between specific social actions and global trends. Industry, commerce, production, and exchange establish distribution, which in turn gives birth to ideological possibilities. Along theses lines, socioeconomic classes are deter­mined by the mode of production. Every class soci­ety creates its own ideological support. Bourgeois society develops science to meet the needs of its mode of production. This is possible because the ruling ideas of any class society are those of the rul­ing class. Those who control the material forces of society rule the ideas of that society. Workers are subject to those ideas. The dominant ideologies reflect the dominant material relations.

Division of labor begins with the separation of physical and mental labor. Class antagonism soon develops. The exploited classes become the revolu­tionary classes. Each new ruling class presents its particular interests as the interests of society as a whole. This means the class making the revolution speaks as the new leader for the entire society. In the beginning, the revolutionary class leads the opposition against the old ruling class. The revolu­tionary class at this time is connected with the oppression of other exploited classes. Once the new class gains control of the state and the new means of production, opposition to the new class fully develops from yet other exploited classes. The old ruling ideas die with the new ruling class, and their new ideas become the dominant ideology. New opposition develops a new alternative ideology for a new struggle against the current ruling class.

Nature is constantly altered through human labor. This causes nature to become a product of human labor. The separation between town and country develops with the separation of mental and physical labor, and this leads to the develop­ment of state society. The class of nonproducers controls the coercive powers of the state and the means of production. When this happens, private property develops out of the surplus created by the producers who now have no property.

In the Middle Ages, the urban rabble controlled no resources; thus they were the most oppressed. The journeymen and apprentices were organized to meet the interests of the guild masters. Peasants remained isolated and weak and were controlled by the lords. Fear of the rabble united the nobles, the masters, the journeymen, and the peasants against this element in the towns.

Separation of production from commerce arrived with trade. Merchants became the new class. Manufacturing grew out of this marriage of merchants and guilds. Merchant capital became movable capital; the guilds became increasingly independent from the merchants. The merchant could then hire workers outside the guilds for manufacturing. With new types of manufacturing, unemployment became common.

With the rise of manufacturing, nation-states increasingly competed with each other. Trade wars became common. Within the nation, the capitalist and the worker related and competed with each other. The big bourgeoisie came to dominate the means of production but not the state. Commerce and navigation expanded rapidly, making the national bourgeoisie international in scope. Navigation and colonial monopolies went together. Protective laws sheltered the older bourgeoisie, making them dependent upon the state. The colo­nial monopolies controlled the market, and at home the market was administered and protected. Free trade was banned.

Competition came with big manufacturing. Movable property evolved into real private prop­erty. Competition separated the bourgeoisie and the workers from their own classes. Through pri­vate property, the state became independent of other forces in society. This was done even though the state organized society for the general interests of the bourgeoisie. Through the state, individuals of the ruling class asserted their common interests in spite of internal conflicts among the capitalist class. This was done because the state mediated the larger common interests of the capitalist class. There was a disintegration of natural communities with the evolution of private property, and civil law grew to define private property and natural interests.

Civil law defines property as if it were the gen­eral world of the people, not the property owners. The bourgeoisie, as a class, slowly absorbs the other propertied ruling classes. Its mode of pro­duction becomes dominant. The proletariat with­out property develops at the same time as this capitalist class. Industrial, financial, and commer­cial property becomes the dominant theme that relates to all forms of property. One class has con­flicting antagonisms with another class. Class posi­tion limits life choices and defines the limitations and potential of every individual. This division of labor creates a reality independent of the will of the parties involved. Freedom can only be estab­lished on material grounds in a community in which the division of labor has been outgrown. In the past, economic reality acted independently of the will of the individuals of that society. Class is defined as a community that shares a common interest. Class is a condition of life and lifestyle.

Freedom is possible in resistance to oppression. Communism overturns all earlier forms of rela­tions of production. Control of necessary resources returns to a community of individuals. This strug­gle is shaped by the material life and the history of a people. The conditions of real activity, which are the preconditions for the movements of a society, become a fetter to further movements of a people at a certain point. The resulting effect is that one type of material activity replaces another.

Historical conflicts grow out of contradictions between coexisting productive forces and between those forces and the rest of a society. The industrial capital of an advanced nation exports those condi­tions all over the world. Big industry equals social production while it is privately owned. This type of private property is the result of the accumulated labor of others. The division between ownership and labor becomes complete under capitalism. Forces of production do not belong to those who work with the tools of production but rather to the nonproducers. In modern industry, the workers are separated from the tools, their work, the products they make, themselves, and their coworkers. In addition, the state looms over them like an alien power opposed to the workers’ class. The ruling class sets forms of distribution in motion that reproduce this inequality. In Marx’s view, revolu­tion becomes the only hope of the oppressed and exploited.

Michael Joseph Francisconi

See also Christianity; Dialectics; Economics; Engels,

Friedrich; Evolution, Cultural; Evolution, Social; Feuerbach, Ludwig; Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich; Humanism; Judaism; Lenin, Vladimir Ilich; Materialism; Religions and Time;

Further Readings

Althusser, L. (1969). For Marx. New York: Vintage


Berlin, I. (1996). Karl Marx. Oxford, UK: Oxford

University Press

Marx, K. (1964). The economic and philosophical manuscripts of 1844. New York: International. (Original work published 1932)

Marx, K., & Engels, F. (1970). The German ideology.

New York: International. (Original work published 1932)

Novack, G. (1971). An introduction to the logic of

Marxism. New York: Pathfinder Press.

O’Malley, J. (Ed.). (1994). Marx: Early political writings.

Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

What do you think?

Jacques Maritain

Jacques Maritain