Karl Marx and Marxism Biography Born 1818 in
Karl Marx and Marxism
Biography • • • Born 1818 in Trier Jewish extraction Studied philosophy and economics in Berlin Married Jenny von Westphalen Earned his living (badly) as a journalist Died 1883 in London having only written 3 of the planned 8 volumes of Das Kapital.
Jenny von Westphalen • Marx adored Jenny. • They were engaged for seven years before her family would allow a marriage. • They lived off her wealth. • He died soon after her, not wishing to be alone without her.
Politics • Marx was a communist. • He wrote The Communist Manifesto with his friend, Friedrich Engels in 1848. • He had three kinds of writing: – Journalism – Political polemic – Analysis of society and culture.
Engels on Marx ‘His real mission in life was to contribute, in one way or another, to the overthrow of capitalist society and of the state institutions which it had brought into being, to contribute to the liberation of the modern proletariat, which he was the first to make conscious of its own position and its needs, conscious of the conditions of its emancipation. … His name will endure through the ages, and so also will his work. ’
Marxism • Communism is a political philosophy which argues that men should have equal rights to wealth. • Marxism is a way of understanding and analysing the organisation and structure of society. It is also a way of understanding how societies develop and change.
Marx’s role in history • When Marx died, he was not well known except in revolutionary circles. • After his death, his writing prompted a number of politicians to lead revolutions in his name. • Many of these societies were totalitarian. • His philosophy underlies the thinking of many political parties – old Labour for example.
Conflict theory • All societies are divided into two groups – Owners – Workers • Our society is capitalist. – Owners are bourgeoisie – Workers are proletarians
Marx on history The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle. ’ ‘
Owners and workers • Owners exploit workers and live off the money which the workers earn • Workers put up with this inequality because: – They are oppressed wage slaves and cannot fight the system – They are indoctrinated by ideology and religion into believing what they are told by the powerful.
Marx on the workers ‘The worker becomes all the poorer the more wealth he produces, the more his production increases in power and range. ’
Cardiff – Who paid?
Marx and The Revolution • Marx predicted that wealth would belong to fewer and fewer people. • The workers would eventually realise their position and overthrow the bourgeoisie • There would be an armed revolution which would begin in Britain. • It would happen in the very near future.
What happened? • The biggest problem with Marxism is that the predicted revolution never occurred in the form he said it would. • People are not poorer. • Wealth is not concentrated in the hands of a few rich people. • Britain hasn’t had a Communist revolution yet and is not likely to in the near future.
Marx in his own words - 1 ‘Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly found, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living. ’
Marx in his own words - 2 ‘History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce. ’
Marx in his own words - 3 ‘The writer may very well serve a movement of history as its mouthpiece, but he cannot of course create it. ’
Marx in his own words - 4 ‘In bourgeois society capital is independent and has individuality, while the living person is dependent and has no individuality’.
Conclusion • Marxism is a political philosophy – your views are your own and not required in sociology. • Marxism is an understanding of the nature of social relationships which you are expected to evaluate. Recognise that it has strengths and weakness as a tool of understanding of our culture.
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