A precocious schoolchild, Marx studied law in Bonn and Berlin, and then wrote a PhD thesis in Philosophy, comparing the views of Democritus and Epicurus. On completion of his doctorate in Marx hoped for an academic job, but he had already fallen in with too radical a group of thinkers and there was no real prospect. Turning to journalism, Marx rapidly became involved in political and social issues, and soon found himself having to consider communist theory. Of his many early writings, four, in particular, stand out.
Immanuel Kant[ edit ] Immanuel Kant is believed to have had the greatest influence of any philosopher of modern times. Kantian philosophy was the basis on which the structure of Marxism was built—particularly as it was developed by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel.
His views were widely taught and his students were highly regarded. His followers soon divided into right-wing and left-wing Hegelians.
Theologically and politically, the right-wing Hegelians offered a conservative interpretation of his work. Politically, they were orthodox. The left-wing Hegelians eventually moved to an atheistic position. In politics, many of them became revolutionaries. Hegel believed that the direction of human history is characterized in the movement from the fragmentary toward the complete and the real which was also a movement towards greater and greater rationality.
Sometimes, Hegel explained that this progressive unfolding of "the Absolute " involves gradual, evolutionary accretion, but at other times requires discontinuous, revolutionary leaps—episodal upheavals against the existing status quo. For example, Hegel strongly opposed slavery in the United States during his lifetime and envisioned a time when Christian nations would radically eliminate it from their civilization.
While Marx accepted this broad conception of history, Hegel was an idealist and Marx sought to rewrite dialectics in materialist terms. He summarized the materialistic aspect of his theory of history in the preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy: In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will, namely relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production.
The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness.
The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness.
In this brief popularization of his ideas, Marx emphasized that social development sprang from the inherent contradictions within material life and the social superstructure. This notion is often understood as a simple historical narrative: Slave states had developed into feudal societies.
Those societies in turn became capitalist states and those states would be overthrown by the self-conscious portion of their working classor proletariatcreating the conditions for socialism and ultimately a higher form of communism than that with which the whole process began.
Marx illustrated his ideas most prominently by the development of capitalism from feudalism and by the prediction of the development of communism from capitalism. Feuerbach proposed that people should interpret social and political thought as their foundation and their material needs.
He held that an individual is the product of their environment and that the whole consciousness of a person is the result of the interaction of sensory organs and the external world. Accordingly, Marx argued that it is the material world that is real and that our ideas of it are consequences, not causes, of the world.
Thus, like Hegel and other philosophers, Marx distinguished between appearances and reality. However, he did not believe that the material world hides from us the "real" world of the ideal; on the contrary, he thought that historically and socially specific ideology prevented people from seeing the material conditions of their lives clearly.
Instead, Marx aspired to give ontological priority to what he called the "real life process" of real human beings as he and Engels said in The German Ideology In direct contrast to German philosophy, which descends from heaven to earth, here we ascend from earth to heaven. That is to say, we do not set out from what men say, imagine, conceive, nor from men as narrated, thought of, imagined, conceived, in order to arrive at men in the flesh.
We set out from real, active men, and on the basis of their real life process we demonstrate the development of the ideological reflexes and echoes of this life process. The phantoms formed in the human brain are also, necessarily, sublimates of their material life process, which is empirically verifiable and bound to material premises.
Morality, religion, metaphysics, all the rest of ideology and their corresponding forms of consciousness, thus no longer retain the semblance of independence.
They have no history, no development; but men, developing their material production and their material intercourse, alter, along with this, their real existence, their thinking, and the products of their thinking. Life is not determined by consciousness, but consciousness by life.
In his Theses on Feuerbachhe also writes that "the philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways, the point is to change it". This opposition between firstly various subjective interpretations given by philosophers, which may be in a sense compared with Weltanschauung designed to legitimize the current state of affairs; and secondly, the effective transformation of the world through praxiswhich combines theory and practice in a materialist way, is what distinguishes Marxist philosophers from the rest of philosophers.
A year before the Revolutions ofMarx and Engels thus wrote The Communist Manifestowhich was prepared to an imminent revolution and ended with the famous cry: Marx thereby modified his theory of alienation exposed in the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of and would latter arrive to his theory of commodity fetishismexposed in the first chapter of the first book of Das Kapital This abandonment of the early theory of alienation would be amply discussed, several Marxist theorists, including Marxist humanists such as the Praxis Schoolwould return to it.
Others such as Althusser would claim that the " epistemological break " between the "young Marx" and the "mature Marx" was such that no comparisons could be done between both works, marking a shift to a "scientific theory" of society.
Fromthe young Marx progressively broke away from German idealism and the Young Hegelians. Along with Engels, who observed the Chartist movement in the United Kingdomhe cut away with the environment in which he grew up and encountered the proletariat in France and Germany.Thereafter, Marx and Engels worked together for the rest of Marx's life so that the collected works of Marx and Engels are generally published together, almost as if the output of one person.
Important publications, such as The German Ideology and The Communist Manifesto, were joint efforts. Watch video · German philosopher and revolutionary socialist Karl Marx published The Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital, anticapitalist works that form the basis of .
In , Marx and his wife Jenny von Westphalen arrived in Paris at the invitation of a German philosopher, Arnold Ruge to work on a new magazine called the Deutsch-Franzosische Jahrbucher, dedicated to the "ruthless criticism of the present".
Marx thus departs from Hegel by insisting that "the fact that man is a corporeal, actual, sentient, objective being with natural capacities means that he has actual, sensuous objects for his nature as objects of his life-expression, or that he can only express his life in actual sensuous objects".
Marx set down some of the ideas for this work in his “Theses on Feuerbach,” emphasizing the crucial importance of practice (praxis) both in social life and in cognition (practice as a criterion of truth).
May 02, · Add to it an even greater number of reviews of his work and influence (Peter Singer just published one a couple of days ago), new books on his life, a movie on Young Marx and the list goes on.