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Karl Marx

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Karl Marx

Karl Marx (May 5, 1818 Trier, GermanyMarch 14, 1883 London, UK) was an influential German philosopher, political economist, and revolutionary organizer of the International Workingmen's Association. While Marx addressed a wide range of issues, he is most famous for his analysis of history in terms of class struggle, summed up in the famous line from the introduction to the Communist Manifesto: "The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle".

Contents

Biography

Early life

Karl Marx's former home; now a museum. Trier, Germany
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Karl Marx's former home; now a museum. Trier, Germany

Karl Marx was born into a progressive Jewish family in Prussian Trier (now in Germany). His father Herschel, descending from a long line of rabbis, was a lawyer and his brother Samuel was—like many of his ancestors—chief rabbi of Trier. In 1817 Heinrich Marx converted to the Prussian state religion of Lutheranism to keep his position as a lawyer, which he had gained under the Napoleonic regime. The Marx family was very liberal and the Marx household hosted many visiting intellectuals and artists during Karl's early life.

Education

Marx received good marks in gymnasium, the Prussian secondary education school. His senior thesis, which anticipated his later development of a social analysis of religion, was a treatise entitled "Religion: The Glue That Binds Society Together", for which he won a prize.

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Marx during his student years

In 1833 Marx enrolled in the University of Bonn to study law, at his father's behest. He joined the Trier Tavern Club and at one point served as its president; his grades suffered as he spent most of his time singing songs in beer halls (McLellen 17). The next year, his father made him transfer to the far more serious and academically oriented Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universitt in Berlin (now known as the Humboldt University).

Marx and Young Hegelians

In Berlin, Marx's interests turned to philosophy, much to his father's dismay, and he joined the circle of students and young professors known as the "Young Hegelians", led by Bruno Bauer. Some members of this circle drew an analogy between post-Aristotelian philosophy and post-Hegelian philosophy. Another Young Hegelian, Max Stirner, applied Hegelian criticism and argued that stopping anywhere short of nihilistic egoism was mysticism. His views were not accepted by most of his colleagues, and Karl Marx responded in parts of Die Deutsche Ideologie (The German Ideology), but decided not to publish it. Nevertheless Stirner's book was the main reason Marx abandoned the Feuerbachian view and developed the basic concept of historical materialism.

Georg Hegel died in 1831, and during his lifetime was an extremely influential figure at Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universitt and in German academia in general. The Hegelian establishment (known as the Right Hegelians) in place at Friedrich-Wilhelms maintained that the series of historical dialectics had been completed, and that Prussian society as it existed was the culmination of all social development to date, with an extensive civil service system, good universities, industrialization, and high employment. The Young Hegelians with whom Marx was associated believed that there were still further dialectical changes to come, and that the Prussian society of the time was far from perfect as it still contained pockets of poverty, government censorship was in place, and non-Lutherans suffered from religious discrimination.

Marx was warned not to submit his doctoral dissertation at the Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universitt, as it would certainly be poorly received there due to his reputation as a Young Hegelian radical. Marx instead submitted his dissertation, which compared the atomic theories of Democritus and Epicurus, to the University of Jena in 1840, where it was accepted.

Career

When his mentor Bruno Bauer was dismissed from the philosophy faculty in 1842, Marx abandoned philosophy for journalism and went on to edit the Rheinische Zeitung, a radical Cologne newspaper. After the newspaper was shut in 1843, in part due to Marx's conflicts with government censors, Marx returned to philosophy, turned to political activism, and worked as a freelance journalist. Marx soon moved, however, something he would do often as a result of his radical views.

Marx first moved to France, where he re-evaluated his relationship with Bauer and the Young Hegelians, and wrote On the Jewish Question, mostly a critique of current notions of civil rights and political emancipation. It was in Paris that he met and began working with his life-long collaborator Friedrich Engels, who called Marx's attention to the situation of the working class and guided Marx's interest in economics. After he was forced to leave Paris for his writings, he and Engels moved to Brussels, Belgium.

An older Marx
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An older Marx

There they co-wrote The German Ideology, a critique of the philosophy of Hegel and the Young Hegelians. Marx next wrote The Poverty of Philosophy (1847), a critique of French socialist thought. These works laid the foundation for Marx and Engels' most famous work, The Communist Manifesto, first published on February 21, 1848, which was commissioned by the Communist League (formerly, the League of the Just), an organization of German migrs whom Marx had met in London.

That year Europe experienced revolutionary upheaval; a working-class movement seized power from King Louis Philippe in France and invited Marx to return to Paris. When this government collapsed in 1849, Marx moved back to Cologne and restarted the Rheinische Zeitung, only to be swiftly expelled again. Marx's final move was to London. In 1852 Marx wrote his famous pamphlet The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, in which he analyzed Napoleon III's takeover of France. From 1852 to 1861, while in London, Marx contributed to Horace Greeley's New York Tribune as its European correspondent.

First International and Gladstone Quote

In 1863, Chancellor of the Exchequer William Ewart Gladstone gave a budget speech to Parliament in which he commented on the increase in the United Kingdom's national wealth, and added (according to the report of the speech in the Times), "I should look almost with apprehension and with pain upon this intoxicating augmentation of wealth and power if it were my belief that it was confined to the class who are in easy circumstances. This takes no cognizance at all of the condition of the laboring population. The augmentation I have described and which is founded, I think, upon accurate returns, is an augmentation entirely confined to classes possessed of property." But, in the semi-official version published in Hansard, Gladstone deleted the final sentence (editing the Hansard version was a common practice among Members of Parliament).

In 1864 Marx organized the International Workingmen's Association, later called the First International, as a base for continued political activism. In his inaugural address, he purported to quote Gladstone's speech, to the effect that, "This intoxicating augmentation of wealth and power is entirely confined to classes of property." He repeated the citation in Volume 1 of Capital. The discrepancy between Marx's quote and the Hansard version of the speech (which was well-known) was soon employed in an attempt to discredit the International. Marx attempted to rebut the accusations of dishonesty, but the allegation continued to resurface. Marx later gave as his source the newspaper The Morning Star.

Engels devoted a good deal of attention to the affair in the preface to the fourth edition of Capital — which, likewise, did not put the matter to rest. Engels claimed that it was not The Morning Star but the Times that Marx was following. Indeed, critics of Marxism such as the journalist Paul Johnson continue to invoke Marx's supposed misquotation as evidence of general dishonesty. One can find a straightforward unravelling of this dispute in David A. Felix' work, Marx As Politician (London, 1983).

The International survived the controversy, however, collapsing in 1872 in part because of the fall of the Paris Commune, and in part because many members turned to Mikhail Bakunin's anarchism. In London throughout this period, Marx also dedicated himself to the historical and theoretical research behind Das Kapital (Capital: A Critique of Political Economy). Marx published the first volume in 1867. The remaining two volumes of Capital were never completed by Marx, but were reconstructed by Engels from extensive notes and drafts, and published posthumously.

Throughout the London period of Marx's life, his family was generally impoverished and depended on generous contributions from Engels to get by. Marx died in London in the year 1883, and is buried in Highgate Cemetery, London.

Marital life

Marx's wife, Jenny von Westphalen, came from an aristocratic background. Her uncle was Lion Philips, father of the brothers Gerard and Anton who founded the famous Philips company in 1891. The Marxes had many children, several of whom died young — their daughter Eleanor (1855-1898), born in London, was also a committed socialist and helped edit her father's works. Jenny Marx died in December 1881.

Influences on Marx's philosophy

Marx's thought was heavily influenced by both the dialectical historicism of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and the classical political economy of Adam Smith and David Ricardo. Marx believed that he could study history and society scientifically and discern tendencies of history and the resulting outcome of social conflicts. Some followers of Marx concluded, therefore, that a communist revolution is inevitable. However, Marx famously asserted that "philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point however is to change it", and he clearly dedicated himself to trying to change the world. Consequently, most followers of Marx are not fatalists, but activists who believe that revolutionaries must organize social change.

G.W.F. Hegel
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G.W.F. Hegel

Marx's philosophy Materialist Interpretation of History (which Engels controversially adapted as dialectical materialism) is certainly influenced by Hegel's claim that reality (and history) should be viewed dialectically, through a clash of opposing forces. 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, this progressive unfolding of the Absolute involves gradual, evolutionary accretion but at other times requires discontinuous, revolutionary leaps — episodal upheavals against existing status quo. While Marx accepted this broad conception of history, Hegel was an idealist, and Marx sought to rewrite dialectics in materialist terms. He wrote that Hegelianism stood the movement of reality on its head, and that it was necessary to set it upon its feet.

Marx's acceptance of this notion of materialist dialectics which rejected Hegel's idealism was greatly influenced by Ludwig Feuerbach. In The Essence of Christianity, Feuerbach argued that God is really a creation of man and that the qualities people attribute to God are really qualities of humanity. 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. But 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 ideologies prevented people from seeing the material conditions of their lives clearly.

The other important contribution to Marx's revision of Hegelianism was Engels' book, The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844, which led Marx to conceive of the historical dialectic in terms of class conflict and to see the modern working class as the most progressive force for revolution.

Marx's philosophy

The notion of labor is fundamental in Marx's thought. Basically, Marx argued that it is human nature to transform nature, and he calls this process of transformation "labor" and the capacity to transform nature labor power. For Marx, this is a natural capacity for a physical activity, but it is intimately tied to the human mind and human imagination:

A spider conducts operations that resemble those of a weaver, and a bee puts to shame many an architect in the construction of her cells. But what distinguishes the worst architect from the best of bees is this, that the architect raises his structure in imagination before he erects it in reality. (Capital, Vol. I, Chap. 7, Pt. 1)

Beyond his claim about the human capacity to transform nature, Marx makes no other claims about "human nature."

Karl Marx inherits that Hegelian dialectic and, with it, a disdain for the notion of an underlying invariant human nature. Sometimes Marxists express their views by contrasting nature with history. Sometimes they use the phrase existence precedes consciousness. The point, in either case, is that who a person is, is determined by where and when he is — social context takes precedence over innate behavior; or, in other words, the main feature of human nature is adaptability.

Marx did not believe that all people worked the same way, or that how one works is entirely personal and individual. Instead, he argued that work is a social activity and that the conditions and forms under and through which people work are socially determined and change over time.

Marx's analysis of history is based on his distinction between the means / forces of production, literally those things, such as land, natural resources, and technology, that are necessary for the production of material goods, and the social relations of production, in other words, the social relationships people enter into as they acquire and use the means of production. Together these comprise the mode of production; Marx observed that within any given society the mode of production changes, and that European societies had progressed from a feudal mode of production to a capitalist mode of production. In general, Marx believed that the means of production change more rapidly than the relations of production (for example, we develop a new technology, such as the Internet, and only later do we develop laws to regulate that technology). For Marx this mismatch between (economic) base and (social) superstructure is a major source of social disruption and conflict.

Marx understood the "social relations of production" to comprise not only relations among individuals, but between or among groups of people, or classes. As a scientist and materialist, Marx did not understand classes as purely subjective (in other words, groups of people who consciously identified with one another). He sought to define classes in terms of objective criteria, such as their access to resources. For Marx, different classes have divergent interests, which is another source of social disruption and conflict.

Marx was especially concerned with how people relate to that most fundamental resource of all, their own labor-power. Marx wrote extensively about this in terms of the problem of alienation. As with the dialectic, Marx began with a Hegelian notion of alienation but developed a more materialist conception. For Marx, the possibility that one may give up ownership of one's own labor — one's capacity to transform the world — is tantamount to being alienated from one's own nature; it is a spiritual loss. Marx described this loss in terms of commodity fetishism, in which people come to believe that it is the very things that they produce that are powerful, and the sources of power and creativity, rather than people themselves. He argued that when this happens, people begin to mediate all their relationships among themselves and with others through commodities.

Commodity fetishism is an example of what Engels called false consciousness, which is closely related to the understanding of ideology. By ideology they meant ideas that reflect the interests of a particular class at a particular time in history, but which are presented as universal and eternal. Marx and Engels' point was not only that such beliefs are wrong; they serve an important political function. Put another way, the control that one class exercises over the means of production includes not only the production of food or manufactured goods; it includes the production of ideas as well (this provides one possible explanation for why members of a subordinate class may hold ideas contrary to their own interests). Thus, while such ideas may be false, they also reveal in coded form some truth about political relations. For example, although the belief that the things people produce are actually more productive than the people who produced them is literally absurd, it does reflect the fact (according to Marx and Engels) that people under capitalism are alienated from their own labor-power. Another example of this sort of analysis is Marx's understanding of religion, summed up in a passage from the Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's "Philosophy of Right:"

Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

Whereas his Gymnasium senior thesis argued that the primary social function of religion was to promote solidarity, here Marx sees the social function as a way of expressing and coping with social inequality, thereby maintaining the status quo.

Marx's critique of capitalism

Marx argued that this alienation of labor power (and resulting commodity fetishism) is precisely the defining feature of capitalism. Prior to capitalism, markets existed in Europe where producers and merchants bought and sold commodities. According to Marx, a capitalist mode of production developed in Europe when labor itself became a commodity — when peasants became free to sell their own labor-power, and needed to do so because they no longer possessed their own land or tools necessary to produce. People sell their labor-power when they accept compensation in return for whatever work they do in a given period of time (in other words, they are not selling the product of their labor, but their capacity to work). In return for selling their labor power they receive money, which allows them to survive. Those who must sell their labor power to live are "proletarians." The person who buys the labor power, generally someone who does own the land and technology to produce, is a "capitalist" or "bourgeois." (NOTE: Marx considered this an objective description of capitalism, distinct from any one of a variety of ideological claims of or about capitalism). The proletarians inevitably outnumber the capitalists.

Marx distinguished capitalists from merchants. Merchants buy goods in one place and sell them in another; more precisely, they buy things in one market and sell them in another. Since the laws of supply and demand operate within given markets, there is often a difference between the price of a commodity in one market and another. Merchants, then, practice arbitrage, and hope to capture the difference between these two markets. According to Marx, capitalists, on the other hand, take advantage of the difference between the labor market and the market for whatever commodity is produced by the capitalist. Marx observed that in practically every successful industry the price for labor was lower than the price of the manufactured good. Marx called this difference "surplus value" and argued that this surplus value was in fact the source of a capitalist's profit.

The capitalist mode of production is capable of tremendous growth because the capitalist can, and has an incentive to, reinvest profits in new technologies. Marx considered the capitalist class to be the most revolutionary in history, because it constantly revolutionized the means of production. But Marx argued that capitalism was prone to periodic crises. He suggested that over time, capitalists would invest more and more in new technologies, and less and less in labor. Since Marx believed that surplus value appropriated from labor is the source of profits, he concluded that the rate of profit would fall even as the economy grew. When the rate of profit falls below a certain point, the result would be a recession or depression in which certain sectors of the economy would collapse. Marx understood that during such a crisis the price of labor would also fall, and eventually make possible the investment in new technologies and the growth of new sectors of the economy.

Marx believed that this cycle of growth, collapse, and growth would be punctuated by increasingly severe crises. Moreover, he believed that the long-term consequence of this process was necessarily the enrichment and empowerment of the capitalist class and the impoverishment of the proletariat. He believed that were the proletariat to seize the means of production, they would encourage social relations that would benefit everyone equally, and a system of production less vulnerable to periodic crises. In general, Marx thought that peaceful negotiation of this problem was impracticable, and that a massive, well-organized and violent revolution was required. Finally, he theorized that to maintain the socialist system, a dictatorship of the proletariat must be established and maintained.

Marx's critique of bourgeois democracy and of anti-Semitism

A small number of scholars have presented an alternative reading of Marx, based on his essays On the Jewish Question. Economist Tyler Cowen, historian Marvin Perry, and political scientist Joshua Muravchik have suggested that what they see as an intense hatred for the "Jewish Class" was part of Marx's belief that if he could convince his contemporaries and the public to hate Jewish capitalists, the public would eventually come to hate non-Jewish capitalists as well.

Most scholars reject this claim for two reasons: first, it is based on two short essays written in the 1840s, and ignores the bulk of Marx's analysis of capitalism written in the following years. Second, it distorts the argument of On the Jewish Question, in which Marx deconstructs liberal notions of emancipation. During the Enlightenment, philosophers and political theorists argued that religious authority had been oppressing human beings, and that religion must be separated from the functions of the state for people to be truly free. Following the French Revolution, many people were thus calling for the emancipation of the Jews.

At the same time, many argued that Christianity is a more enlightened and advanced religion than Judaism. For example, Marx's former mentor, Bruno Bauer, argued that Christians need to be emancipated only once (from Christianity), and Jews need to be emancipated twice — first from Judaism (presumably, by converting to Christianity), then from religion altogether.

Marx rejects Bauer's argument as a form of Christian ethnocentrism, if not anti-Semitic. Marx proceeds to turn Bauer's language, and the rhetoric of anti-Semites, upside down to make a more progressive argument. First, he points out that Bruno Bauer's argument is too parochial because it considers Christianity to be more evolved than Judaism, and because it narrowly defines the problem that requires emancipation to be religion. Marx instead argues that the issue is not religion, but capitalism. Pointing out that anti-Semitic stereotypes of Jews are fundamentally anti-capitalist, Marx provides a theory of anti-Semitism by suggesting that anti-Semites scapegoat Jews for capitalism because too many non-Jews benefit from, or are invested in capitalism, to attack capitalism directly.

Marx also uses this rhetoric ironically to develop his critique of bourgeois notions of emancipation. Marx points out that the bourgeois notion of freedom is predicated on choice (in politics, through elections; in the economy, through the market), but that this form of freedom is anti-social and alienating. Although Bauer and other liberals believe that emancipation means freedom to choose, Marx argues that this is at best a very narrow notion of freedom. Thus, what Bauer believes would be the emancipation of the Jews is for Marx actually alienation, not emancipation. After explaining that he is not referring to real Jews or to the Jewish religion, Marx appropriates this anti-Semitic rhetoric against itself (in a way that parallels his Hegelian argument that capitalism contains the seeds of its own destruction) by using "Judaism" ironically as a metaphor for capitalism. In this sense, Marx states, all Europeans are "Jewish". This is a pun on two levels. First, if the Jews must be emancipated, Marx is saying that all Europeans must be emancipated. Second, if by "Judaism" one really means "capitalism," then far from Jews needing to be emancipated from Christianity (as Bauer called for), Christians need to be emancipated from Judaism (meaning, bourgeois society). See: works by historian Hal Draper and David McLellan. See also: Roots of anti-Semitism: Karl Marx's On the Jewish Question.

Marx's influence

Marx helped prepare the provisional rules (http://www.marxists.org/history/international/iwma/documents/1867/rules.htm) for the First International.
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Marx helped prepare the provisional rules (http://www.marxists.org/history/international/iwma/documents/1867/rules.htm) for the First International.

Marx and Engels' work covers a wide range of topics and presents a complex analysis of history and society in terms of class relations. Followers of Marx and Engels have drawn on this work to propose a political and economic philosophy dubbed Marxism. Nevertheless, there have been numerous debates among Marxists over how to interpret Marx's writings and how to apply his concepts to current events and conditions (and it is important to distinguish between "Marxism" and "what Marx believed"; for example, shortly before he died in 1880, Marx wrote a letter to the French workers' leader Jules Guesde, and to Marx's son-in-law Paul Lafargue, accusing them of "revolutionary phrase-mongering" and of denying the value of reformist struggles; "if that is Marxism" — paraphrasing what Marx wrote — "then I am not a Marxist"). Essentially, people use the word "Marxist" to describe those who rely on Marx's conceptual language (e.g. mode of production, class, commodity fetishism) to understand capitalist and other societies, or to describe those who believe that a workers' revolution is the only means to a communist society.

Six years after Marx's death, Engels and others founded the "Second International" as a base for continued political activism. This organization collapsed in 1914, in part because some members turned to Edward Bernstein's "evolutionary" socialism, and in part because of divisions precipitated by World War I.

World War I also led to the Russian Revolution and the consequent ascendance of Vladimir Lenin's leadership of the communist movement, embodied in the "Third International". Lenin claimed to be both the philosophical and political heir to Marx, and developed a political program, called Leninism or Bolshevism, which called for revolution organized and led by a centrally organized Communist Party.

After Lenin's death, the Secretary-General of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Joseph Stalin, seized control of the Party and state apparatus. He argued that before a world-wide communist revolution would be possible, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union had to dedicate itself to building communism in its own country.

At this time, Leon Trotsky left the Soviet Union and in 1934 founded the competing "Fourth International." Some followers of Trotsky argued that Stalin had created a bureaucratic state rather than a socialist state.

In China Mao Zedong also claimed to be an heir to Marx, but argued that peasants and not just workers could play a leading role in a Communist revolution. This was a profound departure from Marx's own view of revolution, which focused exclusively on the urban proletariat, and which he believed would take place in advanced industrial societies such as France, Germany and England. Marxism-Leninism as espoused by Mao came to be internationally known as Maoism.

In the 1920s and '30s, a group of dissident Marxists founded the Institute for Social Research in Germany, among them Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, Erich Fromm, and Herbert Marcuse. As a group, these authors are often called the Frankfurt School. Their work is known as Critical Theory, a type of Marxist philosophy and cultural criticism heavily influenced by Hegel, Freud, Nietzsche, and Max Weber.

The Frankfurt School broke with earlier Marxists, including Lenin and Bolshevism in several key ways. First, writing at the time of the ascendance of Stalinism and Fascism, they had grave doubts as to the traditional Marxist concept of proletarian class consciousness. Second, unlike earlier Marxists, especially Lenin, they rejected economic determinism. While highly influential, their work is often criticized for reducing Marxism to a purely academic enterprise.

Other influential non-Bolshevik Marxists at that time include Georg Lukacs, Walter Benjamin, Antonio Gramsci, and Rosa Luxemburg. Henryk Grossmann, who elaborated the mathematical basis of Marx's 'law of capitalist breakdown', was another contemporary. These figures, including but not limited to the Frankfurt School, are often known by the term Western Marxism.

In 1949 Paul Sweezy and Leo Huberman founded Monthly Review, a journal and press, to provide an outlet for Marxist thought in the United States independent of the Communist Party.

Contemporary criticism

Many proponents of capitalism have argued that capitalism is a more effective means of generating and redistributing wealth than socialism or communism, and that the gulf between rich and poor that concerned Marx and Engels was a temporary phenomenon. Some suggest that greed and the need to acquire capital is an inherent component of human behavior, and is not caused by the adoption of capitalism or any other specific economic system (although economic anthropologists have questioned this assertion,) and that different economic systems reflect different social responses to this fact. The Austrian School of economics has criticized Marx's use of the labor theory of value. In addition, the political repression and economic problems of several historical socialist states have done much to destroy Marx's reputation in the Western world, particularly following the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Marx has also been criticized from the Left. Evolutionary and democratic socialists reject his claim that socialism can be accomplished only through class conflict and violent revolution. Others argue that class is not the most fundamental inequality in history and call attention to patriarchy or race. Some today question the theoretical and historical validity of "class" as an analytic construct or as a political actor. In this line, some question Marx's reliance on 19th century notions that linked science with the idea of "progress" (see social evolution). Many observe that capitalism has changed much since Marx's time, and that class differences and relationships are much more complex — citing as one example the fact that much corporate stock in the United States is owned by workers through pension funds.

Still others criticize Marx from the perspective of philosophy of science. Karl Popper has criticized Marx's theories as he believed they were not falsifiable, which he argued would render some particular aspects of Marxs historical and socio-political arguments unscientific. Primarily, this stems from Marx's assertion that class revolt will be part of the process in overcoming capitalism. The argument goes that the critic says "this will not happen" to which the reply is "but it will." However it has been argued that such statements show a simplistic understanding or a deliberate misinterpretation, because the reply has no basis in Marxist theory.

A common critique of Marx points out that the increasing class antagonisms he predicted never actually developed in the Western world following industrialization. While socioeconomic gaps between the bourgeoisie and proleteriat remained, industrialization in countries such as the United States and Great Britain also saw the rise of a middle class not inclined to violent revolution. While the economic devastation of the Great Depression broadened the appeal of Marxism in the developed world, future government safeguards and economic recovery led to a decline in its influence. In contrast, Marxism remained extremely influential in feudal and economically backwards societies such as Czarist Russia, where the Bolshevik Revolution was successful. [1] (http://www.aei.org/publications/pubID.10009,filter.all/pub_detail.asp)

Openly Marxist political parties and movements have significantly declined since the fall of the Soviet Union. Critics argue that the Soviet Union's numerous internal failings and subsequent collapse were a direct result of the practical failings of Marxism, but modern-day Marxists, especially Trotskyists, tend claim that the Soviet Union's political system did not represent true communism. Marx analyzed the world of his day and refused to draw up plans of how a future socialist society should be run saying he did not "write recipes...for cook-shops of the future." Outside Europe and the United States, communism has generally been superseded by anti-colonialist and nationalist struggles which sometimes appeal to Marx for theoretical support.

Contemporary supporters of Marx argue most generally that Marx was correct that human behavior reflects determinate historical and social conditions (and is therefore changing and can not be understood in terms of some universal "human nature"). More specifically, they argue his analysis of commodities is still useful and that alienation is still a problem.

Miscellaneous

  • The message carved on Marx's tombstone, in Highgate Cemetery, London - a monument built in 1954 by the British Communist Party - is: "Workers of all lands, unite". Before 1954, Marx's tomb was hard to find and humbly adorned.

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