Karl Marx 1818 – 1883



He introduced conflicts perspective to sociology.
Critique of political economy
Communist  Manifesto
Das Capital
Poverty of philosophy
The German ideology
The economic and philosophical manuscripts of 1844

Karl Marx was the architect of Socialism and champion of Communism. He committed himself to the cause of exploited working class. His views and thoughts were so influential that one-third of the world accepted it.

Theory of social class:

The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of social class.
(The communist manifesto chapter 01)

Notion of class:

Class is the manifestation of economic differences. According to Marx, class is economic in nature. Class is not determined by the occupation, but the position and function one performs.eg. shop owner and salesman.


Those who own the means of production ‘the dominant class’ land lords , feudals.
Subordinate class’, slaves, peasants and labourers.
The proletariat or working class, whose members own only the labour.
The ‘haves’ and ‘have nots.’

Stages of evolution of society and development of classes.

Karl Marx believed that the society evolves through different stages according to the means of production.

Primitive communism:

In which there is no private property.

Slavery: in which one class owns and exploits the members of another.
Feudalism : class of land owners exploit the peasants.

Capitalism:. owners of wealth exploit the workers.

Socialism: occurs when the workers have finally revolted.

He argued for ‘primitive communism’ as the only classless society.

Development of classes: Classes emerge only when the production of the society expands beyond its needs. As long as people use and eat what they reproduce without surplus, classes do not exist.

Theory of class-conflict: Bourgeoisie and proletariat depend upon each other, but it is not equality based. It is the relationship of exploiter and exploited. Essence of capitalism is surplus money.

Importance of means of production: The behaviour of an individual is determined by his relation with property or means of production. These relations are crucial in breaking the human society into a class structure.

Economic power , the real power: Political power is derived from economic power. The power of the ruling class, therefore, stems from its ownership and control of the means of production. The political and ruling system reflects ruling class’s interests.

Polarization: In capitalist society:
The capitalist
The working class

Though marx mentioned, middle stage, called ‘Petty-Bourgeoisie’, but he argued that at height of conflict they will be drawn towards proletariats.

The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. The wealth of Bourgeoisie is swelled by large profits with increase in mass of poverty and slavery.

Class unity and revolution: Because of this, the working class would unite and form organizations. When struggle reaches its height, a violent revolution breaks out which destroys the structure of capitalist society.

Dictatorship of proletariat and communist society: Karl Marx felt that revolution would be a bloody one.

The proletariats then established socialist dictatorship. Many have concerns over this term. Marx himself said that he differentiated himself from those communists who were out to destroy personal liberty and who wish to turn the world into warehouse.

Then socialist society would be established. In that the means of production and wealth would be owned publicly not privately. It would be a classless society. Here no body owns anything and everybody owns everything.

Theory of alienation:  Alienation refers to the sense of powerlessness, isolation and meaninglessness experienced by human when they confront with social institutions and conditions that they cannot control.

Marx defines the manifestation of the alienation of a worker as under:

Alienated from products:  what-ever he produces is owned by others, so he has no control.

Alienated from the act of production:  working becomes an alien activity and offers no intrinsic satisfaction.
Alienated from his human  nature:  because of first two aspects, deprive him of those specific human qualities which  distinguish him from animals and thus define humans.

The worker is alienated from other men:  since capitalism transforms social relations into market relations and people are judged by their position in the market , rather by human qualities.

Alienation leads to dehumanization:  the more wealth he produces, the poorer he becomes, just as labour produces the world of things, it also creates the devaluation of men.

Extreme division of labour’ a source of alienation:  each worker has a specific limited role to play.

Social change: Mrax has very strongly supported change. He used to say, philosophers have already interpreted the world, our present task is to change it.’ he never appreciated the status quo. He describes the ‘Dialectics’ ( the conflict among the opposing forces), as the driving force of history. Marx considers this conflict as a  normal process not an abnormal one. He considered only the economic factors and neglected all others.


The most distinct characteristic of capitalism is the rise of a large middle class, consisting of managers, professionals, supervisors and the personnel.
Marx neglected the role of middle class
The change Marx talks about takes centuries.
Marx misjudged and exaggerated the alienation of average work.
He laid undue influence on economic factor and left other important factors like religion, politics, etc. His theories were called, ‘theories of economic determinism.’
‘Marx has been criticized as an advocate of revolution, called the propagandist or prophet.
His analysis may be applicable to western societies but not to Asian societies. There are different versions of Marx’s doctrine’ the Soviet, the Western, the Chinese ‘but above all he was absolutely a genius and thought provoking scholar.

Karl Marx Quotes  

Anyone who knows anything of history knows that great social changes are impossible without feminine upheaval. Social progress can be measured exactly by the social position of the fair sex, the ugly ones included.

‘Art is always and everywhere the secret confession, and at the same time the immortal movement of its time.

‘Capital is dead labor, which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labor, and lives the more, the more labor it sucks.

By: Haseeb Gohar


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