Tuesday, December 2, 2014
Introduction to Karl Marx's Influences
Karl Marx, b. 1818 was born into an upper class family of means in the kingdom of Prussia. His father was the first in the family to receive a secular education, with which he became a lawyer. Partly because of his secular education and his knowledge of the law, Marx’s father Heinrich, was discontent with the current state of Prussian political affairs. He did not espouse the virtues of absolute monarchy. Instead, he advocated for a more democratic system of government in which the will of the people was more justly represented. Karl Marx was most certainly influenced by his father’s politics.
After moving to Berlin and attending the University of Berlin, Marx sought to meaningfully combine the disciplines of law and philosophy, for he felt that “without philosophy, nothing could be accomplished.” His interaction with the Young Hegelians and their method of engaging in discourse about current politics, economics, and the general Prussian state of affairs lead him to Colonge, where he would write for a radical newspaper publication. After scrutiny from Prussian officials and censorship of his writings for local newspapers, Marx and his family moved to France where he met Friedrich Engels. Marx was greatly influenced by Engels’ “The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844.” Engels’ work influenced and greatly reinforced Marx’s preexisting notions that the working class should retain power as the majority. It was in Paris that Marx intensely studied political economy in order to better understand the inner workings of capitalism. From there, Marx composed the “Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844” which notably discussed the idea of alienation of working people from their natural human characteristics and other workers. Marx, with the help of Engels, continued his ideological evolution with his writing of “The German Ideology” in which he intended to break from idealism in favor of action and making a difference in the material world. After moving to Brussels in 1845, Marx wrote “The Poverty of Philosophy,” as a follow up to “The German Ideology,” and in retaliation to a book by a Frenchman which espoused opposing values. These two books were the foundation of Marx’s (and Engels’) “The Communist Manifesto,” which sets fourth a historical class struggle between the bourgeoise ruling class that owned the factors of production, and proletariat working class at their whim. The book provides the solution of overthrowing the bourgeoise to topple capitalism and replace it with communism.
This a brief summary of the Karl Marx’s influences, that of course does not do justice to the nuances of Marxist principles. In my next blog posts I will relate Marxist principles to the current state of economic and social affairs in our society with relevant a example (Ferguson) of how our social, political and economic system has essentially failed large numbers of people because of its shortcomings. The fact of the matter is that certain people are born at a disadvantage, yet we are obsessed with the false notion that we are socially mobile, and we are quick to believe that we have overcome socio-political problems that have existed and probably will continue to exist beyond our lifetime. This is why Karl Marx’s work is so important.