Karl Marx

Karl Marx (1818–1883) is the architect of what became modern socialism and communism, ideologies that went on to change the face of the globe and the state of the world in ways that Marx himself may never have imagined. A student of philosophy, he, along with Friedrich Engels, is the author of the world-altering tome, The Communist Manifesto. He sought social reform to combat the injustices of the Industrial Revolution. Needless to say, this made him an unpopular figure with the European powers-that-were, and he was exiled to London where he wrote another equally influential polemic, Das Kapital.

Certainly, Karl Marx is one of the most controversial figures in history. He and his legacy are both revered and reviled. Though Marx never lived to see it, and believed that world revolution would begin in England, avowed Marxists were responsible for the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the subsequent rise of the Soviet Union.

Max Weber was a German thinker who, like Marx, was no fan of capitalism. He linked the rise of capitalism with the Protestant Work Ethic, a byproduct of the Protestant sect called Calvinism, which stressed frugality along with spirituality.

Marx believed that economic relationships were of primary importance, and the conflict between the classes was an inevitability, due to the chasm between the haves and have-nots. This is called the Social Conflict theory.

He is also famous for saying that religion was the opiate of the masses. In other words, he was not what you would call a religious man. In fact, he felt that the focus on being good little boys and girls in this life in order to be rewarded in the next led to a population of passive sheep. And this passivity was exploited by the ruling class to further their capitalist goals and keep the masses docile, yet of service.

Though a communist, Marx put a lot of stock in materialism. He believed that the major force in world affairs is production: the making and accumulation of stuff. Workers hired to produce the goods that make the world go round feel no great pride in their labors. This only leads to alienation, unrest, and ultimately, revolution.

In Marx's worldview, the majority of people toiled with little reward while the upper classes reaped the fruits of their labor. He saw an inherent inequality in capitalism. Marx believed that situation could not go on forever, and it would eventually reach critical mass and result in a revolution of the working classes against their capitalist masters. He believed the results of this rebellion would lead to a paradisiacal communist form of government with freedom for all.

Marx did not foresee the fact that the communist governments that emerged in the twentieth century have been among the most cruel dictatorships and wanton human rights violators the world has ever known. The injustices of his age were real and needed repair, but the legacy he bequeathed the twentieth century brought only more terror and totalitarianism into the world.

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