The first greatest contribution of Karl Marx in political and social philosophies can be summed up by his utmost regard to the proletariats. Marx generalized the poor as being exploited in the market economy because even when he works so hard, he gets poorer and poorer. This is due to the forces of capitalism all over him. The poor produces wealth but he is alienated to it (Bottomore, p. 23 ). This means that he cannot enjoy the fruits of his labor. He could not have enough money to purchase the very thing that he creates.
For instance, the worker produces ten pairs of shoes per day. However, he cannot, by his income, buy all these ten shoes which he produced. This is Marx’s concept of economic alienation. In other words, the more product or service he produces, the more commoditized he becomes. This means that the economic value of what man produces become more important than his inherent humanness. Marx figured out that labor does not only produce commodities. It also renders itself and the workers as commodities (Ibid.). These ideas did not come in happenstance to the most influential writer and philosopher of the nineteenth century. These political and economic thoughts were shaped by how and where he lived.
Karl Marx was born Karl Heinrich Marx on May 5, 1818 (p. 5.). He was a member of the German middle class. Their family lived comfortably on the Moselle River, Germany. Both his parents where from a long line of rabbis. This means that Marx has lived by the Christian ethics such as those espoused by Voltaire and Lessing. They were Protestants by heart.
The social consciousness in Marx was enlightened when he studied Law at the University of Bonn (p. 34). At a young age of seventeen, he became engaged to the daughter of a prestigious individual from the Trier society. The girl’s name was Jenny von Westphalen and she was the daughter of a baron. This baron got Marx interested with Saint-Simonian politics and Romantic literature. By the age of eighteen, though, Marx was sent to a more serious institution, the University of Berlin. He stayed in this big university for four years. Marx was deeply influenced by Hegelian philosophy during his stay at the Berlin University. He has completely forgotten about romanticism.
At the Berlin University, Karl Marx became a member of the Young Hegelian movement (p. 51). Their group radically criticized Christian philosophies and practices. Among their members were theologians Bruno Bauer and David Friedrich Strauss. Along the same contradictions sprouted their open opposition to the autocracy by the Prussian leaders (Ibid.). Because of this, Marx was barred from continuing his career at the university. He turned into writing profession in October 1842 (p. 56). Then, he immigrated to France.
He saw the plight of the German proletariats in the French society when he arrived in Paris in 1843 (p. 60). This was when he turned to communism and directly wrote down his criticisms of the capitalist economic system. It resulted into his famous Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts (1844), which were only publicized after the 1930s. In this manuscript, Marx outlined the contradictions of the capitalist economic system and the alienation of the workers. During his Paris exile, Marx developed a most important intellectual and social relationship with Friedrich Engels, another famous philosopher (Ibid.).
Because of their political philosophy, they were expelled from Paris. Te two writers and thinkers moved to Brussels and stayed there for three years. This was when the two historic thinkers conceived their dialectics or their material interpretation of history. The main gist of this important work is that humans are determined by their material conditions which then determine their production and capacity in the economic system. Marx delineated various history of economic development and predicted the collapse of the present day capitalism. He then espoused the notion that communism will replace the capitalist system (p. 65).
Marx joined various political organizations. They openly declared their position through their Communist Manifesto in 1848. The context of the publication of this critical writing was the breaking out of various revolutions in Europe. Marx openly opposed the Prussian autocracy and he used his publications to fight the material oppression elsewhere in Europe. However, his writings were suppressed (Ibid.).
When he settled in London, he published two important works namely, The Class Struggles in France and The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (p. 65). These extensive papers discussed the 1848 French Revolution in details. After this, Marx devoted his studies of political economy in relations to the present problems in various European, capitalist societies and how these could be remedied.
In this tumultuous time, Marx and his wife Jenny, together with their four children lived in a squalid apartment in London. They begot two more children. Of all their six children, only three survived (p. 68). Most of Marx’s livelihood was from Engel’s Manchester business. He also earned from his weekly articles for the New York Daily Tribune (Ibid.).
Because of the situation, the political writings of Marx suffered. Only in 1857 did he produce a large manuscript on capital, real estate property, wage labor, government, international trade and the global market. This treatise consisted of about eight hundred pages (p. 71). At the onset of the 1860s, Marx was able to produce the three extensive volumes of his works. This included the Theories of Surplus Value, which theoretically explained the political economy according to traditional economists Smith and Ricardo (p. 75).
After seven years, Marx was able to publish the first volume of his Capital (Ibid.). In this political work, Marx detailed his theory of labor and his concepts of surplus value and alienation and/or exploitation of workers which would then result into the fall of capitalism and the rise of communism. He finished his second and third volumes during the 1860s. Marx worked on these critical subjects throughout the rest of his lifetime. It was in his death that his good friend Engels published these monumental manuscripts.
Hence, the second greatest contributions of Karl Marx in political and social philosophies are his material dialectics detailed in his work Capital. He approached history with the evolution of economic capital. He also discovered the processes of the capitalist mode of production. He has pinpointed the bourgeois society as the culprit in this set up. He had wonderfully founded on the theory of surplus value. He has fought against capitalism in the most profound and highly intellectual fronts. Marx wrote about Science in the most historical and revolutionary fashion.
The writings of Capital coincided with the preparations for the Annual Congresses of the International whose greatest contribution was the development of the Paris Commune in 1871. It was the historic student revolution wherein Parisian students held the French government in the period of two months. Marx defended this commune through his writing in one of his most popular pamphlets, The Civil War in France (p. 90).
In his fight against capitalism, Marx also fought against good health as he showed signs of physical weakening. His health deteriorated. He went to European spas to recover but the deaths of his loving wife and his eldest daughter aggravated his conditions. Karl Marx succumbed to his deathbed in March 14, 1883 (p. 123). He was buried at Highgate Cemetery in North London (Ibid.).
The economic and political writings of Karl Marx were largely unacknowledged during his lifetime. However, when he died, these writings found its prominence among scholars, revolutionary leaders and thinkers. It has been influential in the makings of socialist states.
No fitting eulogy could be more vivid than what his friend and colleague Engel spoke about him. Engel considered Marx to be the foremost contributor to the development of dialectical materialism. As Engels put it, “Marx’s economic paradigm and his thorough economic analysis of society discussed class conflicts in the most influential manner which affected the disciplines of all social sciences – history, sociology, and cultural studies (p. 133).
Karl Marx is best considered as a philosopher and a revolutionary. His works inspired various communist leaders after his time. Marx’s dialectics is focused on the idea tat the evolution or the rise and fall of human societies are founded on its economic or material foundation. These elements hinder the further development of the human race.
Bottomore, Tom. Karl Marx. August 31, 1979. London: Blackwell Publishers. Pp. 194.