The world may know Karl Marx as a vehement socialist and a raging dissenter of capitalist economy, but there’s much more to his philosophy than mere opposition to existing economic and political conditions. Although his views on socialism and communism have often been critiqued as too ideal, his struggles for the same can not only be credited as foresighted, but also as having universal relevance rather than only to the German society Marx was a part of.
Das Kapital, Marx’s most renowned work, gives useful insights into the workings of a capitalist society and the tenuous class-relations that exist in it. The biggest impact he proceeds to criticize is the commoditization of labour. He effectively draws attention to the utter dehumanization of wage-workers in factory-based production, where they are often referred to as “hands”. A commerce-based society, as is easy to guess, is incredibly quantified and objective. hardly leaving space for the appreciation of morality. The exaltation of material wealth of course then helps perpetuate greed and further materialism in the society, leading to more dehumanization and deskilled labour to ensure more production and profit. In that light, Marx presents a glaring paradox of a capitalist society; the increased production (made easier by incoming technological innovations) would increase the material value of the products, but the subsequent over-production and under-consumption would lead to a drop in their economic value.
With that Marx drew attention to the class-divides in a capitalist society, which in turn led him to write another of his well-known works, A Communist Manifesto (published 1848) written with his collaborator Freidrich Englels. The book posited a class-less society, and that the very structure of a capitalist society heralds an inevitable replacement by socialism and eventually, communism. One of the main focuses of the book was the strained relationship between the bourgeois and the proletariat in a capitalist system. He mentions that the proletariat (the working-class people) are in a constant struggle against the owners of the means of production (the bourgeois, that is) in an effort to get out of their terribly routinized lifestyles. He also stressed on the increasing competition amongst the working-classes because of wage-labour. He takes further to establish the contrasting relationship between the proletariat and the communists, where instead of forming a separate party to oppose them, communists express the general interests of the proletariat. The book uses these arguments to uphold the idea of communism, entailing concepts of “free love” and “free trade”.
Marxist thought is clearly universal and transcends the boundaries of time, since Karl Marx’s philosophies and books are still perused keenly by most sociologists. He had also been deemed by many as the father of social sciences. His long-standing vision of a class-less society (though sometimes ambiguous in tone, which might be due to the translations) is one that is relevant even today and has been adopted enthusiastically by various constitutions, including our own. Even though a world without social schisms is an almost unattainable ideal, it is good enough to be pursued.