The Philosophy of Marx - The Materialist and the Revolutionary - Seeker's Thoughts

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The Philosophy of Marx - The Materialist and the Revolutionary

Marx married Jenny von Westphalen in 1843, then spent most of his adult years leading a nomadic existence - travelling widely while spending prolonged time in Paris at that time, which was home to numerous immigrants from all over Europe.

Why was Marx so dismissive of philosophy in his revolutionary works?


Marx became active in social activism and political journalism from 1849 (until his death in London in 1883) until his death in London 1883, both in Paris and Cologne before moving to Germany to publish Rheinische Zeitung (1848-49). Additionally he contributed, edited, and published two key texts: the Communist Manifesto (1848) and Class Struggles in France (1850).

Marx's ideas were rapidly developing in both these texts and his own journalism and writings, including his own journalism and other writings. He had created an innovative theory of history as well as understanding of human nature which he termed "historical materialism."

Historical materialism is an approach to understanding both society and nature that contends that everything ultimately lies with material forces that drive human labor and depend on humans for production. Thus, historical materialism asserted that society evolves via production-dependent forces controlled by material forces such as capitalism; consequently its development can be traced through production force relationships or "relations of classes."

His central insight was that everything ultimately depends on human labour forces and how they relate to means of production, as this formed the cornerstone of his philosophy. This also explained his conviction that capitalism was determined by an underpinning exploitation of labouring classes; something which will eventually be overthrown.

As opposed to some other thinkers who might see overthrowing capitalist society as an inevitable process driven by logic or science alone, Marx believed it would be driven by revolutionary forces within society itself and consequently lead to overthrowing of the dominant bourgeois class and rise of communism - providing all people freedom and equality.

Marx famously championed a socialist revolution as central to his philosophy, yet was reluctant to provide details regarding its implementation; instead emphasizing how its manifestation would emerge organically through historical processes rather than following any predetermined blueprint.


His perspective was that human society evolved as part of an historic process governed by its material mode of production, with class struggle between proletarians and bourgeoisie serving as its core mechanism. Whoever emerged victorious would lead their fellow workers through revolutionary self-liberation into communism as its next stage.

Marx, unlike Hegel, saw the world as an intricate system of interdependencies governed by forces and a law of motion. At the same time he believed it had its foundations in human production processes - thus providing an underpinning to ideologies, religion and states alike.

Underlying this process lies a variety of forms of human society which come and go over time, each moving closer or farther from an ideal condition that would be reached through class struggle - this phenomenon is known as historical materialism.

Marx likened the history of human society to that of a river that appears stable from any given vantage point but which, nevertheless, constantly flows and changes, crumbling its banks, widening and deepening its channel and eventually overflowing and flooding its banks.

As different forms of society come and go, their varying forms either stifle or liberate productive forces; currently this means capitalist property and wage labor as barriers; revolutionary class struggle will ultimately liberate production by breaking these fetters - this is what is referred to as the subjective formula of history.

Materialist theory of society provides the basis for overthrowing ruling classes and creating an equitable new social order - this message of the Communist Manifesto is made clear.

The Critique of Political Economy

Marx spent much of 1843-1848 writing. He published two books during this time - Das Kapital (1859) and Okonomisch-philosophische Manuskripte aus dem Jahre 1844 (The Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1845-1846; German Ideology) as well as contributing articles to Rheinische Zeitung, a liberal newspaper closed by Prussian authorities. Marx developed what has since become known as historical materialism - the theory that forms of social organization arise and fall due to either furthering or hindering human productive powers developing within.

Marx understood Feuerbach's view that religion is alienation by projecting its powers onto an abstract object like God; this became his cornerstone view as he became more intrigued with human essence theory and critique of political economy - class-divided societies are flawed ways that prevent human flourishing while serving only to enrich a minority ruling class.

One of the most notable examples was his argument that bourgeois capitalism's pursuit of profit exploits its workers who provide its wealth by reducing their labour to subprimal levels. According to him, this process was inevitable as long as capitalism depended on commodity markets but this exploitation was further amplified due to reliance on productive power from workers in society.

Marx hesitated, however, to place his critique of capitalism within any particular tradition of moral philosophy. According to Ziyad Husami's theory of Marxian ideas undergoing two kinds of determination - those belonging to their social/class position within an economic system as well as its disciplined environment shaping which beliefs count as ideological.

Marx displayed caution in several of his early texts, most notably in his essay On Jewish Questions (1843) where he disassociated himself from radical liberal colleagues such as Bruno Bauer who suggested religious belief was an obstacle to emancipation.

The Poverty of Philosophy

Strikingly, Marx makes only fleeting mention of ideology in his writings. Even so, those few references found in The German Ideology (1844) seem to have only mesmerised commentators and not led to any tangible illumination - which makes sense given he was proposing an alternate social theory method to idealism.

At the core of this new approach lies the notion that humans are fundamentally productive; that they must produce means of subsistence to meet their material needs and meet new ones, both material and social, which then develop further over time - ultimately shaping human society as we know it today.

From this starting point, social transformation can be understood in terms of its dialectical movement. Society progresses from lower to higher levels of organization as a result of class struggles where each class strives for its own material and social goals - this forms the basis of class struggle which, when successful, leads to revolution of society.

Critics have noted that Cohen's understanding of Marx's thought places far too much emphasis on production rather than other areas, such as philosophical anthropology or his theory of history. Such an emphasis can lead to an inadequate picture of human nature which does not correspond with actual historical experience.

Cohen's view may also be seen as too metaphysical; suggesting there is some mysterious force guiding history toward social transformation would likely offend Marx, who sought to steer away from any appeal to metaphysical or divine authority.

Others have noted that Marx's later writings seem less focused on alienation as an explanatory concept and more so on its descriptive or diagnostic use, rather than expounding upon this theory of alienation itself. Although valid criticism, it should be kept in mind that this still forms part of Marx's theory of alienation rather than viewing this development as evidence that its importance has decreased over time.

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