Karl Marx and Das Kapital

Karl Marx
(1818 – 1883)

On May 5, 1818, German philosopher and revolutionary socialist Karl Marx was born in Trier, Germany. He is best known for his publicationsThe Communist Manifesto‘ and ‘Das Kapital‘, as well as his ideas have played a significant role in the establishment of the social sciences and the development of the socialist movement.

Karl Marx was born in Trier, Germany, but studied law in Berlin and Bonn. After earning his doctorate degree in philosophy, he turned into journalism. Originally, Marx was going to continue his scientific career, but due to his openly radical position, he was not able to. Through his journalism, Marx became increasingly involved with political activities and began considering communist theory.

Throughout his active working years, Marx was highly influenced by the theories of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel even though he often distanced himself from radical groups of ‘Hegelians‘. In early works, such das ‘On The Jewish Question’, Marx defined the cause of human freedom in the community rather than isolation. He also made his points about religion in general, considering them as a “response to alienation in material life“.

To his most famous works belongs ‘Das Kapital‘ (the Capital), published in 1867. Marx himself published the first volume on commodity production. After his death, Friedrich Engels published volume 2 on the process of circulation of capital, and volume 3 on the process of capitalist production as a whole using the collected manuscripts of Karl Marx.

In commodity production, Marx defines the exchange and the division of labour, meaning that different people are responsible for different tasks in the process as conditions for the existence of markets. He then on-goes a very critical analysis of the existing political economy and the system of markets in general. Marx discusses in the first volume how capitalist production processes amplify the struggle of the classes and he emphasizes various contradictions of the capitalist production methods. As one of the first political economists, Marx shows how profit is created through capitalism. In his mind, it is made from the exploitation of the worker, which became later known as the surplus value theory of profit. Marx was convinced that there can be no actual harmony between the capitalist and the worker, which causes struggles for better wages, and working conditions. Also he emphasized that there cannot be a long time balance in the market as a whole.

Along with the Capital, Marx’ works are considered as necessary and groundbreaking, making him a significant contributor to economic thought in general, as well as philosophy, literature, and he is credited as one of the founders of modern social sciences.

At yovisto, you may enjoy a video lecture by Ivan Szelenyi on Marx’s Theory of Class and Exploitation at Yale University.

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