School of
Social Sciences
___Introduction to Sociology
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Karl Marx

 

"What the bourgeoisie produces above all is its own gravediggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable"[Communist Manifesto, 1848]

"From each according to ability: to each according to need" [Critique of the Gotha Programme 1875]

"The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it."
[11th Thesis on Feuerbach, 1888]


The Person The Work
Introduction The Overall Doctrine
Marx Becomes a Young Hegelian Class Theory
Parisian Days: Marx Becomes a Socialist Alienation
The End of Apprenticeship The Sociology of Knowledge
The Founding of the First International Dynamics of Social Change
 

Marx once said that he was not a Marxist [Attributed by Engels, letter to C. Schmidt, 1890]. We are not allowed that luxury, for in a sense we are all Marxists. We all live in a world which has been shaped by the economic and social forces he identified, and one to a great extent defined by the political forces his work inspired. Without Lenin, Mao and Stalin, the history of this century would have been very different, though probably scarcely less chaotic or bloody. It is no exagerration to say that, of all theorists of society, Karl Marx has deeply touched and affected all our lives. Our modern political landscape reflects divisions established in Marx's time, and in part under his influence. Whatever their protesations, the Labour Party and the Conservative Party were profoundly affected by the challenge of Marxist movements, summarised in one of the biggest selling works in history, The Communist Manifesto.

The intellectual challenge to sociology on the part of Marxism was rather later in coming, but when it did involved a regrounding of the study of society in historically developing social and economic forces. Academic social scientists came to acknowledge that social change and conflict, as much as or more than stability and cooperation, are fundamental features of modern society. Sociologists began to study the forms of resistance to exploitation adopted by a variety of people: working class pupils in an education system geared to middle class aspirations; young blacks defined as delinquent; women on the assembly line.

Marx has been out of fashion for a long time. The success of free-market economic theories throughout the world and the collapse of the Communist states of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe took its toll, and social theorists turned to the trendier ways of post-modernism, social theory for those who find the Teletubbies too intellectually taxing. However, like Slade and Cliff Richard records at Christmas time, this one won't go away. His ideas are now beginning to gain credence in the unlikeliest quarters. Right wing free-market think-tanks are praising the originality and prescience of his thought. Indeed, when what was the world's most succesful economy, South Korea, can be overnight plunged into recession, the relevance of a thinker who put recurrent economic crises at the heart of his analysis of the capitalist system has to be acknowledged.

Like Max Weber, Marx places inequality and social division at the heart of his theory of society. However, whereas most commentators before or since view division and conflict as byproducts of various social processes, for Marx it is at the heart of capitalist social relations. Further explanation will merely duplicate what you will find in your lecture notes, the course texts, and on these websites. Happy surfing.

Websites On Marx Work By Marx
Karl Marx Class Notes (External Link) Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts
  The Communist Manifesto
  Commentary on Marx (External Link)
   



These pages were originally written by: Angus Bancroft and Sioned Rogers
Redesigned and updated by: Pierre Stapley - 2010