Karl Marx - Philosophy, Work and Happiness
Karl Marx (1818-83)
German philosopher (pictured right) and founder of modern communism (or socialism), who:
- inspired the Russian Revolution of 1917
- had a huge effect on the history of the twentieth century.
Who influenced him?
- Georg Hegel (1770-1831) , the German philosopher (pictured right).
- Friedrich Engels (1820-95), Marx's close friend and patron (pictured right
His most famous book
Das Kapital, published in three volumes(1861, 1885 and 1894).
What did he say about work and happiness?
1. Violent revolution
The capitalist system (including private property and profit-making businesses) must be overthrown and abolished
by the workers (the “proletariat”).
To do this the workers will have to fight together:
“Workers of the world, unite!”, he wrote with Friedrich Engels in the
Communist Manifesto of 1848.
There are two stages in the workers' revolution:
a) “dictatorship of the proletariat”,
(in which government controls people with the aim of giving them freedom and control over their lives in a
classless society - see next stage).
This is the classless society which Engels described as “the withering away of the state”.
2. Class struggle
In capitalism there is a constant battle between:
- their bosses (the “bourgeoisie”), who use the law and religion to
control the workers.
“The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of the class struggle”, Marx said
in the Communist Manifesto.
Marx predicted the destruction of capitalism from:
- falling profits (caused by higher investment in machinery).
- angry workers (with wages kept low by high unemployment).
Workers are unhappy (or alienated) at work, because they are exploited by
their bosses with:
- low wages (like British workers in the 1926 general strike, pictured right).
Friedrich Engels described workers’ poverty and exploitation in his book, The Condition of the Working
Class in England(1844).
Everything must be questioned and challenged, so that the world can be completely changed.
“Everything must be doubted” was Marx’s favourite maxim.
He wanted everyone to be happy and fulfilled in their work and leisure. How?
The replacement of capitalism with communism (see point 1 above).
Specializing in one job (division of labour) is boring, so people must do
different jobs and activities.
c) power to the people
Marx wanted everyone to:
- have control over their own lives.
- collectively own all property including businesses.
d) satisfaction of people’s needs
- contribute to society to the best of their ability.
- have their needs met by society.
So Marx said:
“From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”.
6. Ideology matters
Marx wanted a workers' revolution that would change the world, freeing them from
So written on his gravestone in Highgate Cemetery in London are the words:
“The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways - the point however is to change
Key quote on
From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.
The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways - the point however is to change it (written on
Key quotes on
Religion is... the opium of the people.
Key quotes on
Workers of the world,
unite, written with Friedrich Engels in The Communist Manifesto
The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of the class struggle (in The Communist
Capital is dead labour which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labour.