Karl Marx was born in Germany but spent much of his professional life in London, working and writing in collaboration with Friedrich Engels. Two of Marx and Engels’s most influential treatises are Das Kapial and The Communist Manifesto. Das Kapital, a massive multivolume work published in 1867, 1885, and 1894, is critical of the capitalist system and predicts its defeat by a more humane and more cooperative economic system:socialism.
The Communist Manifesto is a 23-page pamphlet that was issued in 1848 and has since been translated into more than 30 languages . The Manifesto includes these famous lines: “The workers have nothing to lose but their chains; they have a whole world to gain. Workers of all countries, unite.”
Marx sought to analyze and explain conflict, the major force that drives social change. The character of conflict is shaped directly and profoundly by the means of production, the resources (land, tools, equipment, factories, transportation, and labor) essential to the production and distribution of goods and services. Marx viewed every historical period as characterized by a system of production that gave rise to specific types of confrontation between an exploiting class and an exploited class. For Marx, class conflict was the vehicle that propelled people from one historical epoch to another.
From Marx’s perspective, the Industrial Revolution was accompanied by the rise of two distinct classes, creating a fundamental divide: the bourgeoisie, the owners of the means of production, and the proletariat, those individuals who must sell their labor to the bourgeoisie.
Karl Marx believed that the pursuit of profit was behind the explosion of technological innovation and the never- before-seen increase in the amount of goods and services produced during the Industrial Revolution. In a capitalist system, profit is the most important measure of success. Marx described class conflict as an antagonism that grows out of the opposing interests held by these two parties. The bourgeoisie’s interest lies with making a profit and the proletariat’s with increasing wages. To maximize profit, the bourgeoisie work to cut labor costs with labor-saving technologies, employ the lowest-cost workers, and find the cheapest materials to make products.
Marx believed that capitalism was the first eco- nomic system capable of maximizing the immense productive potential of human labor and ingenuity. He also felt, however, that capitalism ignored too many human needs and that too many people could not afford to buy the products of their labor.
In the Class Struggles of France 1848–1850, Marx named another class, the finance aristocracy, who lived in obvious luxury among masses of starving, low-paid, and unem-ployed workers.According to Marx the financial aristocracy appropriate to themselves“public funds or private funds without giving anythingequivalent in exchange; it is the cancer of production, the plague of society and of states.”