What are Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’s theories, outlined in their pamphlet The Communist Manifesto, concerning the nature of history, the character of capitalism, and the direction of future economic and social change? May their theories be mainly a reflection of events and intellectual trends in Europe in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, or could they have broader implications?
(possible and recommended outline below)
1. Marx and Engels’s Theories
The nature of history
“The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.”
The modern class struggle is between the bourgeoisie (capitalists) and the proletariat (working class).
The means oppressors use to achieve their ends ultimately destroy them.
The character of capitalism
The wealth of a minority is produced by the labor of the subsistence-wage majority.
The bourgeoisie expects continuous growth in profits.
As production grows, low wages limit consumption, resulting in overproduction and declining profits.
The bourgeoisie’s attempts to resolve crises caused by the flaws produce increasingly worse crises.
The proletariat outnumbers the bourgeoisie due to downward mobility and internationalization.
Unlike previous class struggles, that of the proletariat involves the majority.
The direction of future economic and social change.
The proletariat will seize the means of production and use them for their own benefit.
The bourgeoisie will be dissolved, and a classless society will emerge.
2. Events and Intellectual Trends in Europe in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries
The Enlightenment belief in natural law and the perfectibility of society.
The French Revolution and later uprisings, which demonstrated the power of discontented masses.
The Industrial Revolution and the growth of class consciousness.
Hegel’s dialectic theory of thesis-antithesis-synthesis (look up).
Judeo-Christian doctrines of messianism and salvation (look up).
Has the global socio-economic situation evolved as the theories predicted?
Why has the predicted climax not occurred?
Is it likely or possible that it will occur?
Would the predicted outcome endure, or would a new antithesis arise?
Use this Source and link.
• Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. The Communist Manifesto (1848). Project Gutenberg EBook. January 25, 2005. http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/61/pg61.html.
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