Karl Marx was the topic of discussion in my economics class that day. I have heard that name before but never really known about that man. But my economics professor was very fond of his ideals. So he scraped the usual discussion on equilibriums that day and thought of making us understand what Socialism meant. He himself admitted that no discussion on socialism was complete without a dialogue on the legendary Karl Marx. I never really paid attention to this name before but just because Sir has asked me to read about him, I reluctantly issued a book from the library about him.
As soon as I read about him, I felt a sudden strangeness in my thoughts. You must be thinking what an 18 year old was doing in the modernized world of the 21st century with a book about a man who died tens of decades ago. I found it strange too. But there I was, reading about one of the most revolutionary minds mother earth had ever produced. Reading about him took me to another world; a world of oppression, a world of injustices and a world of revolution.
Marxism is the word economists use for his philosophies. It is quite a tough task to explain what Marxism truly means, but I am ready to take on that challenge. You see, simply put, Marxism is a definite set of political and economic ideas, the base of which comes from Karl Marx. According to Marxism, the world is divided into different classes based on their relationships to how things are made. For example there is the “proletariat” or “working class” which refers to all the people working for others, as in factories, farms or offices. There is another class of “Capitalists” or the “ruling class” because they benefit from the work of the proletariats. The working class earns enough to survive in half the time and the other half is used by them just for creating profits for the Capitalists. This extra work is called exploitation of labor. This leads to a constant struggle between the working classes and the ruling classes. This struggle is also called Materialistic Dialectic.
Marxism recognizes that in earlier time periods, we lived first under rulers who owned everything. Then we lived under lords who owned land with workers who lived on them. And we currently live under governments that allow many people to own property (though still organized in a way that robs many people of their labor and rights). Eventually, Marxists believe that we will move to a society where everyone owns everything in common—this will be known as Socialism.
Marxism was not only restricted to the former centuries but is quite pertinent to the 21st century too. The world has changed in the new millennium but what remains stagnant is the way everything works. And thus Marxism continues to be quite relevant to the modern setups as well.
In his famous book, How to Change the World: Tales of Marx and Marxism,
Eric Hobsbawn has analyzed the various ways in which even after many decades the Marxist theory is still, and would always be, an essential part of our society.
There has been an enormous progress of globalization and the sheer wealth generating capacities of humans. This has reduced the power and scope of economic and social action by the nations and therefore the classical policies of social-democratic movements which depended on national governments. But at the same time given the prominence of market fundamentalism, it has generated extreme economic inequality over the years within the nations and has brought back the earlier catastrophic situations. To deal with these problems, the inequality among the classes has to be alleviated which is the major idea of Marxism.
2. The Realm of Necessity:
The productive capacity of the current population has made it possible for us to move from the realm of necessity to the realm of prosperity, education and unimaginable life choices. But a large population is yet to enter it. Yet for most of the previous century, socialist movements and regimes still operated in the realm of necessity, even in the rich countries of the west. However in the realm of prosperity the aim of adequate food, clothing, housing, and jobs to provide income and welfare system to protect people against the hazards of life is no longer a sufficient program for the socialists. The socialists have to find out ways to move the entire population either one of the realms to maintain peace and stability which can only be achieved by following the principles of the Marxist thoughts.
The spectacular expansion of the global economy has damaged the environment. Hence the need to control the unlimited economic growth has become increasingly urgent. This control can only be achieved with the help of the Marxist philosophies. There has now begun a patent conflict between the need to reverse or at least to control the impact of our economy on the biosphere and the maximum continuing growth in search for profits. This can also be called the Achilles Heel of capitalism. We cannot at present know whose arrow will be fatal to it.
The question is: so how are we to think of Karl Marx today; as a thinker for all the humanity or only for a part of it; as a philosopher or as an economic analyst; or as a founding father of the modern social science and a guide to understanding human history. No matter how we remember him but his principles and philosophies would always be valuable to the whole of the human civilizations and for the generations to come.
By- Utkarsh Panwar