||The economic and political doctrine known as Marxism was developed by the German theorists Karl Marx (1818 - 1883) and , Friedrich Engels (1820 - 1895). Their most famous joint work was the The Communist Manifesto (1848), and Engels helped finish Marx\'s major work Das Kapital (1867-94).
There are five key elements in Marxist doctrine. First, Marxists have a theory of alienation (and of human nature). They believe that human beings are estranged from their real (creative) selves in non-communist societies because they live in exploitative social relationships. In advanced communist societies this alienation will be overcome and work will become a creative experience for everybody.
Second, Marxists have a theory of history, historical materialism. They believe that there is progress in human history, characterized by humankind\'s progressive mastery of Nature and the accumulation of technological advances. They believe that forms of organizing work and the political and belief systems which accompany them persist as long as they encourage technological progress. Five progressive modes of production existed in human history according to Marx and Engels: primitive communism; Asiatic despotism; slavery; feudalism; and capitalism. They predicted there would be two more: socialism and advanced communism.
Third, Marxists have a theory of class struggle and revolution. Every mode of production, except those of primitive and advanced communism, is characterized by fundamental class division and exploitation. The ruling class owns the means of production (land or capital or people) and extracts â€˜surplus labourâ€™ from subordinate classes. Asiatic peasants, slaves and serfs are exploited by being forced to work for others, whereas workers in capitalist societies are forced to work on pain of starvation. Marx believed that the ruling class of each mode of production, who controlled the state, would be challenged and replaced by a new ruling class when its rule ceased to advance progress of production. Thus the feudal nobility in Europe, who were dominant because they owned the land, were replaced with the growth in trade and industrialization by the capitalist middle class (the â€˜bourgeoisieâ€™), who gained ascendancy because of their control of capital; while the bourgeoisie in their turn were doomed to be replaced by the industrial working class (the â€˜proletariatâ€™). Changes in modes of production occur through class struggle and polarization, and are always signalled by revolution.
Fourth, Marxists have a set of economic doctrines, the most famous of which is the labour theory of value. Marxists believe that the economic value of products is directly related to the â€˜socially necessary labour timeâ€™ which went into producing them, and this theory is used to demonstrate to their satisfaction that capitalism is exploitative because the worker is forced to work for longer periods than he or she is paid for. This theory of exploitation, or of â€˜surplus valueâ€™, is also associated with a series of erroneous predictions Marx made about the fate of capitalist economiesâ€”in particular his assumption that the class structure of capitalism would simplify into two polarized classes, and his theory that the rate of profit would inevitably fall over time. However, contrary to what one might expect, neither Marx nor Engels had an explicit theory of how a socialist or communist economy might functionâ€”they argued that it would be Utopian for them to presume to know how it would operate. In consequence, they bequeathed to their followers no clear vision of the economics of socialism, that is, state ownership and planning the means of production, distribution and exchange, and others had to advocate market socialism the state regulation of capital rather than state ownership and planning.
Finally, Marxism contains a theory of politics. Marx and Engels claimed that they had developed â€˜scientific socialismâ€™ because unlike Utopian socialists they had a theory of history and a critique of political economy, and their theories were grounded in material facts about the world rather then idealist or wishful thinkingâ€”not a view with which their critics agreed. They had demonstrated, or so they thought, that the proletariat was coming to be the largest social class, and that its class interests naturally led it to espouse socialism. Marx and Engels also assumed that the state existed merely as an instrument of class domination, and was not amenable to reform: history demonstrated the necessity of a revolutionary break with the past if agents wished to change the mode of production. They also believed that the socialist revolution would be characterized by a temporary â€˜dictatorship of the proletariatâ€™ in which the means of production would be owned by the state which would build the conditions for a classless communist society, with the means of production collectively owned by all members of society, and goods and services distributed justly according to people\'s needs. It followed, or so they believed, that after a socialist revolution had abolished the social bases of classes, that is, private property in the means of production, the state would wither away as an unnecessary social institution. To be charitable to Marx and Engels what they thought would wither away was the coercive aspect of state authority rather than its co-ordinating functions. Nevertheless the defects of the Marxist approach to politics, its class-reductionism and revolutionary chiliasm, bear no small responsibility for the forms of totalitarianism practised in the name of Marxism in the 20th century. However, it is as well to recall that Marx declared that he himself was not a Marxist, and he can hardly be held culpable for everything that Marxists have done and said in his name.
Through its profound influence on revolutionary communism, and such figures as Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin and Mao Zedong, as well as its lesser influence on evolutionary socialists and social democrats, Marxism has had a great impact on the history of the 20th century. Leninism deviated from orthodox Marxism in assuming the need for immediate and violent proletariat revolution, rather than awaiting the maturation of capitalism, as the orthodox Marxists suggested. Leninism thus gave a voluntarist bias to Marxism, at odds with Marx\'s theoretical economic determinism. Lenin also adapted Marxism to the conditions of Tsarist Russiaâ€”and thereby for all underdeveloped countries advocating and establishing an Ã©lite party of professional revolutionariesâ€”to hasten the termination of capitalism, and by arguing for the temporary dictatorship of the Communist party rather than the working class as a whole. Lenin\'s revolutionary philosophy subsequently codified and canonized as Marxist-Leninism became the guiding doctrine of the USSR and spread throughout the world. It is also known as Bolshevism. In the hands of Stalin, Marxism-Leninism became a crude ideology subservient to the interests of the Soviet state. Indeed, Stalin\'s Russia was criticized by many Marxists for betraying fundamental Marxist principles: notably by Trotsky who argued that the dictatorship of the proletariat was never meant to be a permanent system, let alone a vehicle for a personalist dictatorship. A range of western Marxist thinkers, notably in France, Italy and Germany, tried to preserve Marxism as a system of thought from contamination by Stalinism, but most western Marxists remained organized in Communist parties which were formally supportive or â€˜critically supportiveâ€™ of the Bolshevik revolution and its legacy. Mao Zedong\'s interpretation of Marxist-Leninism was based on the revolutionary potential of the rural peasantry, and on guerrilla warfare, and adapted Marx and Lenin\'s ideas to Chinese conditions.
Marxism was once the most widely officially endorsed political ideology in the world. Today it remains the official state ideology of China, North Korea, Vietnam and Cubaâ€”a still very substantial proportion of the world\'s population. In these countries it is used as a rigid dogma to justify a one-party dictatorship, although it is also used more flexibly with respect to economic management. Nevertheless Marxism is patently an ideology in crisis, which no longer has the same programmatic attraction for intellectuals or workers: Marxist rÃ©gimes have eventually seen to that. However, Marxism has had an important and pervasive effect on the politics and thought of the advanced industrial countries of western Europe, North America and Japan, influencing intellectuals critical of the prevailing capitalist order, shaping both communist and socialist parties, and forcing conservatives and liberals to justify and improve the workings of liberal democratic capitalism. It has also played an important role in shaping the political protests of anti-colonial and national liberation movements in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Moreover, Marxist ideas, provided they are not employed as dogmatic truths, but rather as potential hypotheses, are likely to remain an important resource in the historical and social sciences. BO\'L
See also Asiatic mode of production; conflict theory; critical theory; dominant ideology; hegemony; ideology; imperialism; labour process; socialism and social democracy; social movements; social stratification; sociology of knowledge.Further reading P. Anderson, Considerations on Western Marxism; , G. Cohen, Karl Marx\'s Theory of History: a Defence; , J. Elster, Making Sense of Marx; , L. Kolakowski, Main Currents of Marxism (3 volumes); , G. Lichtheim, Marxism; , D. McLellan, Karl Marx.