Karl Marx’s Critique of Capitalism

The socialist revolutionary, Karl Marx, singled out several socio-economic formations in history and considered the patterns of their development. Slavery, feudalism, capitalism, and communism aspects were discussed by this scholar. Marx revealed the economic contradictions inherent in capitalism, pointing to the inevitability of the transition to the next formation. This paper will examine the key ideas of Marx regarding class division, labor, ideology, and fetishism of commodities in the context of capitalism.

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Class Division, Ruling Ideology, Estranged Labor, and Fetishism of Commodities

In his work titled “The Communist Manifesto”, Marx distinguished between the bourgeoisie and proletariat classes that are opposed to each other. The bourgeois class represents the rulers of the method of production driven by capitalism, the goal of which is the manipulation of the proletarian stratum and utilization of surplus-value. In turn, the proletariat is an exploited class of bourgeois society that does not own the means of production and is forced to sell its labor to the capitalists to maintain its life.

The resistance between classes, according to Marx, is ultimately the expression of the struggle between the developing productive forces and the production relations lagging behind them (Garner & Hancock, 2014). The establishment of a classless society is regarded as the historical mission of the proletariat to liberate from bourgeois exploitation and free all society through revolution.

Marxist philosophy is the ruling ideology proposed by Marx in his views on humanity. The integral society without class inequality that is governed from the center according to a single plan was declared as the key point of the ideology. Marx believed that after overcoming the resistance of the bourgeoisie, the dictatorship would expire, while the society will become socialistic, and the mature phase of communism will occur in the future.

As for estranged labor, Marx considered that private property promotes social inequality development, which causes the appearance of classes. In a class society, the phenomenon of alienation of a person arises in four aspects. According to the first form, a worker uses natural materials that do not belong to him or her, producing objects that go to the owner of the production (Garner & Hancock, 2014). In the second form, the process of labor activity is forced.

The worker cannot choose whether to work or not, because he or she cannot otherwise ensure livelihood. The third form implies that the worker applies to both production and nature indifferently, seeing in them as something alien and hostile. Ultimately, the fourth form refers to unfree labor that creates alienation between people and competition in a capitalist society, when each person neglects the good of other people and society as a whole.

Fetishism of commodities is viewed by Marx as the creation of idols when the rules of demand and supply identify economy instead of social relationships. In other words, the mentioned author stated that the economic market processes do not pay attention to social constructs and exist independently. The most important idea of Marx is to clarify this misinterpretation and address it through detailed explanations of social conditions.

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To conclude, the critique of capitalism provided by Marx is based on the class inequality between the proletariat and bourgeoisie. The elimination of strata is declared as the way to build an integral society with a centralized economy and the opportunity to ensure the common good. The alienation of a person and fetishism of commodities are also noted as arguments, showing the adverse impact of capitalism on people and the entire society.


Garner, R., & Hancock, B. H. (2014). Social theory: A Reader: Continuity and confrontation (3rd ed.). Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto Press.

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