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Risk Society and Karl Marx’s Response to It


A German philosopher who has been credited with the Communism introduction, Carl Marx developed a socio-political and economic theory whose impact is still felt to date.

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He observed that the capitalist world will eventually explode due to industrialization that would leave the majority poor jobless and recession or economic meltdown. He, therefore, proposed a situation where the capitalists and the ruling class should invent ways of uplifting the living standards of the poor; a process that he intimated is not easy and may result in a long outstanding conflict between these two groups, hence a series of mass revolutions. The current economic meltdown could have been viewed by Marx as just the beginning of his predicted conflict and that successive revolution are just in the offing.

Main Body

Carl Marx, a German Philosopher who was credited with establishing the communism foundation, has a great influence on the political theory of the modern world. Marx argued that the establishment of capitalist society was in itself the foundation with which it will be defeated and the return of communism. This was captured in his work, “The Communist Manifesto” when he said “The development of Modern Industry, therefore cuts under its feet the very foundation on which the bourgeoisie produces and appreciate products. What the bourgeoisie, therefore produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable” (Marx & Engels 1848, P. 49)

Before the advent of capitalism, there were existent markets in Europe where people bought and sold commodities, however, according to Marx, the development of labor as a commodity is what changed the whole system as labor was treated or counted labor (Sewell 1980, P. 145). The peasants were exposed because their land was taken away hence they were offered work as laborers in the market to get a living out of the sold labor, that “the people were not selling the product of their labor but their capacity to work” (Thomas 1986, p.34). But Marx’s theory was categorical. That the fact that capitalists were fewer than proletarians, there would likely be a conflict between the two groups.

He argued that the difference between the production input and production output was the “surplus” and that this surplus was as a result of “surplus labor- the difference between what it cost to keep workers alive and what they can produce”. (Blackwell 1975 p. 63). He observed that new technology would ultimately cause conflict between the capitalists and the laborers. Since his theory was that the “surplus value”, P.292) was a result of labor, he concluded that the rate of profit margin “would fall even as the economy grew” (Lewis1999, p. 112). He predicted that the fall will lead to recession if it continues. People would see some sectors of the economic collapse to an unbearable level, consequently leading to a fall in labor price. Therefore the capitalists would develop new technological sectors to up their production capacity consequently leading to more joblessness and the widening gap between the poor majority and the rich minority.

He suggested that for the capitalists to help the situation, they would have to invest much in social aspects of development that would improve the overall living standards of the poor and invent a system of production that is “less vulnerable to the periodic crisis” (Baird & Walter 2008, p. 168). However, he observed that this process may be unpopular with the capitalist and therefore the likelihood of a series of revolutions and conflict of interest between the poor and the rich capitalists. In his work, Critique of the Gotha Program, he said “transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat” (James 2007, p. 211).


Following his socio-political and economic theory, Marx would have viewed the current economic meltdown or recession as just the beginning of a series of revolutions that is likely to degenerate into a series of conflict and dictatorship by the capitalists, an opinion shared by Max Weber, a German sociologist, lawyer, and politician who said, that a political state is “that entity which possesses a monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force” (Warner 1991, p. 411)

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Warner, D 1991, ‘An Ethic of Responsibility in International Relations’, Lynne Rienner Publishers, NJ

Best, S & Kellner, D 1997, ‘From the Spectacle to Simulation’, The Postmodern Turn, p.79

Lewis, B 1999, ‘Semites and Anti-Semites: An Inquiry into Conflict and Prejudice’, New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Pp.112.

Forrest E & Walter K 2008, ‘From Plato to Derrida’, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Sewell, W 1980, ‘Work and Revolution in France- The Language of Labor from the Old Regime to 1848’ Cambridge Press, p. 145

James Ledbetter 2007(Ed), Selected Journalism of Karl Marx, Dispatches for the New York Tribune, Penguin Books.

David, Mc1973, ‘Karl Marx: His Life and Thought’, New York, Harper and Row.

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Blackwell 1975.Marx Without Myth: A Chronological Study of his Life and Work.

Sekine T 1986, ‘The Dialectic of Capital. A Study of the Inner Logic of Capitalism, Tokyo.

Avineri, S 1968, ‘The Social and Political Thought of Karl Marx’, Cambridge University Press.

Daniel Little 1986, ‘The Scientific Marx’, University of Minnesota Press.

Marx, K & Engels, F1848, the Communist Manifesto.

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