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Karl Marx's theory of Marxism was founded on the premise that communism will arise from the overthrow of capitalism. Socialism has been slipping into civilization along with various regimes for the past century and weakening them. Some people claim that democracy still lives in countries, despite the fact that Karl Marx is gone. The considerations of Marxist philosophy can be regarded by many people as a waste of time; however, whether Marxism is alive or dead depends on how one looks at the problem from the point of view of self-sufficiency. According to Norman (1989), both as a collective philosophy and as far as self-sufficiency is concerned, Marxism is gone. However, as a school of thought (of which the theory is also incomplete according to Norman), the approach is still alive. As a traditional theory, Marxism should draw a set of values that must be central to the survival of the existing ideology. The Russian revolution and the dismantling of communism in the Soviet Union are apparently the main contributors to the death of Marxism. Indeed, Marxist theory lost the appeal because of its close association with the big political failure in Russia.

Marxism Defined

What is Marxism then? The proponents of Marxism collides in distinguishing and dissecting Marxism in the context of political tactics and strategy. Some hold to the thoughts of alienation whereas others consider that socio-economic analysis in the capitalism. Others think that only the philosophical schools of thought around dialectic materialism.1 The breakdown in the confrontation between social democracy and revolutionary Marxism has been as a consequence of divergent views on the social and political analysis that people assign Marxism. The Russian revolution was a political movement that led to the death of classical Marxism during its early days. The revolution was a social earthquake in a developing country which was not in line with the predictions of Karl Marx. Besides, the tactical alliances between workers and peasants that were evident in the Russian revolution did not match the theoretical frameworks of Marxists.

The incidences witnessed during the Russian revolution, explains the gap between the predictions of Karl Max and the political happenings that took place 50 years after the publication of the Capital. Even though the economic projections were still predominant, that has significantly changed during the last five decades. According to Marxists, a financial analysis was focused on manufacturing, and the trade-related activities added no value to the economies. Today, services play a more crucial role, though the international trades and world finance. Apparently, Marxism is a different matter concerning a consideration as an interpretation instrument. In formulating Marxism, Karl Marx had a belief that social evolution strictly depends on economic conditions; hence, there is need to understand the terms both for economic-oriented analysis, and political action purposes. When considered in this perspective, the events like the growing dislocation of the political systems in America, and the political resistance to globalization through the European Union projects can be easily understood.

Marxists also believe that the ideas of Karl Marx can serve as a functioning political instrument. However, the assessment of this belief needs a consideration of the controversies around the Marxist thoughts, and his views on human nature. According to Marxists, material conditions can explain the failures on social development. Contrarily, the idea has ever faced criticisms on the basis that it minimizes political action like the human will. When Marxism is considered as a political praxis, it fails to meet the threshold for a useful political tool because it has scientific components. An example of a political praxis is the religion which Marx dismissed because it lacked a scientific backup. However, Marxists appreciate the role that religion played in the European religious wars.

Marxism as a Philosophy

In certain situations, Marxism can manifest as an all-embracing philosophy. The two aspects of Marxism: capitalism and socialism are worth considering in this regard. Capitalism and mainly its American version have failed to answer the underlying questions concerning the social and economic aspirations of the large sectors of the population in the North America and Europe. On the other hand, China, which follows socialism has had a leading edge economically. Marxism takes the form of philosophical and historical materialism. There former applies to ontological theory while the latter forms the foundation upon which the social theory emerges. The two premises of Marxism (philosophical and historical materialism) may be acceptable theories to some extent. However, a combination of the two cannot give a comprehensive view of the world. A critical examination of the two reveals that they are not related in any particular way and therefore cannot interlock to give a comprehensive worldview.

According to historical materialism, a human being is an innate creature with needs that are inevitable like food, shelter, and clothing. To achieve the requirements, man must put some extra effort on to the external world by working hard to satisfy the needs. Work for need satisfaction also receives support from both the philosophies of idealism and dualism. Why did Marx combine the two views then? Gottfried (2005) states that Marx linked the two ideas as a form of reaction to Hegel's move to merge philosophical and historical idealism. Despite the challenges and unstoppable confusions about a possible combination of the two materialism concepts, most Marxists list believe that the plausible connection between them is possible.

Marxism and Ethics

The debates around the relationship between Marxism and ethics is doing round in the modern worldviews of philosophy. Most people often consider the ideologies of Karl Marx as those that have a close link to Kantian and utilitarian theories. The perceptions emerge from the ideas about justice and self-realization that Marx put forth in his work. However, after an assessment of Karl’s work, one can confidently conclude that the concepts of ethics in Marxism, whether explicit or implicit, lack clarity and consistency. Indeed, no specific answer can be found for the question of what Marx thought about ethics. Gottfried (2005) reiterates that even Marx himself did not know about it, hence never had any consistent position about it.

Marxist social theory can only be intelligible if it purposes to explain the social values concerning ethical behaviors or norms. The social norms in Marxism have a philosophical basis that is not entirely worked out; however, they provide a foundation upon which the construction of a social theory can happen. The values are not unique to Marxism, but instead, form a set of socialist values within the broader tradition of the humanism and the human life. The idea was supported by Aristotle who believed that a good life is one where a man uses the available materials to fulfill their distinctive human capacities. Within the context of a socialist, a fully human life takes the egalitarian slant which is explicitly formulated in some of the Marx's writing. According to the perspective of Marxism, the fullness of human life is achieved both regarding the intellectual work, together with the productive work that results from the activities. Consequentially, Marxist condemnation of the conditions that "mutilate" the laborers into a fragment of a man arose.

Apparently, Marx did not develop a working, ethical theory. The major task of the Marxists, and for a living Marxism could have been therefore to develop a working, ethical theory. The development of such a theory would be more conscious to egalitarianism as opposed to Marxism. The new idea would also need to draw on the wider philosophical tradition of the humanistic ethics which would also include an engagement with the contemporary political philosophies. Failure of Marxism to make use of the resources of the wider traditions can lead to nothing less than its death.

Ideology of Marxism

The concept of thinking is the other essential element in Marxism as social theory. Norman (1989) believes that the ideas of Marxism are not sufficient to explain human thought and consciousness in the contemporary society. In Marxism, ideology is all about the plans that show a reflection of the standpoint of a particular class in a given social context. Apparently, the concept of thinking is the most dominant and useful one in the whole philosophy of Marxism. Ideology identifies the most fundamental phenomenon, but the usefulness contrastingly lies with the non-ideological thoughts. The implication here is that not all the ideas brought forth by the philosophy can be ideological.

Despite the reality that exists with the ideology of Marxism, some proponents of the philosophy believe that they can be if they are not. However, Marxists seem to forget that it is possible to have an objective truth, even without the standpoints of a particular class. Indeed, all ideas may represent the perspective of a specific level, and the fact or falsity can only be determined based on the category of which it is suspected to fall. As a general theory of truth, relativism cannot be sustained for long because of its paradoxical nature. In Marxism, class relativists fall back on partial relativism where science is isolated from ideology. In the context of partial relativism, the thoughts that are considered to be scientific are assumed to represent the objective truth while any other thing falls under the second category of ideology, which can only be used to demonstrate the standpoint of a specific class. However, the theory fails to provide a convincing explanation of how science alone can be exempted from the influence of class interest in the contemporary society. Ethical relativism is likely to come up in any situations where value judgment is regarded as the paradigm of ideology as with the case of Marxism. Therefore, it is imperative to recall that the concepts of ideology continue to receive a lot of criticism because of its different ideas with the non-ideological thinking about values. The theory of ideology offers nothing less than pathology of social life.


Many people in the Western world had believed that Marxism could create a possible challenge to liberal capitalism; however, this has ever since been eliminated. The eradication of the Marxist belief started with the failure of the Russian revolution which had a foundation on Marxism theory that an ideal society is a communist state. Furthermore, the theory has been disapproved by the anti-communist propaganda which was successful in marginalizing the communist ideology during the American Cold War. Despite the fact that the principles of Marxism in the Western left-wing politics, the ideas of Marxism as spelled out by Karl Marx are no longer in existence.


Gottfried, Paul. The strange death of Marxism: The European Left in the new millennium. Missouri: University of Missouri Press, 2005.

Norman, Richard. "What is Living and What is Dead in Marxism?" Canadian Journal of Philosophy 4 (1989): 59-80.

Peter, McLaren, and Ramin Farahmandpur. "Research News And Comment: Reconsidering Marx in Post-Marxist Times: A Requiem for Postmodernism?" Educational Researcher 29, no. 3 (2000): 25-33.

August 09, 2021
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