Karl Marx—Excerpts from The Communist Manifesto (1848)
Why, according to Marx, are the bourgeoisie (capital—owners) fundamentally at odds with
the proletariat (laboring classes)?
Marx argued that “capitalism sows the seeds of its own destruction.” Considering the
passages below, why might this be the case?
BOURGEOISIE (CAPITAL) AND PROLETARIANS (LABOR)
 The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.
 Freeman and slave, patrician and plebian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a
word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an
uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary
reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes….
 Our epoch, the epoch of the bourgeoisie, possesses, however, this distinct feature: it has
simplified class antagonisms. Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great
hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other – bourgeoisie (capital) and
 Each step in the development of the bourgeoisie was accompanied by a corresponding
political advance in that class….
 The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal,
idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his "natural
superiors", and has left no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous
"cash payment". ... It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the
numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom --
Free Trade. In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has
substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation.
 Manufacturing by machine gives the bourgeoisie an added advantage and further converts the
worker into a crippled monstrosity, cut off from the chance to cultivate his human skills…. Under
Capitalism the machines displace the skilled and force him to be used and discarded as
interchangeable cogs in the labor machine itself.
 The bourgeoisie, by the rapid improvement of all instruments of production, …draws all, even
the most barbarian, nations into civilization…It compels all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt
the bourgeois mode of production; it compels them to introduce what it calls civilization into their
midst, i.e., to become bourgeois themselves. In one word, it creates a world after its own image.
 The bourgeoisie has subjected the country to the rule of the towns. It has created enormous
cities, has greatly increased the urban population as compared with the rural, and has thus rescued
a considerable part of the population from the idiocy of rural life. Just as it has made the country
dependent on the towns, so it has made barbarian and semi-barbarian countries dependent on the
civilized ones, nations of peasants on nations of bourgeois, the East on the West.
Excerpted from: http://history.hanover.edu/courses/excerpts/111marx1.html
Quick Overview of Marxist Thought
The Hegelian Dialectic:
In the mid-nineteenth century, when Karl Marx wrote Das Kapital (and before that, The Communist Manifesto),
factory conditions were often intolerable, wages were at best barely adequate, and there were few groups or
governments who advocated reform.
Marx's work draws heavily on the dialectical theories of Georg Hegel, an earlier 19th-century German
idealist-philosopher. Hegel had posited that the world was in a constant process of transformation from
lower to higher orders of existence. Each new order, he thought, emerged as a new idea, or a "thesis." And
each thesis had in turn its own opposing force or "antithesis.” But out of the inevitable clash between thesis
and antithesis, a new and more perfect order -- the “synthesis”-- would emerge. In turn, this synthesis would
now function as a new thesis, leading to another antithesis and advancing the conflict-resolution cycle, until
finally history fought its way forward to the ultimate synthesis, which in Marx’s world was true Socialism
(workers own the means of production).
Capitalistic society provides three main sources of "income": (1) Capital (which "profits" the Capitalist); (2)
Land (which provides landowners with rent); and (3) "Labour-power (which earns the worker his wage).
A laborer is, in a sense, a merchant, who sells his "labour-power" as a commodity. Thus, the Capitalist
purchases a laborer's work in exchange for a wage, which the worker then converts into food, shelter, and
clothing - on the surface, a fair exchange. Because the Capitalist must make a profit, however, and the
simple exchange of commodities does not produce any profit, Marx asserts that the Capitalist is forced to
extract his profit from the labor of his workers; he must "lower ... the wages of the labourer below the [true
exchange] value of his labour power."
Ultimately, Marx argued, the value of a good should be based on the amount of labor that went into that
good—a relationship known as the “labor theory of value.” For the capitalist to profit, however, she needs
to somehow pay less for the labor of worker in order to earn some money for herself…
Adapted from: “Awerty Notes,” http://www.awerty.com/das2.html