Nineteenth Century Philosophy


In a nutshell, what did Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels write in their philosophy?

Human beings must work to live. History, noted Marx and Engels, is a Hegelian dialectical process in which different divisions of labor have developed, resulting in the nineteenth century in a bourgeois owning class that controls the government and an exploited proletariat, or working class, that furnishes the labor for capitalists. Capitalism is an economic system in which owners seek profits through ever-expanding production and markets. Their profit is the result of subtracting the costs of material and equipment, or capital, plus wages paid to workers, from the money they take in.

Within the producing system, labor, or the work of the working class, results in a “surplus value,” because workers are exploited by employers. The worker is paid just enough to go home and eat, sleep, and engage in familial acts of reproduction, which altogether “reproduce” his labor so that he can continue to function as a worker. That is, every aspect of the worker’s life is “squeezed” by their employers so that they can maximize their profits. The result is that workers, especially those who made up the vast pool of labor in nineteenth century industrial society, were poor.


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