What are three of Marx's main concepts?

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Three of Marx’s most important concepts include:

  • Historical materialism.  This is Marx’s idea that history proceeds in predictable steps.  Societies, he says, develop from one stage to another in a way that is predictable.  In each stage, a dominant class is in conflict with a subjugated class.  This conflict is always centered on material/economic issues.  This development will eventually end with the rise of communism.
  • Labor theory of value.  To Marx, the value of a thing is determined by the amount of labor that is put into that thing.  It is, then, the worker who creates the value of any given product.
  • Surplus value.  Marx says that the amount of labor that is necessary for a given worker is the amount of labor that will pay for that worker’s needs.  He goes on to argue that workers are made to work more hours than that.  These extra hours are called surplus labor.  The owners of the firms in which people work keep the surplus value produced by that surplus labor.  In doing so, they are exploiting the workers.
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