Who was Karl Marx (including background, general biographical data, literary works he produced and their significance, philisophical views, points most people agree with Marx on and why, points...

Who was Karl Marx (including background, general biographical data, literary works he produced and their significance, philisophical views, points most people agree with Marx on and why, points most people don't agree with Marx and why, insights most people gain by researching Marx)?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Karl Marx was one of the most influential thinkers in the history of the world.  His ideas about economic justice helped give rise to the systems of socialism and communism.  These ideas were very important, particularly in the second half of the 20th century when communism was on one side of the Cold War.  Socialism continues to be a major political force, particularly in Europe.

Karl Marx was born in Germany in 1818.  His family was of Jewish descent, but his father had converted to Christianity shortly before Marx was born.  His father was a lawyer and the family was in the middle class.  Marx got a Ph.D. in philosophy in 1841.  He soon became interested in issues of social justice and became a journalist, writing for a left-wing newspaper.

Marx is important in world history because of two books that he wrote or cowrote.  These are The Communist Manifesto and Capital (also known as Das Kapital).  In these books, Marx laid out his theories.  One of the most important aspects of his theory was the idea that all of history is a struggle of class against class.  The upper classes always do everything they can to keep the lower classes in a subordinated position.  The other major aspect of his theory was his belief that the working class would inevitably overthrow the capitalist class and would create an ideal society based on communism.

Very few people today (at least in the United States) agree with Marx.  His ideas are generally discredited because they have worked so poorly in practice.  People who agree with him tend to agree with the idea that the workers do not get enough of the wealth they create because the owners and managers of the companies take too much of that wealth for themselves.  Such people want the government to do more to promote economic equality.

The main reason why people disagree with Marx is that his theories seem impractical in the real world.  Marx believed that no one should be allowed to get rich or poor.  He believed that people would work simply for the love of working and for the good of society.  He also believed that the government could direct the economy instead of allowing the profit motive to do so.  These have not proven to be true.  When people and companies do not have an economic incentive to work efficiently, they do not seem to do so.  When governments try to direct economies, the economies tend to fail.  For these reasons, most people in the United States do not agree with Marx’s ideas.

By researching Marx, however, people can be encouraged to think about ways in which society might be built on conflict between "haves" and "have nots."

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