The Communist Manifesto

by Friedrich Engels, Karl Marx

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Why does capitalism, according to Marx and Engels, produce both wealth and impoverishment?

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According to Marx and Engels, capitalism simultaneously produces wealth and abundance on the one hand and misery, impoverishment, and ruin on the other because such opulence relies on extensive exploitation.

In their Communist Manifesto, a pamphlet published in 1848, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels lay out their ideas for how capitalism works. For them, the bourgeoisie represent the accumulation of capital. Engels and Marx present the bourgeoisie as an exploitative social class preoccupied with stockpiling commodities and wealth. The bourgeoisie owe their wealth to “the conquest of new markets, and by the more thorough exploitation of the old ones.” In other words, they find new areas to bring into capitalism while fine-tuning their domination in the places already under their control.

To make the goods that generate their wealth, the bourgeoisie use the proletariat—that is, a “class of labourers who live only so long as they find work, and who find work only so long as their labour increases capital.” For Marx and Engels, the proletariat are inevitably oppressed by the bourgeoisie. The bourgeoisie are the masters, and the workers are the slaves. Consider how such an unequal relationship results in a distressing, tough life for workers.

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