What is Marx's view on women in society in Das Kapital?

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Marx was an inclusive economist and political thinker. Despite writing in the Victorian era, when women had few rights, he actively addressed their role in society. Specifically, he saw that women had been exploited by capitalism, as we see in the first volume of Das Kapital:

The labour of women and children was, therefore, the first thing sought for by capitalists who used machinery.

This idea is echoed in The Communist Manifesto. Marx accused the bourgeoisie of viewing women as “instruments of production.” Marx advocates the end of this exploitation and makes clear that under communism, no such treatment of women (or children) would exist.

However, it is worth noting that The Communist Manifesto finishes by calling on “working men of the world to unite.” Notice that women are not directly addressed here. This implies that, although Marx advocated for an end to their oppression and exploitation, he followed the Victorian view that women would not play an active role in a radical restructuring of society.

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Marx believed that women were the victims of a society that kept them in a state of permanent subjection. Just as capitalism was responsible for the systemic exploitation of the proletariat, so too did the society built upon its foundations lead to the oppression of women.

Indeed, Marx believed that contemporary society replicated capitalism's inherently exploitative dynamic in its gender relations. For Marx, the traditional family unit in capitalist society was a site of bourgeois oppression, in which women and girls were subject to the dominance and control of men in much the same way that the working classes groaned under the lash of capitalist exploitation.

According to Marx, genuine female emancipation could only come about with the wholesale abolition of the capitalist system and its subsequent replacement with a new social and economic arrangement, communism. Under communism, there would be absolute equality, not just between what had been mutually antagonistic classes but also between men and women.

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Karl Marx was very much for the rights of women. His theories have led to Marxist feminism that is still going strong today.

Karl Marx believed strongly in equality for all people. He thought that women deserved to be treated the same as man. He believed that social and economic class kept people enslaved. He believed that women were inherently oppressed by capitalism, as they lost out economically by staying home and raising children. This kept them dependent on men to take care of them. He thought communism would solve these problems for women. Marx and his friend,, Friedrich Engles, were lifelong friends and collaborators. Engles wrote about women: "The emancipation of women coming only when they entered the productive workforce. They are able to take part in production on a large social scale and when domestic duties require their attention only to a minor degree." Marx believed that women were kept subjective to their circumstances because of economic and social domination associated with class.

Marx was also quoted as saying "Anyone who knows anything of history knows that great social changes are impossible without feminine upheaval. Social progress can be measured exactly by the social position of the fair sex, the ugly ones included." As you can see Karl Marx thought women had the right to work and be paid fairly for their work. He believed that this was the only way for women to become independent and treated equally.

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