Western Political Thought Karl Marx: Part 1 Dialectical Materialism

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Karl Marx

Western Political Thought Karl Marx: Part 1 Dialectical Materialism (Political Science)

Important Topics

  • Brief and general introduction
  • Dialectical Materialism
  • Historical Materialism
  • Theory of revolution
  • Doctrine of class conflict
  • Concept of surplus value
  • Role of private property
  • Criticism
  • Mcqs

General Introduction

  • Karl Marx was a German scholar, an outstanding social scientist, historian and revolutionary.
  • He undertook a critical analysis of capitalist՚s society.
  • Propounded materialistic interpretation of history.
  • And showed the way for transition to communism.
  • He was born in a professional middle class family.
  • Received higher education at Berlin University.
  • He got influenced by philosophy of Hegel, but soon came out with differences.
  • Because of his extremely radical views he lost his job.
  • And not only was this he also expelled from the country.
  • He then moved to France – the home of socialists thought.
  • Here he became ardent communist and recorded his ideas on communism which were later published (as late as 1932) as Marx՚s Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844.
  • This marked the beginning of their lifelong friendship and collaboration.
  • Marx and Engels made immense contribution to sociology, economics and philosophy etc.

Dialectical Materialism

  • This represents the philosophical basis for Marxism.
  • Hegel the German philosopher believed that idea is the driving force behind the all historical development.
  • Marx rejected this view and postulated that ‘matter’ was the essence of the universe, which embodied the force behind all manifestations of social change.
  • Marx each stage of development represented the corresponding stage of development of the material condition of society.
  • Thus Marx advanced the theory of materialism as against the Hegel՚s theory of ‘idealism’ .

Idealism and Materialism


  • A philosophical doctrine which regards ‘idea’ or ‘consciousness’ as the essence of the universe and treats all social institutions as the manifestation of the prevailing idea.


  • A philosophical doctrine which regards ‘matter’ as the essence of the universe and treats ‘consciousness’ as the mere reflection of the prevailing material condition.
    Comparative Study of Marx and Hegel

Comparative Study of Marx and Hegel

  • Marx abandoned the idealism of Hegelian philosophy and in its place put forwarded his philosophy of materialism i.e.. , the materialistic view of the world.
  • Thus it can be said that Marx՚s philosophy is different from that of Hegel.
  • Marx himself admitted in the introduction of his well-known work ‘Das Capital’ , “I found the Hegelian dialectic standing on its head. I put it on its foot” .
  • Regarding Dialectical Materialism Engels says, “All nature from the smallest thing to the biggest, from a grain of sand and sun, from the Protista to man is in a constant state of coming into being and going out of being, in a constant flux, in a ceaseless state of movement and change” .
  • He has skillfully explained it by giving an example of barley seed.
  • He argues that, if a barley seed is sown, it will turn into an offshoot with heat and moisture.
  • In this way the barley seed will destroy itself but its offshoot shall take the shape of a plant.
  • That plant shall bear many grains and with labor of the farmer these grains can be of better quality.
  • After sometime the plant will destroy it and the seeds will reproduce many more plants.
  • According to Engels, the seed is thesis and the plant is anti-thesis.
  • Its fruit is synthesis.
  • Another example: he says in the beginning of the entire society had control over the land . this was a thesis.
  • Later the idea of individual control cropped up. it was an anti-thesis.
  • Individual ownership on the land established and the production increased.
  • After the industrial revolution, many machines were invented.
  • There come up the idea of adopting mechanical method.
  • But the individual had no financial resources to buy tractor, install tubewell, etc.
  • Therefore, the people demanded social ownership of land and nationalization of industries.
  • In this way, the relationship emerged and established.
  • According to Dialectic Materialism, difference in quantity of things also brings difference in their quality.
  • For example – when the boiling point of water exceeds a limit, it becomes steam and when it comes down considerably it freezes.
  • According to Dialectic, the process of development and change of things is not simple, but complex. it is like a circle or an expanding line.

What is Dialectics?

  • The term dialectic or dialectical is derived from its Greek origin which refers to ‘the method of investigation of truth through the art of disputations’ that is by the process of arguments and counter arguments.
  • This method was successfully applied by Plato in his Dialogues.
  • Immanuel Kant applied this method for the study of contradictions arising from the employment of reason.
  • Then was used by Hegel to identify the process whereby such contradictions are resolved for arriving at a higher plane of truth.

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