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Give a brief account of the historical and the intellectual influences that worked upon Marx.
The philosopher, social scientist, historian and revolutionary, Karl Marx, is without a doubt the most influential socialist thinker to emerge in the 19th century. Marx in his attempt to study sociology tried to remain scientific, systematic and objective rather than purely normative and prescriptive. Although his work is too broad to be encompassed by the term sociology, some of the key concepts developed by Marx form an integral part of the sociological paradigm, in the development of which he was influenced by a number of philosophers and the historical events. Understanding such influences becomes important for a better understanding of his concepts and also the discipline of sociology.
The historical influences on the development of Marxist theories include the French Revolution and also the Industrial Revolution. Marx saw the French Revolution as a typical bourgeoisie revolution, having two opposing classes- the new bourgeoisie and the ‘free’ wage slaves. From this event Marx and Engels derived much of their theory of social revolutions, as well as their estimation of political democracy of the bourgeois type, popularized by the famous slogan, “Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity.”
The effects of the Industrial revolution were a splendid source for Marx’s researches and generalizations regarding the concentration of capital, the displacement of workers by machinery and the increasing misery of the proletariat. Marx viewed a capitalist society as an exploitative one, which was dominated by a minority, the bourgeoisie, who enjoy complete control over the process of production. This process of production was considered hostile and antagonistic in nature as they involve relations of exploitation and subjugation. Here, the influence of Adam Smith and David Ricardo can be seen.
Under capitalism, the working class exists as a vast majority, who have only their labour power to sell in terms of wages and have no control over production. This sort of concealed exploitation he believes leads to a kind of estrangement of man from himself and also the community, which is referred to as ‘alienation’. Marx draws this concept of alienation from Rousseau’s ‘The Second Discourse’, which traces the psychological and political effects of modern society on human nature and also from Ludwig Feuerbach’s ‘The Essence Of Christianity’...