To begin with, let us mention that Karl Marx’s never used the term “sociology”; he wanted to create a synthetic science about society, which corresponded to the main features of sociology as a science. Close interconnection of scientific and practical political aspects is typical of Marx’s works. Worsley (2001) said that
his ideas have generated a vast output of writings, ranging from texts written by revolutionaries aimed at telling people how to do revolution – how to carry on Marx’s work of demolishing capitalism and creating a new socialist society – to the many hundreds of volumes dedicated to proving that Marx was wrong about practically everything. (p.1)
Though Marx considered himself to be a scientist (and he was a scientist), science was not his main aim in itself, it was just the means of revolutionary reconstruction of society.
During his whole life, Karl Marx was trying to solve a problematic question that was his main consideration. Its essence is the following: how can there be so many poor people, if society is rich on the whole? (Macionis, 2008, p. 102)
Marx’s philosophic anthropology – the theory of a person – is a remarkable thing that was necessary for his views. He defined a man as “homo faber” – a laboring man. Marx (1959) said that “Labour is… not the only source of material wealth … labour is the father of material wealth, the earth is its mother” (p. 13). Here he tackles the question of the interrelation of labor and sources of production. Today the amount of wealth is also usually defined by the amount of labor and the richness of the source of production. Speaking about the sources of “wealth”, he stated, “The wealth which constitutes all categories of income appears to be derived from three distinct and independent sources: namely, capital, ground rents, and labour” (Marx, 1959, p. 20). This idea is sound today as well; in the course of the development of society, the main sources of wealth remained unchanged.
Now let us present Marx’s idea that we would like to regard as a disputable one. “In bourgeois society capital is independent and has individuality, while the living person is dependent and has no individuality” (Marx, 1959, p. 336). On the one hand, this idea is too categorical and may be an exaggerated one, but we cannot deny the fact that it is sound. So, we can state that in comparison with the situation of the 19th century, a person is an individual and a free personality, though the importance of money should not be underestimated as well.
Illustrating the key points of Marx’s doctrine, we should state that it was he, who devised the notions of “capitalists” – those who owned enterprises, and “proletarians” – the source of labor that made the work of enterprises possible. These two opposing powers were in the constant struggle because of the conflict based on the amount of wage paid and received. The end of the conflict was possible only in case when the capitalist system ceased to exist. Marx claimed that the economy was the most important social institution and it dominated and defined the laws of functioning of other social institutions: family, religion, education (Macionis, 2008, p. 102).
Marx also studied the changes in societies in the course of history and he stated that conflicts between economic groups should be regarded as the main cause of evolution, though technological advance also reinforces it. He also said, “the whole history of mankind (since the dissolution of primitive tribal society, holding land in common ownership) has been a history of class struggles” (Marx, 1956, p. 318). So, materialistic understanding of history and theory of class conflict is the key concepts of his doctrine.
Summing everything up, we want to admit that Karl Marx was one of the most remarkable personalities of the 19th century and his works are of great sociologic and historic value.
Macionis, J.J., Plummer K. (2008). Sociology: A Global Introduction. New Jersey: Pearson Education.
Marx, K. (1959). Capital, the Communist Manifesto and Other Writings (M. Eastman, Ed.). New York: The Modern Library.
Worsley, P. (2002). Marx and Marxism. New York: Routledge.