History: European/ "Marx's Thought A Product Of His Time" Discuss term paper 16279

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"Marx's thought a product of its time." Discuss.

Karl Marx was an individual who has influenced a great many individuals thought, even though he has been dead for over than forty years. The work of Marx continues to influence intellectual thought in some of the most remote countries. Marx's influence is important on the intellectual development of others, hence it is vital to study the history of the period of time that Marx was raised in to assess whether his thought was a product of its time. In this essay I intend to outline the historical background of Marx and to discuss its effects on his thought development.

Karl Marx was born in Treves, a city in the Rhineland, on the fifth of May 1818. It is significant that he was born in Germany, in the Rhine province. During his adolescence he grew up in an era full of revolution, in the 1830's especially. In 1830 the July revolution occurred in France and led to a number of events, like the Polish insurrection of 1831. These events occurred during the formative years of Marx and would have been part of his history. Marx would have been aware of these events as they were part of the world around him.

The industrial revolution and its effects were also occurring at that time, although coming to an end around 1830. The industrial revolution in England started at about 1760 and continued until about 1830. This revolution was the start for capitalism in England, there was even a proletariat. This proletariat was made up of people who owned no property, no means of production and therefore forced to sell themselves as labour as their only commodity. There was already a system of master and employee with the handicraft system which was on a much smaller scale. It was the middle of the eighteenth century that the manufacturing stage had taken over from the small scale handicrafts.

It is these industrial and political changes that helped to shape the ideology of Marx. There are a number of important events that are needed to discuss if Marx's thought was a product of its time. The invention of the steam engine by Watt's in 1785 enabled manufacturers to develop in cities instead of needing river banks to ensure water power. As the factories were now in the cities the labour force needed was inevitable in the city, as were many others seeking work. This led to overcrowding, bad sanitation and an unsatisfied workforce.

This new age of production alienated many workers who before industrialisation were much better off. Groups such as the Luddites movement began to emerge. These groups were against the introduction of machinery and mass production.

The French Revolution began in 1789 and climaxed in 1793. It brought about the military dictatorship of Napoleon in 1799, which lasted until 1815. In this country the growing financial bourgeoisie had a certain amount of control under a single monarch. What was happening in France was also to a certain

extent happening in Germany. Many Germans joined the French army as volunteers as many had been brought up on the story of the French Revolution . Anthony Giddens speaks of the Renaissance revealing a concern with history and the industrial revolution being credited with the emergence of sociology, hence the French revolution of 1789 being the "catalyst between these two events".

After the Napoleonic wars Britain took many of the French colonies and Germany was left divided with Germany in the north and Austria in the south. Shortly after the end of the war in 1815 a group was formed including the intellectuals and students of Germany. The main purpose of this group was the unification of Germany. The authorities attempted to get rid of the intellectual groups, but this proved too difficult and the intellectual continued to become more aggressive. As a result of the growth of this group many revolutionary organisations appeared in the 1820's.

As a result of the July Revolution that took place in France in 1830 many uprisings occurred. This is not surprising as the majority took place in localised areas such as the Rhineland that had enjoyed greater freedom under the French and then to go the strict German regime.

The period before and during the life of Karl Marx was a time of great social and political change. There was the Industrial Revolution, French Revolution and the Polish insurrection, all major historical events and no doubt fundamental in the development of Marx. To say that Marx's thought was product of his time is true to a certain extent, but not entirely. His attitude towards religion helps to illustrate this. He was from Jewish origins, but not raised as such like Engels. Before the Rhine province was returned to Germany the oppression that faced most Jews had not been seen by Marx. Even after he did not face it because his father had adopted Christianity in 1824 as a result of his position at work was threatened by the anti-Jewish laws that came after the end of Napoleons rule. Many other intellectuals of the were influenced by this religious issue, but Marx didn't see the subject with as much importance as say Engel's did, perhaps because he had lived with the treatment of Jews. He chose instead to concentrate on the conditions and treatment of the peasants. Despite the oppression faced by the Jewish element Marx did not chose to follow this path with regard to his academic work.

There is no doubt that with the events that took place around the life of Marx that they had influence on his thought. The industrial revolution and the French revolution influence his thought as it did with many others because of the socialisation process Marx could not avoid their influence. Growing up in a time where there was great social and political change the influence of which could no have been ignored especially by someone such as Marx who even in his childhood was academically at a high level. Surely whatever events that take place during and before ones life are relevant to the development of thought. This can be seen as "everyone is a product of a definite social milieu" , "every genius creating something new, does it on the basis of what has been accomplished before him. He does not sprout forward from a vacuum".

The industrial and the French revolutions are often referred to as the dual revolutions and the study of these dual revolutions also had influence on Marx and Engels. Analysis was carried out in both Britain and France, according to some "this analysis forms a major basis for the subsequent development of Marx's and Engel's thought" . It is important to mention at this point the influence that Engels had on his academic partner. Marx himself acknowledged the influence that working with Engels gave him. Engels stated that "Marxism was composed of three main elements: German idealist philosophy, French socialism and English economic history" . This supports the idea that the dual revolutions had great influence on Marx's thought, but not total support as Marx did not call himself a Marxist.

However some names are important to mention as they have been accredited with influencing the development of Marxism. Rousseau on French socialism, Plato, Thomas Moore and Campenella with "City of the sun". There are many factors that can be credited with playing a part in the development of Marx's thought. The time before and during his life was full of social and political change, and a great many academics, philosophers and socialist covered similar topics. To say that Marx's thought was a product of its time is true to say, but there must also be elements of the man in is work. His the events and general mood of the times produced his thought it is his thought and by no means any less relevant.

If his thought was entirely a product of the time why did he not go further on the Jewish question. Choosing to concentrate on the inequalities faced by the peasants and not the repression faced by the Jews shows that he had his own interests and wasn't entirely guided by the events of the time. The field of study undertaken by anyone is not free from influence, to a certain extent we are all a product of our time, it is difficult to escape socialisation. When analysing any piece of work it is important to consider who the author is?, where they are from?, what period in history?, what sex? and their political persuasion. These are all factors that make the piece of work. Marx grew up in a time where there was as I had said before a great deal of social and political change and its effects on his work cannot be denied. I would argue that to say his work is a product of its time is true to a certain extent, but perhaps it can be argued that his thought is as much a product of the man.

Bibliography

1) Hobsbawn Eric J. The History of Marxism. Harvest press, 1982.

2) McLellan David. The thought of Karl Marx. Papermac !971 2nd ed.

3)Riazanov David. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels an introduction into their lives and work. http://www.idbsu.edu/surveyrc/Staff/jaynes/marxism/marbio.htm

4) Sullivan Robert. Karl Marx biography. http://www.stg.brown.edu/projects/hypertext/landow/victorian/religion/phil2.html

5) Giddens Anthony Capitalism and Modern Social Theory. Cambridge University Press. 1971.

Bibliography

Bibliography

1) Hobsbawn Eric J. The History of Marxism. Harvest press, 1982.

2) McLellan David. The thought of Karl Marx. Papermac !971 2nd ed.

3)Riazanov David. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels an introduction into their lives and work. http://www.idbsu.edu/surveyrc/Staff/jaynes/marxism/marbio.htm

4) Sullivan Robert. Karl Marx biography. http://www.stg.brown.edu/projects/hypertext/landow/victorian/religion/phil2.html

5) Giddens Anthony Capitalism and Modern Social Theory. Cambridge University Press. 1971.

Word Count: 1570

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