Karl Marx was one of the most influential philosophers of the 19th centuries whose works produced a profound impact on the development of the 19th century society as well as the modern world. His ideas, in spite of their seeming radicalism, are still relevant and can be applied to the modern world. His idea of social revolution was and still is rejected not only by many specialists but also by ordinary people who are unwilling or afraid of changing the existing social order. However, his criticism of the capitalist society and its permanent pursuit of material wealth by means of oppression of the large masses of people by the ruling elite is particularly noteworthy in the context of the contemporary consumerist society, when richness and prosperity are considered to be the ultimate goal of human life that often leads to the dehumanization of the society and interpersonal relations.
In “The Communist Manifesto”ť, which is one of the most influential political tracts, Karl Marx revealed the essence of his criticism of the capitalist society and explained the inevitability of the social revolution that would change the world and give the way to the new, communist society. The manifesto begins with the metaphoric comparison of communism to a spirit that is haunting Europe: “A specter is haunting Europe ”“ the specter of Communism”ť (Marx and Engels, 1). In such a way, Karl Marx indicates to the fact that communism is growing to be widely spread in Europe and its ideas grow more and more popular among the progressive part of Europeans. On the other hand, communism remains unclear and misunderstood by Europeans. In fact, Karl Marx argued that people had some inexplicable fear in face of communism even though they did not know the essence of this movement and its basic ideas. In such a way, the authors introduce the subject of their manifesto and define the purpose of its creation ”“ to make communism understandable for Europeans and emphasize the inevitability of its victory. In this respect, it should be said that the spread of the idea of communism became one of the major goals of the life of Karl Marx because he was willing not simply explain the world, but also he was also willing to change it for better.
Marx and Engels argue that it is because of the dominant classes that oppress the society communist ideas are perceived as hostile to Europeans. Karl Marx stands on the ground that the major goal of communism is the creation of the classless society, where all people are equal and there is no room for oppression and exploitation. In contrast to such an idealized communist society, they depict the existing society and reveal the sufferings of huge masses of people governed by a limited, privileged group, or class that rules the entire society and dominates in economic, political, and social life.
The ultimate goal of communism is to change the existing social order radically by means of social revolution.
According to Marx, the social revolution should lead to the overthrown of the ruling elite, the class of those who concentrate economic and, therefore, political power in their hands. At the same time, he indicated to the fact that the ruling elite maintains its dominant position basically due to the right to private property, which is considered to be sacred in Europe. As a result, millions of working people, being deprived of any property, are forced to work for a little class of owners. Naturally, such a situation is unjust and the author argues that social revolution and the establishment of communism will bring happiness to all working people or, to put it more precisely, to all people that do not exploit others. Moreover, Karl Marx lays emphasis on the fact that the social revolution is inevitable is a natural consequence of the permanent class antagonism and the struggle between the rule class and the class of oppressed or exploited people “The history of all hitherto existing societies is the history of class struggles… oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contended classes”ť (Marx and Engels, 3).
The communist society, as Karl Marx defines it, implies that private property will be forbidden, all people will be equal, there will be no classes in society and, therefore, all people will have access to the means of production that will enable them to lead a happy life since they will rip the products of their labor, instead of estrangement of these products by the ruling elite of the capitalist society. In addition, he argued that the ruin of the existing capitalist system was inevitable since he stated that “the development of Modern industry, therefore, cuts from under its feet its very foundation on which the bourgeoisie produces and appropriates products. What the bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers. Its fall and the victory of proletariat are equally inevitable”ť (Marx and Engels, 48). Hence, Marx predicted a new social revolution that would change the world.
At the same time, he argued that the existing capitalist system was absolutely dehumanizing and unjust since it transformed working people into commodities which the ruling elite used as tools to achieve wealth and prosperity (Marx, 2002, 210). In addition, he argued that the ruling controlled not only the socioeconomic life of the modern society but also its culture and, therefore, its further development. In such a context, his criticism of the capitalist system is relevant in regard to the modern consumerist society. Today, the pursuit of wealth and material prosperity became the ultimate goal of human life and traditional humanist values have been neglected, while the strife for wealth and a high social status have become the dominant goals of human life.
Moreover, today, consumerism is apparently motivated by the very nature of the dominating capitalist system which is based on the consumption as principal condition of the economic survival. At this point, it is possible to refer to Marx’s “Capital”ť where he argued that the crisis of overproduction is a norm for the capitalist system, when the supply exceeds dramatically the demand leading to the economic stagnation and crisis (177).
Thus, it is possible to conclude that Karl Marx’s ideas are still relevant and modern society needs consistent changes because the current way of its development apparently leads to the growing risk of social conflicts and contradictions.