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12 - Marx and Engels: The Communist Manifesto

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 October 2014

Thomas L. Pangle
Affiliation:
University of Texas, Austin
Timothy W. Burns
Affiliation:
Baylor University, Texas
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Summary

Karl Marx (1818–1883) and his junior partner, Friedrich Engels (1820–1895), laid the theoretical foundation of modern communism, which aims to bring about a new world order born out of the overthrow of “bourgeois capitalism.” The latter is the phrase Marx and Engels applied to the historically mature form of the system of competitive, acquisitive, commercial individualism that is articulated and defended in the thought of Hobbes, Locke, Montesquieu, and their revisers – including Hume and Adam Smith. The term “bourgeois” derives from Rousseau, who was the first to create and to make stick that pejorative label for the society and way of life designed and successfully promoted by the Enlightenment. In the century and a half after Rousseau, European thought was dominated by attempts to find a solution to the problematic that Rousseau had laid out.

History vs. Nature as Norm

The most important turn taken in post-Rousseauean theorizing was to “the philosophy of history”: A new way of thinking, rooted in the contention that what Rousseau had discovered, without his fully realizing it, was that we must take our orientation in life, our positive normative standards, not from the idea of a permanent human nature but instead from a conception of humanity as coming into full maturation through history. If or since modern, civilized existence – and thus what we understand as human – is not a product of our original nature (which was that of a being close to an animal) but instead arises out of a historical development over a long time, then we should seek for standards for our human existence in that historical process and its outcome. Through history, humanity has gradually and painfully brought itself out of its original “natural” condition toward a fully completed “nature” or condition of being: “The entire so-called history of the world is nothing but the begetting of man through human labor, nothing but the coming-to-be of nature for man.”

Type
Chapter
Information
The Key Texts of Political Philosophy
An Introduction
, pp. 365 - 380
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2014

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References

The Marx-Engels Reader, ed. Tucker, Robert, second edition (New York: Norton, 1978)

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