Marxism is an economic and socio-political worldview that contains within it a political ideology for how to change and improve society by implementing socialism. Originally developed in the early to mid 19th century by two German émigrés living in Britain, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Marxism is based upon a materialist interpretation of history. Taking the idea that social change occurs because of the struggle between different classes within society who are under contradiction one against the other, the Marxist analysis leads to the conclusion that capitalism, the currently dominant form of economic management, leads to the oppression of the proletariat, who not only make up the majority of the world's populace but who also spend their lives working for the benefit of the bourgeoisie, or the wealthy ruling class in society.
To correct this inequality between the bourgeoisie, who are the wealthy minority, and the proletariat, who are the poorer majority, Marxism advocates, and believes in the historical inevitability of, a proletarian revolution, when the proletariat take control of government, and then implement reforms to benefit their class, namely the confiscation of private property which is then taken under state control and run for the benefit of the people rather than for the interests of private profit. Such a system is socialism, although Marxists believe that eventually a socialist society would develop into an entirely classless system, which is known as communism in Marxist thought.
A Marxist understanding of history and of society has been adopted by academics studying in a wide range of disciplines, including archaeology, anthropology, media studies, political science, theater, history, sociological theory, cultural studies, education, economics, geography, literary criticism, aesthetics, critical psychology, and philosophy.
The first Marxist-run nation state was the Soviet Union, founded in 1922 following the Russian revolution of 1917. Its leaders Vladimir Lenin, Leon Trotsky and Joseph Stalin formulated the theoretical trends of Marxism-Leninism, Trotskyism and Stalinism respectively while the Chinese Communist Party leader Mao Zedong later developed Maoism.
Critics of Marxism constantly point to a number of problems within Marxism itself. One major concern is the use of force within such a society. A Marxist society encourages the use of force against those who are considered to be a part of the bourgeoisie class. It is worth noting that the bourgeoisie class is never fully defined within Marx's work. It is simply those who own the means of production. In Marxism, the force of government would be used against this class of people. This could easily include the bread baker who sells his goods for profit to the CEO of a major corporation. The force of government would not discern between the two and simply punish both based on ill-defined class.
Another problem within Marxism is the lack of motivation to produce. In such a society, the means of production would be owned by the government for the most part if not completely. There is staggering amounts of evidence that if individuals are not allowed to own private property, said individuals will not be motivated to innovate or perform. There simply is no incentive. The state has no reason to innovate simply because it has the ability to tax and use force to acquire what it needs.
A major concern among critics of Marxism is the road to achieving such a state of government. Most cases where socialistic ideologies are formed, they have been brought about by violence and chaos. These ideologies often encourage the use of a revolution to bring about change in the form of violence. If this change happens on a more peaceful term such as a democracy, the violence will still be present as individuals resist the authority of government to maintain there sovereign rights.
- Bridget O'Laughlin (1975) Marxist Approaches in Anthropology Annual Review of Anthropology Vol. 4: pp. 341–70 (October 1975) (doi:10.1146/annurev.an.04.100175.002013).
William Roseberry (1997) Marx and Anthropology Annual Review of Anthropology, Vol. 26: pp. 25–46 (October 1997) (doi:10.1146/annurev.anthro.26.1.25)
- S. L. Becker (1984) “Marxist Approaches to Media Studies: The British Experience”, Critical Studies in Mass Communication, 1(1): pp. 66–80.
- See Manuel Alvarado, Robin Gutch, and Tana Wollen (1987) Learning the Media: Introduction to Media Teaching, Palgrave Macmillan.
- Böhm-Bawerk, Eugen von (2007). Karl Marx and the Close of His System. Auburn: Ludwig von Mises Institute. ISBN 978-1-61016-008-7. http://mises.org/document/996/Karl-Marx-and-the-Close-of-His-System.
- Mises, Ludwig von (2006). Marxism Unmasked: From Delusion to Destruction. Irvington-on-Hudson, New York: Foundation for Economic Education. ISBN 1-57246-210-8. OCLC 173434322. http://mises.org/document/4035/Marxism-Unmasked-From-Delusion-to-Destruction.
- Prychitko, David L. (2007). "Marxism". In Henderson, David R.. The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics. Indianapolis, Indiana: Liberty Fund. pp. 337-340. ISBN 978-0-86597-665-8. OCLC 123350134. http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/Marxism.html.