existential primer

Karl Heinrich Marx
advocating a ‘scientific’ study of history

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THERE IS NO "ORIGINAL" CONTENT ON THIS PAGE... YET. The commentary section is based on an old, old text and needs to be completely rewritten and revised with both more current thought and better attribution of the works of Karl Marx.

To make this very clear: when I can sift through much better works on Marx, I will update this page! Reading Marx, not those claiming to be “Marxists” would definitely help students realize that what is called Marxism is really a myriad of philosophies and theories, some not remotely related to the original words of Marx

Revising Never Ends, Nor Should It…

Do not use this site as a study guide. The Existential Primer is a “living” academic project, unlike a static text. This primer is only a shallow introduction to the thinkers profiled. The incomplete nature of this website might result in misunderstanding the profiled individuals. These pages are revised often because scholarship is never ending. Consult any citations included because within them is where you will find the experts. Read their works!

NOTE: Citations are not in MLA or APA format to prevent “borrowing” from The Existential Primer. Full lists of citations appear at the end of each page. Present tense is used when referencing a published work, while past tense is favored on these pages because the major figures are… dead. Inline citations take the form (Author p. page) with no year. A title is included if there might be confusion as to the work. Quoted long passages appear indented with the <blockquote> tag and cited in the format:

Work; Author, p. Page



1818 Born.
1841 Receives Ph.D. from University of Jena.
1848 Writes Manifesto of the Communist Party.
1883 Dies.



The philosophy of Karl Marx begins with the writings of Georg Hegel, then eliminates the religious aspects of Hegel's teachings. During the later years of Hegel's life, students of his philosophy split into two well-defined groups. This split became more pronounced following Hegel's death in 1831. The two divisions are known as the Hegelian Right, which follows Hegel's belief in a supreme deity, and the Hegelian Left, represented by Marx and other atheists.

The Hegelian Left had a significant role in shaping world history and modern philosophies. Marx believed, as did Hegel, that a constitutional monarchy was the supreme form of government. This belief evolved into the idea of a one-party government of the proletariat.

The philosophy of Marx is known as Dialectical Materialism, or Diamat. Marx claimed that because his theories were based upon the phenomenal world, as described by Hegel, his idea of Communistic Socialism was a scientific model. While scholars would now argue that there is little science behind Marxism, during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries this claim gave Marx near-instant credibility with many intellectuals. Given the popularity of Darwin and Evolutionary Naturalism, Marx knew he had to present Communistic Socialism as part of a natural cycle in human societal development.

Diamat begins with the Hegelian Dialetic. Marx believed that two socio-economic groups were thesis and antithesis: the bourgeoisie (those who control property or goods) and the proletariat (the workers serving the more powerful). The constant conflict between the interests of these two classes defines how a society is constructed. Marx explained that Capitalism is not the only society model with two classes -- almost every societal form has two classes, even Communistic Socialism in which there are still men in charge of the distribution of goods.

According to Marx, a truly classless society should be the goal of Communistic Socialism. In the final evolutionary stage, all means of production would be owned by the workers, and all individuals would be workers. The inherent problem, recognized by Marx late in his life, was that not all workers are or can be valued equally in a society. Those who own or possess knowledge, not necessarily the means of production, have the real power in advanced societies. Examples of knowledge brokers include doctors and scientists.

The theories of Marx still hold value, however, because he sought to explain the evolution of the State. It is easy to dismiss Marx, but his basic theory is logical: When the means of production become too concentrated, a revolution occurs during which the middle classes advance while the bourgeoisie and proletariat engage in conflict. If a violent enough conflict would occur, the result would be a complete lack of class divisions for a period of time.

Marx theorized that under Capitalism, the means of production would result in the most violent of revolutions, resulting in the ideal classless, Communist State. Marx defined the Communist State as a nation with "common ownership of the means of production" -- public ownership of farms, factories, raw materials, et cetera. Again, Marx forgot that some select group would still retain the knowledge necessary for production and those individuals, the State Planners, would become a new bourgeoisie.

Ten Measures of Reform

Marx and Friedrich Engels collaborated on the Manifesto of the Communist Party, a simplified explanation of their theories. The manifesto features ten reforms meant to move a society closer to the ideal Communist State.

  1. Abolition of real estate rights.
  2. Progressive income taxation.
  3. Abolition of inheritance rights.
  4. Confiscation of all properties belonging to enemies of Communism.
  5. Nationalization of banking.
  6. State ownership of the media.
  7. State production planning.
  8. Equal obligation of all individuals to work.
  9. Abolition of the distinction between town and country via state-mandated population distribution.
  10. Free education.

Again, the two authors of the manifesto failed to recognize, until much later in their lives, that any State features a set of individuals with the ultimate control of goods and services. As long as even one person is more important than anyone else, there is no Communistic Socialism.

Existentialism & Communism

Among the intellectuals influenced by Marx were many of the French Existentialists. These philosophers believed that Communism held the promise of true individual freedom. When individuals were free of management concerns and other worries, they would be truly free to grow.

The political existentialists, such as Sartre, believed that the demands upon men to work and follow orders contributed to their suffering. Camus, likewise, believed that workers were exploited and suffering. Communism promised to reduce the exploitation of workers. By implementing scientific production plans, more people would be free to pursue other, higher pursuits, such as the arts.

Marx believed that human morality was determined by the social structure of the State. Since the social structure was based upon the control of material goods, economics determine morality. In other words, morality is determined by the means of production and distribution.

Industry, according to Marx, was the highest form of human endeavor, producing the goods that support real material needs. The Communist State is therefore superior because it controls the production for all citizens. Because the State is in charge of production, it is also in charge of morality.

Existentialists believe that man is constantly defining himself. Marx believed that the State was constantly defining itself and its residents.


The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point, however, is to change it.

Human essence has no true reality.


Novack, George Edward; Existentialism Versus Marxism: Conflicting Views on Humanism (New York,: Dell, 1966)

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