Goetia Niflheim
6 min readMar 26, 2021


I. Socio-historical, political, natural science, theoretical prerequisites for the emergence of Marxism

Marxist philosophy was the successor to the concepts that preceded it and at the same time marked a significant increase in new knowledge, a significant breakthrough in the development of European and world culture.

I.I. Socio-cultural prerequisites for the emergence of Marxism

  1. The accelerated development of capitalist relations, when the contradictions between labor and capital began to be increasingly exposed. One after another followed crises of overproduction, which were accompanied by a decline in production, unemployment, a sharp deterioration in social the position of hired workers. Within the framework of the philosophical and sociological theory that existed at that time, it was impossible to give a correct explanation for all this. A new methodological approach to the analysis of the ongoing processes in society and the corresponding scientific generalizations and conclusions were required.
  2. The formation of a new subject of the historical process — the class of the proletariat, which was not taken into account by the former theorists of the late 18th — first half of the 19th century. In the 30–40s of the XIX century, the proletariat openly declared its economic, social and political rights. The class struggle of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie took on an acute character.
  3. The evolution of the capitalist mode of production required a philosophical, sociological and political theory of social development, capable of not only giving an adequate assessment, but also offering an alternative to the existing system. Peaceful ways of resolving antagonistic contradictions seemed utopian. Society needed a new philosophy and sociology that would embrace society and nature, society and man, identify the main sociological contradictions and offer effective ways to resolve them.
  4. By the middle of the 19th century, science had reached such a level of development when a real possibility of theoretical substantiation of the principles of materialist dialectics appeared. During this period, such sciences as physiology, embryology, and geology developed. A number of discoveries were made that testified to the dialectical nature of the processes of nature: the discovery by the German biologist T. Schwann and M. Schleiden of the cellular structure of animals and plant organisms, the substantiation by the German scientists R. Mayer and H. Helmholtz and the English physicist J. Joule of the law of conservation and transformation of energy , development by C. Darwin of the evolutionary theory.

I.II. Theoretical prerequisites for the emergence of Marxism

  1. German classical philosophy: the idealism of G. Hegel, whose philosophy Marx “put upside down”, ie put on the rails of materialism, as well as the materialism of L. Feuerbach and raised by him the problem of alienation of the essence of man in religion.
  2. Utopian socialism of the 19th century A. Sen-Simon, C. Fourier and R. Owen.
  3. The ideas of the classics of English political economy A. Smith and D. Ricardo, who understood contemporary society as the world of people’s material needs, a complex of relations of production, exchange, distribution and consumption of material goods.

II. Problems of ontology and epistemology in the works of K. Marx and F. Engels

Basic ideas of ontology

  1. There is nothing in the world except matter, which is in constant motion and development.
  2. Matter is a kind of objective reality outside of man and humanity; possessing the property of inexhaustibility; it is primary, is the basis, the foundation of all relations.
  3. Consciousness is the property of matter to reflect itself, to reproduce the properties of one material system in another.
  4. The main question of philosophy (for Marx) is the question of the primacy of matter and the derivation of consciousness from it.

Basic ideas of epistemology

  1. Fundamental cognizability of the world.
  2. Knowledge of truth is a contradictory process of transition from relative truth (incomplete, partial knowledge) to absolute truth (complete, all-encompassing knowledge).
  3. Truth is not a frozen result, but a transition from incomplete knowledge to more complete one.
  4. The criterion of truth is practice — material-objective, purposeful human activity as a social being.

III. Dialectical materialism. Theory and methodology

  1. The philosophical theory of Marx is dialectical-materialistic. Matter is considered as the fundamental principle of all that exists (materialism), and it is in constant development, transformation (dialectic).
  2. Hegel’s dialectic was saved by Marxism and put upside down (ie, from idealistic principles to materialistic ones).
  3. Dialectics — the doctrine of the universal laws of movement and development of nature, society and thinking. Those. with the help of it you can consider everything that exists.
  4. Engels formulated and finalized the laws of dialectics (following Hegel).

I.V. The problem of man and alienation in the philosophy of K. Marx

In the process of working with a certain production method (capitalist) arise
contradictions: the worker works for another, and therefore work becomes something then outside of him, ceases to belong to him yourself. The worker is alienated from his labor, from the product of labor (profit) and from another person (as a result class division) and, thus, alienates himself, loses your humanity.

Alienation is the transformation of the results and products of human activity into an independent force that becomes higher than its creators and suppresses them. If early Marx actually identified alienation with objectification (the translation of labor activity into objective forms of culture, for example, the embodiment of creative imagination into a work of art — a picture, book, music, etc.) and believed that alienation is the fate of the person himself (since one cannot help but work and not objectify your work!), then the late Marx sees the reason for alienation in private property. It is its presence that leads to class division (into haves and have-nots) and, as a result, to alienation. To eradicate alienation, Marx proposed the abolition of private property and exploitation in the course of the proletarian revolution. In the destruction of the capitalist system and the return to man of his generic inalienable essence (the ability to work, create), Marx saw a humanistic meaning and significance. However, the revolution, despite its humanistic goal, is internally inhuman, because has a totalitarian and violent character.

In 1848, Marx, together with Engels, published the Communist Manifesto.

A specter is haunting Europe — the specter of Communism!

V. Marx’s Formation Approach to the Analysis of Society

According to Marxism, history is a one-line process of changing socio-economic formations — living social organisms that have a certain social structure, a variety of functions:

1) Primitive communal,
2) Slave-owning,
3) Feudal,
4) Capitalist,
5) Socialist/Communist.

The process of changing formations is regarded as revolutionary and progressive, determined by the need for productive forces and such relations of production that would open up space for their functioning and would provide a solution to social problems.

Disadvantages of the formational approach

  1. Marx proposed to consider his approach universal, and the laws of society’s development — immutable. However, many types of societies, for example, the Russian one, did not go through some of the necessary, according to Marx, stages (the stage of the slave formation).
  2. Marx takes into account only the economic factors of the development of society (the development of productive forces and production relations, which determine the mode of production of a particular formation). At the same time, Max Weber showed the influence of other, for example, religious factors of influence on the economy itself (the influence of Protestant religious ethics on the formation of capitalism in Western Europe).

Conclusions: Marxist philosophy went beyond the national framework of Germany and became a global philosophy (the peak of the spread of Marxism to different countries falls on the end of the 19th — first half of the 20th century). The most famous successors of Marxism in the West: Antonio Gramsci, György Lukacs.

The philosophy of Marxism proposed a holistic scientific method for studying nature, society, and man in the concrete historical conditions of their development. The attitude towards Marxism is very different: some criticize it for the one-sidedness of its interpretation of history and society. Some modern economists have argued that Marx was wrong on many important points, particularly in his analysis of the crises of capitalism. Marx also did not sufficiently take into account the exploitation of the environment, which we are increasingly aware of today. On the other hand, everyone recognizes that Marxism has brought about tremendous changes. There is no doubt that socialism has largely succeeded in ending an inhuman society. After Marx, the socialist movement split into two main areas:

  1. Social Democracy: Gradual and Peaceful Transition to Socialism (Western Europe).
  2. Leninism: the belief that only revolution can defeat the former class society (Russia, Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa).