Comparing Karl Marx and John Stuart Mill

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Karl Marx was born and educated in Prussia, where he fell under the influence of Ludwig Feuerbach and other radical Hegelians. Although he shared Hegel's belief in dialectical structure and historical inevitability, Marx held that the foundations of reality lay in the material base of economics rather than in the abstract thought of idealistic philosophy. He earned a doctorate at Jena in 1841, writing on the materialism and atheism of Greek atomists, then moved to Köln, where he founded and edited a radical newspaper, Rheinische Zeitung. Although he also attempted to earn a living as a journalist in Paris and Brussels, Marx's participation in unpopular political movements made it difficult to support his growing family. He finally settled in London in 1849, where he lived in poverty while studying and developing his economic and political theories. Above all else, Marx believed that philosophy ought to be employed in practice to change the world.

Although it at first had little impact on the varied revolutionary movements of the mid-19th century Europe, the Communist Manifesto was to become one of the most widely read and discussed documents of the 20th century. Marx sought to differentiate his brand of socialism from others by insisting that it was scientifically based in the objective study of history, which he saw as being a continuous process of change and transformation. Just as feudalism had naturally evolved into mercantilism and then capitalism, so capitalism would inevitably give way to its logical successor, socialism as the necessary result of class struggle. Marx's insistence that tough-minded realism should replace the utopian idealism of earlier socialists had profound consequences: it enabled revolutionaries like Lenin to be put it into action, but it also tended to encourage its followers to accept ruthless means to justify what they believed were historically necessary ends. Radical politics were being much more widely discussed than the small number of radicals justified; but Marx uses this fact to his advantage by proclaiming that any ideology so feared must be important and worth explaining clearly. In the notes, "Marx" is used as shorthand for both Marx and Engels. The Manifesto was originally issued in several languages, including an English version.

According to Mark, the modern age is a dangerous age, an age in which we might ...

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...or the few is solely due to its non-existence in the hands of those nine-tenths. You reproach us, therefore, with intending to do away with a form of property, the necessary condition for whose existence is the non-existence of any property for the immense majority of society.

In one word, you reproach us with intending to do away with your property. Precisely so; that is just what we intend. From the moment when labour can no longer be converted into capital, money, or rent, into a social power capable of being monopolised, i.e., from the moment when individual property can no longer be transformed into bourgeois property, into capital, from that moment, you say individuality vanishes. You must, therefore, confess that by "individual" you mean no other person than the bourgeois, than the middle-class owner of property. This person must, indeed, be swept out of the way, and made impossible.

Works Cited

Marx, K. and Engels, F. Manifesto of the Communist Party, in The Portable Karl Marx, edited by E. Kamenka, New York: Penguin Books 1983.

Mill, John Stuart. On Liberty. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1978.

Mill, John Stuart. Utilitarianism. Indianapolis: Hackett, 2001

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