Hist 4c/Marcuse, Week 4: Marx and Engels, Communist Manifesto


Frederick Engels (1820-1895) was the son of a textile factory owner. He met Marx in 1844 and emigrated to London in 1849. There he ran a branch of his father's business and supported the impoverished Marx family.

Karl Marx (1818-1883) studied law and philosophy at the universities of Bonn and Berlin. He then became a newspaper editor. After supporting the failed revolutions of 1848 he lived in exile in London until his death. That is where he wrote most of his famous works.

As the Manifesto shows, Marx and Engels considered themselves to be "scientific socialists" as opposed to other socialists, who they referred to as "utopian." Utopian socialists were interested in the transformation of society by altering human behavior and controlling distribution of resources. While reading the Manifesto, consider how Marx and Engels' views on accomplishing a socialist society differed from those of the so-called utopian socialists.

Some terms to watch out for:

Class, bourgeoisie, proletariat, exploitation, means of production, capital, socialism

Questions to consider while reading:

  1. If you were a worker in 1848, would you have joined this party? Why or why not?
  2. What obstacles did Marx and Engels think might block the development of working class solidarity. Do any of these factors continue to serve as divisions within the contemporary working class?
  3. How did Marx and Engels view the bourgeoisie? What role could they play in the advancement of society?
  4. Marx and Engels are often thought of as unique individuals. Although they may have been an outstanding intellectuals, their work is can understood as the product of the broader social, intellectual and political trends of the nineteenth century. What does the Manifesto tell us about the nineteenth century? (think in terms of intellectual, economic or social history. One can find some of each in this source.)
  5. At the bottom of page twenty-five, Marx and Engels link the rising pace of social change to advances in technology. What is their basis for this argument?
  6. Can all history be reduced to a discussion of class struggle?
  7. How does Marx and Engels' model of the evolution of society parallel Darwin's model of the evolution of species?
  8. What would Marx and Engels think of Voltaire's Eldorado?
  9. Consider Kuhn's paradigm shift. Can you apply the concept to Marx's model?
  10. Why did Marx and Engels believe that they were right? What was the basis of their reasoning?