Marxism is an economic and political ideology based on the ideas of the 19th century German philosopher Karl Marx. Marxists not only follow Marx's teachings on economics, but also on a variety of other beliefs about morality and history. Marx was a historical determinist who believed that the world would inevitably move toward a communist political and economic system through a series of social revolutions.
Marx's moral critique of capitalism began with his theory of alienation. The system of capitalism makes work become increasingly dehumanizing or “alienating,” according to Marx, because the capitalist division of labor results in worker specialization. Such specialization, he argued, removes the workers from the final product being created and narrows the scope of their work to a small, seemingly meaningless aspect of production. In turn, the workers, in the Marxist worldview, become more alienated as their labor becomes less meaningful.
Marx argued that ideologies are merely the result of social and economic realities. His beliefs were based on dialectical materialism, a theory that explains history as the result of material forces in conflict and contradiction. Marx believed there was a natural political progression from feudalism to capitalism to communism.
According to Erich Fromm's essay “Marx's Concept of Man,” Karl Marx indicated that people are social beings rather than isolated individuals. The implication is that all human activities must reflect the society they live in. Marx's materialism asserted that man's economic and social life influenced “thinking and feeling,” according to Fromm's analysis. Marx's beliefs about the influence material realities have on human behavior led to his theory that workers will eventually rebel against capitalism.
Marxists believe that the final stage of historical political development is communism. Some Marxists insist that “real” communism has never been tried, despite the fact that many governments claimed to have followed Marx's ideas. According to Michael Delahoyde, a professor at Washington State University, for a political system to be considered truly “communist,” the underclass -- rather than the government or military -- must collectively own the means of production.
Marx identified class struggle as the central social factor in human history. He believed that capitalism would create great inequality by concentrating wealth in the hands of a few, while making the rest of the people weak and dependent. He predicted the eventual overthrow of the capitalist class by the working class.