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Subject Literature, Politics

Key-Topics social change, social class, socialism

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405183123.2011.x


Marxism is the intellectual and political movement founded by Karl Marx (1818–83). The socialist and communist movements, which seek to bring about economic equality and a fairer distribution of wealth, antedated Marx, but he gave them a sense of intellectual coherence in his major works (some co-authored with Friedrich Engels) – The Communist Manifesto, The German Ideology , and Capital . Marx also provided the basis for a “Marxist” literary and cultural theory in his theory of ideology, in which he famously proclaimed that the ruling ideas of any society are the ideas of the ruling class. Later theorists would also draw on his reworking of Hegel's dialectical method of analysis to describe the complex ways culture both reflects reality and prefigures new versions of social life. Marxism is both a method of analysis and a body of ideas about how culture and society operate. Marxists believe that capitalism, the economic form invented in England in the eighteenth century and still practiced worldwide, is inherently unfair. Workers, who have no way to survive except by selling their labor to others who possess wealth enough to buy it, are systematically exploited under capitalism. They manufacture things or perform services, and those things and services are worth more on the market than the money workers are paid. This “surplus value” allows the owners of enterprises to profit ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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