Politics in Minutes (2016)

Marx: philosophy, history

Karl Marx was undoubtedly the most influential socialist thinker of all time, and his ideas laid the foundations for modern socialism and communism. As a student in Berlin, he came across the ideas of Georg Hegel, who believed that history can be seen as a process with a discernible structure: each period has defining characteristics, which he called the Zeitgeist: the spirit of the age. Every idea has a contradictory idea (‘thesis’ and ‘antithesis’), and the tension between the two creates a new notion – the synthesis – which forms the spirit of the age that follows.

This appealed to Marx, but as a down-to-earth materialist and atheist, he rejected the philosopher’s preoccupation with metaphysics. Marx adapted Hegel’s dialectic – of thesis–antithesis–synthesis – to show how social, economic and political ideas progressed one to another. At the heart of his thinking was the notion that material conditions such as the means of production brought about social and economic change.