Karl Marx. That name is likely to elicit a powerful emotional response when mentioned. For the politically conservative, thoughts of the confiscation of private property, government control of industry, and Soviet gulags are likely to dominate. For the politically liberal, thoughts of a flattened society, less inequality between poor and rich, and a socialist utopia are likely to dominate. Few names generate as much political debate and vitriol. However, Marx offered more than just political and economic theory; he offered an entire philosophical worldview that must be unpacked to grasp the implications of his ideas fully. The political ideas of Karl Marx were driven by his commitment to a materialistic philosophy, and these ideas stand in contrast to Christianity, which acknowledges both a physical/material reality and a spiritual reality.
Marx and Dialectics
The key to understanding Marx is understanding the process that informed his thinking. Marx was heavily influenced by Hegel, who employed dialectics in his philosophy. Dialectics is the idea that, in order to reach the truth of a concept, there must be conflict and contradiction. This can also be extrapolated from mere thought and into the physical world where conflict among people, countries, or classes is what drives social change. At its essence, the dialectical method uses a process to arrive at the truth that involves moving through extremes. In this process, an initial view or societal structure is discarded entirely. There is no sifting through it in hopes of finding something of value. It is only in the final stage of the process when a completely new idea is in place where balance and moderation are possible.
The dialectical process Marx used when analyzing society followed three steps. A society starts as a primitive community. All the people who make up the society are essentially equal and function similarly. In extreme one, it is the community that takes precedence over individual wants and desires and leaves individuals with little opportunity for self-determination. Marx believed that a second extreme stage emerged when societies began to develop classes. A characteristic of this stage is the movement from a society where the community was the dominant force, and individuals…