ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Karl Marx—‘Ruthless Criticism of All That Exists’

Two hundred years after Marx’s birth, Bernard D’Mello imagines a critical analysis of capital and capitalism as a global system.


“Ruthless criticism” was one of Karl Marx’s principal maxims. He practised it with devastating effect in his critical analysis of capital and capitalism. For this, 200 years since his birth, he remains unsurpassed as one of the world’s most influential historical intellectual figures. Indeed, he applied the ruthless-criticism maxim to his own views too, constantly discerning what was genuine and what was false in what he had written. For example, having relied upon British colonialist source material, at first in 1853, he thought of British colonialism as the “unconscious tool of history” in initiating—what he hoped would be—the economic transformation of India. Later, in 1881, with the relevant empirical evidence at hand, he viewed “what the British take from” Indians “without any equivalent” as a “bleeding process with a vengeance.” Marx always remained wide open to empirical evidence. Moreover, his concepts and definitions were open-ended and adaptable to new and changing historical situations.

Starting off as a romantic idealist, Marx critiqued Friedrich Hegel and Ludwig Feuerbach, among other philosophers. Concerned about the prevailing harsh material conditions of life all around him, he went on to develop his own version of materialist dialectics and historical materialism. From then on, there was no sharp break in his mode of thought. Indeed, one discerns an organic bond between “early Marx” and “late Marx.” The key influences were German philosophy, French socialism, British political economy, and, much later, Russian populism.

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Updated On : 14th May, 2018
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