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ON MARX’S BICENTARY: STYLIZED FACTS ON MARX’S LIFE AND THOUGHT

Brahim Mansouri And Ahmed Chanaa
2019 / 3 / 18

INTRODUCTION:

The great multidisciplinary thinker, Karl Marx, was born on May, 5th, 1818, one year after the publication of the well-known book on “Principles of Political Economy and Taxation” (Ricardo, 1817), elaborated by the famous classical economist, David Ricardo. Well, economics as a profession in the Marxian thought has something to do with David Ricardo, as the leading economist among the classics.

One can start for instance from the theory of value. According to Ricardo, the value of a good depends upon the incorporated quantity of labor required to produce it. Relying on Ricardo’s theory, Karl Marx in the “Communist Manifesto” (Marx and Engels, 1848), “Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy” (Marx, 1859),´-or-even in the three volumes of the well-known “Capital” (Marx, 1867), argues that the value of a given good crucially depends on the quantity of labor as socially required to produce it. In this framework, Karl Marx pointed out that the value of a good may be formally expressed as the sum of three key components: the constant capital (K), the variable capital (V) and the Surplus Value (SV).

While this formula seems to be a deformation of Ricardo’s thought, Marx adds a new idea: the capitalist class exploits the Proletariat through the surplus value--;-- with, when aggregated, the sum of surplus values as generated would equal the sum of profits. In line with the law of the well-known “Tendency of the profit rate to fall” (Baisse tendancielle du taux de profit), as theoretically elaborated in Ricardo’s “Principles of Political Economy and Taxation” (Ricardo, 1817), there will be a secular decrease in the profit rate, with all its consequences in terms of imperialism and beyond.
Therefore, we should now note that the Marxian political economy crucially stems from Ricardian theoretical predictions. Note however that Karl Marx is a “multi-inter-trans-disciplinary” thinker, with his richer contributions to the human thought in a variety of research tracks such as philosophy, history, sociology and so forth, including his works on dialectic and historic materialism.

While the present paper may be interested in the multi-inter-trans-Marxian heritage, it particularly focuses on linkages between the life of Karl Marx and his system of thought. As far as the life of the great thinker is concerned, we mainly focus on the recently published book titled: “Love and Capital: Karl and Jenny Marx and the Birth of a Revolution” (see Gabriel, 2012).

To deal with the life of Karl Marx with respect to his thought, we adopt the following summarized agenda: i) in section 1, we try to characterize the Marxian thought within the materialist thought and the circle of Hegelians--;-- ii) Section 2 attempts to better understand his system of thought, especially through his relationships with his two daughters, Laura and Eleanor--;-- iii) Section 3 tries to better understand his thought and principles, notably with respect to severe financial constraints he faced--;-- iv) Section 4 attempts to shed lights on the role of his two daughters and his friend, Frederic Engels, on the publication of the famous third volume of his book entitled “The Capital”--;-- v) Finally, section 5 deals with the importance of life-thought linkages and concludes.

1. KARL MARX: FROM FEUERBACH TO HEGEL AND BEYOND

As known, the philosophy of materialism mainly stems from Feuerbach’s thought, and relies basically on original ideas of Epicurus as the major theme of Karl Marx’s PhD thesis. “Reality determines thought”--;-- this is the base of the Marxian system of thought. According to Hegel, ideas may influence realities. Karl Marx, when he was still a student, said, contrarily, that economic realities induce given superstructures in given societies. In a political economy perspective, this means that the history of production modes should be rethought as the history of merchandises, especially in the bosom of the capitalist system. This will be certainly very useful in terms of the current economic and financial crisis worldwide.

2. KARL MARX AND HIS DAUGHTERS: WHAT ABOUT HIS SYSTEM OF THOUGHT?

Karl Marx has three daughters, with Laura and Eleanor as the well-known ones. We know also that Laura and Eleanor called him “Mister the Moorish” (Monsieur le Maure), not “My Dad”, especially because of his manifest brown hue. Ms. Laura said to Karl, perhaps after few years following the publication of his famous book on “Critique of Political Economy”: “I want to speak to you, Mister the Moorish!”. “Oh, my dear Laura, what is the matter with you?”, he answered. “To tell you the truth, Mr. the Moorish, I have a project of marriage with someone”. “Who is he, this someone, Ms. Laura?”, he asked. “He is Mister Paul Lafargue, a French socialist born and currently living in Cuba”, Laura reacted. Karl Marx replied: “Oh! My dear Laura--;-- you know that I love you much and I cannot refuse any request from you”. He then explained to Ms. Laura that he knows Mr. Paul as well as his socialist connotation in Cuba and beyond:”I think you love him, Ms. Laura--;-- I cannot refuse that marriage but note that a marriage with a communist like Paul is the most difficult one”, Karl Marx said. “Marriage (and family) is the worst institution the humankind created”, Karl Marx added.

Ms. Eleanor had the same project: “Mister the Moorish, I want to marry”, she said. Karl Marx knew that the future husband is a pure liberal man with some grains of opportunism and egoism: “Oh! My dear, you can marry him but pay attention: it is very difficult to live with liberals, and family is the worst institution the humankind invented!”.

Marx died on March, 14th 1883, that is the 14th day of the 3rd month,´-or-3.14, i.e. the well-known irrational number (pi = 3.14…). Finally, Laura Marx and Paul Lafargue, her husband, chose the suicide as a solution when they became older, considering themselves as additional burdens for the society. Eleanor Marx, finally involved in the worst institution of the humankind, committed suicide against herself when she learned that her husband ing in a hospital in London, was married to another woman, even though Eleanor was helping him in the hospital like a nurse.

3. KARL MARX’S FINANCIAL CONSTRAINTS AND THOUGHT

Karl Marx had a very good friend: Frederic Engels. As a rich man, he often financed the life of Marx’s family, including his wife, Jenny, however stemming from a rich aristocratic German family. When he was in London in a context of industrial revolution, Karl Marx was facing hard financial constraints even if Frederic Engels was always there as a financial problem solver.

In many cases, Karl Marx was obliged to even warrant his shoes and dress just to have some bread and basic goods such as eggs and potatoes. We know that the great thinker had the possibility to financially benefit from capitalists in a country where the industry was developing and the banking system was flourishing. Karl Marx respected his basic principles, preferring abject poverty to financial advantages from the capitalist social class--;-- and then played major roles in better grasping the development of the newly forming capitalist system.

4. LAURA, ELEANOR AND ENGELS: THE THIRD VOLUME OF THE “CAPITAL”

When Karl Marx died in 1883, he left a non-published manu--script-- to be considered as a complement to the available two volumes of the “Capital”. Still alive at that time, the two daughters of Karl Marx together with his famous friend, Frederic Engels, decided to reconfigure and publish the well-known third volume where the Great Marx predicted the recurrent crises and future of the capitalist system.

The first idea in the publishing process was from Laura and Elanor who committed suicide against themselves later--;-- and, then, from Frederic Engels as the co-author of the “Communist Manifesto”.

5. LIFE AND THOUGHT: LESSONS FROM KARL MARX

Karl Marx would be rich but he chose to be poorer. In a context of industrial revolution, especially in England where he was living in the nineteenth century, the Great Marx accepted a very poor social situation with his wife, Mrs. Jenney, however stemming from a noble German family.

What we can basically learn from Karl Marx is the following: “Don’t have a second-best life”--;-- “Struggle Against Exploitation”, and “The Religious Distress is an Expression of the Distress of the Reality--;-- The Religious Distress Expresses a World with no Heart: Religion is the Opium of Peoples”…

REFERENCES:

- Gabriel, Mary. (2012). Love and Capital: Karl and Jenny Marx and the Birth of a Revolution, Amazon Publications.

- Marx, Karl and Frederic Engels. (1848), Manifesto of the Communist Party. Marxists Internet Archive--;-- retrieved on 14 March 2015.

- Marx, Karl. (1867), The Capital, Editions of Verlag von Otto Meisner.

- Marx, Karl. (First published in 1859), A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, Progress Publishers, Moscow.

- Ricardo, David. (1817, third edition in 1821). Principles of Political Economy and Taxation, Batoche Books-Kitchener, Ontario, Canada.

THE CO-AUTHORS:

Brahim Mansouri is Professor of economics at the Faculty of Juridical, Economic and Social Sciences (Cadi Ayyad University, Marrakech, Morocco). Ahmed Chanaa is Professor of economics at Alkwarizmi High School (Safi, Morocco). This summarized study on Karl Marx’s life and thought was originately prepared for the Workshop on “Karl Marx Bicentenary”, held at the Faculty of Juridical, Economic and Social Sciences of Hassan I University in Settat (Morocco). The authors would like to thank much Prof. Dr. Brahim DINAR, chairman of the organizing committee and all professors and staff of Hassan I University for their good work and welcome.




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