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Great Philosophers – An Introduction to Karl Marx

In this free online course, you will be introduced to Karl Marx and his views on the ruling class and the proletariat.

Publisher: NPTEL
This course is about Karl Marx and covers historical materialism, highlighting the two main classes of the society: the ruling class and the proletariat. You will explore concepts such as alienation and exploitation through the lens of capitalism. You will learn how the state uses politics to contribute to the exploitation of the proletariat. You will also learn about Marx’s views on civil society and the state.
Great Philosophers – An Introduction to Karl Marx
  • Duration

    3-4 Hours
  • Students

  • Accreditation






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Exploited and alienated in factories, the conditions of workers have been improved thanks to Karl Marx. In any society, Marx pointed out, there are most basic facts, among which its economic organisation. The economic organisation is about the modes of production, which encompasses a combination of factors of production like labour and capital. In Marx’s opinion, any society is fundamentally divided into two classes: those who own the capital, the bourgeoisie, and those who are requested to supply labour, the proletariat. You will learn that the bourgeoisie exploit the proletariat, the former getting richer and richer, and the latter becoming poorer and poorer. The situation was so chaotic for the proletariat, the exploited labourers, that Marx offered to defend them by writing about their miserable plight, thus setting out as an actual humanist philosopher.            

As you work through the course, you will learn that labourers were subjected to relentless exploitation in the mechanical modes of production, within the large factories. They were also subjected to alienation of any sort, including from the product of their labour, the process of labouring, and their fellow human beings. As you progress through the course, you will notice that the bourgeoisie was also subjected to some specific kind of alienation that Marx magnified in his works. You might rightfully wonder about the stance of the state and laws. Did the state not make laws to protect the workers? Unfortunately though, the state enacted laws to legitimize the exploitation of labourers, thus widening the gap between the working class and the rulers. The state, through legislation, worked in the interest of few people against the majority, which prompted Marx to resort to his pen to denounce such injustice and create a rational order that would abolish private property and instore freedom for all.    

In the prevailing capitalistic system, the actualities of the exploitation are hidden in the name free contract. But, are workers truly free in signing their contracts? You will learn that workers were not actually free in signing these contracts, contrary to the assumption under the law, because they had to sell their labour to make a living. Following the depiction of the plight of the working class, for which he was right, Marx developed the idea of communism, which is fully explained in this course. Countries that adopted communism could not achieve the freedom that was longed for by the workers, it only led to some worst forms of tyranny. Not only was he somewhat wrong about communism, but capitalism had never been all that flourishing. This course will be of great use to policy makers. It will be particularly useful to students specializing in philosophy. Start this course today and increase your knowledge of Karl Marx and his theories.   

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