Karl Marx (1818 - 1883)

Karl Marx was born and educated in Prussia, where he fell under the influence of Ludwig Feuerbach and other radical Hegelians. Although he shared Hegel's belief in dialectical structure and historical inevitability, Marx held that the foundations of reality lay in the material base of economics rather than in the abstract thought of idealistic philosophy.

Historical Materialism:
Central to Marxist thought is a philosophy of history known as historical materialism, which views historical change as a result of the actions of human beings within the material world, and not of the hand of God or some extrahuman force. In this materialist view of history, Marx was influenced by Ludwig Feuerbach, who criticized the idealism of Hegelian thinking, who stressed ideas and the spiritual nature of the universe and historical teleology, by emphasizing the material conditions of the world. For Marx, what propels history is a dialectic expressing economic and other conflicts between social classes. Hegel too, had understood history as dialectical, with change taking place through a series of successive movements from thesis to antithesis to synthesis. By whereas Hegel saw this as a History of a divinely inspired human spirit, Marx saw it as a history of human struggle over material goods and their production.

Karl MarxBase and Superstructure:
For Marx, economic organization shapes other aspects of society. The concepts of base and superstructure explain this relationship. Base refers to a society's economic mode of production, which determines its superstructure, that is, its political, social, religious, moral, scientific, and other cultural productions. From this perspective, artworks for instance are not an independent or autonomous mode of human activity but are conditioned and determined by a society's mode of production and the relation it constructs. Marxism is a materialist theory that views artistic production as a part of society's superstructure, which includes universities and museums and art institutions.