Ideology and socioeconomic theory developed by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. The fundamental ideology of communism, it holds that all people are entitled to enjoy the fruits of their labour but are prevented from doing so in a capitalist economic system, which divides society into two classes: nonowning workers and nonworking owners. Marx called the resulting situation “alienation,” and he said that when the workers repossessed the fruits of their labour, alienation would be overcome and class divisions would cease. The Marxist theory of history posits class struggle as history's driving force, and it sees capitalism as the most recent and most critical historical stage—most critical because at this stage the proletariat will at last arise united. The failure of the European Revolutions of 1848 and an increasing need to elaborate on Marxist theory, whose orientation is more analytical than practical, led to adaptations such as Leninism and Maoism. In the late 20th century the collapse of the Soviet Union and its Eastern bloc allies seemed to mark the end of Soviet Marxism as a practical political or economic model. Meanwhile, China adopted many elements of a free-market economy in what it called a development rather than a repudiation of Marxist theory. In the West, Marxism continues to be appreciated as a critique of market capitalism and a theory of historical change. See also Communist Manifesto; dialectical materialism; socialism; Stalinism; Trotskyism.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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