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2. Karl Marx

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In this module, we think about the life and impact of Karl Marx (1819-83). We begin with the story of how Marx reformulated the philosophy of his university mentor Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, thinking in particular about how he adapted Hegel’s notion of ‘alienation’ and how he conceived of the philosopher’s role lying in changing the world, not merely interpreting it. After this, we focus on the period Marx spent in London as a political exile, attempting to understand how capitalism worked, thinking in particular about: what ‘value’ means under capitalist systems and how this is transformed by socialism, his proposed laws of capitalistic development and ultimate dissolution which he described as his theory of ‘historical materialism’. Lastly, we follow Marx’s conclusions from this argument, namely: (i) that all history is the history of class struggle; (ii) the state is always an instrument of oppression; (iii) socialism requires that the workers take control of the state and use it for their own ends.


In this course, Professor Jeremy Jennings (King’s College London) thinks about the history of socialism from its origins to the present day. We begin in the first module with the French Revolution which set the European precedent for political revolution before moving on to survey writers of the ‘utopian socialist’ tradition which emerged in the first half of the nineteenth century. In the second module, we think about the life, work, and impact of Karl Marx who theorised that capitalism would inevitably bring about its own demise in its creation of a revolutionary industrial proletariat. We then consider how the failure of this revolution to materialise caused a ‘crisis’ for socialism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and reflect on some of the theories as to why this was the case. In the fourth module, we turn to the first successful socialist revolution to occur – that of Lenin’s Bolshevik Party in October 1917 – and chart the history of Russian socialism until its huge territorial gains by the end of the Second World War. Finally, in the fifth module, we think about the global rise of socialism after 1945 in Asia, Africa, and Central America, before examining the sudden collapse of the Soviet edifice between 1989-91 and the resurgence of socialist movements today linked to a critique of globalisation, climate change, and cultural hegemony.


Jeremy Jennings is Professor of Political Theory at King's College, London. His research focuses upon the history of political thought in France. He is presently finishing a book provisionally entitled Travels with Tocqueville and is acting as co-editor of the Cambridge Encyclopedia of French Thought. A larger, long-term project is to write a history of the concept of liberty.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Jennings, J. (2019, September 26). Socialism - Karl Marx [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Jennings, J. "Socialism – Karl Marx." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 26 Sep 2019,

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