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Marx, Karl

  1. Jeffrey Reiman

Published Online: 1 FEB 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781444367072.wbiee231

The International Encyclopedia of Ethics

How to Cite

Reiman, J. 2013. Marx, Karl. The International Encyclopedia of Ethics. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 1 FEB 2013


Karl Marx did not present a systematic analysis of the moral good (Kamenka 1969: 2). He did, however, have a moral vision – a notion of the good human life – that has proven extremely influential. We can see that vision by considering what Marx took to be evils of capitalist society and projecting from them to what he thought a good human society would be like. Marx had two main objections to capitalism. First, he thought that capitalism was alienating: it estranged human beings from their labor, their bodies, their fellows, and from nature. Second, he thought that capitalism was (effectively) unjust: it exploited workers by forcing them to give more labor to capitalists than they were compensated for. Though there is controversy over whether Marx's basic views on these matters changed or remained the same over his life, it is fair to say that the alienation charge is most fully developed in Marx's early writings, in particular The Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844; and the injustice charge is most fully developed in Marx's later writings, in particular Capital. To these charges must also be added that Marx had a critical view of prevailing moral notions, in particular justice, rights, and liberty. They were products of the society in which they arose and, as such, tended to be understood in ways that disguised the moral failings of that society. That moral notions could function in this ideological way is a distinct and important Marxian contribution to ethics. Accordingly, the discussion here will be divided into three parts: (1) alienation, (2) injustice, and (3) ideology.


  • ethics;
  • practical (applied) ethics