Compare contrast Karl Marx and Adam Smith

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The ideologies of Karl Marx, the creator of communism, and Adam Smith, a proponent of capitalism, have both similarities and differences. They both strongly advocated the labor theory of value and the need for expanding markets. However, Marx believed that capitalism benefited only the rich while Smith realized that a free trade economy was the key to success and productivity. The differences between their political ideologies can be attributed to their individual situations and experiences. Marx witnessed industrialized workers being exploited and felt that communism was fair and just, while Smith lived in a world run by the flawed Mercantilist system and believed that capitalism allowed people to live freely and work harder for a return. Both philosophers had their own means of achieving prosperity and success, which were different but justifiable. Their economic mechanisms and concepts, such as the laws of Demand and Supply and the concept of the invisible hand, are still valuable and important today.

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Karl Marx, one of the most controversial twentieth century figures was the mastermind of the concept of communism as well as a radical revolutionary and philosopher of his time. Adam Smith was a well known proponent of capitalism and often called ‘the father of economics’. There are several ideologies of Marx and Smith that have similar background and scope but at the same time there are others which contrast drastically from each other.  The beginnings of both their ideologies and thoughts were based on Classical Economics but somewhere along the way great division and differences occurred.

Although their political thoughts differed, there was a lot of agreement and similarity between their economic thoughts. Both strongly advocated the labor theory of value which is that the more number of hours put into the creation of an object, the more worthy it becomes. Although this was strongly refuted later on, it left quite a large impact in the understanding of products and their value.

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Both philosophers and economists agreed on the fact that expanding markets were needed for capitalism. Without expanding markets, there would be no profits and people would be out of jobs.

Kal Marx strongly believed that in any capitalist setting, it was always the rich who benefitted from any production while the poor were exploited. Smith, on the other hand, realized that a free trade economy was the secret to success and productivity of a society.

 The differences between the political ideologies of both men can be largely attributed to the situations that they encountered in their lives. Communism seemed fair in Marx’s time as he had witnessed injustice and brutality on industrialized workers and felt that each deserved a better and equal life. He commended the independence that the system allowed to start a business or take any decision to become successful regardless of their class or background.

Smith lived in a world that was run by the Mercantilist system which seemed clearly flawed to him. As opposed to Mercantilism, Capitalism allowed people to live freely and spend and earn as they liked. He argued that competition and outside factors would always stabilize prices. He believed that people would strive harder and work more peacefully knowing that there was a return for their hard work. He felt that compromising a system to give an upper hand to the less privileged would be unfair.

Since both were not contemporaries, it seems that Marx was much influenced by Smith’s work. In my opinion, both wanted the best for their societies i.e. wealth and development. However, the means that each chose to achieve prosperity and success were different and justifiable because of the situation that they had witnessed in their lives. Marx believed that controlled distribution wealth would ensure this objective whereas Smith disagreed.

It is astounding how much the current understanding of economy has benefitted from these individuals. For instance, we would be nowhere without Marx’s economic mechanisms and mathematical element of economics. On the other hand, the laws of Demand and Supply and the concept of the invisible hand are still of considerable value and importance to this day throughout the world.


Twigg, Lauren M. “Karl Marx versus Adam Smith”. Rebirth of Reason. 07 April 2010.

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Compare contrast Karl Marx and Adam Smith. (2016, Oct 01). Retrieved from

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