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Immanuel Kant and Karl Marx



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    Kant & Marx


    According to Marx’s analysis-dialectic materialism-the root cause of exploitation lies in the private ownership of the means of production. If these means are made the property of the society (for the Marxists the society is synonymous with the State) then there will be no further exploitation. But before this, the State should be freed from the hands of the exploiters and ensured against their rule in future. Martin Milligan begins discussion in his book with a bang, with the hammer and sickle approach. He writes about the thinking of Marx thus: “Wages are determined through the antagonistic struggle between capitalist and worker. Victory goes necessarily to the capitalist. The capitalist can live longer without the worker than can the worker without the capitalist” (Milligan, 1988, p, 19) He comes to an immediate conclusion. “The separation of capital, ground-rent and labor is thus fatal for the worker.”(Milligan, 1988, p, 20) Towards this end, dictatorship of the proletariat must be established In order that people may tolerate the dictatorship, it was held as an ideal that when the exploiter class has been finally liquidated, and no possibility of its resurfacing  exists, the state will be  replaced by a classless, stateless society. Marx also attempted to show that capitalism contains seeds of its own destruction and that socialism (communism) is inevitable.

    Bodies, mind, intellect and the soul,–these four create an individual. Marx understands the first three, Kant strongly suspects the existence of the fourth aspect, but doesn’t openly admit it, taking the cover of rationality—experiments which need proof. These four are integrated. One cannot think of each part separately. The confusion that has arisen in the West is due to the fact that they have treated each of the above aspects of human being separately and without any relation to the rest. When democratic movements were the rage in the West inspired by thinkers like Kant and the rest, they proclaimed ‘man is a political animal’ and therefore his political expectations must be attended to. Everyone should have the opportunity to become the King and have the opportunity to rule.  The political instinct in man could be satisfied by vote, they thought. He got the vote but at the cost of other rights. The right to vote turned out to be the right to woes! Then the question arose—the voting right did not bring the food that is necessary for survival. What is the use of the voting right if there is nothing to eat? They tried to convince the man that to have the right to vote is a great achievement. But the man by now knew that the voting right without the bread is useless.  It was the opportune time for Karl Marx to intervene. While agreeing that the bread was the most important thing, he elaborated that the State belongs to the ‘haves’ He goaded the people to fight. He convinced them that it is their bounden duty. He considered the human being with the body-approach only. Those who dared to adopt the path of Karl Marx soon realized that they had lost both-the voting right as well as the bread!

    On the other hand, there are some Western countries, led by USA, influenced by the philosophy of Kant. There is both bread as well as voting right. But peace and happiness has vanished from the lives of people.   US leads in the number of suicides, number of persons who need psychiatric treatment and those who take drugs to get sleep. People and leaders fail to understand the complexity of this situation. With all the glamour of wealth and the voting right in a democratic set up, peace of mind still eludes people. They are craving for authentic peace! Those who think, realize that there is a fundamental mistake somewhere, whereby even after acquiring the entire good things of life, they are unhappy. The reason is, they think of the life of the human being in divided into various parts, and don’t have the integrated approach. What it is to be an integrated personality?—knock the doors of spirituality and you will experience!  Kant knocks at the portals of spiritualism, after crossing the last hurdle of reason, but actually doesn’t enter it. “Kant regards knowledge as no more than a means to an end; unless knowledge can be put in the service of appropriate ends, it can not truly benefit individuals or society.” (Humphrey, 1983, p, 2) Spiritualists entirely agree with Kant in this regard. They say, that which is not practical, can not be spiritual either. Every spiritual principle must stand the test of practicability. Spirituality is the science of sciences and not the guesswork of the people sitting on the ivory tower cut away from the harsh realities of life. Kant moves a step further and he “identifies reason (and will) as the focal point of an autonomy enjoyed by men and other free rational beings; and autonomy is just the ability to be to be self-guiding. (Humphrey, 1983, p, 2) In fact, Emanuel Kant saw that the human mind is capable of understanding things beyond the logical set-up.

    Philosophers are perfect scientists. The western philosophers reached up to the level of duality; Hegel propounded the principle of thesis, anti-thesis and synthesis. Kant mentioned about will power, reason, the rational human being and also something about metaphysics. Karl Marx, who had the advantage of studying Kant, used this principle as a basis and presented his analysis of history and economics. Now here is an example why even the Kant-like intellectuals are not able to comprehend the power that exists beyond reason. Once a surgeon of international repute from Germany asked a Realized Soul, “Revered Master, you mention about God, Soul and all such things. In my professional career, I have performed thousands of operations, dissected each and every part of the human body, and I have not seen God or Soul, hiding somewhere in the body. “Is it so?” said the Realized Soul. Then he put a counter-question. “While performing operations, you must have met things like greed, anger, happiness etc. in the body!” “These are emotions of the human being. How can one perceive them?” the Surgeon asked. The Realized soul had the final say. “You are unable to see even the mind-level emotions in the body. Then, how can you see or experience something that transcends the mind? There is a proper procedure to experience and practice it. Jus as a matchbox and the matchstick kept separately would not show you the fire but proper procedure only can kindle it, when an individual practices prescribed procedures, divinity in one is experienced.” Besides an economic philosopher, Marx was a serious observer of psychology, sociology and anthropology. He perfected his theory from his understanding of the human conditions through historical analysis. But as decades rolled by, with the crumbling of the Berlin Wall, disintegration of the USSR, Marxist brand of socialism itself became an historical artifact. The historian Marx is consigned to the storage racks of history. Kant said, “that the key to and core of mankind’s advancement is increase of knowledge.”(Humphrey, 1983, p, 1) In introduction to the book, Humphrey writes,  “The essays making up the volume are products of Immanuel Kant’s mature philosophical reflection, having been written and published between 1784 and 1795, the period during which his three critical masterpieces—the critique of Pure Reason, the critical of Practical Reason, and the critique of Judgment—appeared.”(Humphrey, 1983, p, 1)

    ‘Workers of the world unite!’ is the slogan of the communists. Unity—and what sins are committed in the name of unity! The history of Communism is daubed in bloodshed of violence. What if the slogan is– ‘Workers, unite the world!’ Marxism arose as a reaction to capitalism. But it failed to establish the importance of human being. Marxists were happy by merely transferring the ownership of capital in the hands of the State. But the access of the common man to the State is remote. Sate conducts its business by following the rules and regulations. Individual has no say or discretion. He has to just follow. There is no foolproof guarantee against corruption and favoritism.  In the capitalist system the economic man was the only criteria, with full freedom to exercise his individuality. To the Communist system the individual was just an object. Individuals are all like the identical parts of the machine, with no scope to exhibit their latent talents.  Manuals of rules and regulations guided their life. They lived in a prison-like atmosphere; the difference being it had no walls. Communist system doesn’t care for the individual freedom. The State is the be-all and end-all in all matters. Individual citizen is reduced to mere cog in the giant wheel. One class of exploiters has been replaced by another class of exploiters-the communist functionaries! Karl Marx put forward in his analysis of history, that capitalism contains the seeds of its own destruction, and that communism is a natural and inevitable successor to capitalism. The propaganda-approach may hold good for some time, till Communists usurp power but this view, destroys the dynamism in man. He is part of a permanent history called Communism that lacks dynamic growth and that has no new horizons to look forward to.  He is there just to promote Communism. Worker’s rights are no more there, as they are supposed to work for the welfare of the State, whatever are the working conditions. The dialectic materialism of Marx, too, operates only so long as state is not established as supreme after destroying the capitalists. Thereafter, the State takes a different position. Crushing the counter-revolutionaries becomes its creed, and the administrators of Communist ideology grab more power.  The theme of stateless state becomes fiction, far from achievable reality. In fact, according to the Marxist view, Communism will not withstand any opposition, and this itself is a reactionary view. Marx, therefore, fails by his own yardsticks.


    Kantian intellectual blaze and the fire-brand philosophy of Marx, provide only partial solutions but invariably led to vicious cycles where crises only recur, simply because the fundamental analyses and solutions were never presented. Both, therefore, result in dehumanization of an individual. No one will deny that human beings are rational and civilized creatures with faculties to think creatively, to work cooperatively and to feel empathy with other human beings in sorrow and pain. Ideological conflicts need not be taken for granted as inherent in mankind’s fate. They jeopardize all the post-cold war efforts for genuine coexistence among human beings and attainment of a sustainable world peace.



    Milligan, Martin (Translator) by Karl Marx (Author), Fredrick Engels (Author):Book:

    The Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 and the Communist Manifesto (Great Books in Philosophy)

    Paperback: 248 pages

    Publisher: Prometheus Books; 1st edition (March 1988)

    Language: English

    ISBN-10: 087975446X

    ISBN-13: 978-0879754464

    Humphrey, Ted (Translator), Immanuel Kant (Author), Book: Perpetual Peace, and Other Essays on Politics, History, and Morals (HPC Classics Series)

    Paperback: 152 pages

    Publisher: Hackett Publishing Company; New Ed edition (February 1983)

    Language: English

    ISBN-10: 0915145472

    ISBN-13: 978-0915145478


    Immanuel Kant and Karl Marx. (2016, Dec 20). Retrieved from

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