Karl Marx and Adam Smith Essays

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Karl Marx and Adam Smith

Karl Marx and Adam Smith wrote in the same time period – during the industrial revolution, where the bourgeois had risen to power by oppressing and exploiting the proletariat. The term bourgeois refers to the people in the class of modern capitalists, owners of the means of social production and employers of wage labor. The proletarians are the people in the class of modern wage laborers who, having no means of production of their own, are reduced to selling their labor power in order to live. While Smith, in his Wealth of Nations, wrote in favor of capitalism, Marx, in his Communist Manifesto, was a harsh critic of the system and declared its inevitable destruction and consequent rise of the working class.
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In his Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith celebrated capitalist society. The central thesis of The Wealth of Nations is that capital is best employed for the production and distribution of wealth under conditions of no governmental interference, or laissez-faire, and free trade. In Smith's view, the production and exchange of goods can be stimulated, and a consequent rise in the general standard of living attained, only through the efficient operations of private industrial and commercial entrepreneurs acting with a minimum of regulation and control by governments. To explain this concept of government maintaining a laissez-faire attitude toward commercial endeavors, Smith proclaimed the principle of the "invisible hand": Every individual in pursuing his or her own good is led, as if by an invisible hand, to achieve the best good for all. Therefore any interference with free competition by government is almost certain to be injurious. The division of labor is another crucial component of capitalist society. According to Smith, division of labor benefits society in three ways: "first, to the increase of dexterity in every particular workman; secondly, to the saving of the time which is commonly lost in passing from one species of work to another; and lastly, to the invention of a great number of machines which facilitate and abridge labour, and enable one man to do the work of many." (Smith, Wealth of Nations, p.6)
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