The world views embodied by Adam Smith in capitalism and Karl Marx in Marxism/Communism are very different, each affected by the general trends and ideas of the time and place in which the philosophies were created. Smith wrote The Wealth of Nations in 1776, around the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in Great Britain. The philosophy of this time was largely influenced by the ideas of reason, rationality and eternal truth engendered by the Enlightenment and the modernist era. Philosophers such Hobbes, Locke, Jefferson, and many more based their philosophies on the idea of an inherent human nature that should be represented to the fullest extent by government. Hobbes argued that people were inherently disorderly and evil, and therefore should be ruled by a monarch. Locke and Jefferson believed in the goodness of human nature, saying that each man has certain inborn and unalienable rights, and Jefferson used this to defend a government ruled by the people. Smith based his philosophy of capitalism on the idea that all or most people act in their own interest when given the chance, and argued that if left unhampered by governmental interference the natural progression stemming from this human nature would lead to the most beneficial economic system. The ideas of human rights and democracy can also be seen in Smith’s philosophy. In Smith’s idealized view of the world, a capitalist economy would regulate itself by way of each person acting in their own self-interest. Prices would stabilize at the lowest practical rates, employment would shift to the areas where it was most needed, and supply would quickly react to demand.

Marx’s philosophy was formed in a very different time and place, during the mid 19th century in Germany, France and England. During this time the progression of capitalism created poor living conditions and hostility between classes. In the early 19th century Hegel originated his theory of the dialectic, which said that history’s progression through different conflicting periods was the process of the perfect higher power revealing itself. Hegel’s ideas about the dialectic and the progress of history toward perfection had a profound influence over many following philosophies. Marx and Engels were heavily influenced by both Ludwig Feuerbach and Moses Hess; Feuerbach rejected Hegel’s idealism and emphasized materialism and humanistic atheism, Hess challenged Hegel’s view of man’s passive role in history and asserted that history was created by man’s actions, and also converted Marx and Engels to the communist cause in France. These influences caused Marx to come up with his own dialectic which described history as the process of changing human nature – what it meant to be “human” – caused by changing means of production, along with the parallel changing class structure. Hess’s ideas and his disillusionment with the failure of the working-class revolutions of 1848 caused Marx to aggressively promote radical, even violent revolution.

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