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Kant and Marx: Thinking Politics in the Modern Era, Essay Example

Pages: 5

Words: 1264

Essay

Although we typically think of Immanuel Kant for his moral philosophy, he had many other ideas concerning political thinking that emphasized anti-war policies (Brook). Likewise, Karl Marx believed in peace; however, he had different ideas about how to accomplish this. Kant’s political philosophy focused on the public sphere, which describes a group of private people who come together as a group to reason critically. This philosophy deals more with ownership and was socially relevant in periods of time where land owners, educated men and women, and property were of extreme importance to societal standing. Today, however, the public sphere acts as more of a mode of publicity for political figures. Marx’s political philosophy focused on the commons, which is defined as the resources that are available to all members of a society and the belief that everyone has equal claim to them. Marxism primarily deals with this need to share and was socially relevant in a time when capitalism was of extreme importance. Today, this philosophy is most closely reflected in socialist governments.

The public sphere is the most useful principle for thinking politics today. Although the situation that Karl Marx created is ideal, it has been shown to work very poorly in actual practice with the exception of the Canadian socialist government. A majority of the democratic world’s governments today operate based on the thoughts and opinions of the public sphere. Since the public spheres in many countries are now defined as the politicians in power rather than the educated citizens, this method of thinking politics may not be the most effective for everyone; despite this, many systems of government have evolved to work this way.

In many senses, Immanuel Kant and Karl Marx had opposing philosophical beliefs. Kant

believed that the power of the state should be limited in order to protect people from the government (Strauss). The political system that he recommended is very similar to the senate system used in the United States and the parliamentary system used in Great Britain. Constitutional governments such as these share a balance of power between the national government and small provinces that are represented by normal people. In addition, there is a balance of power between the government and courts; the courts ultimately decide who is innocent or guilty based on the nation’s and state’s constitution and this decision is independent of politicians directly involved in the nationwide government.

Kant’s system of belief is highly relevant to the modern world. The public sphere gives ordinary people influence and power that are usually impossible in other political systems. Kant acknowledged that direct democracies will not work for modern governments; when examining how countries are run, this concept is obvious. What is best for the greatest number of people isn’t necessarily fair or ethical to the group of people in the minority; parliaments and republics overcome this unfairness. While a majority of civilians are still able to express their opinions, there are many checks and balances put in place to ensure that governmental action is just. Karl Marx’s policy of focusing on the commons contradicts these beliefs. In order to truly share resources in a fair way, many people need to give up their rights to cast their votes and opinions.

Karl Marx’s political theory, which is commonly known as Marxism, aims to promote equality and capitalism by allowing for equal sharing and production of goods. In doing so, this eliminates class conflict because there is no longer an upper class or middle class; everyone has equal access to everything (Service). Although this form of government seems beneficial, it has led to catastrophes like communism in the Soviet Union. It is impossible for everyone to truly share everything equally because this would leave no leader or group of people to dictate how goods should be shared. In response to this, the Soviet Union has been led by many cruel dictators such as Joseph Stalin. Under Stalin’s power, a majority of the goods produced in his country solely benefitted him and his lackey’s, which resulted in harsh conditions for the civilians. In addition, he took extreme advantage of his power and committed terrible acts on his people that he justified as law enforcement (Wheatcroft). Despite this incident, socialism can work in isolated instances, such as the Canadian government. However, it requires an unselfish governing body that is truly invested in the well-being of their people to be able to do so.

The theory of Marxism itself came to be when Karl Marx realized that pure capitalism in unable to sustain itself; when profit falls in a capitalist setting, wage and social benefits will also fall. In addition, military power will decrease, which is detrimental to societies who rely on a constant need for protection in order to survive. Marxism solves these problems by controlling wage, profit, social benefits, and military. If a government has a smaller amount of exports, they will still be able to provide benefits for the civilians by adjusting the budget accordingly. Canada has implemented this policy; as a consequence, Canadian citizens benefit from centralized healthcare.

Despite the relevance of the commons in the modern Canadian government, may nations that have followed Marx’s philosophy have defaulted into communist governments in which a single ruler has power over all the people (Gleason). This is detrimental to these people’s own rights and freedom, and don’t realize the extent of the terrible situation they are in because their rulers don’t allow them to. Those who are able to understand the problems with their government dream of having a political system governed by the public sphere where they are able to contribute to the political ideas of their own nation.

Although both Kant’s and Marx’s political philosophies have academic value, their success depends on real world situations. In the modern world, it is most common to find political systems governed by the public sphere; these systems are fully functional, last for a long time, and please a greater amount of people. Civilians are the government; they are able to be in constant contact with their representatives who will be fired if they don’t listen to public opinion. In contrast Kant’s political philosophy, too much is guided by the commons. In theory, the idea of sharing all goods and natural resources seems like a very peaceful society in which the best interests of all the citizens are protected. However, we have seen in many historical situations that this is not the case. When people are given too much power, they will take advantage of it and without a leader or group of leaders, a Marxist government cannot work.

It is important to understand Kant’s and Marx’s theories in terms of the modern world. While there are examples of both concepts working in the 21st century, it is important to understand the specifics of what is working and what’s not. We can then use this information to infer governmental trends that will occur in the future. It already seems like many communist dictators are falling out of power in favor of political philosophies that involve the public sphere. This indicates that Kant’s belief in the public sphere is a trending thought pattern in the modern world.

Works Cited

Brook, A. Kant and the Mind. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994

Gleason, Abbott. A Companion to Russian History. Wiley-Blackwell, 2009

Service, Robert. Comrades: Communism: A World History. Pan MacMillan, 2008

Strauss, L, Cropsey, J. Immanuel Kant, in History of Political Philosophy. University of Chicago Press: Chicago and London, 1987

Wheatcroft, S. G.; Davies, R. W.; Cooper, J. M. Soviet Industrialization Reconsidered: Some Preliminary Conclusions about Economic Development between 1926 and 1941. Economic History Review, 1986

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