The Communist Manifesto

by

Karl Marx

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Capitalism Term Analysis

Capitalism is a dominant economic and political system based on the ownership of private property and the ability to accumulate wealth. In a capitalist system, trade and industry exist for the pursuit of profit by private owners, rather than being owned by the government (or as Marx and Engels would call it, “the State”). Marx and Engels believe capitalism is a fundamentally unfair “mode of production” (their phrase for an economic and political system) that creates inequality in society and oppresses the majority of the population. Only a small section at the top of society, the bourgeoisie, experience capitalism’s benefits. However, Marx and Engels see capitalism as a necessary stage in humanity’s historical development. Its insatiable hunger for profit means quick advances in transport and communication technology, making it easier for the emerging proletariat to organize its revolution.

Capitalism Quotes in The Communist Manifesto

The The Communist Manifesto quotes below are all either spoken by Capitalism or refer to Capitalism. For each quote, you can also see the other terms and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Capitalism and Progress Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Signet edition of The Communist Manifesto published in 2011.
I. Bourgeois and Proletarians Quotes

Modern Industry has established the world market, for which the discovery of America has paved the way. This market has given an immense development to commerce, to navigation, to communication by land. This development has, in its turn, reacted on the extension of industry; and in proportion as industry, commerce, navigation, railways extended, in the same proportion the bourgeoisie developed, increased its capital, and pushed into the background every class handed down from the Middle Ages.

Related Characters: Bourgeoisie
Page Number: 64-65
Explanation and Analysis:

The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his “natural superiors,” and has left no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous “cash payment.” It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervor, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom—Free Trade. In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation.

Related Characters: Bourgeoisie
Page Number: 66
Explanation and Analysis:

The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honoured and looked up to with reverent awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its paid wage labourers.

Related Characters: Bourgeoisie
Page Number: 66
Explanation and Analysis:

The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionising the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society […] Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones […] All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life and his relations with his kind.

Related Characters: Bourgeoisie
Page Number: 67
Explanation and Analysis:

The cheap prices of its commodities are the heavy artillery with which it batters down all Chinese walls, with which it forces the barbarians’ intensely obstinate hated of foreigners to capitulate. It compels all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeois mode of production; it compels them to introduce what it calls civilization into its midst, i.e., to become bourgeois themselves. In one word, it creates a world after its own image.

Related Characters: Bourgeoisie
Page Number: 68-69
Explanation and Analysis:

In these crises there breaks out an epidemic that, in all earlier epochs, would have seemed an absurdity—the epidemic of overproduction. Society suddenly finds itself put back into a state of momentary barbarism; it appears as if a famine, a universal war of devastation had cut off the supply of every means of subsistence; industry and commerce seem to be destroyed; and why? Because there is too much civilization, too much commerce.

Related Characters: Bourgeoisie
Page Number: 71
Explanation and Analysis:

Modern industry has converted the little workshop of the patriarchal master into the great factory of the industrialist capitalist. Masses of laborers, crowded into the factory, are organized like soldiers. As privates of the individual army they are placed under the command of a perfect hierarchy of officers and sergeants. Not only are they slaves of the bourgeois class, and of the bourgeois State; they are daily and hourly enslaved by the machine, by the overlooker, and, above all, by the individual bourgeois manufacturer himself. The more openly this despotism proclaims gain to be its end and aim, the more petty, the more hateful and the more embittering it is.

Related Characters: Bourgeoisie, Proletariat, Artisans
Related Symbols: Chains
Page Number: 73
Explanation and Analysis:
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Capitalism Term Timeline in The Communist Manifesto

The timeline below shows where the term Capitalism appears in The Communist Manifesto. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
I. Bourgeois and Proletarians
Capitalism and Progress Theme Icon
Class and Hierarchy Theme Icon
Inequality and Distribution of Wealth Theme Icon
Marx and Engels argue that the capitalist system periodically brings about a state of crisis, threatening the very existence of the bourgeoisie... (full context)
Capitalism and Progress Theme Icon
Class and Hierarchy Theme Icon
Inequality and Distribution of Wealth Theme Icon
Work Theme Icon
The size of the proletariat increases in proportion to the expansion of capitalism. The modern working class needs work to survive, and it can only find said work... (full context)
Capitalism and Progress Theme Icon
Class and Hierarchy Theme Icon
Inequality and Distribution of Wealth Theme Icon
Work Theme Icon
To Marx and Engels, the nature of work for the proletariat in the capitalist system means more and more people are crammed into factories, “organized like soldiers.” They are... (full context)
Capitalism and Progress Theme Icon
Class and Hierarchy Theme Icon
Inequality and Distribution of Wealth Theme Icon
Work Theme Icon
The capitalist system draws more and more people into the proletariat. People more generally thought of as... (full context)
II. Proletarians and Communists
Inequality and Distribution of Wealth Theme Icon
Work Theme Icon
Breaking down bourgeois capitalism doesn’t mean an end to property, but an end to property used for exploitation. Capital... (full context)
III. Socialist and Communist Literature
Class and Hierarchy Theme Icon
Inequality and Distribution of Wealth Theme Icon
Intellectual Suppression vs. Empowerment Theme Icon
...the negative effects of machinery and the division of labor, and showed that the bourgeois capitalist system would lead to inequality, financial crises, and war. However, Marx and Engels ultimately see... (full context)