The Communist Manifesto

by

Karl Marx

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Themes and Colors
Capitalism and Progress Theme Icon
Class and Hierarchy Theme Icon
Inequality and Distribution of Wealth Theme Icon
Work Theme Icon
Intellectual Suppression vs. Empowerment Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Communist Manifesto, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Capitalism and Progress

Marx and Engels’ The Communist Manifesto aims to do nothing less than direct humanity in how to be better. It takes a sweeping look at historical development, arguing that some societal shifts were better than others; essentially, there is a “good” type of development and a “bad.” The manifesto specifically looks at changes in society linked to capitalism in order to determine which of these represent genuine progress—that is, which are good for humanity—and which…

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Class and Hierarchy

Marx and Engels’ mission is to revolutionize class and hierarchy. They see people as stratified into distinct categories fundamentally based on economics. Yet they see class not just as a way of categorizing people, but also as a force that itself shapes history. It is this force, they argue, rather than actions by individual “great men,” that defines the world. History, in turn, is inseparable from class struggle—and any chance of a more equal society…

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Inequality and Distribution of Wealth

Marx and Engels see society dominated by the capitalist class—the bourgeoisie—as fundamentally unequal. To them, it is patently unfair that those at the top of society have so much more power and wealth than those at the bottom—especially given that the proletariat greatly outnumbers the bourgeoisie. That power and money give the bourgeoisie disproportionate control over society’s laws, social authorities, and media, allowing it to accumulate ever greater wealth and resources—in other words, the…

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Work

Marx and Engels view the bourgeoisie and the proletariat as engaged in two very different types of work. In fact, they don’t really consider what the bourgeoisie does as work at all, but as profiteering. It is members of the proletariat who do all the actual work in society, while the only “work” the bourgeoisie engages in is ensuring it maintains profit and power. Whereas previous models of work offered dignity and self-worth, the bourgeoisie…

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Intellectual Suppression vs. Empowerment

The Communist Manifesto isn’t just a work of theory and history—it’s very reason for existence is a call to arms, intended to empower the proletariat with the intellectual motivation and means to overthrow the oppression of the bourgeoisie. Marx and Engels believe that the ruling classes of society are always the ones that set the agenda in terms of dominant ideas. Accordingly, their project is to make people see that society doesn’t have to…

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