When Marx Appeared

Economist, Ludwig von Mises, published a thorough analysis of the social and economic theories of Karl Marx. The following excerpt captures Mises' overview and introduction of the subject.

August Glen-James, editor

Marxism is thus the most radical of all reactions against the reign of scientific thought over life and action, established by Rationalism.

The Utopians had not succeeded in planning social structures that would withstand the criticisms of economists and sociologists. It was easy to pick holes in their schemes; to prove that society constructed on such principles must lack efficiency and vitality, and that it certainly would not come up to expectations. Thus, about the middle of the nineteenth century, it seemed that the ideal of Socialism had been disposed of. Science had demonstrated its worthlessness by means of strict logic and its supporters were unable to produce a single effective counter-argument.

It was at this moment that Marx appeared. Adept as he was in Hegelian dialectic—a system easy of abuse by those who seek to dominate thought by arbitrary flights of fancy and metaphysical verbosity—he was not slow in finding a way out of the dilemma in which socialists found themselves. Since Science and Logic had argued against Socialism, it was imperative to devise a system which could be relied on to defend it against such unpalatable criticism. This was the task which Marxism undertook to perform. It had three lines of procedure. First, it denied that Logic is universally valid for all mankind and for all ages. Thought, it stated, was determined by the class of the thinkers; was in fact an “ideological superstructure” of their class interests. The type of reasoning which had refuted the socialist ideas was “revealed” as “bourgeois” reasoning, an apology for Capitalism. Second, it laid it down that the dialectical development led of necessity to Socialism; that the aim and end of all history was the socialization of the means of production by the expropriation of the expropriators—the negation of negation. Finally, it was ruled that no one should be allowed to put forward, as the Utopians had done, any definite proposals for the construction of the Socialist Promised Land. Since the coming of Socialism was inevitable, Science would best renounce all attempt to determine its nature . . . .

Marxism is thus the most radical of all reactions against the reign of scientific thought over life and action, established by Rationalism. It is against Logic, against Science and against the activity of thought itself—its outstanding principle is the prohibition of thought and inquiry, especially as applied to the institutions and workings of a socialist economy . . . . The Bolshevists persistently tell us that religion is opium for the people. Marxism is indeed opium for those who might take to thinking and must therefore be weaned from it.

--Ludwid von Mises

Mises, L. V., Hayek, F. A., & Kahane, J. (2014). Socialism. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, Incorporated. PP 5-7.