Karl Marx (1818-1883) explained historical change by using and adapting a theory that was first developed by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770 - 1831). According to Hegel's theory, in any period of history there is a conflict between contrary and opposing forces. For Marx, although not for Hegel, these opposing forces were exclusively economic classes.
For Marx, in any period of history up to and including the Industrial Revolution and modern capitalism, there has always been a dominant economic class, which has exploited a lower economic class, this situation is stressed in capitalism. Marx states that the economic classes need to be abolished.
Each successive period of history is brought into being by the breakdown of the previous one. According to Marx, each period of history is unstable, being destined by the class conflict within it to break down into a new period of history, which will again be unstable because of opposing economic classes.
This period will then break down and the cycle will continue. This accounts for historical change, each period of history being rendered unstable by opposing economic class interests, therefore each period of history has within itself the means of its own destruction.
Under capitalism the power of the exploiting class (the bourgeoisie) comes from its ownership of the means of production (factories, mines, farms, railways). The lowered exploited class (the proletariat) own nothing and only provide labor for the bourgeoisie. People's entire life and values in society will be shaped and determined by their class background. The government can not provide public interest or common good because under this system there is no common interest between classes. The government predictably promotes the interests of the ruling class, and the ruling class predictably controls the government.
The time in history when capitalism is greatest will also...