Marx vs. Kierkegaard

Essay by kuchevCollege, UndergraduateA+, May 2004

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At first glance it seems that Marx and Kierkegaard have nothing in common. But if you look more thoroughly, it is not hard to notice that being contemporaries they address a similar problem of the society they live in. That is to say, the problem of the alienation. The difference is in the way they see this problem and the solutions that they offer. There is a vast gap between the different realities of these two influential philosophers and between the ways they understand the world.

Both Marx and Kierkegaard agree that in contemporary society many people feel alienated. But while Marx argues that the source of this alienation can be understood by focusing on material structures and economics, Kierkegaard insists that the source of human alienation is spiritual in character. And from this point on it won't be untrue if we say that they don't have anything more in common.

It is true that both of them were influenced to a certain extent by Hegel but the way they interpret him is completely different. Although Marx shared Hegel's belief in dialectical structure and historical inevitability, he held that the foundations of reality lay in the material base of economics rather than in the abstract thought of idealistic philosophy. He took the Hegelian concept of a world driven by the historical struggle between ideas and their antitheses and replaced it with a world driven by the historical struggle between different classes for control over the means of production. Production is the basis of history, which in turn is the basis for intellectual and cultural life. In all class conflict, the dominant ideas are those that express the economic interests of the dominant class. We cannot have intellectual elite without an economy which allows some people to work while others think...