How can you explain the famous quote of Marx and Engels about the ruling class?
“The ruling ideas of each age have ever been the ideas of its ruling class’. What did Marx and Engels mean by this, and are they correct?
In this essay, I will be elaborating on what Marx and Engels meant by the quote within the title. I will be discussing the context in which the quote was written and the theory of history within which the quote was explaining a concept in this theory. I will be using sources from a variety of Marx’s writings and interpretations from a contemporary philosopher which is seen to collect Marx’s theory in better detail. Following this, I will combine the theory of history with other Marxist theories of class struggle which is a central concept within historical materialism. I will evaluate Marx’s theory of history with a critical point which attempts to render the theory as contradictory and present a plausible reply to this criticism. Overall I will argue that the ruling ideas of each age are consistent with the ideas of the ruling class and that Marx’s theory of history explains why this is the case.
The title quote in question is from the Communist manifesto originally published in 1848. This quote was written in the context of Marx and Engels explaining their theory of history and how economic forces influence legal and political superstructures. Marx didn’t explicitly explain his theory of history in great detail and as such has been constructed over a variety of different texts. G.A. Cohen’s interpretation of Marx’s theory of history is regarded as having the best account of detail, rigor, and precision. Such reconstruction of the theory is based on Marx’s writings within the Preface and The German Ideology. However, his interpretation has faced criticism and isn’t universally accepted in that a surprisingly small role for class struggle(a central concept for Marx’s theory) is contained in his interpretation(Ibid). The implicit role of class struggle omitted from Cohen’s interpretation can be given more prominence as a crucial component of heat. Class struggle is generated by heat as the development of history gives way to new economic management and hence new ways of determining class and class interest which naturally come into conflict. This is demonstrated in the class struggle between the revolutionary bourgeoisie and the feudal aristocracy.