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Comparison of Marx and Hegel Essay

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Updated: Aug 6th, 2021


Many scholars have considered Karl Marx a left-wing Hegelian philosopher. This is due to his disagreement with Hegel over the view that the driving force in human life is based on the academic competency or religion. Hegel observed that this was needed for connectivity, something that Marx opposed vehemently.

In this regard, it is established that the basic difference between Hegel and Marx is based on God and material goods. On his part, Hegel believed that God was in charge of everything in the world. He was in charge of people’s destinies. Marx replaced God with power and ownership of property.

The major difference between the two philosophers relates to the utilization of property. Marx believed that the rich in society utilize wealth to subjugate and dominate the poor. Hegel viewed property as the means to ends meaning that each person should possess property in order to fulfill his or her needs.

This paper will therefore compare the reasoning of the two philosophers based on the dialectical method. The two philosophers concur that an individual needs property in society but they differ over the use and acquisition of property.


In the first place, the two classical philosophers differ over conceptualization of philosophy. Hegel viewed philosophy as an activity of thought, self-enclosed and independent. In this sense, the main function of philosophy is to document what has happened in the world.

Hegel thought that offering a clarification to a particular event meant explaining it in terms of coherent inevitability. In this case, the event or an occurrence is to be explained within its immediate context. Through this, the meaning of various events could be offered to various philosophical occurrences.

Furthermore, the philosopher can only offer meaning to what has already occurred but not to what is about to occur. Hegel believed that offering meaning to various events needed the presence of God, spirit and the mind (Coplestone, 1999).

This can be interpreted to mean that philosophy is self-comprehending and truth is only arrived at through God’s assistance. In comparison to Marx’s comprehension of philosophy, Hegel’s reasoning is rationally retrospective.

Marx believed that social conditions and materials determine the position of individuals in society. God has nothing to do with the living standards of people. The rich are responsible for the poverty that rocks the unfortunate in society.

Marx considered Hegel’s explanation a teleological metaphysics that only justifies human problems through religion. Hegel could explain poverty as a punishment from God. Marx could view the same as part of the process of capitalism.

In trying to extrapolate how alienation affects the lives of individuals, Hegel utilized a dialectical method to show how human consciousness is a process that develops from simple to a more multifaceted process. He noted that human mind grows procedurally to adopt the changing events in the world.

In this view, some individuals are more active than others hence the less powerful in terms of reasoning are dominated and estranged (Coplestone, 1999). Human mind has grown from what it used to be to grasp the existing nature of objects.

Through this, human beings are more aware about their environment. He noted that philosophy evolves through the same dialectical method. What a certain generation holds as true is further disputed by the new generation hence generating new ideas in society.

Although Marx had the same perspective as that of Hegel, Marx is more materialistic than Hegel who was an idealist. Hegel observed that ideology is the most important aspect of human history. Human beings utilize ideas to dominate and suppress others in society.

Ideology helps an individual to comprehend truth in society. Marx believed that societies could only be understood in terms of material possessions. Marx saw history as a revolution in the modes of production. The history changed from feudal mode of production to the current capitalistic mode.

In the current mode, human life is characterized by competition, subjugation, pauperization and hopelessness. All these can only be rectified through a revolution. The proletariat should rise up against the bourgeoisie and claim leadership.

For Hegel, the lives of people in society are influenced by objects, which are needed in case life is to proceed well. The same objects are the major causes of alienation. The objects are needed by individuals to accomplish their tasks. Without the objects, people can do nothing to satisfy their needs.

Therefore, the religious leaders utilize the objects to dominate and suppress the poor (Marx, 1988). From Hegel’s analysis, it is evident that alienation is inevitable in human history. Alienation is natural to human beings, which is shaped by objects. The objects keep on changing in shape and form.

It reaches a time when human beings dispute the existing structure by arguing that some objects are unnecessary. Alienation to Marx does not pertain to human objects instead, it relates to production of goods and services in society. It is more concerned about ownership of the means of production.

Hegel observed that labor was a positive activity in human history. However, Marx differed with him since labor is evil meaning that it causes alienation and domination in society (Polanyi, 2006). In fact, to Marx, labor is the main cause of alienation.

Hegel viewed alienation to be inherently in people but Marx narrowed it down to an individual. An individual is alienated from his own activities since he or she does not have any time to conduct private activities apart from animal related ones such as eating, sleeping and procreating.


The two philosophers pointed out that the worker is alienated in four ways, one being alienation from the product. Although workers are the direct producers of goods, they are slaves of the goods they produce. The produced good has more value as compared to the worker because goods are to be offered maximum security and stored in safe places.

Workers produce goods that they do not consume meaning they produce for others. The increase in product value decreases the viability of workers. The worker ends up being treated in the same way as goods implying that goods and workers are treated as equals.

Workers are perpetually pushed to the periphery leading to alienation from the process of production (Coplestone, 1999). The way workers relate to the whole process of production leaves a lot to be desired because the relationship is unnatural and uncalled for.

The workers never find satisfaction because they satisfy the interests of other individuals (Capitalists). The worker views the whole process of production as forced labor because actually it is inhuman. The worker ends up being alienated from the self because of the last two forms of alienation.

The worker portrays two personalities. One is the feeling of belonging to capitalism because the worker is separated from real consciousness. On the other hand, workers perceive themselves as human beings.


Coplestone, C (1999). A history of philosophy. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group.

Marx, K. (1988). The Communist Manifesto. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Co.

Polanyi, K. (2006). Primitive, archaic, and modern economies. Michigan: Beacon Press.

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