Karl Marx was a social and political philosopher best known for his critique of capitalism. Marx said that "history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle". He believed that capitalism would eventually be destroyed by its own internal conflicts and be replaced by a classless egalitarian society called communism. Society was an evolutionary process to Marx and had gone through several stages before arriving at capitalism. This wasn't an original idea of his own. Marx was familiar with the work of German philosopher Georg Hegel. Hegel used the philosophical concept of the dialectic to explain how he saw society advancing. He conceptualized an ascending staircase that represented the advancement of
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The only way to change society was through a complete revolutionary social upheaval. Marx said that society had already passed through several stages of economic development. Previous to capitalism there had been three other modes of production. Society started off in a mode of production called primary communism, which was similar to Jean-Jacques Rousseau's state of nature, and was a time when people had very little personal property or interaction with each other. Marx based this earliest stage on his study of anthropology, and it was therefore accurate.
In all the stages of economic development that followed after primary communism, there was a relationship of oppression between the social classes which emerged out of each mode of production. After primary communism, society advanced into the slavery mode of production. Slavery involved a small group of wealthy and powerful individuals owning the underclass. The masters were the oppressors, and the slaves were the oppressed. After slavery collapsed due to slave revolts, it was replaced by feudalism. Under feudalism, people were no longer slaves, but they were forced into sharecropping and were required to pay tribute to their feudal lord, which didn't leave them in a much better position. The oppressors in this economic system were the feudal lords, who oppressed their serfs. This mode of production was eventually