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The Significance of Transition from Feudalism to Capitalism in Communist Manifesto

History has defined how social structures have evolved in society. Marx argues that the contradictions of the feudal mode of production led to the emergence of capitalism due to the need for class consciousness. Marx argues that the feudal system was exploitative, just like capitalism, although the level of exploitation was based on the needs of the feudal lord (Dobb, 2007). The lords exploited peasant farmers thus making them poor and ensuring that they rely on him all the time but not to amass profits since the aim of the feudal system was basically for consumption (Hilton, 2006).

The transition from this system took place during the Renaissance period, when science, art, and human freedom were revived. However, the feudal system characterized by poor structures which led to increased tension between the lower class and the monarch is the cause of the transition. Katz (1993) adds that revolts in the system led to divisions in the national wealth among small entrepreneurs. When the system broke and trade became a means through which people could exchange what they had for what they lacked, a unique class of merchants started coming up who traded based on their interests. This process led to the transformation of the society from subsistence to economic production thus leading to the rise of capitalism.

Social transformations in society develop from shifting collective consciousness through external and internal stimuli, which lead to new ways of doing things. Katz (1993) argues that feudalism as a social system is said to have failed due to lack of economic freedom which hindered the transition into the modern world. The challenges witnessed in feudalism meant that the people were either to move on to a new social structure or it would go back. The events during the Renaissance period pushed the feudal system into a new order, leading to capitalism. As society advanced and took the modern form, the need for economic freedom pushed for the rise of capitalism and transformation.

Marx suggested that each epoch created inventions that would lead to its downfall in the future. From primitive society to feudalism and today’s capitalism, each social system was based on class struggles that led to a new social transformation based on shortcomings. Weaknesses of the feudal system, like lack of economic freedom, led to its own internal collapse (Dobb, 2007). However, when capitalism emerged, economic freedom was the driver of every process since people started farming for economic benefits. Banaji (2010) argues that the Communist Manifesto suggests that every social transition arises from class struggles that lead to a new system that raises living standards, thus allowing the people to benefit. Despite criticisms from Marx and Engels, capitalism has led to new standards for the masses which may be its downfall. The Communist Manifesto, as published by the Communist League, is based on the belief that class struggles can lead to a new social order, “socialism” (Nimtz, 2016). Followers of Marx and Engels believe that after the transformation, capitalism will reach its peak, and its downfall will come. Therefore, the struggle between the bourgeoisie and proletariat will lead to a new social order, just like feudalism led to capitalism.

Question two: The Importance of Class Struggle in Communist Manifesto

The Communist Manifesto suggests that the history of class struggles leads to the development of one social system to another. Marx argues that there have been class struggles between classes that eventually led to the rise of a new class order. These struggles came from the need to find new ways of organizing work, thus pushing society from one production mode to another (Katz, 1993). The rich pay the poor to make products for sale with a subsistence wage that ensures they do not have enough left thus forcing them to work the following day. However, since the workers have no say in the payment received, tension exists between them which one day will escalate leading to overthrowing and taking over the workplace

From Dobb (2007) Marx and Engels view society as having undergone class struggles throughout history. This theory defines the social orders that have seen society move from primitive communism to feudalism and today’s capitalism. The need to change the status quo is based on the need to restructure the system and reduce the tension that exists between the two classes. The struggles exist due to inequality that has existed throughout the history of mankind. Human beings have exploited each other in every social system regardless of the characteristics of each system. From the analysis of Marx, class struggles have existed in every social system including the pre-capitalistic ones like primitive communism. In such societies, the state owns the means of production, thus limiting the power of private property. However, Boyer (2013) argues that as the society settled down and started to live in tribes, competition arose, thus leading to domination and subjugation. This process later led to the rise of the slavery system which was then divided into the classes of masters and slaves. In such a production system, there is a social differentiation between the two classes thus making people struggle against each other. Masters held slaves in bondage while slaves were fighting to overcome such oppression. The same thing existed in the feudal system; the nobles took a portion of the production even though the peasants owned the land. The lack of equal rights led to class struggles in the feudal system. Therefore, class struggles have existed in society throughout history, as indicated in the Communist Manifesto.

Class struggles in social systems are used to fight oppression from the upper class. Upper-class groups exploit lower-class individuals despite being the ones who run the means of production (Banaji, 2010). The structure organizes the means of production so that money runs the whole system and those with plenty of money enjoy its benefits. The class struggles between the proletariat and bourgeoisie are the foundations of the progress of the new social class system that will come after workers rise against the owners and own the workplace, thus controlling the means of production.

Question three: How Communism is Achieved in the Communist Manifesto

The Communist Manifesto is a political theory that championed socialism, which is the achievement of an equal state free from exploitation and capitalism. According to Marx, this will be achieved through a society that is classless and stateless. This was to be achieved by freeing the lower class from poverty and giving them a chance to enjoy the same privileges as the upper class. According to Boyer (2013), the government is supposed to control all means of production to ensure that people treat each other equally and do not control the means of production. To achieve this, Marx suggested that a revolution was to take place to overthrow the existing capitalist government and replace it with a social one. This new social order will then lead to a dictator leader who will assume complete control of citizens through the collectivization of property to achieve the intended utopia. Thus, all non-communists must be destroyed to achieve a new social order.

Utopian socialists differed from Marxist and Engels’s perspectives on class struggles since they believed that people could voluntarily abandon the capitalist system of production and adopt the socialist system based on sharing the benefits from society. Through like-minded individuals, cooperative socialism can develop within smaller societies and spread everywhere (Nimtz, 2016). Marx and Engels differed from this perspective because they believed in a revolution achieved through class struggles. They believed this was the outcome of class struggles where the proletariat would overpower the bourgeoisie and own the means of production. Marx and Engels believed that by examining the historical-economic succession of events that led to the development of the two classes and the antagonistic issues that revolved around them, then economic conditions could be created to meet the needs of the new social system (Boyer, 2013). On the other hand, anarchists believe that society will be better off if there are no rules thus leading to anarchism. However, Marx and Engels believe that capitalism can be reduced through class struggles.

According to the Communist Manifesto, capitalism is rooted in the political system, thus using the government to control the means of production and enhance capitalism. Therefore, the proletariat cannot act as a class unless they constitute themselves into a political party that will be used to capture the instruments of power from the bourgeoisie class (Boyer, 2013). The political party will then be led by a dictator leader who will take control of all the means of production from the public and create a means of production that favors all people. According to the manifesto, it is not possible to achieve communism without a political party since, in a political system, parties are the only instruments of power that are used to gain state authority. Therefore, Marx and Engels believed that it was not possible to achieve communism without a political party as this was the only means of power. In capitalist systems, political parties are powerful tools that can be used by the lower class to ascend to power.


Banaji, J. (2010). Theory as History: Essays on Modes of Production and Exploitation. Leiden: Brill.

Boyer, G. (2013). The Historical Background of the Communist Manifesto. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 12(4), 151-174.

Dobb, M. (2007). Studies in the Development of Capitalism. India: Routledge.

Hilton, R. (2006). The Transition from Feudalism to Capitalism. Delhi: Aakar Books.

Katz, C. J. (1993). Karl Marx on the transition from feudalism to capitalism. Theory and Society, 22, 363-389.

Nimtz, A. (2016). Another ‘Side’ to the Marxism Versus Anarchism ‘Story’: A Reply. Science & Society, 80(3), 403-406.



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