Karl Marx versus Adam Smith

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Karl Marx versus Adam Smith

Comparison of Human nature according to Marx and Smith

Individuals in the society have different roles which is the notionof human nature. It is important for individuals to take part in theeconomy development where socialism and capitalism is encouraged bythe ruling government. The environment that human being live explainthe nature of human being since they work for comfort in the society. Individuals in the society are social beings and thus they have towork together so that the goals that have been set can be attainedwithin the specified timeframe. The paper aims to compare andcontrast the notion of human nature between Marx and Adam Smith.

According to Adam Smith, he states that the need and viability ofindividuals in the society keeps on revolving and it is understood ashuman nature (Younkins, 2006). Capitalist depicts human beings asgreedy and ego-centric and they work so that they can attain profit.It is human nature to specialize in their work so that they can becapitalists working in free market. According to Smith capitalism isa natural product that emanates from that greed and thirst forsupremacy and material wealth. To acquire dominance and materialwealth in the society human nature is associated with corruption forthose who are at the top and sluggishness for individuals at thebottom. On the other hand Karl Marx based his argument on humannature as socialist individuals who base their wealth in the economy.The economic inequality is not encouraged so that the rich and thepoor can be on the same status. For example, the socialist believedthat the rich in the society should be taxed so that the poor canbenefit with free education, good healthcare and security in thesociety. The role of human being in the society for those whobelieved in socialism was to maintain equilibrium in the society andthus maintain the status quo where the rich and the poor do not ownproperty. The property belongs to the ruling government and thushuman beings do not have anything that belongs to them in thesociety.

Marx in his theory states that human nature is associated withsocioeconomic imbalance where the working and the ruling individualshave different social status in the society (Tabak, 2012).Individuals are social beings and they are interdependent. Byinteracting the individual in the society are productive and theysustain themselves in the society. Individuals remain active in thesociety since they are opportunistic the interaction of socialbeings is a human nature according to Marx. It is human nature tomanipulate the environment that people live so that they can satisfytheir need. This is done by production or working and thus thedifference between human beings and animals. Human nature ofinteracting with other social beings they are active producers andthus they are shaped by the society an individual’s live. Thesociety comes first before individuals since it shapes the socialbeings and thus the environment dictates what they should do. So thatthe production can be active it is human nature to consider thedivision of labour. After human beings interact together they shareinformation and other are taught on how to handle certain task thatis delegated to an individual. So that the production can be highbased on the fact that the ruling class advocate for high productionand the working class they have to encourage division of labour.

In comparison with Adam Smith about the human nature he states thatthe wealth of a nation depends on the state of the economy how itworks. In his work he argues that people have to seek materialcomfort through socially interacting together so that they can eitherconduct barter or even exchange. It is human nature to involvespecialization in their work so that they can have high productivity.Division of labor is also encouraged and emphasized based on thatAdam Smith believed on market exchange so that the economy can bestable. It is human nature to invest and to seek accumulation ofwealth so that they can be comfortable in their lives and it is onlyattained when there is a high production. In contrast to Marx theproduction is associated with companies while smith base his argumentreferring the production starting from the countryside whereproduction is expanded so that it can meet the need of those who havemoved to towns. According to Adam Smith it is human nature to conductinternational trade so that they can gain luxuries and thus improvethe economy.

In comparison with Marx, Adam Smith indicates that it is human natureto be desperate, hunger for power and need protection (Younkins,2006). They always look for luxury and they do not like to besubjected to pain. Additionally individuals do not pay attention tothose small saving or gain rather they like to dominate in thesociety. It is the nature of human being according to Smith tocontrol the inferiors in the society since they work so that they canbe superior and thus control all the other social beings. In thetheory of moral sentiments Smith wrote about human nature and theworld. In his contribution he argues about commercial virtues.Commercial virtues are virtues that are self- interest and they areapplied in the business so that one can be successful. Justice,industry and prudence are one of the virtues that that need to beapplied when individuals engage in business according to Smith. Thevirtues are applied both in the personal and in the economic sphere.The virtues are only applied separately and self command is animportant virtue in the business.

It is human nature for the bourgeoisie or the wealthy capitalist tobe inherently unfair to the working poor individuals (proletariat)due to the social class that exists between the two. There exists astruggle between the poor and the rich where the bourgeois work toascertain that profit is maximized and thus the workers had to kepton toes so that they can be productive enough according to Marx. Theproletariat on the other hand struggle so that they can be treatedfairly and thus formation of trade unions so that they can bargainfor the need of the poor working class. According to Karl Marx thepoor and the rich has the right to do what one wants and thus theforces that exists between the two forces decides what should bedone so that one of the class will be satisfied. So that profit canbe maximized the hiring of the poor working class, material cost mustbe considered so that profit can be attained (Tabak, 2012). So thatills of capitalism could be solved Marx came up with theory ofsurplus value where the cost of production and labour are consideredso that the working class can work without being exploited. Incomparison to that Adam Smith basis his argument using the capitalistnotion where competition is encouraged in the society so that profitcan be maintained. Production has to be high so that the top levelmanagement can be exploited and thus the wages have to be unfair tothe working class since it is associated with greedy and hunger forpower.

According to Smith human nature is associated as consumers and thusunderstood and sympathized due to the labour that has been subjectedon the production so that consumers can achieve the product. Thelabour theory is depicted as logical outgrowth and should beconsidered as spectator sympathy (Trefil, 2005). This is because ithas used time and individual have been subjected to pain whenproducing the product. Smith asserts that the natural price that isset is a compensation of the time and pain that has been undergoneduring the production. Though individuals have acquired the skillsduring production they were subjected to risk and thus it can only becompensated through setting of price. The natural price is associatedwith dependence during the labour hours since effort was used when anobject was being created. In an open market economy where competitionin the market is encouraged the natural price is not actually themarket price since capitalist usually exaggerate so that they cangain a lot of profit. Under the normal circumstance the natural priceshould act as market price based on that profit should not beexaggerated and thus competition exists in the market economy.

Comparing with Marx who is a pro-communist he argues that no one canchange his or her parents since the class of individuals start whenan individual is born. Individuals are born in the working class andothers are born in ruling class and thus the production is controlledby the ruling and rich individuals. Based on his argument communismis depicted as classless, stateless society since people do not workso that profit can be attained rather they work so that they can getsomething to eat. There is no gap between the rich and the poor basedon the fact that there is no competition during production and thusover pricing does not exists. Based on the fact that competition iseliminated in the society under communism of socialism. It impliesthat everyone has equal opportunity to access everything in thesociety since production is done in common.

The major difference that exist between Marx and Smith is thatproduction in capitalist has be exaggerated so that profit can begained and thus the wide gap that exists between the rich and thepoor. Under the Marx production is done by the state and thusindividuals do not have the mandate to exaggerate prices since thecommunity share the products rather than selling.

According to Marx human nature is associated with class-consciousnessfor capitalist system which is inherently unfair since it favors theruling or the wealthy class and exploits the working class or thepoor. The rich in the capitalist economy have to exploit the poor sothat the production can be high. There is need to get the winners andthe losers in the society which is done by competing where there is arise in the monopoly. There is no centralized planning and thus thereis overproduction of the products in the community which later resultto inflation or depression. The control of the society by wealthyindividuals implies that social problems have to increasesignificantly and thus the wide gap between the rich and those whoare poor. According to Smith class-consciousness is the best since itmakes individual in the society to be creative and innovative so thatthey can outdo their competitors. He encourages competition and as aresult classes of individuals are created in the society depending onthose who have won and those who have lost.


It is the role of each and every individual to ascertain thatdivision of labour, specialization is encouraged in the society sothat production can be high. When production is high there is no needto exaggerate the prices of commodity based on the fact that peoplework under the common goal. The gap between the rich and the poorshould be eliminated in the society emphasizing equal opportunity tothe people. The classes that exist in the society should be shunnedsince they cause the overcharging of production. It is the role ofthe manger in the companies to ensure that production is maintainedand ensure that creativity and innovation is encouraged so thatpeople can work for a common goals. In an open market economycompetition plays a major role since the society maintains theproduction.


Tabak, M. (2012). Dialectics of human nature in Marx`s philosophy.New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Trefil, J. (2005). Human nature. New York: Owl.

Younkins, E. (2006). Adam Smith’s Moral and Economic System.Wheeling Jesuit University. 2006).

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