Original Research - Special Collection: Morality in history

Karl Marx’s moral philosophy and critical views of Western morality

Chris Jones
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 44, No 1 | a2877 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v44i1.2877 | © 2023 Chris Jones | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 18 April 2023 | Published: 22 November 2023

About the author(s)

Chris Jones, Department of Systematic Theology and Ecclesiology, Faculty of Theology, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa


This article reflects on Karl Marx’s moral thought, and his critical views of (human) rights, Christianity, Kant, and utilitarianism, and what he considers an alternative. The question of whether we should still take his moral approach seriously in today’s context is also briefly addressed towards the end. This is done partly through the lens of American philosopher Vanessa Wills from The George Washington University, United States of America (US). More specifically, Marx’s view of materialism, human nature, morality, and labour are discussed, after which human nature and certain needs are addressed. This is followed by his view of alienation under capitalism, his arguments for communism, and morality as an objective, universal, and historical phenomenon.

Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: This article implies that we cannot afford to lose our grip (and consensus) on what morality is. By critical discussion and comparison of empirical scientific findings on the emergence and nature of morality across, among others, religious and philosophical traditions, we stand a chance to better understand morality and to cooperate more effectively in tackling and solving global challenges.


alienation; capitalism; Christianity; communism; human nature; Kant; Karl Marx; labour; materialism; morality; rights; utilitarianism; Vanessa Wills

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 10: Reduced inequalities


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