In the middle of nineteenth century Karl Marx propounded the theory of historical and dialectical materialism. He maintained that the development of human consciousness depends upon the social structure and reality in which the person finds himself/herself. The means and the mode of production, in turn, determine the social consciousness. Mode of production, which changes with the growth and inventions in means of production, is responsible for the class structure of the society, social fabric and progress therein. This is the key factor in changing the labor and capital relationship.
In the primitive society (stone age or iron age), we can say, primitive communism prevailed. The society was small, and the means of production were simple and meager; stones, wooden-sticks, and hands! Division of labor was like that of in a big family. The member used to get according to his/her need. However, as agriculture developed and surplus grains were produced a definite class of rich farmers surfaced into prominence, and the serfdom was established. This brought the relationship of an owner (exploiter) and the servant (the exploited) into existence, and with it many ills like bonded labor and caste system. This created conditions not only for economic but also emotional exploitation.
Subsequently, the progress in science and technology brought about revolutionary changes in the means of production and thus the mode of production also changed to capitalistic system. This change was necessary and it led to far-reaching changes in the life style and class struggle all over the world. The rich farmers were replaced by bourgeoisie as the exploiters and serfs turned into laborers or proletariat. The poor people were evicted from their attachment to the agriculture land base and forced to work in the big factories and industries. It was necessary to exploit the poor worker for the compulsive economic necessity of accumulation of capital for further funding of growth and research in science and technology.
In the period of Karl Marx such social reality prevailed. He foresaw a classless society on the basis of his thesis of dynamic and dialectical interrelationship between the progress in the means of production and corresponding change in the mode of production. According to him the stage was reached where the capitalist system of mode of production required to be replaced by socialism, as tremendous progress in science and technology had created such conditions. By socialism or communism a system of social ownership was meant that would correspond to the advanced means of production. If this was not brought about, Marx thought that the dis-equilibrium would set in and social structure would collapse due to strife, economic sluggishness, corruption, and moral degradation. His socialism or communism painted the rosy picture of classless society where advancement in availability of goods and bountiful production in every field would abolish all forms of exploitation and thus would not necessitate any state for controlling the social functioning. There would be very high growth in moral and ethical culture. Thus, communism was a dream of stateless and classless social structure without exploitation and want. From "To each according to his ability, to each according to his need", such idealistic slogans filled the talk and the books by Marx and Engels.
But the capitalism did not die its natural death! From one economy to the other, from one country to others, it became global in its spread. Appeals were made to liberalize the 'Global and Free market economy' from the rules and regulations of the nation state. The nations where science and technology had already progressed, where infrastructure was ready, where information and technological boom was established, such national economies were positively influenced by lifting of restrictions on capital and labor. We can say USA and Western Europe showed such rapid growth in prosperity and material well-being. However, countries like USSR and third world countries of Africa, South-East Asia, and Latin America were affected adversely by such globalization and super-capitalistic exploitation. Poverty, want, disease, and declining standard of living are the visible effects of such imbalanced and forced capitalism. One might label this phase of post-modernistic capitalism as neo-imperialism.
Such a state of confusing dilemma caused heavy blow to the age-old traditions and beliefs of these cultures. The ancient culture was unable to sustain these declining moral and ethical values. A pitiable and inscrutable combination of progress and prosperity on one side and poverty and illiteracy on the other confused the minds of thinkers and lay people both. The never bridging gap between the rich and the poor continued to widen to terrifying proportion. USSR could not sustain such awkward social and economic conditions, and broke into many small nation states. Both capitalism and socialism failed to be worthy of all-round development in both moral and economic fields.
Today, there is emphasis only on material prosperity and bodily comforts. Needs are created to sustain the economic growth, and for this the distinction between want and need is forgotten. We do not need hundred varieties of shampoos, perfumes, mattresses, toothpastes, but the need for all of them is created by purposeless advisements. And the real want of clothes, roof - housing/shelter - and food is neglected. Rich are gods, they must be given and served better; poor is looked as a curse! His wants do not require consideration! The system has overtaken the discriminative faculty of politicians, economists, and scientists alike!
The god worshipped is god of science and technology. Ruthless materialism is the 'mantra' of the hour; profit and bottom-lines attract all the attention. Cry of despair of millions of poor does not enter their brain. The few thinkers have given up their quest for the solution as a hopeless pursuit. Who will face the onward march of science in its full cry? Who will arrest the decline in culture and values! Which philosophy can pose itself as an alternative to such ruthless and failing capitalism? Is it possible to reconcile progress in both material prosperity and moral values?
The time has come to find answers to all these questions. In this attempt, in this search, the ancient Indian wisdom can be of immense help. The spiritual teachings and philosophy of India offers a ray of hope that everything is not yet lost. The human being is god, but he does not know or realize his own divinity. The extrovert science has made him blind to others, selfish! The need is to look within, to manifest our divine nature. Religious harmony, tolerance, control over sense pleasure, dislike for abhorrent and crass consumerism, all these universal aspects of Vedanta will come to the help of humanity. Upanishads teach us these things. In fact, India has nothing else to offer to the world, other than this spiritual treasure of Vedanta! In science and technology many countries are far too advanced than India, but in the realm of spiritual knowledge India has produced Sri Krishna, Buddha, Mahavir, and Nanak whose teachings of compassion, kindness, simplicity, quest for true knowledge of self, and self-control can pull the world back from the brink of disaster. Probably there is no other way; science requires spiritual outlook, Vedantic philosophy!