Karl Marx

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Overview of Marxist Theory

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Karl Marx:

Karl Marx Karl Marx (1818-1883) was a socialist theoretician and organizer, a major figure in the history of economic and philosophical thought, and a great social prophet.

Social Evolution:

Social Evolution Marx’s vision was based on an evolutionary point of departure. Society was comprised of a moving balance of antithetical forces that generate social change by their tension and struggle. Struggle, rather than peaceful growth, was the engine of progress; strife was the father of all things, and social conflict was the core of the historical process.

Forces of Production:

Forces of Production Marx believed that the basis of the social order in every society is the production of economic goods. What is produced, how it is produced, and how it is exchanged determine the differences in people’s wealth, power, and social status.

Relations of Production:

Relations of Production The quest to meet basic needs were man’s primary goals at the dawn of the race and are still central when attempts are made to analyze the complexities of modern life - and is as true today as it was in prehistory: "The first historical act is…the production of material life itself.” In other words, all social life is dependent upon the quest for a sufficiency of eating and drinking, for habitation and for clothing. Without the production of material life, we would all cease to exist!

Division of Labor:

Division of Labor The organization of economic activities leads to the division of labor which causes the formation of classes; over time, these classes develop different material interests, they become “antagonistic.”

Economic Organization:

Economic Organization Economic organization to meet our material needs eventually comes to determine virtually everything in the social structure. All social institutions are dependent upon the economic base, and an analysis of society will always reveal its underlying economic arrangements.

Social Structure:

Social Structure Like all of the founders of sociology, he believed that we must examine the parts in relation to one another and in relation to the whole. Although historical phenomena were the result of the interplay of many factors, all but one of them were in the final analysis dependent variables—that is, dependent upon the economic base

Relations of Production:

Relations of Production Marx begins with the forces of production and quickly moves to the relations of production that are based on these forces (industrialism = force of production; capitalism = relations of production). By relations of production, Marx means the social relationships people enter into by participation in economic life These relations of production are the key to understanding the whole cultural superstructure of society.

Relations of Production:

Relations of Production Marx gives the relations of production the primary focus in his analysis of social evolution. The forces of production basically set the stage for these relations

Social Class:

Social Class According to Marx, men and women are born into societies in which property relations have already been determined. These property relations, in turn, give rise to different social classes.

Social Class:

Social Class Just as men cannot choose who is to be his father, so he has not choice as to his class. Once a man is ascribed to a specific class by virtue of his birth, once he has become a feudal lord or a serf, an industrial worker or a capitalist, his behavior is proscribed for him. His attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors are all “determined.”

Social Class:

Social Class In saying this Marx does not deny the operation of other variables in human behavior; but he concentrates on class roles as primary determinants of that behavior. These class roles influence men whether they are conscious of their class interests or not.

Social Class:

Social Class The division of labor gives rise to different classes, which leads to differing interests and gives rise to different: Political Views Ethical Views Philosophical Views Religious Views Ideological Views

Social Class:

Social Class These differing views express existing class relations and tend either to consolidate or undermine the power and authority of the dominant class.

Ruling Class:

Ruling Class For example, the business of America is business - we think naturally in these categories. The goal of the economic system is to grow; our goal is to make more money to buy nice things. The point of the educational system is to provide education and training so that young adults can eventually assume their role in the workforce.

Ruling Class:

Ruling Class "The class which has the means of material production at its disposal has control at the same time over the means of metal production.” This is done through control over the media, educational curricula, grants and such. This is not the result of a conspiracy, rather, it is a dominant viewpoint that pervades the culture.

Ruling Class:

Ruling Class Because it owns and controls the forces of production, the social class in power uses the non-economic institutions to uphold its authority and position. Marx believed that religion, the government, educational systems, and even sports are used by the powerful to maintain the status quo – the superstructure.

The Oppressed:

The Oppressed Although they are hampered by the ideological dominance of the elite, the oppressed classes can, under certain conditions, generate counter ideologies to combat the ruling classes. These conditions are moments when the existing mode of production is played out; Marx terms these moments “revolutionary.”

Revolution:

Revolution The social order is often marked by continuous change in the forces of production, that is, technology. Marx argued that every economic system produces forces that eventually lead to a new economic form.

Revolution:

Revolution The process begins with the forces of production. New classes (and interests) based on control of these new forces of production begin to rise. At a certain point, this new class comes into conflict with the old ownership class based on the old forces of production.

The Capitalist Revolution:

The Capitalist Revolution New social relationships (based upon the new mode of production) begin to develop within older social structures, exacerbating tensions within that structure.

The Capitalist Revolution:

The Capitalist Revolution New forces of production—based on manufacture and trade—emerged within late European feudal society and allowed the bourgeoisie, which controlled this new mode of production, to challenge the hold of the classes that had dominated the feudal order.

The Capitalist Revolution:

The Capitalist Revolution Like feudalism, Marx maintained, capitalism also carries the seeds of its own destruction. It brings into being a class of workers (the proletariat) who have a fundamental antagonism to the capitalist class, and who will eventually band together to overthrow the regime to which they owe their existence.

Class Theory::

Class Theory: "The history of all hitherto existing societies is the history of class struggles.” According to this view, ever since human society emerged from its primitive and relatively undifferentiated state it has remained fundamentally divided between classes who clash in the pursuit of their class interests.

Class Theory::

Class Theory: Under capitalism, there is an antagonistic division between the buyers and sellers of labor power, between the exploiters and the exploited—rather than a functional collaboration between them. Marx’s analysis continually centers upon how the relationships between men are shaped by their position in regard to the forces of production, that is, by their access to scarce resources and power.

Class Theory::

Class Theory: Conflicting class interests are the central determinant of social processes, they are the engine of history. The potential for class conflict is inherent in every society that has a division of labor.

Class Theory::

Class Theory: It is when class consciousness is attained that revolution becomes possible. Self conscious classes, as distinct from aggregates of people sharing a common fate, need for their emergence a number of conditions.

Alienation:

Alienation For Marx, the history of mankind has a double aspect: it was the history of increasing control of man over nature and at the same time, it was the history of the increasing alienation of man.

Alienation:

Alienation When people are alienated they feel powerless, isolated, and feel the social world is meaningless. They look at social institutions as beyond their control, and consider them oppressive.

Alienation:

Alienation For Marx, all major spheres of capitalist society—religion, state, economy—were marked by a condition of alienation. Alienation thus confronts man in the whole world of institutions in which she is enmeshed.

Alienation:

Alienation Marx believed that the capacity for labor is one of the most distinctive human characteristics. But alienation in the workplace is of overriding importance because it is work that defines us as human beings - that labor was man’s essence. All other species are objects in the world; people alone are subjects, because they consciously act on and create the world, thus shaping their lives, cultures, and the self in the process – Species-Being

Alienation:

Alienation Economic alienation under capitalism means that man is alienated in daily activities—in the very work by which he/she fashions a living. There are four aspects to economic alienation. Man is alienated from : The object of labor The process of production Himself/Herself Fellow human beings

Alienation:

Alienation The social world thus confronts people as an uncontrollable, hostile thing, leaving them alien in the very environment that they have created. Marx’s analysis of capitalism was thus the analysis of the alienation of individuals and classes (both workers and capitalists) losing control over their own existence in a system subject to economic laws over which they had no control.

Capitalism:

Capitalism Under capitalism, the worker has diminished responsibilities over the work process. The worker does not own the tools with which the work is done, does not control the process or the pace, does not own the final product. The worker does not set the organizational goals, does not have the right to make decisions.

Capitalism:

Capitalism The worker is therefore reduced to a minute part of a process, a mere cog in a machine. Work becomes an enforced activity, not a creative or satisfying one. It becomes the means for maintaining existence, it is no longer an expression of the individual, it is a means to an end.

Capitalism:

Capitalism For Marx the source of this alienation is in the “relations of production,” that is, capitalism, the fact that workers are laboring for someone else. Alienation was a philosophical and moral critique of the situation imposed on man by capitalism (relations of production), not industrialism (forces of production).

Capitalism:

Capitalism Capitalist societies are dehumanizing because the social relations of production prohibit men form achieving the freedom of self-determination that the advance of technology has made possible. According to Marx, when men realize how capitalism robs them of this self-determination and freedom (economic and social) the revolution will come.

Social Change:

Social Change Marx’s focus on the process of social change is central to his thinking. He believed that the development of productive forces was the root of social change. In the process of transforming nature, however, man transform themselves. Human history is the process by which men change themselves even as they devise more powerful ways to exploit their environment.

Social Change:

Social Change In contrast to all other animals who can only passively adjust to nature’s requirements by finding a niche in the ecological order that allows them to subsist, man is active in relation to his surroundings. People alone fashion tools with which to transform the natural environment.

Social Change:

Social Change In their struggle against nature to gain their livelihood, men create specific social organizations that are very much in tune with the forces of production. All of these social organizations, with the exception of those prevailing in the original state of primitive communism, are characterized by social inequality.

Social Change:

Social Change As societies emerge from primitive communism, the division of labor leads to the emergence of stratified classes of men. These strata are distinguished by their differential access to the forces of production and thus their differential access to power.

Social Change:

Social Change Given relative scarcity, whatever economic surplus has been accumulated will be taken by those who have attained dominance through their ownership or control over the forces of production.

Social Change:

Social Change The exploited and the exploiters have confronted one another from the beginnings of recorded time. The dominance of the exploiters is often challenged. “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.”

Social Change:

Social Change Classes through history: Free men and slaves Patrician and plebian Baron and serf Nobility and bourgeoisie Bourgeoisie and proletariat Exploiters and exploited

Social Change:

Social Change Successive Relations of Production: Each of these came into existence through antagonisms that had developed in the previous social order. Primitive communism (Preclass Systems) Asiatic Ancient Feudal Bourgeois

Social Change:

Social Change The Preclass Systems – Characterized by minimal DOL and communal ownership of propertly (Primitive Communism The Asiatic has never appeared in the West – Ruled by leaders, but local communities tended to be self-sufficient. Ancient society (Athens and Rome) – land is private propertly; based on slavery; enormous inequalities. Feudal society on serfs who worked the land under small aristocracies; also small merchant base Capitalist - Bourgeois society on the sweat of the wage earner.

Social Change:

Social Change Many ask where Marx went wrong in his predictions. They confuse the theorist with the activist revolutionary. As an historian, he must have been aware that capitalist or bourgeois society was in its infancy. Centuries would have to pass before its full productive potential could be developed.

Social Change:

Social Change Class antagonisms specific to each particular societal type led to the emergence of classes whose interests could no longer be asserted within the framework of the old social order. The continued growth of new productive forces reach the limits imposed by the existing relations of production.

Social Change:

Social Change In the case of capitalism, the prediction is that the existing relations of production (private ownership) will prevent the further development of industrial production—there will be no profit in their further expansion. The masses will be impoverished amid exorbitant wealth for the few—and the unfulfilled potential to supply the many.

Social Change:

Social Change When this happens, the new class, which represents a novel productive principle, will break down the old order In other words, the proletariat will rise to take control of the forces of production away from private owners and employ them to meet the needs of all.

The Socialist Revolution:

The Socialist Revolution Marx predicted that in capitalism, the bourgeoisie is constantly creating more powerful forces of production. Wealth is becoming more concentrated. Labor is viewed as just another cost to be reduced in industry.

The Socialist Revolution:

The Socialist Revolution In attempts to maximize profits, capitalists automate factories or send jobs to third world countries to be done by cheaper labor without the costs of government regulation or the interference from labor unions. The proletariat are forced to accept lower wages or, worse, to become unemployed. In Marx’s terms, they become “pauperized.”

The Socialist Revolution:

The Socialist Revolution The bourgeoisie is attached to private ownership of the forces of production and therefore to a grossly unequal distribution of income and wealth. At the same time, capitalist competition eliminates competitors, thus enabling the formation of oligopolies and monopolies that manipulate the market place in terms of price and quality.

The Socialist Revolution:

The Socialist Revolution With sufficient development, capitalism will have then produced a large class of oppressed people (the proletariat or the workers) with sufficient class consciousness who are bent on destroying the system. Capitalism, like all of the economic systems before it, carries the seeds of its own destruction.

The Four Contradictions of Capitalism:

The Four Contradictions of Capitalism 1) The inevitability of monopolies, which eliminate competition and gouge consumers and workers; 2) A lack of centralized planning, which results in overproduction of some goods, and underproduction of others. This encourages economic crises such as inflation, slumps, and depressions,

The Four Contradictions of Capitalism:

The Four Contradictions of Capitalism 3) Automation and ever lower wages which forces the pauperization of the proletariat; and 4) Control of the state by the bourgeoisie, the effect of which is the passage of laws favoring their class interests and incurring the wrath of the proletariat.

The Socialist Revolution:

The Socialist Revolution These four contradictions of capitalism increase the probability of the workers becoming conscious of their objective interests, of their becoming class conscious.

The Socialist Revolution:

The Socialist Revolution The middle class will be eliminated through the moves of monopoly capitalism. The state will be blocked from providing real structural change by the dominance of the bourgeoisie. The proletariat will comprise the vast majority and become more progressive. Eventually these contradictions will produce a revolutionary crisis.

The Socialist Revolution:

The Socialist Revolution Then, Marx says, the proletariat will revolt for the benefit of all—this revolt will mark the end of classes; the antagonistic character of capitalist society will be at an end.

The Socialist Society:

The Socialist Society Marx’s vision of life after the socialist revolution is sketchy. It appears that the division of labor would not be eliminated, only limited. Man will work in the morning, fish in the afternoon, and read Plato at night. Industrial forces will be harnessed to provide for human needs rather than profit.

The Socialist Society:

The Socialist Society It is here where the state withers away, here where “from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs” applies. It could be described as a sort of second coming without Christ. Clearly, Marx’s hopes, dreams, and values have unduly affected his analysis and his vision.