Chapter Three Karl Marx

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Explanation of Marxist Philsophy

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Karl Marx:

Karl Marx Philosophical Analyses: Chapter 3

Hegel and The Dialectic:

Hegel and The Dialectic Marx spent his formative years as part of a group of scholars at the University of Berlin called, “the young Hegelians” Devoted to the study of the works of Hegel For Marx, it was Hegel’s dialectic approach which provided him with both an image of society and a way of studying it

Hegel and The Dialectic:

Hegel and The Dialectic Dialectic is a union of opposites, resulting in an apparent paradox. This is difficult, however, because it requires one to recognize that both of the apparently contradictory characteristics of some phenomenon may be attributed to it by observers who are in a different position, or by people who observed it at different points in time. In other words their subjective perspectives

Qualitative Change/Negation:

Qualitative Change/Negation The type of change that most interested Hegel and Marx had to do with a process by which a phenomenon negated itself; that is, it becomes something qualitatively different from what it had been. That is really what he is meaning when it comes to dialectics Two things that are different combine together to form a new thing

Dialectics:

Dialectics

Qualitative Change/Negation:

Qualitative Change/Negation Marx’s emphasis upon qualitative change was also part of his opposition to science and philosophy. He viewed the “unenlightened” scholars of his day as toiling to understand how small increments in one phenomenon led to small increments in another He complained that they missed the larger picture What is observed to be true, he argued, does not necessarily translate directly into real knowledge. He felt that the most important social issues had to be examined as transformations, involving phenomena or stages that were qualitative different from one another.

Idealism:

Idealism Hegel was part of a long tradition in German philosophy that emphasized idealism in opposition to materialism What this means is that the underlying issue concerned the relationship of one’s self to external objects, and the degree to which the reality of an external world is depend upon a subjective framework

Idealism-Materialism:

Idealism-Materialism What you really need to know is how this affected Marx Marx emphasized historical materialism. He felt that if real changes were to occur, they would depend upon changes in the material conditions rather than the way people thought about those conditions In other words, he believed that how people thought about the world was really important because it could influence what they did.

Praxis (Practice):

Praxis (Practice) Marx was critical of the conventional science and philosophy He thought that it was crucial to overcome the separation between theory and practice He felt that it was important to fuse thought and action together He wanted theories of society that could inform ordinary workers and galvanize them into action Perspectives that would give them new views on reality that they could put into practice

Praxis (Practice):

Praxis (Practice) Marx wanted to give workers new views of reality that they could put into practice He also justified action-oriented theory by insisting that knowing the likely reaction to a intervention was critically important part of understanding any phenomenon.

Religion:

Religion Marx’s view of religion is often referred to as his description of religion as the opium, or opiate, of the masses. Marx’s view of religion was not entirely negative, though. Like all phenomena that were examined from a dialectical perspective, it had to be regarded as unity of opposites

Religion:

Religion Marx’s writings on the place of religion began with a criticism of Hegel’s idealism. Marx disagreed with him and felt that religion was fundamentally too distorted, and that religion “perverted” consciousness because it was a product of a “perverted” world

Religion:

Religion On one hand, Marx contended that religion provided a genuine outlet for suffering of the masses It was a harsh world for the ordinary worker in those days. Marx realized that this distress was real and that they found expression in religion But what he meant by religion being an opiate was that he felt that it acted like a sedative to numb their pain, which in some ways helpful, but in other ways it merely covered up the pain temporarily.

Religion:

Religion He therefore condemned religion for leading people to seek solutions to their problems in the wrong place. He viewed religion as a social product In other words society created God in its image not vice versa Since society itself is distorted, therefore, religious belief is also distorted.

Religion:

Religion He believed it was necessary to confront religion precisely because it reflected the society that needed to be changed Simply eliminating religion would not accomplish this objective, but eliminating religious “fantasies” would nevertheless be helpful in the sense that removing a veil enables people to see what is front of them.

Religion:

Religion He felt that until people recognize the true role of religion, revolutions against religious institutions will miss the mark. As Marx’s campaign for a proletariat revolution moved forward, he also faced opposition from organized religion His reaction was to defend communism by emphasizing the place of the church in the historical struggle of the oppressed masses. He argued that organized religion had consistently sided with the upper classes, and helped them remain in power by encouraging those in subordinate positions to be humble and submissive.

Alienation and Private Property:

Alienation and Private Property Marx’s analysis of alienation again was rooted in the writings of Hegel His critique of Hegel began in relation to the now familiar ideal-material continuum According to Marx, Hegel paid too little attention to alienation in relation to material social conditions arising out of a system of private property

Alienation and Private Property:

Alienation and Private Property Marx criticized proponents of capitalism, and did not agree with unfettered marketplaces and unfettered capitalism For Marx, the human problems endemic to capitalism were so wide-spread and chronic that he felt they needed to be given priority. For him, this meant ending capitalism by abolishing its core – private property

Alienation and Private Property:

Alienation and Private Property When ownership is not communal, to Marx, it produces a society in which inequality and greed flourish and ordinary laborers are necessarily exploited and alienated. Private property creates a context in which the evils of capitalism flourish But within the context two of the specific culprits he examined were money and systems of credit.

Money and Credit:

Money and Credit Money’s initial function, in Marx’s view, was simply to mediate transactions It provided standardized units that facilitated stable exchanges. However, when there is private property, money’s role in providing a standard – or “universal equivalent,” in terms – leads to a social environment in which “everything is exchangeable for money.

Money and Credit:

Money and Credit Marx believed that money became the sole arbiter of value in capitalistic societies All objects lose their value apart from their monetary worth In a system with private property, people who are exchanging money for objects do not relate to each other as people, because nobody sees past the price tag

Money and Credit:

Money and Credit Marx even foresaw the credit system we have today Marx insisted that credit is even more de-humanizing because of the way it is granted It entails scrutinizing a person’s past, “spying into the secrets of private life of the one seeking credit.” So credit seems to be offered as a sign of trust in a person, but the entire process really emphasizes people’s distrust of each other

Money and Credit:

Money and Credit Credit systems, in Marx’s view, are also de-humanizing in two other ways First, a credit rating becomes the judgment of people’s reliability and morality. Second because the recipient of credit is obligated to repay it with interest, the recipients are themselves turned into mediums of exchange

Objectification:

Objectification With private property, then, competition (and greed) results in accumulation and concentration of wealth. A few capitalists have tremendous holdings while the large mass of propertyless wage-workers (proletariats) have practically nothing. Further private property along with money economies and specialization in the division of labor separate workers from their products

Objectification:

Objectification Objectification describes a process in which labor not only produces commodities, but itself becomes a commodity (something that is up for sale). The more efficient a capitalist system, therefore, the poorer the workers as a whole, according to Marx. The objectification of labor in capitalist systems, then, means that the process of work becomes like an object

Objectification:

Objectification In this scenario, then, human-beings become like animals. Their work is entirely forced. They feel no joy They are like the oxen hitched to a wagon. They lose their species-being as human-beings They are alienated

Alienation:

Alienation Marx describes how the great mass of workers were alienated: From the products of their labor From the work process From co-workers, because objectification prevents people from engaging in meaningful social relationships while they are working together From their species potential (species-being) From themselves

Alienation:

Alienation Species-being was Marx’s conception of alienation that was humans have the unique capacity to be fully conscious of their life’s activity (Marx wrote), and to grow and develop as people. However, the mind-numbing quality of work in capitalistic systems robs them of this potential. If they could be meaningfully involved, they could “find” themselves by “losing” themselves.

Alienation:

Alienation With private property, Marx concluded, the (multiple types of ) alienation of ordinary workers cannot be avoided. It is tied to their role as wage-laborers. Marx speculated that even if capitalists could be forced to increase the pay of their workers, it would not alter the basic situation of ordinary laborers in a capitalistic society. The only real hope for workers was that they recognize their disadvantaged position and collectively move to end their oppression

Social Classes:

Social Classes To the general public, Marx’s name is most strongly associated with communism, and his writings on it. In particular, he covers the topic of social classes extensively According to Marx, in every society there are social classes, and they are always arranged in a hierarchy, although the particular arrangements vary. It is the society’s means of production that determine the specific classes.

Social Classes:

Social Classes In the modern capitalistic nations, where large-scale production was becoming predominant, they described two major classes: The bourgeoisie, consisting primarily of the owners of giant industry and large land-owners They form the dominant class and created a world in which money is the most important consideration Previous relationship arrangements are now all dominated by monetary considerations

Social Classes:

Social Classes The proletariat, is the other major class that Marx discusses They are the wage-laborers, who own no property capable of producing income, hence have only their labor to sell. They stand on the assembly lines, clean large office buildings and work the land owned by others They are subordinate to the dominate bourgeoisie, in a system of production Their living conditions were miserable They were an immense majority of the population in terms of size, but remained disadvantaged in a system with private property.

Social Classes:

Social Classes It is important to note that class positions, according to Marx, were objectively fixed by people’s relations to the means of production Additionally, the proletariat suffered from “false consciousness” Each of the two major classes is entirely dependent upon the other in that neither could exist without the other because production results from combining the factories and land of the bourgeoisie with the labor of the proletariat.

Social Classes:

Social Classes Despite the fact that they were dependent upon one another, like all social classes associated with differences in societies’ means of production, the bourgeoisie and proletariat always stood in opposition to each other. Whatever is in the interest of one of them runs counter to the interests of the other. While the classes were fundamentally opposed to each other, the playing field on which they competed was not level and was strongly tilted to the advantage of the bourgeoisie because with each step the bourgeoisie also managed to advance its political interests.

The Proletariat Revolution:

The Proletariat Revolution During the time of Marx’s writings, historical forces were on the side of the proletariat. Workers were growing in numbers and becoming more concentrated in cities, and machinery was reducing the distinctions among them. These forces were leading all workers to become more aware of how much they shared in common They were also beginning to recognize their shared interests, and formed associations, such as trade unions, to promote those interests

The Proletariat Revolution:

The Proletariat Revolution Marx cautioned that the proletariat’s future progress may be slow, and might be sidetracked by competition for jobs, and momentarily forget that the true enemy is the bourgeoisie (false consciousness), and not each other. Nevertheless, he felt that the forces unleashed by the bourgeoisie are too powerful, and that in the end, the proletariat movement toward solidarity and revolution will continue.

Class Consciousness:

Class Consciousness The key to unleashing a proletariat movement was workers’ greater awareness that they shared a class position, and that this position was the most significant factor in their lives. In addition to workers recognizing their common place in the class system, Marx assumed that this recognition would become an increasingly important aspect of who or what they considered themselves to be; that other bases of identity – ethnic, geographical, familial, etc. – would recede relative to class.

Class Consciousness:

Class Consciousness The result would be a proletariat that has always been a class objectively, based upon its relation to the means of production, would be transformed into a class subjectively, based upon a shared identity and feelings of solidarity

The Failure of Soviet Communism:

The Failure of Soviet Communism An intriguing question that continues to divide Marxist scholars today concerns how to interpret the failure of communism in the former Soviet Union Explanations include Marx did not think that a proletariat revolution was likely to occur until a society attained an advanced stage of capitalism. It was then that he expected capitalism to create conditions under which a workers’ movement would occur

The Failure of Soviet Communism:

The Failure of Soviet Communism So given that explanation, the 1917 communist revolution that occurred in Russia, was very far behind England, France and many other capitalistic developments. According to Marx, this was not where the revolution should have occurred it the first place.

The Failure of Soviet Communism:

The Failure of Soviet Communism Marx also said that advanced capitalism was necessary for a worker’s movement to be successful. If revolutions occurred sooner than they should, they would be at risk because it was not until the advanced stages of capitalism that the productive forces were sufficiently developed to make adequate productivity unproblematic.

The Failure of Soviet Communism:

The Failure of Soviet Communism Until societies were highly capitalistic, Marx did not think they could be sufficiently productive to create surpluses, and he believed that communist societies, at least initially would require surpluses. If revolusions were premature, the need to increase production in order to ensure everyon’s survival could lead to the restoration of capitalism.

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