This is a dissertation chapter on Karl Marx:
Throughout the writings of Karl Marx he spoke of society moving towards communism. Communism to Marx is an economic and social system where we have a life of freedom and everybody in society is equal. Communism would allow the government to determine the value of the product being produced. Then in turn make the economic structure safer for the workers. To do this society would have to abandon capitalism, which we are currently living under. In capitalism there is no government control. The markets are controlled by the humans, which determine the value of the products. Since there is no government control the workers (proletariat) have no stability. Marx said the social movement would have to start with a theory, then once the people accepted that theory there could be a social movement. Marx spoke of the ways society should be that of communism, but he never really says how we are suppose to get there. To Marx society was more than just people; it is the whole society that matters. Then it is the forces within society that shape who we are.
In the writing of Karl Marx he talk about “all [of] history has been the history of class struggle” (handout). Marx uses a theory called the dialectic process to define how history has always been a struggle. Marx said there is a thesis (Nomadic Hunter-Gathers) that then creates the antithesis (Secondary Hunter – Gathers); these two then come together to make the synthesis (Horticultural Chiefdoms). Once society has the synthesis we struggle through history from the Agrarian Kings, Feudalism, to the Mercantilistic capitalism where there is a free market and everybody can make money. From there history moves to Modern Capitalism. Which is divided into the bourgeoisie (the rich) and the proletariat (the poor), where the bourgeoisie controls all of society. When the proletariat brings about the revolution we will move to communism where we are all equal, and have government control. When society gets to the life of communism the end of history will occur. Or in Marx’s words “If all of history is the history of class struggle, when there is no more struggle, there is no more history” (handout). When society reaches communism there is no more struggle because everybody will be equal, so the struggle within history no longer exists.
Marx said that there four forms of capital, money, monetary wealth, and merchants capital. He said that capital becomes a commodity where it is bought and sold just like goods in society. The main thing that Marx argues with capital is the idea that capital is all about profit. People only care about money we sell in order to buy, buy in order to sell, and then the money becomes the commodity. Marx said that human labor power could also become a commodity that will then be bought and sold. Then we are trading human for human. Marx said that capital is all about getting rich, and getting rich is an end within itself.
A big issue with Marx was that of alienation. Marx said that money creates a situation where we alienated ourselves from each other. Before money was created the only way to exchange goods was through bargaining. Barter was the earliest economic system for individuals to make a direct exchange with others. Here the individual was the medium of exchange. In this process one individual would take their hand made good and exchange it for another hand made good. While this process was occurring, the channels of communication would be open between the two individuals. However as Marx states in Excerpt-Notes of 1844, “the human and social act in which man’s product reciprocally complement one another- becomes alienated and takes on the quality of a material thing, money, external to man” (1994, p.41). The money now becomes that medium of exchange for goods and not the individual. With the individual not being the medium of exchange anymore the communication is no longer present. Creating alienation between the individuals. This also creates a problem with credit. “Credit is the economic judgment of man’s morality. “[M]an himself instead of metal and paper has become the medium of exchange, but not as man, but rather as the existence of capital and interest.” (Marx, 1995, p.44). Marx said now we are judging the man by how much he has in the bank, or how much he is worth. The individual has now become the medium of exchange, because society will judge him on his ability to repay that debt.
Another way that we are alienated is through division of labor. Marx mentioned several ways that an individual can be alienated through labor. One way according to Marx is where the worker (the proletariat) produces all of the goods, but it is the bourgeoisie who own all of the goods. “[T]he product of labor does not belong to the worker “this product belongs to a man other than the worker. If his activity is torment for him, it must be the pleasure and the life-enjoyment for another” (Marx, 1994, p.65). The bourgeoisie are the ones getting rich off all the products that the proletariats are making. This makes the work alienating to the proletariat. Marx also said that the worker could be alienated from the object produced. When the workers are in the factories they have several workers working on one good. With the product being shared among several factory workers; individuals cannot love their object or their made good. Then Marx said that we become alienated from the process of work. The proletariat (the worker) is just doing the job to bring in the money they do not love their job, and this too can be alienating. The job is just to help put a roof over their head, and food on the table.
In the movie Harlan County, USA we can see the way that Marx demonstrates what he calls the bourgeoisie (the rich) and the proletariat (the poor) throughout the whole movie. An organization called UMWA was created to help coalminers and families have better working conditions, and to help with benefits for the workers (the proletariats). The proletariats are for the UMWA, and the bourgeoisie (the rich of the town) are against the UMWA. The bourgeoisie were trying to make better conditions impossible for the proletariats (coalminers), because the bourgeoisie were the ones benefiting. The bourgeoisie had nothing to worry about because they were receiving all the benefits from the coalminers. However then the proletariat is making only enough to keep a roof over their heads and has no stability for their family or their job. Along with the lack of benefits the proletariat are putting their life on the line, getting diseases such as black lung disease. Much like Marx described in his writing. The bourgeoisie are the ones benefiting and the proletariat are the ones that do all the labor and are in poor health. In modern society some states such as Pennsylvania still have some of these same conditions. They have however improved the conditions for the coalminers, but they still have what Marx would call the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. Not only looking at Marx’s point in this movie, there are several people that would say we still have the two separate classes. Like in big companies such as advertising. There is the editor of the magazine (bourgeoisie) that benefits from everything the writers (proletariat) produces. Although the editor did minimal amount of work, he/she received all the benefits when that magazine was published. To some people having higher rack individuals does not bother them, but I think for the most part society still has that idea of two separate classes.
Marx spoke about how our media controls how we perceive what is right and wrong. Marx stated:
“[T]he ideas of the ruling class are the ruling ideas, that is, the class that is the ruling material power of society is at the same time its ruling intellectual power. The class having the means of material production has also control over the means of intellectual production, so that it also controls, “the ideas of those who lack the means of intellectual production. “Among other things they rule also as thinkers and producers of ideas and regulate the production and distribution of the ideas”. (1994, p. 129)
Marx is talking about how the media controls our society. In the world today we are faced with the problems of media control. Individuals see a new product on television and think they have to have it, so they go out and get. A women who is not over weight sees that even skinner woman on T.V. selling diet pills now she has to go on a diet. Everything that we do in society is controlled by our media from buying DVD players, to buying vehicles, raising children, and even beliefs that we have. Marx was correct in how the media controls us as individuals. Marx had several important points to his theory, but overall throughout his writing the big issue was how society should live in communism. Where individuals would be equal and there would be government control. Marx said society needs to get out of capitalism where everything is run by factories, has no government control, and is divided into two separate classes. Although Marx writes about how life would be if we lived in the communism; he never really says how we are suppose to get there.
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