Marxism; the most misused word in the political dictionary? Just what exactly is it?

'Marxism'.... what?

Karl Marx is, arguably, one of the most prominent figures of his time. His work has had long reaching effects for the past 150 years of global history. However, little is actually understood by the average person of his work. It is more than often seen as some sort of curse word, when something is seen as undesirable in politics it is frequently referred to, at least by the reactionaries, as ‘Marxism’, ‘Socialism’ or ‘Communism’. Which the large majority of the time is just plain wrong.

So what actually is Marxism? Well if you’ve ever asked yourself that question and tried to find out you’ll have noticed two things; one, that Marx, and ‘Marxists’, have written an astronomical amount of text. Two, that most of it makes so little sense that it hurts your head to even try and think about it (I’m a student of sociology and I could only handle three pages of ‘Das Capital’). So in this Hub I’ve aimed to make the work of Marx more digestible.

Karl Marx
Karl Marx

A few important words/phrases

Before I explain further I should give you some definitions...

Bourgeoisie- the Ruling Class and owners of the means of production

Petit bourgeoisie- the family business owners

Middle class- professional and skilled workers

Proletariat- the semi-skilled and unskilled workers

Lumpen Proletariat- the unemployed both skilled and unskilled (often referred to as the ‘reserve army of labour’).

Super structure- the structure of society within the capitalist epoch

Capitalist- dependent on capital (money or material)

Introducing Marx

Marx’s theory stems from an Ancient Greek concept of knowledge debate; A ‘Thesis’ is pitted against an opposing ‘Antithesis’ when the debate is concluded the end result is the ‘Synthesis’. Marx then applied this theory to the real world; he called this dialectical materialism. Marx applied this theory to groups of people;

Thesis(group A) vs. Antithesis(group B) = synthesis (new situation)

 

This led to the creation of the concept of the class conflict. Through this conflict between groups Marx believed society would develop in three main stages; the feudal, the capitalist and the social epoch.

The Feudal Epoch

The first epoch, the feudal one, is the conflict between the autocracy (the hereditary ruling) class, and the Bourgeoisie (the merchants). This conflict occurs because the Bourgeoisie wish to turn their economic power into political power. They become more powerful as the economy changes from one based on land ownership into one based on a cash economy.

This transition can happen for many reasons. For example within England the transition from feudal to capitalist happened because of the Black Death and the rising price of wool (random right?).

The conflict in this epoch is between the autocracy and the Bourgeoisie; the Proletariat would be used as workers and as soldiers in the conflict, but not for their own gain. When the autocracy are over thrown by the Bourgeoisie society moves to the Capitalist epoch.

The Capitalist epoch

The conflict within the Capitalist epoch is between the Bourgeoisie, who own the means of product, and the Proletariat who do not own the means of production. The Proletariat labour for the Bourgeoisie. The conflict arises because the Bourgeoisie exploit the proletariat.

The Proletariat out number the Bourgeoisie so the super structure is in place to keep the Proletariat suppressed; the superstructure is the hierarchy of society. The society’s norms and values are shaped by the Bourgeoisie through such means as religion, the ‘opiate of the people’, the government, the ‘state executive of the Bourgeoisie’, and though the introduction of conflict such as racism.

The alienation of the Proletariat; work should humanise man it provides social contact yet is productive and helpful. But under capitalism it dehumanises us. People become motivated by money which leads to a culture based on money and self interest.

This constant exploit of the proletariat leads to their pauperisation. The five main groups in society will go to the two extremes(polarise). The petit bourgeoisie, the family business owners, will either join the elite ranks of the bourgeoisie or their business will fail and they will become part of the proletariat. The middle class will become part of the proletariat as their professions will become deskilled. This pauperisation will lead to polarisation of wealth and a wider divide in society.

The Proletariat will then change from a ‘class in itself’ will change, though developing class consciousness, realising that they are all being exploited, into a ‘class for itself’; leading to a Revolution against the Bourgeoisie and the implementation of Socialism.

The Superstructure
The Superstructure | Source

The Socailist epoch

In the Socialist epoch their will be communal ownership of means of production so that everyone is entitled to an equal allocation of the resources available. There will be only one social class meaning there will be no exploitation. As Marx famously wrote ‘From each according to ability to each according to need’. In this socialist society the state will whither away as it is no longer needed to keep the people under thumb. This is meant to be the final stage of history, a utopian society.

Finally...

Although some claim Marx’s theory is dated he is one of the founding fathers of modern sociology; evidence based sociology. He used the Hansard, factory reports and questionnaires to support this findings, the beginning of modern social sciences. He’s given us the concept of social class which has been used in many theories since. Whether or not you agree with him Marx’s contribution is too large to ignore.

So there we have it, the thousands of words from Marx summed up in a short Hub. Hope you’ve found this Hub interesting, please feel free to comment. I’d be more than willing to answer any questions you have.

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Comments 10 comments

someonewhoknows profile image

someonewhoknows 5 years ago from south and west of canada,north of ohio

Education and politics has nothing to do with production in society?


Ken Crow profile image

Ken Crow 5 years ago from Iowa, USA

Not bad, just totally UNCONSTITUTIONAL, Anti-Biblical and against everything America desires, dreams and needs. Otherwise, not a bad HUB and I shall continue to fight against Marxism, Socialism and Communism and anyother ISM I can find.....


jaskar profile image

jaskar 5 years ago from England Author

Someonewhoknows, Marx was writting in the 19th century because of this his economics is quite crude. his theory was that production is in fact the economic power of the world(where as today we have the service sector etc). and economics, education and politics are all definately linked. does that answer your question?

Ken,cheers for the comment. I'd just like to point out that Marxism is not anti-biblical. and indeed, during my time at college I have met a few people of faith who also believe in what Marx has written.

Marxism has been dead in the water for the past 80ish years. theres nothing left to fight.


Ken Crow profile image

Ken Crow 5 years ago from Iowa, USA

Jaskar: You are 100% correct about nothing left to fight in England. However? lol....we have a President that seems to greatly enjoy guiding us ( meaning the U.S. ) toward that sort of political ideology. This is a very long and detailed conversation, just believe, this man has incurred the ire of nearly 100% of the Veterans in this country and anyone that has a Biblical background. His political beliefs that he has governed with is totally contrary to what he campaigned on. This is what is so upsetting to so many Americans....By the way, enjoy the big party this summer. Isn't the Prince getting married this summer?

ps: My wife is a Royal subject and I am thinking seriously about New Zealand, starting to sound good to me..lol


jaskar profile image

jaskar 5 years ago from England Author

Obama is in no way shape or form close to marxism. I have followed his policys as closely as possible (not living in the US is obviously). but from all the material Ive been able to gather he has completed the majority of what he promised. of corse alot of what he planned has been stalled due to the mid terms. but my actual point being obama is so far away from marxism, im not sure where this conception that he is a marxist has come from.

indeed there is a royal wedding. i shall be partying, any excuse will do. BUT personally i think its a insult to democracy that we still have a royal family. espcailly when evidence came to light that they arnt the real royal family. amusingly enough Englands real king is a 50+ ozzie.


Ken Crow profile image

Ken Crow 5 years ago from Iowa, USA

Jaskar: Wow, had not heard about Queen Lizbeth or Prince Charles "NOT" being the actual Royal family. I will have to look that up, that it a mind blower if it is true. ( Not saying your not telling the truth, just a way of saying, got to read about that)

O.K., let's get to the President/Marxism....TECHNICALLY SPEAKING, no he might not be an actual Marxist. But here is the deal. I am going to preface all this with saying, I am not slamming England nor am I picking on any particular country or culture.

1. America was founded on a very simple idea. The power of the Government should be retained within the people. The individual STATES retain the power over themselves. Under the United States Constitution the Federal Government doesn't have the right to force an individual state to do anything that their residents do not desire to do. In other words the Fed's cannot say " New Mexico" all your resident's have to wear red shirts and purchase Beer only on Thursday. That state has the right to say " We do not think so! "..

2. This allows the residents of that State to control their own destiny largely because it is easier for the locals to have access to a Governor and State Rep. than that at the Federal level.

3. The ENTIRE Constitution is designed to " LIMIT " Control of the Federal Government, NOT expand it.

This is the rub with Obama and the American people. At present their are quite a few lawsuits that will end at the Supreme Court regarding our new Health Care and States rights. Whenever it has gone before a "Federal" Judge, the Obama Administration has lost the case and the State has won, based upon Commerce clauses and States Rights. Bottom line is this new Health Care goes against everything that our Founding Fathers had in mind.

This is why Obama is so feared as being at the least a Socialist and worst a Marxist. His " Core " belief system states that the Government should be the answer in life for all good things. One common myth is that America is a Democracy. WE ARE NOT ! WE ARE A "REPRESENTATIVE REPUBLIC"......

Yes you are correct, Obama has in fact gotten most of his agenda pushed through because of his control over the House and Senate. But, and BIG BUT HERE, those agenda's are contrary to what America was based on and is founded on and their bad for the country. Never in our history has the Government gone to the Banks and said " You must take this money and we are seizing a certain % of the stock in your bank ".....This to me is Marxism ! Never in our history has our Government seized and entire industry as they did with Health Care.

Anyway, this is getting to long and I could literally type another 10,000 words on this topic...But yes, American's are now fearing Obama rather that supporting and believing in their President..


Greg 5 years ago

I am not sure what the proposed new healthcare plans are. But as far as I can gather from this is that he is moving slowly towards a state healthcare, possibly free to a certain degree. And do you know what. You really shouldnt complain about that. We have that here in Britain thanks to the excelence of Clement Attlee's 1945 government and it has provided a great healthcare for those who need it most, the poorer in society, for a price they can actually pay, free.

And your government taking a certain % of a bank is not Marxism trust me. Because if that is so, our gocvernment that completly took over a bank, Northern Rock, is so marxist it hurts. And believe me when I say this, but they are NOT marxist. If you had read this article you would easily see how, well, how right wing even Obama is.


David99999 5 years ago

Excellent essay! I agree, that most people know little-if-anything about this deep, fascinating, highly-intelligent philosopher. I think that people like Ken Crow should go live in Somalia. They preach zero government...well...Somalia has zero government. Unfortunately, backward rubes like Ken Crow have a right to express their moronic drivel.

Keep writing!


jaskar profile image

jaskar 5 years ago from England Author

cheers David. id have to say i agree.

the worse thign about his works is you asy marxs and everyone screams 'commie' and then acts like your a moron. Marx had some interesting stuff to say!


shea duane profile image

shea duane 5 years ago from new jersey

I've read Marx and Frederick Engels and both are interesting and socially relavant. The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State is one of the best books I've ever read. Further, the is a prominent movement in American Christianity right now that addresses the significance of social justice - Jim Wallis and his magazine Sojourners highlights social justice and its importance in the teachings of Jesus. This is an important issue.

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