Marx (d 1883)
A journalist - Rheinische Zeitung (editor 1841) London correspondent of the New York Tribune (1850s).
Marx achieved (according to Engels) a fusion of:
- Hegelian philosophy (especially the philosophy of history and dialectics)
- British empiricism (especially the economics of Smith and Ricardo)
3. French revolutionary politics, especially socialist politics
Marx was an economist (Das Capital and The Theory of Wages, Price and Profits - where he sets out his version of the Labour Theory of Value and the concept of Surplus Value).
He made economics central to the understanding of human life and the motive power of history. For Aristotle man is the rational animal, for plato the political animal, for Kant the moral animal, for Hegel the historic animal. For Marx man is the productive animal. Mankind creates the environment it inhabits - ‘not a figure in the landscape, but the shaper of the landscape’.
His method was scientific - everything based on the masses of evidence that were being collected for the first time by the British state - information on taxation, demographics, commodity prices, etc - being collected systematically since the 1820s onwards.
HEGEL, PHILOSOPHY and HISTORY
‘The Young Hegelians’ - Feuerbach - God is created in the image of man; the garden of eden is a real place - an ideal society.
Marx’s thesis on Feuerbach - “Philosophers have interpreted the world in various ways, but the point is to change it”. World will not evolve naturally towards a perfect society - men must create such a society.
He uses a basically Hegelian system to criticism “mechanistic materialism” which KM describes as not science, but as “bourgouise ideology”.
In the preface to Das Capital KM writes: “ I am a disciple of Hegel and the presumptuous chattering classes who believe they have dismissed and buried this eminent thinker are ridiculous. But I have taken the liberty of adopting a critical attitude towards my master, to rid his dialectic of mysticism and thus to subject it to profound change”.
“crude materialism” and ‘mechanistic materialism” is criticized (empiricism, eg John Locke) - in ‘The Thesis on F’ KM says personality is NOT just the result of social circumstances, he says: “The materialist doctrine concerning changing circumstances and upbringing forgets that circumstances are made by men and the educator must himself be educated”.
“The question whether objective truth can be attributed to human thinking is not a question of theory, but a practical question”.
In ‘The German Ideology - The Young Hegelians and liberals are ridiculed. There are no natural rights (mysticism, idealism), there is no Hegelian-type built-in progression in history (no giest - no ‘spirit of the times’). BUT Hegel is right about dialectical change - the dialectic (thesis-antithesis-synthesis) IS the way history unfolds - but not as a result of the clash of contending ideas (eg war between good and evil) but the clash between classes: “The history of all hitherto existing societies is the history of class struggle” (Communist Manifesto).
In different epoch these classes have had different names and were differently constituted (freeman and serf; bourgoise and proletarian). But it is always the same story - two classes will be locked in a life and death struggle and the state will be there EITHER (most often) as the actual means that one class dominates another or (sometimes) as a broker between two classes neither of which is on its own strong enough to gain full control of the state (this was Marx’s view of the French Revolution - the peasants overthrew the monarchy, but they did not have the strength to entirely dominate the country. Napoleon arrived as a broker between the two classes, neither fully dominating not under the control of either class (Bonapartism).
Definitions of Bourgoise (France, partic Louis Phillipe “King of the French People” - bourgoise king, dependent on bankers) and Proletarian (landless ex-peasants, factory workers, coal miners - with no property at all, no traditional role or status in society - free from feudal obligations, given ‘bourgoise’ constitutional rights (as in the French and American constitutions, in line with the natural rights philosophy of John Locke). Diffrerent from “the poor” generally and peasants.
The proletariat is a new in 19th century and the class with most revolutionary potential - “nothing to lose but your chains”. Poor peasants in the past did have something to lose - their position in the feudal hierarchy, including a right to poor relief (for example - eg Speenhamland in England) and valued as part of the parish, Christian community in feudal times. Now all that is gone - all they have is worthless constitutional rights, such as the right to own property (but they have none) and the right to freedom of speech (but they do not own newspapers and many are illiterate).
‘The means of production’ - relationship to, determines class (not subjective). Two classes only. Owners of factories/farms/mines/shops etc; and workers in those places.
The proletariat, says Marx, is the “universal class”. Because of the dynamics of the capitalist economy all men will eventually be pauperized (except for a tiny number of plutocratic capitalist) and forced down into the proletariat because of the law of capital concentration (as with the farms after enclosure, the more profitable farms/ companies will bankrupt smaller, less efficient rivals, eventually forming a monopoly.
THESIS: The bourgoise (free market capitalism, liberal state, individual rights)
ANTITHESIS: The proletariat
This system Marx calls ‘the materialist conception of history’.
Definition of socialism for Marx is also objective - it is social ownership of the means of production. Socialism as a political system can only be established by “proletarian revolution” (violent or otherwise) and on a completely international basis.
Until such times the proletariat will be ‘alienated’ - they objects they make in the industrial system will actually come to enslave them (like workers in Adam Smith’s pin factory).
After a proletarian revolution the state will be ‘the dictatorship of the proletariat’ - it will be used to communalise all the means of production. When that is achieved a system of communism will be achieved. This is the rough equivalent of the Kantian Kingdom of Ends; or Hegel’s ‘fully rational society’ or ‘organic society’ and also the Christian garden of eden/ Kingdom of Heaven.
In 1843 Marx published a critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right. Like everyone else he complained of the complexity of Hegel’s writing; but liked the key idea of dialectical change and the teleological progression towards a perfect society. But Marx wrote that it was not the idea of freedom that led to the creation of the state; but the state was an historic ‘materialist’ fact (eg the Athenian state or the Prussian State or the French State under Napoleon, etc) which then attributed to itself the mission or idea of freedom as self-justification. Marx is a materialist and this is the famous “inversion” of Hegel - the phrase he used was “I have stood Hegel on his feet” (often misquoted as “I have stood Hegel on his head”.
In the preface to the Critique of Political Economy - KM says that eternal universal laws such as universal declaration of Human Rights (French and American revolutions) are not universal, they are the ‘ideology’ of the ruling class (the rising bourgoise class). In The German Ideology he says: “in every age the ruling ideas are the ideas of the ruling class”.
In the Preface to the C of PE Marx writes: “History does nothing: it does not possess riches, it does not fight battles. It is men, real, living men who do all these things. It is not ‘history’ which uses men as means of achieving its own ends. History is nothing but men in pursuit of their own means”.
“Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under circumstances of their own choosing; but under circumstances transmitted from the past”.
RELIGION is ONLY ‘ideology’ and ‘mysticism’ - it is the ideology of a feudal society because it justifies the “Our Lord” and reproduces in the cultural sphere the irrational authority of the feudal social system, culminating in the divine right of kings.)
Religion is rejected by the empiricists and the economists (Smith, Hume, Richardo) because they have the contending ideology of natural laws, natural rights. Malthus explicitly see religion as a way of controlling the population, restricting population growth etc. Utilitarians, Liberals are generally atheists or value religion in its extreme protestant form (‘work ethic’) or generally have a consequentialist view - that by holding religious views people are better off, regardless of the logic or truth
Empiricists/ bourgoise ideology reviles Catholicism and medevil religion, the Pope, etc. Religion is captured by the bourgoise re-made as Methodism ; just as the bourgoise capture/buy the state (in England and France) and re-make the state as ‘constitutional monarchy’ - ie bourgoise monarchs answerable to a bourgoised parliament and enacting bourgoise laws (eg repeal of the corn laws; the Poor Law of 1834) designed to destroy the feudal aristocracy and also to dominate the proletariat.
Marx says of religion that it is “the heart of a heartless world, the soul of soulless times, the opium of the people”.
He says of ‘individualism’ of bourgoise relgion (eg Protestantism) that it has replaced the complex system of family loyalty and obligation in the feudal village - “all that is solid melts to air, every obligation is dissolved into the cold nexus of cash payment”.
THE COMMUNIST MANIFESTO
Prescience of prediction of world economy, world culture (globalization brought about by the dynamics of capitalist economic development)
“society as a whole is more and more splitting into two great classes directly facing each other - bourgeoisie and proletariat”
The proletariat is not the peasantry or “the poor” generally - the ‘lumpen proletariat’ - “a recruiting ground for thieves and criminals of all kinds, living on the crumbs of society, people without a definite trade, vagabonds, people without hearth or home”. Such people have no historical significance and are as a whole ‘the reactionary mob’ (eg during The Terror in france). The proletariat is those who are concentrated in cities and factories “fortresses of the proletariat” or down a coal mine. Rioting by the lumpen proletariat or by peasants is not the same thing as revolution. Proletariat has to be “class conscious” and organized as a conscious social force through a trade union or a political party.
(NB - the Paris proletariat in 1848 - a lumpen rabble as against the proletariat in 1871 - the Paris Commune, where organized as a class conscious force with own committees, etc.
The Critique of Political Economy and Das Capital
High regard for Adam Smith and David Ricardo who have discovered the reality and dynamic of society and history (profit, wages, competition, investment, value - these are the “motive forces” of history - not morals, religion, geist, etc = “mysticism”.
Adam Smith’s market mechanism is bourgoise ideology because it axiomatically assumes completely reliant individuals (KM ridicules this at length in the critique of political economy - he calls it ‘Robinson Crusoe-ism’ ; it is same point of “who educates the educators”. KM also writes about Hobbes - says that Hobbes model of ‘the war of all against all” in the state of nature is the purest form of bourgoise ideology; “the atomic theory of human nature”. Engles (The Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State) attacks Hobbes partly on anthropological grounds - observable stone age societies (state of nature) exhibit very high degrees of co-operation (eg ‘Long Huts’). This anthropological data was not available to Hobbs).
In Das Capital KM starting point is Ricardo Labour Theory of Value and in Das Capital there’s pages and pages of stats and data about commodity prices which test and uphold the LTV (in contemporary ‘bourgoise’ economics the view is that the LTV does indeed comply with the facts but that it is essentially metaphysical and of no importance or practical use. KM if alive would say that criticism was bourgoise ideology of course.
The difference with Ricardo is “surplus value”. Ricardo days goods exchange (long term) at an equivalence of necessary Labour power. Marx brings Smith back in - goods exchange at their market value (law of supply and demand). But the price of goods is higher than the labour power expended on them (eg an ipod - a few seconds of “live” labour needed to make one) but sells for £100). The differences between the market price (utility value) and the cost of production (labour value) is the PROFIT added by the capitalist (owner of the means of production). When aggregated across the whole economy, this profit becomes “surplus value”.
CONTRADICTIONS OF CAPITALISM
“Captialism produces all things in profusion, but most of all it produces its own grave-diggers” (Das Capital). Why?
Imagine simple economy with no international trade or investment where only one product is produced (a ‘widget’).
The entire workforce makes the widget and they get paid £1 - put the capitalist sells it for £2. But the workforce can not buy the widget. The widget remains unsold. Order to the widget factory for fewer widgets, or for cheaper widgets. Widget workers are unemployed. Unemployed workers buy even fewer widgets, so unemployment gets worse. The economy collapses - it's a Widget Crunch.
But this crisis is avoided because “surplus value” is spent on:
- Investment (making more widget factories and hiring unemployed widget makers to make widget factories). This solves the problem in the short term and it DOES make the economy much more productive. But in the long term it makes the crisis worse - the trade cycle.
- Export the widgets - the widget workers can’t but all their widgets, but production can be increased and they can keep their jobs if the widgets are exported. Constant need for new markets - hence “Imperialism” forcing free trade on India, China, Africa, South America - ever expanding markets. But like investment this is a short term in he same way as investment. It will also force the capitalist powers to fight with each other for markets and colonies (Marxian analysis of war, partic. First World War) V.I. Lenin - “Imperialism - the highest stage of capitalism”.
- Surplus value can be expended on the state (partic military, to secure more markets) or on “the ideological superstructure” - education, arts, religion, theatre, social security, National Worskshops etc used to underpin ‘ideology’. This too only delays the inevitable crisis.
ALIENATION AND CLASS CONSCIOUSNESS
The process of investment and increasing mechanization and automation leads to the de-skilling of all professions and the proletarianization of everyone except a tiny number of monopoly capitalists. BUT the proletariat are thrown together in factories and in slum areas and they will tend to form trade unions and their illusions will be overcome and will realize that they are a class and not individual paupers.
Work in a capitalist society becomes increasingly pointless and alienated. In Das Capital Karl Marx writes in an especially powerful passage on ‘alienation’:
“All development of the means of production transform themselves into the means of domination over and exploitation of the producers; they mutilate the labourer into a fragment of a man, degrade him to the level of a fleshy appendage to the machine.”
The nature of the state - instrument for the domination of one class by another OR as an independent force which holds two evenly balanced class forces in stalemate, and tries to delay crisis by postponement of reform or change of any sort (Bonapartism)
1846 - The Poverty of Philosophy - against Proudhon (the Philosophy of Poverty) and French Socialists generally, eg - The League of The Just, renamed The Communist League - he was commissioned to write The Manifesto of the Communist Party by the organizing committee of the Communist League.
‘Utopian Socialism’ - Fourier and Robert Owen and ideal communities.
These utopians have made the mistake of thinking the state is neutral or a thing in itself. In the Communist Manifesto:
“political power is merely the organized power of one class for oppressing another… The executive of the modern [liberal] state is but a committee for managing the affairs of the whole bourgoise.
The proletarian revolution will be international and it was abolish capitalism, but this is not communism. After revolution the socialist state will own the means of production in common. It will be a “dictatorship of the proletariat” just as bourgoise democracy is just a façade for capitalist dictatorship (as he believed the Paris Commune of 1871 showed) .
Once the bourgoise has been dissolved as a class, the ideological superstructure (priests, university professors, ideologists of all sorts) is dismantled and he peasantry incorporated into the proletariat - then the state with “wither away” (Das Capital) because there will no longer be contending classes, and the state is only needed because of class conflict.
The proletariat itself will also be dissolved and become the same thing as “the whole human race” - this is a highly Hegelian idea similar to the geist coming to know itself, but it a materialist version of that idea of the end of history.
Communism will be a garden of eden very similar to that described by John Lennon in “Imagine” - no countries, no possessions (other than personal property like toothbrushes and so on), no religion.
Described by Marx (Das Capital) thus:
“The antithesis between physical and mental labour will be abolished” - a person would be a fisherman in the morning, a factory worker in the afternoon and musician and philosopher in the evening - and all these activities would have equal worth ads equal aspects of human personality.
Communism is a kingdom of ends in strictly Kantian terms, also the same as Hegel’s organic society or rational society where no duty is onerous, and all laws are obeyed because there is no difference of interest.
(In a communist society)… “work becomes not only a means of life, but life’s prime want; (technology will be tremendously advanced but will no longer enslave people but will have advanced)… “in proportion with the all-round development of the individual (mechanization as a servant, not a master) and all the springs of co-operative wealth flow more abundantly (because no more trade cycle or destruction of surplus value in war, unemployment)
“Only then can the narrow horizon of bourgeois rights be crossed in its entirety and society inscribe upon its banners: From each - according to ability
To each - according to need.