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Slides on Marxism for an undergraduate course in Political Thought that I taught between 2003-2005.

Slides on Marxism for an undergraduate course in Political Thought that I taught between 2003-2005.

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  • Learning Objectives: 1.) To understand the basic premises of Marxist thought. 2.) To be able to articulate the Marxist criticism of democracy as bourgeois hegemony.
  • Transcript

    • 2. Overview
      • Who was Karl Marx?
      • How did Marx explain the development of history?
      • What relationship did Marx see between history, economics and politics?
      • What was Marx’s critique of democracy?
    • 3. Karl Marx (1818-1883)
      • German political/economic philosopher
      • Bourgeois in background
      • Began his career in journalism
      • Famous works: Das Kapital, The Communist Manifesto, and Critique of Political Economy
    • 4. Marx on History
      • History unfolds because of materialist forces
      • “ The history of all existing societies is the history of class struggle”
        • Patricians v. Plebians
        • Feudal Lords v. Serfs
        • Bourgeois v. Proletariat
    • 5. Marx on History
      • Different social classes occasion different forms of oppression and struggle ([ sub]structure )
      • Social and political institutions or beliefs reflect the interests of the dominant class ( superstructure )
    • 6. Bourgeois Society
      • Characteristics:
      • Two-fold division of the populace
        • Bourgeois (Capitalist Class)
          • Those who own property and control the means of production
        • Proletariat (Labor Class)
          • Those who cannot afford to own property and contribute their labor to production
    • 7. Bourgeois Society
      • Arises because of…
        • Larger market for goods
        • Need for large-scale production
        • Industrialization of the production process
      • Is accompanied by political centralization
    • 8. The Contention
      • “… for exploitation…[the bourgeois] has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation.”
    • 9. Marx’s Economics
      • Cost is king (i.e. key concept)
      • The cost of a product is the sum of its constant capital and variable capital
        • Constant capital refers to the fixed capital provided by the capitalist
        • Variable capital pertains to labor
    • 10. Marx’s Economics
      • However, capitalists only engage in production if it is profitable
      • The profit comes from paying workers less than the value they produce
        • Workers wages = subsistence
        • The difference is known as surplus value
    • 11. Marx’s Politics
      • Workers find it difficult to fight against this arrangement
        • There is a large reserve army of workers ready to take their jobs
        • Government institutions cater to maintaining the capitalist arrangement
      • Thus, democracy is also an instrument of exploitation
    • 12. Marx’s Solution
      • The exploitation in bourgeois capitalism is a result of materialist history (class struggle)
      • Thus what needs to be done is to eliminate classes
      • The way to do this is to eliminate private property
    • 13. Marx’s Predictions
      • The bourgeois capitalist system will collapse on its own
      • Competition will drive profits down
      • Economic survival of the fittest
      • Systemic economic crises and depressions
    • 14. Marx’s Predictions
      • Growth of the proletariat
      • Immiseration of the proletariat
      • The rise of the proletariat against the bourgeois and the establishment of a communist state
      • Eventual withering away of the state