Karl MarxPart 1. An introduction Dr. Graham SharpSS122 Foundations of Sociology
Marx the person• Born 5 May 1818 at Trier in the Rhineland, Germany• Died 14 March and buried 17 March 1883 in Highgate Cemetery• Student of law, but was more interested in the philosophy of law• Completed a PhD on Greek philosophers –• Influenced by Epicurus – the first materialist
Marx’s starting points• Influenced by the teachings of Hegel (1770-1831)• He saw the history of society as a series of conflicts or dialectics• Change comes about as the result of conflict between two opposing movements
The Dialectic• This is the idea that change comes about as a result of conflict of ideas. There are three stages to this:• Thesis: the original idea• Antithesis: the second, contradictory viewpoint• Synthesis: the amalgamation of the two opposing views
Hegel turned upside down• Hegel assumed that the idea of the State was the subject, with society as its object, whereas history showed the opposite. Turn Hegel upside down and the problem was solved: religion does not make man, man makes religion; the constitution does not create the people, but the people create the constitution.• Thought arises from being, not being from thought. (Wheen 2006: 13)
Marx the Materialist• Distinction between idealist and materialist philosophy• Therefore for Marx materialist explanations in which concrete social relations are determinant are contrasted with idealist explanations in which ideas are seen as the ultimate cause of social relations• We can see such divisions in contemporary sociology between say social constructivism and critical realist approaches to analysis.
Marx and gainful employment• Marx the journalist• Began to write more radical and critical articles for the Rheinische Zeitung including the famous story of the ban on peasants collecting free firewood in the newly privatised forests of Germany
Marx the unemployed• In January 1843 the paper was prosecuted and closed down by the German Government• Marx and his new wife Jenny moved to Paris to have more freedom to write . Paris, at the time was a hotbed of radical dissent.• In this atmosphere Marx wrote his Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 not published (in German) until 1932 and not published in English until 1959.
Marx meets EngelsMarx met Engels in Paris in August 1844 and theybecame close friends for over 40 years. Engels had justfinished writing his famous book The Condition of theWorking Classes in England. They later went on to writemany more publications including in 1848 TheCommunist Manifesto.
Marx and Economics• Marx saw the capitalist economy as a ‘mode of production’ and a ‘social formation’. He argued that there have been four main social formations to date in human history:• Primitive communism• Slave society• Feudalism• Capitalism
The Labour Theory of ValueAll products in capitalism are commodities, i.e.they have a value. They can be valued in twodifferent ways: - Use-value – a commodity has a value of usefulness to the consumer - Exchange-value – the relationshipbetween the different values of differentcommodities, e.g. pint of beer = one day busticket
Surplus Value• Capitalists (employers) gain surplus value (profit) from their workers by paying them a fixed amount for their labour power regardless of the profit they gain• Surplus value can be increased by lengthening the working day or increasing productivity• Not all surplus value is profit
1. 2. 3. 4. 5.Tramps, Exploiters of All those All those Thebeggars, labour, engaged in engaged in unemploysociety thieves, unnecessary necessary edpeople, swindlers, work work – thethe pickpockets, productionaristocra burglars, of thecy, great bishops, benefits oflandown financiers, civilisationers, all capitalists,those shareholderpossesse s, ministersd of of religionhereditary wealth
Two types of Labour• Necessary labour = the time the worker spends actually earning the amount paid in wages.• Surplus labour = the time spent producing surplus value for the capitalist.
Two main elements to capitalist production• Forces of production = both the materials worked on and the tools and techniques employed in production, distribution and exchange.• Relations of production (the labour process) = relations that exist between capitalist and worker such that the former both controls the means of production and can sell the commodities (goods and services) that are produced by the worker.
Base and Superstructure• A lot of debate over this issue. Some read the base superstructure metaphor in a mechanical way, others have a more sophisticated reading whereby there is a two way flow of influence and determination. Think about the discussion around structure and agency.
What determines what? “Men [sic] make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past.”(Marx: 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte)
Marx Part 2 Alienation Dr. Graham SharpSS122 Foundations of Sociology
Historical Materialism• Marx used the phrase ‘the materialist conception of history’. (The German Ideology)• Saw society built around antagonistic social classes, division of labour and forms of private property• Ideas are rooted in specific material contexts and have no independent existence apart from the social formation.• Social change occurs through conflict and struggle and contradictions existing between the productive forces and its social relations
Alienation of Labour• In the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 Marx defined labour as ‘man’s self- confirming essence’. In other words, capitalism had transformed human labour into an object, an external thing• Marx argues that labour (specific and general) is the basis of human culture• Alienation is a process in which humanity is turned into a stranger in a world created by labour
Alienation of Labour• Unlike Hegel Marx saw alienation as being located within economic and material elements; he defined it as an historical and not a universal state.• Human relationships that are alienated are experienced not as relations between persons but rather as relations between things, i.e. as reification.
Communist Man [sic]Marx developed aconcept of ‘the wholeman’ whose humanessence is degradedby the external powerof capital. Man needsto be returned to anon-alienated state,reconnected withnature, other men andsociety.
Communist Man…“He [humans within capitalism]is a hunter, a fisherman, ashepherd, or a critical critic,and must remain so if he doesnot want to lose his means oflivelihood; while in communistsociety, where nobody has oneexclusive sphere of activity buteach can become accomplishedin any branch he wishes,society regulates the generalproduction and thus makes itpossible for me to do one thingtoday and another tomorrow, tohunt in the morning, fish in theafternoon, rear cattle in theevening, criticise after dinner.”(Marx 1846 The GermanIdeology:45)
Pre-modern to Modern• Reification = social relations appear to be beyond human control; they appear to be a fixed and immutable quality, as if they were the natural rather than social world.• Modern capitalism is built around impersonal relations based on the domination of exchange value. This masks, or creates the illusion of, a free exchange of equivalents (labour for wages) e.g. ‘a fair day’s work for a fair day’s wages’. Capitalist inequality is thus defined as natural.
Species being• Marx believed that labour is the essence of man (the labour process)• Marx saw humans as part of nature• For Marx labour is an important part of human development for through labour we change nature and society and in the process we change ourselves.• What is the difference between an architect and a bee?
Back to the Paris Manuscripts• “The worker can create nothing without “nature”, without the “sensuous external world”. It is the material on which his labour is realised, in which it is active, from which and by means of which it produces” (p. 64)
Manuscripts…• “Nature is man’s inorganic body – nature that is, insofar as it is not itself human body. Man lives on nature – means that nature is his body, with which he must remain in continuous interchange if he is not to die. That man’s physical and spiritual life is linked to nature means simply that nature is linked to itself, for man is a part of nature.” (p. 67)
Manuscripts…• “It is just in his work upon the objective world, therefore, that man really proves himself to be a species being. This production is his active species life.” (p. 69)• In other words we live out our lives through labour (broadly defined) – the labour process.
Division of labour and alienation• De-skilling of traditional craft skills• Fragmentation of tasks• Work becomes hyper routine• Scope for personal or collective creativity is stifled• Wages are often lower• Work becomes boring and meaningless.
Automation and the division of labour• Some sociologists such as Robert Blauner argued that changes in technology would alter the level of alienation experienced. He argued that technology developed through 4 stages:• Craft production• Machine based factory production• Assembly plants• Automation
A question of control• The Marxist theorist Harry Braverman argued in his book, Labour and Monopoly Capital (1974) that it is not always necessarily the routine nature of the labour process, but rather the level of control over it. This is seen as antagonism between management and worker (labour and capital) being played out, in other words class struggle.
Back to Marx• Marx developed further his theory of alienation in later works, particularly in volume 1 of Capital published in 1867. He integrated alienation into his political economy and theorised it in terms of the metabolic rift with nature, an issue we will examine later.
The End • Next time we will look at how Marxism developed in the changed circumstances of the 20th Century. • We will look in particular at the work of Antonio Gramsci and his concept of ‘hegemony’.• Also we will look at how feminism has had an impact on modern Marxism • Bye for now
You tube clip http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qOP2V_np2Source:David Harvey lecture at the RSA(2010)