Marxist CriticismMarxist Criticism
“The root of all evil is money”
focus on getting and keeping economic power. It is the motive behind all social and political
economics is the base upon which the super-structure of social/political idealogical
Realities are built
economic power=social/political power
a. class is referred to as socioeconomic
material circumstances are the economic conditions
historical situation is the s/p ideological atmosphere generated by material conditions
praxi (methodology) dictates that theoretical ideas can be judged to have value only in terms
of their concrete applications or their applicability to the real world.
Marxists believe that differences in SE divide people in ways that are much more significant
than do differences in religion, race, gender, intelligence
a. battle lines are drawn between the bourgeoisie (haves) and the
proletariat (the have nots/laborers)
-ideology (for them) is a by product of cultural conditioning
non-repressive ideology makes us constantly aware of how we are materially/economically
repressed and subservient to the ruling power system.
middle class sides with the wealthy against the poor
a. MC resents the poor because MC’s money goes to help them
b. but . . .MC fails to realize :
i. wealthy decides who pays, how much, and where it goes. They make the
MC support the poor because they don’t want to.
ii. The poor receive a small portion and the rest goes to kickback’s and into
the pockets of the wealthy who control and to the MC employees who
administer the services
The American Dream
-blinds the MC and makes them believe that financial success is the product of
initiative and hard work, therefore, people are poor because they are lazy.
a. I want better than what I have now to have better than what other
people have is my motivation to “get ahead”
-survival of the fittest
-we are born equally and motivation get us the rest
-self-made people are heroes (rags to riches)
BUT . . .Marxists say
The American Dream
-is an ideology that supports the SE inequalities
a. blinds us it its own failures
b. this “dream” rests on the misery of the many
false consciousness is a promoted false ideal whose real purpose os to promote the interests
of those in power.
a. how does the American Dream enlist the support of all Americans, even those
who fail to achieve it, in promoting the interests of those in power?
i. the less financial security we have, the more we need
something to hope for
ii. “we are all as good as the wealthy”
iii. The rich think, in return, that they deserve their wealth
because they had the initiative to achieve the American Dream.
classism is an ideology that equates one’s value as a human being with the social class to
which one belongs
i.e the higher one’s social class, the better one is assumed to be because
quality is inborn.
a. people at the top are superior to those below in all ways and people are at the
bottom because they are lazy and irresponsible, therefore, it is only right and natural
that those at the highest should hold all positions of power.
i.e divine right, reincarnation
patriotism is an ideology that keeps poor people fighting wars against poor people from
i. rich buy out or rake in
ii. Makes the poor believe they are members of a nation (collective group) separate
from other nations (enemies)
iii. Prevents the poor from banding together globally to improve their conditions
(displacement of anger)
religion is called the “Opiate of the Masses.” It is an ideology that helps to keep the faithful
poor satisfied with their lot in life, or at least to tolerate it, therefore, in this sense, religion acts
as a tranquilizer.
a. focused not on the existence of God, but on what humans do in the name of God.
i.e organized religion
i. Christian religious groups promote non-violence to the poor
ii. persecution of gays, women, Jews, blacks, Muslims, witches are justifies
rugged individualism is an ideology that keeps the focus on me instead of on us. It is the
cornerstone of the American Dream.
a. we make our own decisions and are not influenced by ideologies.
consumerism or “shop-till-you-drop-ism” is the ideology that says I am only as good as what
I buy. It is the cornerstone of the American Dream.
i. I can be as good as the wealthy if I buy what they buy.
ii. on credit, and it makes the manufacture and the credit card companies richer
culture is the primary bearer of ideology because it reaches so many people in what seems to be
toys, movies, video-games, tv shows, books, sporting events
a. our guard is down while we are being entertained, therefore, we are more vulnerable
to ideological programming
Marxism: Human Behavior, Commodity, and Family
alienated labor- factory workers become dissociated because they receive no recognition
for their labor.
commodity-value is not in use value but exchange value or the sign-exchange value (both
pre-determined by society)
commodification-relating objects or persons in terms of their economic value or
a. buying art as an investment
conspicuous consumption-buying and displaying costly goods and services excessively in order
to impress people with wealth
“Keeping up with the Jones’”
*Capitalism depends on consumerism depends on commodity and all promote SEV
-Capitalism's best interests are to promote whatever personal insecurities
which will motivate us to buy, buy, buy
i. force us to compare ourselves to others
ii. competition is promoted by companies who want to sell products and by
people who want to sell themselves
imperialism-military, economic, and cultural domination of one nation by another for the
financial benefit of the dominating nation with no concern for the welfare of the people being
i.e India, The Congo, The South, Africa, America
colonies-imperalist nation establishes communities in an “underdeveloped” country used to
extend its economic interests for the “mother country.”
Colonize the Consciousness of subordinate people means to convince them to see their
situation the way the imperialist nation wants them to see it and to convince them that they
are mentally, culturally inferior to their conquerors and their lot will be improved by the
a. not the source of the individual’s psychological identity
i. individual and family are the products of material/historical
b. family unconsciously carries out the cultural program in raising its children
i. the cultural programming is produced by the SEC within the family
“The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.”
“The development of Modern Industry, therefore, cuts from under its feet the ver foundation
on which the bourgeoisie produces and appropriates products. What the bourgeoisie therefore
produces above all, are its own grave-diggers. Its fall and the vistroy of the proletariat are
Questions Marxist Critics Ask About Literary TextsQuestions Marxist Critics Ask About Literary Texts
1. Does the following work reinforce (intentially or not) capitilist, imperilist, or
other classist values/agendas?
2. How might the work be seen as a critique of capitilism, imperilism, or classism?
What ways does the text reveal and invite us to condemn the oppressive
3. Does the work in some ways support a Marxist agenda but in other ways support
a (take your pick of the above)? In other words, is the work ideologically
4. How does the literary work reflect (intentially or not) the socioeconomic
conditions of the time in which it was written and/or the time in which it is set,
and what do those conditions reveal about the history of class struggle?
5. how might the work be seen as a critique of organized religion? How does religion
function, in the text, to keep a character or characters from realizing and resisting
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