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


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