Workers often earn more than they need to live on and the extra hours they do is often in order to buy more material possessions for their own comfort. Over the past years the increases in pay have often been higher than the increases in the costs of living, and also the number of hours worked in the basic working week has come down. Higher expectations and goals, such as the desire to purchase property, are now dominant features of western society as many now have the ability to purchase more than just the necessities with their money.
So overall Marx & Engel deem capitalism a selfish materialistic society where the introduction of money means the “perversion of human nature reaches its summit”8 enabling men to own property and soon value everything in monetary terms, including their labour which becomes a “commodity like any other,”9 “exchanged on the market at its lowest price”10, simply an “article of commerce”11. In “the inability of human beings to see their own products for what they are”12 they then become “enslaved by human power”13 constituting in alienation.Society is individualistic where every capitalist works for his own good and not for the benefit of others. However all people in any society have desires to better their situation. This is natural and not in itself wrong. Indeed it could be said that to prevent the ability to improve ones comfort is wrong. Bettering oneself does not automatically lead to selfishness and lack of concern for others. This rather depends on the moral state of the individual and of the nation.
History has shown that concern for for others is often related to religion which generally promotes morality as in Christianity which when rightly practised in any society produces a care of the vulnerable and needy. The suppression of religion in Marxist communism does not promote altruistic behaviour. This hampering of development along with the exploitation and alienation by the capitalist, as well as the general perversion of societies desires, leads to the development of class consciousness, as the working conditions become homogenous for the working classes (proletariat).
Once the classes have developed Marx & Engel believed “a class struggle against exploitation”14 and also alienation was bound to happen. And this struggle could only be won by abolishing the whole system of “wage labour”15. Then as “class antagonism arouses a revolutionary consciousness in the proletariat”16 the way for revolution is paved. The “suppressed subject, degraded to the status of a mere predicate, will again become a subject, a free person”17 in the transition. Marx & Engel’s vision was that the “world’s workers would unite in international opposition to capitalism”18.
They described a situation where workers fell penned in and being unable to change their situation will unite in revolt. But this is not a description of working conditions in capitalist societies today. Firstly by no means are all jobs homogenous or mechanised and alienation from the product is far from universal. And for the person on the “shop floor” their exists the possibilities of promotion to the top (and thereby to a higher class) and personal development.
People do not all live to work and money earnt at work, even sometimes in mundane jobs, enables a more fulfilled life outside of work.As far as the ownership of property is concerned, I see nothing wrong with that in principle. Once the revolution has taken place, i. e. the capitalist state has been overthrown, the “dictatorship of the proletariat”19 would be formed, to nationalise production, set up a “planned system of production and a money less system of distribution”20, reallocating resources according to the principle “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”21. This first stage sets up new relations of production in order to purge society of its capitalist tendencies and to make way for the second stage.Private property would be abolished as the “only way to save humanity from crisis, want and exploitation”22 and “planned production would do away with social inequality and the absurd situation in which poverty was caused by an excess of goods”23. The problem with the first stage is that people have different needs and abilities.
The same wage for all regardless of what work they do and how much they produce will discourage innovation and hard work and rather will lead to people completing the minimum work needed, as there is no gain for them if they do more. This will in turn lead to inefficiency.Further comment on this will be found in the concluding paragraph. The second stage is pure communism, where “the state disappears”24 because of a lack of class struggle due to “the abolition of class divisions”25 and where all are equal.
An agency is set up to distribute resources according to the communist principle (see footnote 1) and also to provide basic welfare services. In this society men work to fulfil their own potential and there is no exploitation, disagreement or conflict. Rather everyone within communism would live “a rich and active life closely bound up within the life of the community”26.This classless society would make “best use of modern technology and ensure its further development”27 something that capitalism tried to do but couldn’t.
In this community individuals will be in full control over their actions and the causes and consequences of those actions. The final stages of communism, which Marx & Engel describe, are simply not happening today and I believe will not happen in democratic societies where at least broad balance of power exists between employers and employees because both groups have a say in the government elected. No system is perfect because man is imperfect and selfish seeking.No Utopian society will be found and governments will always be required to control and deter selfish acts.
It has to be said that with the freedom of capitalist democratic societies there does not exist this desire for worldwide revolt that Marx expects. So no, I am not convinced by Marx’s and Engel’s claims. 2,137 words.Bibliography Karl Marx, “Communist Manifesto” & “The German Ideology” Iain Hampsher Monk, “A History of Modern Political Thought: Major Political thinkers from Hobbes to Marx” Blackwell 1992 S.
Avineri “The Social and Political Thought of Karl Marx” Cambridge 1986 T.Carver “Karl Marx, gravediggers of the capitalist class” in B Redhead “Plato to Nato” G. A. Cohen, “Forces and Relations of Production”, in G. A Cohen, “History, Labour and Freedom” Oxford 1987 J. Elster, “An Introduction to Karl Marx” Cambridge 1986 L.
Kolakowski, “Main Currents of Marxism”, vol 1 Clarendon press 1978 D. McLellan, “Karl Marx: His Life and Thought” London 1973 1 D. McLellan, “Karl Marx: His Life and Thought”, P128 2 G. A. Cohen, “Forces and Relations of Production” P5 3 J.
Elster, “An Introduction to Karl Marx” P55 4 Iain Hampshire Monk, “A History of Modern Political Thinkers”, P499.5 L. Kolakowski, “Main Currents of Marxism” P138 6 Terrell Carver, “Karl Marx: gravedigger of the capitalist class” in Plato to Nato P167 7 J. Elster, “An Introduction to Karl Marx” P 79 8 Ibid P3 of my notes 9 L. Kolakowski, “Main Currents of Marxism” P138 10 Iain Hampsher Monk, “A History of Modern Political Thought” P501 11 D.
McLellan, “Karl Marx: His Life and Thought” 12 L. Kolakowski, “Main Currents of Marxism” P277 13 Ibid 14 L. Kolakowski, “Main Currents of Marxism P280 15 Ibid 16 Ibid P287 17S. Avineri “The Social and Political Thought of Karl Marx”, P32.18 Terrell Carver, “Karl Marx: gravedigger of the capitalist class” in Plato to Nato P164/5 19 Ibid 20 Ibid 21 Communism principle as quoted in Critique of the Gotha Programme, written in 1875 22 L. Kolakowski, “Main Currents of Marxism ” P145 23 Ibid 24 S. Avineri “The Social and Political Thought of Karl Marx” P36 25 L. Kolakowski, “Main Currents of Marxism” P221 26 J.
Elster, “An Introduction to Karl Marx” 27 Terrell Carver, “Karl Marx: gravedigger of the capitalist class” in Plato to Nato P167 GV100 – Introduction to Political Theory, Essay No 3 Name: Sarah Pickwick Class: 7 Teacher: Mr J Olsson.