Contemporary Applications of Marxist Thought

In a text offering “Reflections on the ‘Communist Manifesto’ ” (published in the journal International Socialism), writer Lindsey German proclaimed that “the groundwork provided by ‘The Communist Manifesto’ was invaluable in providing a unique introduction to Marxist politics and to the theory of revolution. It remains one of the great political texts which still inspires new generations of socialists and it can still serve as a guide to action.” This writer recognizes that, because of its connections with the development of communism, Marxist thought – as espoused by Max Weber, Friedrich Engels, and especially Karl Marx himself – has long been seen with considerable ambivalence in the modern world. But, no matter what you think about communism or socialism as political doctrines, the simple fact is that Marxist ideas have had a MAJOR impact on the development of the modern world. Therefore, it is important to take a long and close look at the subtleties and realities of central Marxist thought in order to fully appreciate its doctrines (for good or ill). In that spirit, for this Blog I want you to pick a major theme or social concept that Marx and his fellows somehow bring to the fore in their wide-ranging analysis, whether it be an issue related to education, politics, banking, agriculture, militarism, labor, and so on. Try to explain what, exactly, Marxism has to say about that issue, and do so by directly engaging with the words of Marx/Engels/Weber. What is their view of your chosen issue, and what is their basis for that view? Finally, come up with a contemporary example or application of this premise. In other words, how might this “Marxist” premise bring rise to understanding and exploring a modern-day problem or challenge? And what do YOU think about the matter? I will be very curious to hear your thoughts in this Blog response!

13 thoughts on “Contemporary Applications of Marxist Thought

  1. ‘The Communist Manifesto’ was and still is a very well known and influential piece of work. It focuses on classes, politics, etc. A topic that is very prevalent is social classes. Karl Marx noticed the major separation of classes in society. Marx believes that even though it seems that theres major differences between the classes, there’s really only two main ones: the haves and the have nots. This points out that he thinks that in order for a person to be successful, one has to put in some work.
    With this, Marx believes that their is obviously class struggle. ”In proportion as the bourgeoisie, i.e. capital, is developed, in the same proportion in the proletariat, the modern working class, developed- a class of labourers, who only live so long as they find work, and who fine work only so long as their labor increases capital” (479). This quote shows some insight on his opinion. This idea of class struggle still exists today. Many might not notice it because people usually surround themselves with people from the same class of them. You might notice class struggle if you were to visit New York, for example. In NYC, you will see all the classes interacting with each other, from the homeless working class to the rich business workers. In my opinion, I think class struggle is still an issue. I also feel that it is not really going to improve.

  2. One of the major themes, or social concepts, that Marx and his fellows bring to light is that of the economic formulation of society. Marx states, “No social order ever perishes before all the productive forces for which there is room for it have developed; and new, higher relations of production never appear before the material conditions of their existence have matured in the womb of the old society itself” (46). What Marx is saying about the issue is that men do not put themselves in any situation where the solution to the problem is not already there. That situations only appear when the material conditions for its solution already exist or are in the process of completion. This issue is still alive today. For example, when a new leader is named to a country, city, or business, the way that it is ran is similar to the old leaders. I believe that this issue is still here today and will be in the future. This is the format that all societies follow. No man takes on a situation without the solution for that situation is already in place. This will never change in society, and will continue to cause problems in the future.

  3. In one excerpt, Karl Marx says “ the production of ideas, of conceptions, of consciousness, is a first directly interwoven with the material activity and the material intercourse of men, the language of real life.” Marx is saying that the mental intercourse of men appear as the “direct efflux” or their material behavior and that this applies to politics, religion, etc. This quotation means that men are often blinded by their own consciousness to be fully aware of reality. He goes on to explain that once we become aware of reality, we can become aware of our true human needs.
    This to me is highly important because even today, people are often blinded by their own thoughts. By being so blinded, it changes the way people think and impacts their personal beliefs in a negative way. People need to start opening their eyes and become aware of the problems in the world today. There needs to be less ignorance in the world so that America can move forward as a whole.

  4. A major theme or social concept that Marx and his fellows somehow bring to the face in their wide range analysis is Commodity Fetishism. Fetish is an action to which one has an excessive and irrational commitment. A commodity is a valuable useful thing. What Karl Marx is saying is people become excessive over commodities because they satisfy human wants, and that commodities are the reason why humans work as hard as they do. Marx is saying that people in society change natural materials that exist in the world to make them useful to them. For, example people use trees to make money. The example in the book says that people will take wood which is a natural resource in the world and make a table for their use. Their views on the issue is that commodity fetishism is causing people in society to not think rationally about seeing the truth about economics and society. Marx feels as though this theme is causing human beings to use one another for their own personal wants and gains. A contemporary example of commodity fetishism is business people here in America use people in china for their resources to make majority of the commodities we have here in America. Marxism is implying that that business between us two is what is keeping the relationship. Marx feels that people have no other relationship with other, and that is the issue. I honestly, feel that people are always going to have wants and desire and if it keeps relationships and people happy who cares.

  5. One important passage from the Marx and Engels text “The German Ideology” is that the division of labor in society between the rich and the poor has created the impression that only the rich should be the “thinkers”, or the moving and shaking ideas men of society, and that the poor should be laborers, the backbreaking blue collars who support the ideologies of the rich. Marx and Engels attack this, claiming that every man regardless of his social class should be heard, and this is why the revolutions and ideas that originate in the poor sections of society are quickly put down by the rich who see no reason to have the social situations disrupted. These ideas about revolution can be seen all throughout history and up to modern day, from the peasant revolt that spawned the Magna Carta that took the British crown out of complete power or the folk of the Middle East fighting back against dictators that suppressed their voices with an iron fist like Ghaddafi or Hussein. Put simply, Marx and Engels are all for the idea of the voices of the masses being heard.

  6. Karl Marx has the idea of Commodity Fetishism, which is treating one’s commodities like they are worth so much more then they truly are. People tend to identify one with their commodities (items that we own). Marx talks about in his writings that the natural resource of wood is used to make tables. As a society we forget that a natural resource has the ability to no longer exist and that humans do things solely for themselves. They are losing sight of the greater picture because they crave to have more of something that might not eventually be there. A great example in modern times would be cellphones. When are we capable of going anywhere without having to check our phones or seeing someone else checking their phones? The answer is never. Society cannot function without this little piece of technology. Marx made a great point when saying do we own the commodities or do the commodities own us? He believes the commodities own and define who we are as people and I could not agree more. My phone is like a part of my body and if that piece is not there, then I am not there. It is sad what our world has come to, but Karl Marx’s idea of Commodity Fetishism still exists today, if not worse than it had prior. I believe this will never fully go away because as time keeps going, more advances happen, only increasing people’s wants.

  7. There are many concepts in the work ‘The Communist Manifesto’ that can still be seen in today’s society. The concepts range from politics to class ranks to education. The topic that stands out with me is Karl Marx view on education. He states how the capitalism shapes the educational system and without education the economy would fail. On page 236 it states, “False consciousness was the product of a dominant class ideology, which was imposed on and accepted by the subordinate class. For example, the ruling class will claim that its political and economic principles are universally true; schools should transmit these general universal truths and values to the young” (Marxism and education). Education helps maintain the order of the social classes. There will be workers producing goods and others benefiting from them, but everyone is okay as long as there is a consist salary. There will always be class conflict so if the young is taught they can overcome some of these conflicts even when it comes to wages. The higher education you have the more money you are most likely to make. For example, if you take a farmer he will hire people who will work for him and those people will work while he makes a profit for an average wage. They are usually people with lesser education, but they still work with out a problem. You can see this all over the world today.
    Marxism and Education. 1 Jan. 2014. Web. 6 Nov. 2014.

  8. Weber concentrates on the subject of the wealthy and the poor in The German Ideology. It shows the control that the wealthy have compared to those that lack in means. In a mental capacity, the rich produce the ideas and common thought; what they create becomes the dominant in society. It also talks about the vital parts of the society aren’t the thinkers but it is the ones that are actives members. Then he spoke on revolution and the concept of how their purpose is to go against the popular class. To put it in modern terms this concept of rising up against steams every revolution or protest that sparks change and goes against the superiority. Weber’s ideas about the rich and the mental thought is interesting because it is true. The wealthy are the ones that think, speak and represent on the rest behalf; they are the brain behind the society’s culture. But it is key to take note on his comments on who is truly vital to the society. It is not the wealthy but it is those that are not afraid of getting their hands dirty. The ones that act and bring change. His ideas are interesting but it is also necessary to understand and use when portraying social classes.

  9. One of the major themes or social concepts that Karl Marx describes is the Commodity Fetishism theory. This is explaining how common people are forming an unnatural connection with items that are useful to them, but not a true necessity. Marx is stating how people will change natural materials into materials that please their needs. In Marx’s writing he uses the example of taking a tree and using its wood to make a table because it is more convenient for what people want. A modern day problem would be video games for many children and teens. Most of the teens in know and have meet, play an unhealthy amount of video games. This is a problem because it distracts the people from the normal world because they can avoid it and make their own world. This is a problem because it causes people to not be able to communicate well and lack social experience that they would have obtained through early in their lives.

  10. There were many concepts and there’s expressed in such works, but the one that I found most intriguing and that really pulled me in was Karl Marx ideas and beliefs on societies Commodity Fetishism. Marx says, “They themselves begin to distinguish themselves from animals as soon as they begin to produce their means of substance, a step which is conditioned by their physical organization. By producing their means of substance men are indirectly producing their actual material life.” In interrupted this quote as Marx saying that we are only different from animals because we have wants and have means of producing those wants. The unfortunate thing about us being able to produce things as we want them is that we allow those objects to consume us. In this society we are completely materialistic and we let our objects define us. Honestly I wouldn’t know who I was or what to do with myself if I didn’t have my phone, laptop, or tv. We as a society need to learn how to not let those objects have such an impact and control over our lives because it is limiting our physical interaction with each other. I would hate to see what the world ends up like if this continues.

  11. Karl Marx explains the idealogy of classes, politics, social structure, development, etc. Marx noticed the separation of classes in society and how man creates the development and structure of their society. In Karl Marx’s work, ‘A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy’, he states “In the social production of their life, men enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their will, relations of production which correspond to a definite stage of development of their material productive forces. The sum total of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which rises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness.” In the excerpt, Marx explains how men create a legal and political structure to society that enforces laws and regulations, in which social consciousness is established. Men are meant to produce economic structure in order to develop and live in a civil society. It is independent of any human will and the organization of society will, in the long run, establish liberty and justice legally/politically. If we did not live in a well put together society, then our education system would not be able to operate properly. In America, students are offered the right to a public education system, which is something we don’t see in third world countries. Without a proper education people would not be able to interact with others and would lack social experience.

  12. One of the ideas Karl Marx’s talks about that really interests me is his view on the division of labor. Marx’s talks a lot about how the structures are formed and what their purpose is. In one of his texts he says “The relations of different nations among themselves depend upon the extent to which each has developed its productive forces, the division of labor, and internal intercourse.” The relationship between different nations in reference to the division of labor is an important relationship to have. Without a proper system in place the trade industry wouldn’t be as strong as it is today. In today’s economy we use a similar idea of the division of labor as Marx’s describes. He talked about how “through the division of labor inside these various braches there develop various divisions among the individuals co-operating in definite kinds of labor.” He sees the division of labor as two main sections but those sections can be made into sub sets of different jobs and work types. That is the general idea of how our society works. We have agriculture and factories but inside of those wide fields of labor we have hundreds of smaller categories. The division of labor is something that is a necessity, because without it you cannot possibly do everything so it has to be divided between the large populations. The division of labor allows us to specialize in one thing and become the best that we can become within it, if we didn’t specialize in one job we would all be sub-par at whatever job we did.

  13. Karl Marx describes his experiences in “The Communist Manifesto.” This work was and still is a very well known and respected piece of work. From the separation of the social classes to education, he discusses it all in this work. Karl Marx noticed the major separation of classes in society and the mistreatment of many people. Marx says that although it may seem there are three plus groups of classes, there are really only two, the “haves” and the “have nots”. Marx believes that to have a structurally sound society, every citizen needs to put in work. This is also true for the success of oneself.

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