Marx – Class Struggle and Political Power

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Profesor indrumator / Prezentat Profesorului: Victor Rizescu

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Domenii: Engleza, Stiinte Politice

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Marx, through his theories, has had an important influence over the lives of billions of people throughout the past century, and his theories still have an impact today, considering the number of people still living under a communist regime, regimes that have suffered alterations in time, but still have their roots in Marx’s theories. This makes Marx one of the most influential people of modern history, both from a political and a sociological point of view. Two of his most important works are The Communist Manifesto and The German Ideology, the latter published for the first time in 1932, after his death, although it was written together with Friedrich Engels in 1845.

Class struggle as seen by Marx is not a struggle between classes in the sociological sense of upper, middle and lower classes, but rather as economical clases, that had a large gap between them in the context of a capitalist world that was in at the peak of industrial revolution, in the second half of the 19th century. According to Marx, membership of a class is defined by one's relationship to the means of production, or the position one has in the social structure that characterizes capitalism. The two main classes pointed out by Marx are the ploretariat, the working class, and the bourgeoisie, and although there were other, smaller classes, these two incloded the vast majority of the population. Marx's class theory rests on the premise that the history of mankind has always been a history of class struggle. According to this view, ever since human society emerged from its primitive and relatively equal and undifferentiated state it has remained permanently divided between certain classes that struggle in the pursuit of their intrests. In the world of capitalism, for example, the basis of the capitalist system, the factory, is the most important place of antagonism between classes--between exploiters and exploited, between buyers and sellers of labor power--rather than of functional collaboration. Class interests and the confrontations of power that they bring in their wake are to Marx the central determinant of social and historical process. He considered that in every differentiated society the appearance of social conflicts is unavoidable, since such a society systematically generates conflicts of interest between persons and groups differentially located within the social structure, and, more particularly, in relation to the means of production. Marx was concerned with the ways in which specific positions in the social structure tended to shape the social experiences of of those who belong to a certain class and to predispose them to actions oriented to improve their collective fate.

Another very important theory formulated by Marx is the theory of alienation, the alienation of individuals tha are part of these classes. He states that in the modern, industrialized, capitalist world workers unavoidably lose control of their lives by losing control over their work and cease to be autonomous beings in any significant sense. In the past a craftsman would have a more personal contact with his work as well as in the relationships with those who he worked with. In contrast, in the new world created by the industrial revolution and capitalism, the average worker is not much more than a part that can easily be replaced in a gigantic and impersonal production machine, a machine in which armies of hired workers perform highly monotonous and closely supervised tasks, workers have essentially lost control over the process of production, over the products which they produce, and over the relationships they have with each other. As a consequence they have become estranged from their very human nature, which Marx understood to consist in free and productive activity. Human beings cannot be human under these conditions, and for this reason the implication was obvious for Marx: Capitalism has to be abolished as well as any political oppression if a society’s wants to be fully emancipated. Capitalism is just as incompatible with self-determination as absolute monarchy or any other autocratic system. But while an absolute monarchy limits people’s autonomy by controlling them in the sphere of politics, Capitalism does so by controlling their workplaces and their economic life. A society of truly free citizens, according to Marx, must therefor not only be a political, but also an economic and social democracy. But, as more and more people become part of this „machine”, the numbers of the opressed working class grow.

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