Notes: Marxism, Alienation
To Discuss Today
@ Intuitive motivations for criticizing capitalism
@ Marx’s theory of alienation
I. Why Study Marxism?
@ Historical reasons:
Marx was perhaps the most influential political philosopher in history.
~ 1/3 of the world lived under Marxist regimes in the late 20th century.
Central to 20th century geopolitics: the cold war, etc. The human race was almost destroyed over
@ There are still Marxists around today.
@ Many other thinkers are influenced by Marxian ideas.
@ Q: Did he have a valid criticism of capitalism?
II. Intuitive Background: Why People Oppose Capitalism?
@ Capitalist countries have large economic inequality.
Workers get low incomes.
Capitalists get high incomes.
But the workers are doing all the work!
This looks unjust.
@ Question: How do the capitalists get so much money? Why do the workers get so much less?
III. Background Economic Concepts
Three factors of production: Land, labor, capital.
Capital: Property that is used to produce other property. Ex.: Factory, investment capital.
Capitalists: People whose income derives from owning capital.
Marxists oppose private ownership of capital.
IV. The Theory of “Alienation”
@ Alienation: The separation of something from oneself that would properly belong to (or be connected to) oneself (making it “alien”).
@ Marx: in a capitalist society, workers suffer 4 kinds of alienation:
1. Worker is alienated from the products of labor. Two points:
@ Simple point: The goods produced by the worker don’t belong to him. They belong to the capitalist. @ Weird point: Marx implies that the product is actually harmful to the worker:
“The worker becomes poorer the more wealth he produces.” (1.6)
“[T]he object which labor produces ... stands opposed to it as an alien thing.” (2.2)
“The life he has given to the object confronts him as hostile and alien.” (2.4)
Why does he say this? He seems to assume:
a. The interests of worker & capitalist are inherently opposed.
b. The product belongs to the capitalist.
c. So it makes the capitalist more powerful.
d. This is against the worker’s interests.
2. Worker is alienated from himself (?) or from his labor during the production process.
@ Work is unpleasant and require suppressing one’s true desires. “the worker ... denies himself, feels miserable and unhappy ...” (3.7)
@ The worker acts under the direction of someone else.
@ But he has to work to survive.
@ Hence, work is “not voluntary, but coerced, forced labor.” (3.7)
@ Worker is alienated from his life, since life consists of activity, which for the worker is mainly labor. 3. Worker is alienated from his “species-life” or “human essence.”
@ Alienation from “nature”:
S The natural world is part of us. “Nature is the inorganic body of man.” (4.4)
S The worker doesn’t get to own material resources; hence, he doesn’t get to own parts of
S Hence, he is alienated from nature.
S Hence, he is alienated from a part of himself.
@ Alienation from “species-life”:
S The essence of human beings is activity.
S Because workers are alienated from their labor, which is their main activity, they are thus alienated from their own essence.
4. Worker is alienated from other people.
@ Because the worker’s interests are opposed to the capitalist. “If his activity is torment for him, it must be [...] pleasure [...] for another.” (6.3) (“Another” here refers to the capitalist.)
Notes: Marxism, Exploitation
I. Background Economic Concepts
@ Two kinds of value:
- Use value: The value an item has in virtue of one’s ability to consume/use it.
- Exchange value: The value an item has in virtue of one’s ability to trade it for something. Market value. @ Capital: physical goods used in producing more goods. Ex.: Factories, tools, money useable for investment. @ ‘Capitalists’: People whose…