Posted 04 March 2013 - 04:44 PM
I grew up on Limbaugh and Michael Savage, so of course anything involving any aspect of Marxism or feminist movements is categorically rejectable based on their names alone. However, in reading about the ideas of modes and means of production and the political versus domestic economy and the relationship between infrastructure, structure, and superstructure, I've realized that these things make a whole lot of sense and an enormous amount of people that would be otherwise fascinated by unpacking the nuts and bolts of how societies integrate and interact with themselves and others hear the name Engels or Marx and rage flip the table and refuse to go any further into it.
Frankly I think it says something significant about how certain words have the power to trigger connotations - right or wrong - and shape the way we view the entire world.
Anyway I'm a total novice when it comes to these ideas, so I'd love the collective input of anyone who has an opinion on Marxist philosophy one way or another (we'll leave the feminism out of it... that was just a tool to show how putting two "terrible" ideologies togther can trigger a gut response based on an individual's opposing paradigm. )
Posted 04 March 2013 - 04:49 PM
the ideas of modes and means of production and the political versus domestic economy and the relationship between infrastructure, structure, and superstructure
a huge part of what i am saying is that the above concepts are central to Marxism and i sure as hell didn't understand them back when i railed against it with full assurance of the presence of God and The Order of Things at my back, but i was convinced i understood Marxism/Stalinism/Communism/Socialism (they were all the same thing to me) and now i've realized i really don't at all (or i'm only just beginning to.)
i really want to unpack all this and see what we find.
Posted 04 March 2013 - 05:18 PM
but honestly I haven't read any Marx in 12 years or so, so I'm not as fluent as I used to be...
Posted 04 March 2013 - 05:55 PM
Posted 04 March 2013 - 06:13 PM
Posted 04 March 2013 - 06:14 PM
What's the short version of Marxism?
I have some ideas but I'd like to wait and see what else is offered first. Right now my understanding of it is only cursory
Posted 04 March 2013 - 06:16 PM
What's the short version of Marxism?
this is a good explanation i came across a few weeks ago on reddit.
Wrong. Please read my other explanation. I'm tired of explaining this to people and having it go over their heads. You are no doubt an American (or Brit) as am I (American). Because of this your conception is completely skewed. A little reading outside of what you've had drilled into your brain your whole life would go a long way.
Here is a brief article from a friend who has a degree in economics (mine is in history)
MARXISM, IN A NUTSHELL
For the past few months I’ve been studying and reading Karl Marx’s most important work: Capital (Das Kapital). This thing is enormous. It’s three volumes, containing over 2000 pages. In it Marx attempted to figure out and explain how capitalism ‘works’… What he came up with is fascinating. It is a very detailed and intricate analysis.
While Marx is commonly known for being the “father of communism” the reality is that his major accomplishment is his examination of capitalism. In fact, this may surprise you, Marx never wrote about how communism ‘works,’ which is kind of strange for someone that is considered the father of it.
Unfortunately, there is such a negative stigma attached to Marx that we, as a society, are missing out on a very interesting perspective for understanding capitalism.
In this post, I will lay out the essence of what Marx was trying to tell us about capitalism. His book Capital is much, much, much more intricate and detailed. But the following is the big picture.
Throughout all of human history there is something that happens, no matter what kind of society, no matter when in human history, that we as humans fail to appreciate, consider and integrate into how we understand the world we live in: some people use their brains and their body to transform nature in a useful way, i.e. they do work, and some people do not. The easiest and most simple example is babies. They are not doing work. Often elderly people do not work. Very sick people do not work. Sometimes people who can work, i.e. they are mentally and physically capable of doing work, also do not work.
This raises a question: how is it possible for people who do not work to survive?
In order for it to be possible for some people to not work and also survive, be it a baby or a capable adult, it must be true that those who do work, produce more stuff than they themselves consume. Otherwise, the people who do not work would die.
For each person that works, the produce of their work that goes to maintaining themselves, Marx calls Necessary Labor, and the produce of their work that they do not consume themselves, Marx calls Surplus Labor.
So, Marx asks: how does any given society decide 1) who will work, how will they work, and how much of what they produce will go to them… 2) who will not work, but live off of the surplus labor of those who do work, and how much will they get?
Marx says that how a society decides to deal with this issue shapes the society in various ways: culturally, politically, economically, etc… and if we don’t recognize how this shapes society, we are missing a very important part of understanding how and why our society is the way it is.
Again: who works, who doesn’t, how much of the produce does each group get, and how is that decided.
Marx breaks the history of humans down into 5 types of arrangements based on how the Surplus is distributed to those who do not produce it.
1)) Communism – a community or a group of people work together, and they produce a surplus, maintain it, and themselves distribute it to those that do not work.
For example, if a group of us grow some food, and we have more than we are going to consume, we decide how to distribute the extra.
2)) Ancient – the work is not done not by a group of people, but by individuals alone. This would be someone that is self-employed, and produces stuff on his or her own.
For example, if I grow some food, and I have more than I am going to consume, I decide how to distribute the extra.
At this point, Marx makes a distinction. The following three types of arrangement have something in common that is different than the first two, and it is this: the people who do the work that produces the surplus are not in control of the surplus that they produce, and therefore are not in control of distributing it. Marx calls these systems exploitative. The producers of the surplus are exploited, and all this means is that the producers of the surplus do not maintain and distribute the extra.
3)) Slave – if the work is done by a person or a group of people and none of what that person or the group produces belongs to them. What they produce is maintained and distributed by the slave owner.
For example, if a slave produces some food, the slave owner decides how much the slave gets, how much the slave owner gets, and how to distribute the extra.
4)) Feudalism – the work is done by a serfs, and some of the time is spent producing what is for them, and some other amount of time is spent producing what then belongs to the feudal lord. The lord maintains and distributes the surplus.
For example, if a serf produces some food, some of the food belongs to the serf, and the rest belongs to the feudal lord, and the feudal lord decides how to maintain and distribute the extra.
5)) Capitalist – the work is done by wage or salary earners, and they do not control, maintain, or distribute the surplus that they produce. They receive a wage or salary, and all of what they produce belongs to the capitalist/owner.
For example, if some workers grow some food, they are paid a wage or salary equivalent to some of that food, but importantly not all of it, and the capitalist maintains control of and distributes the surplus/extra.
Marx claims, I think correctly, there is only one reason why a capitalist/owner/employer would pay a worker a wage or salary, and that is if he or she is going to get more out of the worker than the value of what worker contributes during his or her working hours.
What’s interesting is this relationship, between the capitalist/employer and the worker/employee, is that it is closest to the slave/slave owner relationship. Hence why sometimes capitalism is referred to as wage-slavery. They are certainly not the same, but strangely they are more similar to each other than the capitalist and the ancient is. (again, ancient refers to self-employed)
Here’s an irony: in our modern day capitalist America, the American Dream for a lot of people is to be self-employed. According to Marx, self-employment is NOT capitalism. It is the “ancient” form of production. Capitalism, on the other hand, is a relationship where someone (a capitalist), pays someone else (a worker), to do work for them, and in this relationship the worker contributes MORE than they receive in the form of a wage or salary. It is precisely in paying workers less than they contribute that the capitalist/owner is able to make a profit.
The common objection to this Marxist perspective is: “But the capitalist/owner is risking his or her own money in the business, so they have to receive a profit, or why else would they invest their money in starting a business.”
Indeed, I don’t think Marx would disagree. That's how capitalism 'works'...
This is Marx's FUNDAMENTAL insight of capitalism: the profits of capitalists/owners come from the exploitation of workers, i.e. paying them less than the value they contribute to the business.
This raises an interesting question: is what’s best for our ‘Job-Creators’ in America (capitalists/owners)... also what’s best for the majority of Americans who live on wages and salaries?
Is it any wonder that Marxism is a taboo subject in America? What if Marxism becomes common knowledge, and workers start thinking to themselves: do we really need the capitalists/owners? Could we collectively run businesses and make decisions as groups, i.e. communally (communist)? If so, wouldn't we then get the full value of what we contribute in our working hours?
EDIT: How did this blow up after 3 weeks?
Now I see...even though they gave the wrong redditor credit for it in the post...it's all good
EDIT 2: Thanks for the Reddit gold! I love these discussion and would love to reply to all of you but there is just too much here...I can't even read everything. I enjoy hearing your thoughts whether pro or con.
MARXISM, IN A NUTSHELL (continued…)
Hello Everyone. I wrote the Marxism, In a Nutshell piece. My friend posted it here on Reddit. This is amazing how many of ya’ll are interested in Marx. It’s really great. Marx has some very interesting things to tell us. Unfortunately hundreds of comments are too overwhelming to even begin responding to some of you. But there are a few things I want to make clear and I guess a few things I’ll just say…
 For full disclosure: MARXISM, IN A NUTSHELL is not 100% original by me. When I wrote it, it wasn’t intended for a mass audience so I did not cite where I was paraphrasing. The section between the two sets of three dots ( … ) is the framework that Richard Wolff uses in his talks. Youtube him. He is a very interesting Marxist economist. The writing before and after ( … ) is 100% my commentary. I used the dots to note to myself where I was directly borrowing from someone else and where I was wasn’t.
 The piece is NOT a summary of Marx’s book Capital. That book is far more complex, intricate and specific. The piece IS my general impression of Marx’s ‘main point’ i.e. what he was telling us about Capitalism if it was to all be distilled down to around 1000 words. Again, this is it (in my opinion): the way capitalism ‘works’ is through the exploitation of labor by capitalists, where exploitation means the maintenance and distribution of the Surplus created by labor. Very much simplified. HOW it all happens is laid out in much much much more detail by Marx in Capital.
Also, a lot of people go into a frenzy over the word exploitation. They get very defensive of capitalism. Settle down. Marx is just describing how he understands that Capitalism ‘works’ … and it does not in and of itself say whether some other system (e.g. Communism) is better or worse. It could be that capitalist exploitation is the best system we can come up with for promoting general welfare and technological innovation, etc. Maybe. Maybe not. That's what's interesting about economics!
 David Harvey.
Along with the above mentioned Richard Wolff is another very interesting and informative Marxist named David Harvey. Youtube him. If you’re honestly interested in Marx’s Capital and haven’t read it, you’re in luck!..
David Harvey does a lecture series called Reading Marx’s Capital. If you youtube or google it you will be able to find it. It’s worth listening to on its own. You’ll get even more out of it if you read Capital along with it, as he suggests that you do. Again, if you’re interested in Marxism: look up Richard Wolff and David Harvey. If they don’t stir up your fascination, then I reckon it's time you move on to some other topic that does interest you.
 Lastly, one commenter on here clearly has read Capital. This is that person's comment:
“You've certainly done a good job of describing some of the themes included in Capital. However, and as you stated, the first volume alone is over 1,200 pages long. Thus, although you're certainly justified in your complaint about Marx's work having been distilled into a "communist rant," your comment really obscures some very important themes. First, you left out a discussion (or summary) about the differences between exchange value and use value. This discussion is incredibly important (especially Marx's discussion of the fetishization of the commodity), as it establishes the foundation of Marx's critique of capitalism. Second, you ignore Marx's description of variable capital and constant capital. This discussion is especially important for those who want an historical analysis of how the industrial revolution exacted further pressure upon the work force. Third, Marx's discussion of how unemployment tends to reduce the bargaining power of the worker (Marx calls the pool of unemployed people the "reserve army of labor"). Fourth, one cannot leave out of their summary of Capital the concept of primitive accumulation of capital (which Marx refers to as the "original sin" whereby the capitalist-relation is begun (it involves wealthy aristocrats expropriating the peasants' land and forcing them into the factories). Finally, one of Marx's most important concepts (at least as regards Volume 1) is the tendency for the rate of profit to decline: the idea that as a market becomes saturated, the rate by which profit is made tends to decline--forcing capitalists to constantly find new markets in which to sell their commodities. I do not mean to insult you with this comment; only to suggest that any summary of Capital, no matter how small or off the cuff, should include mention of the above concepts. It's these concepts that truly make Marx's thinking unique and useful. Finally, if you're discussing Marx (and Capital) as a foundation for social action (where you wrote "What if Marxism becomes common knowledge, and workers start thinking to themselves), you should include a portion of the subsequent thinkers who revised some of Marx's ideas to better fit the post mid-19th century world. Recommended reading might include Rosa Luxemburg, Antonio Gramsci, Frank, Wallerstein, Samir Amin, and (contemporary writer) Noam Chomsky. Thesewriters have made important contributions to, and corrections of, Marxist thinking.” If you take the time to read Capital then you will understand what this commenter is talking about… i.e. the Nuts and Bolts of HOW Capitalism ‘works’…
Cheers ya’ll… ¡Viva la Revolución!
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