Marxism is a social, political, and economic philosophy named after Karl Marx (1818-1883).
Marxism has had a great historical influence on the organization of countries as well as numerous theories in sociology.
Marxism can be largely divided into three disciplinary fields, an economic and political program, a theory of history, and philosophical anthropology.
Nearly 150 years after his death, Karl Marx and his collaborator, Frederick Engels, remain some of the most controversial, yet influential figures in the western world.
Marxism as a political agenda has been utilized throughout history, the Russian revolution in 1917, where the ideas of Marx were influenced by the work of Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin under the umbrella of Marxism-Leninism.
Post-World War 2 the world was divided into two opposing camps, one representing liberal Capitalism in the United States of America and the other influenced by Marx’s idea of revolution: The Union of Soviet Socialist Republic.
Marx’s general ideas about society are known as his theory of historical materialism.
Materialism is the basis of his sociological thought because for Marx material conditions or economic factors affect the structure and development of society.
His theory is that material conditions essentially comprise technological means of production and human society is formed by the forces and relations of production.
Marx’s theory of historical materialism is historical. It is historical because Marx has traced the evolution of human societies from one stage to another.
It is called Materialistic because Marx has interpreted the evolution of societies in terms of their material or economic bases.
Materialism simply means that it is matter or material reality, which is the basis for any change.
Materialism means the materialist structure of society. It is how the super structure of society is based on economic infrastructure.
Marx’s theory of historical materialism is the materialistic interpretation of the history of societies. All the societies have experienced similar pattern of history and every history is built upon its materialist foundations.
Marx has tried to suggest that all society passes through unilinear evolution, every society progresses stage by stage and every society has marched ahead. He has suggested about the history of society, i.e.
Primitive Communism → Slavery → Feudalism→ Capitalism →Socialism →Communism
History for Marx goes in a dialectical form where there is a Thesis, Synthesis, and Antithesis.
The progression is enabled by the struggle between the two classes which gives rise to a new structure of society that is based on the resulting economic order.
The class struggle, therefore, is expressed in a dialectical nature.
Two classes are opposed to each other through various points in history: The owners of the means of production which is the bourgeoisie and the workers which are the proletariats.
The real battle lines are drawn between the “haves” & the “have-nots”, between the bourgeoisie (those who control the world’s economic, natural & human resources), & the proletariat (the majority of the global population who live in substandard conditions) that fills the coffers of the rich.
Primitive communism, in the hunting-gathering stages there was no private property hence there were no classes.
Ancient history had a class of slave owners who were the oppressing class and slaves who were the oppressed class.
During the Feudal period, the Landowners were the oppressing class and serfs were the oppressed class
During the Capitalist period, it is the bourgeoisie and proletariats, in the socialist phase the oppressing class would be the state managers and the workers would be oppressed, and eventually, communism would come into being and there will be classes in society.
Alienation comes from the Latin work Alienare which means to remove or take away.
For Karl Marx, it is a social or political process. He uses the term entfremdung which translates into estrangement which is separation or detachment from things to which they are naturally tied to.
Workers in a capitalist order are compelled to sell their labor to the capitalist and lose control over it and their labor becomes simply a means to the end of capitalists
They also have no control over the product of their labor.
They get estranged from their labor and the product of their labor.
Hence, the workers become alienated from their own self and own nature and also alienated from other human beings as well as their work.
Alienation for Marx is of four types:
1. Alienation of the worker from their product: The design and development of a production rest not in the hands of a worker but within the decisions of the capitalists. A worker does not have control over what he or she intends to produce or the specifications of his or her product.
2. Alienation of the worker from the act of production: The production of goods and services within a capitalist society is repetitive and mechanical that offers little to no psychological satisfaction to the worker. Labor seems coerced because a worker undertakes this as a means of survival.
3. Alienation of the worker from their species-essence: The species-essence or “Gattungswesen” of an individual comprises all of his or her innate potentials. Under a capitalist mode of production, an individual losses identity and the opportunity for self-development as he or she is forced to sell his or her labor-power as a market commodity.
4. Alienation of the worker from other workers: The reduction of labor to a mere market commodity creates the so-called labor market in which a worker competes against another worker. Labor is traded in a competitive labor market instead of considering it as a constructive socioeconomic activity characterized by collective common effort.
State and Revolution in Marxist Tradition
Apart from liberal state theory, Marxist state theory is arguably the most well-known.
Issue with the academic examination of the Marxist theory of the state is that the theory has never been rigorously examined by Marx.
Marx, Engels, and their followers (especially Lenin) were skeptical of the social contract theory as a source of state formation.
They've classified society's evolution into four categories:
Ancient communist society,
Feudal society, and
There was no state in the original communist society since private property did not exist.
The private property system served as a possible catalyst for the emergence of the state where the anti-state came to exist as a defense to private property.
For Marxist State will wither away with a communist revolution.
People will be able to move to a radical transformation of their position through revolution after they have become conscious of their loss, alienation, as a universal inhuman predicament.
This revolution will pave the way for the return of liberty and the foundation of communism.
Critiques of Marxism
Marx inspired multitudes of followers, but many of his predictions have not come to pass.
Marx believed that increasing competition would not produce better goods for consumers but would lead to bankruptcies and the rise of monopolies, with control of production in fewer and fewer hands.
Bankrupt former capitalists, he thought, would join the proletariat, eventually creating an army of the unemployed. In addition, the market economy which by its nature is unplanned, would experience crippling supply-and-demand problems and cause severe economic depressions.
Capitalism has not collapsed, but it has changed since Marx's time. Governments in many capitalist countries, including the U.S., have the power to crack down on monopolies and monopolistic business practices. Governments set minimum wages and regulatory agencies set standards for worker protection.
It is not the Utopian ideal. Economic inequality has increased in many capitalist societies.
There have been recessions periodically as well as one Great Depression, but they are not thought to be an inherent feature of free markets.
Indeed, a society entirely without competition, money, or private property has not materialized in the modern world, and recent history suggests it is unlikely to emerge in the future.
Is Marxism the Same Thing As Communism?
Marxism is a philosophy, while communism is a system of government based on Marxist principles. Marx envisioned a society in which workers owned the means of production. In real-world communism, governments own the means of production.
Marxism is the social and economic theory developed by Karl Marx in the 19th century.
Marxian economics describes the capitalist system of production as inherently unfair to the workers, who represent most of the population.
Marx's social theories connected these flaws of capitalism with a growing class conflict between labor and business owners, ultimately leading to a revolution that would empower the working class and create communal ownership of the means of production.
His theories have been tested in the real world.
The communist experiment in the Soviet Union ended in 1991. It continues to be tested in China, which is creating a hybrid social and economic system that Marx might not recognize.