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Answer the following:
#1 Referring to this week’s readings, put forth the strongest defense possible of communism. (In other words, argue in support or in favor of communism).
#2 Referring to this week’s readings, put forth the strongest refutation of communism. (In other words, argue against communism).
#3 Do you believe communism or capitalism is a more effective system? Why? Be sure to support your explanation by referring to this week’s readings by Marx.
Use required sources only for citations:
2. Lecture: Alienation, Economic Exploitation and Class Struggle
Karl Marx (1818-1883) is a controversial thinker. Marx wrote a number of influential
texts including The German Ideology, Capital, and the Communist Manifesto, etc. He
was born in Trier, educated at the University of Berlin and Bonn and lived throughout
Europe (he was forced to move many times – he was expelled from Paris and Brussels;
the newspaper he edited in Germany was closed for attacking the government). He was a
journalist and the son of a Jewish lawyer. Marx had a major impact on the course of
European history and has influenced countless thinkers including Gramsci, Trotsky,
Sartre, Althusser, etc.
During the industrial revolution, Marx provided a critique of capitalism as inhuman and
unfair. Marx claimed that capitalism was doomed to self-destruct. As entrepreneurs
strive to maximize profit, they eliminate on an increasing basis the cash flow of
individuals who could buy their products. Capitalism, a system of private property, free
market enterprise, and competition, was inhuman according to Marx because it treated
people as interchangeable cogs without any intrinsic value or dignity. Humans became
alienated as they performed mindless and repetitive workplace tasks for the majority of
their waking hours (you may want to check out the film “Modern Times,” a classic
Charlie Chaplin film).
The state proclaimed itself to be “for the people, of the people,” but for Marx, the state
was an instrument of the ruling class. In fact, all institutions in society – religion;
education; media; family, etc. are designed to perpetuate the unfair economic system
called capitalism and make the dispossessed think that capitalism was the only option.
Marx believed that religion, especially Christianity, was “the opiate of the masses.” For
Marx, Christianity was an ideology that gave the poor and dispossessed solace that life
would be better later, after one died and went to heaven. For Marx, this was a lie that
rich capitalists invented to pacify the masses and make them accept their poverty and
misery. Capitalists promoted “false consciousness,” the lack of awareness of their real
interests, amongst the masses.
Marx envisioned an alternative mode of social and economic relations without
exploitation. He called this utopian form of social organization communism. Marx
believed communism was an ideal way humans could live together. In capitalist systems,
the workers and the ruling class were engaged in a relentless struggle. The ruling class
consisting of rich capitalists needed cheap labor and tried to pay the workers as little as
possible while extracting as much labor as possible from them. Life would be better for
everyone in a communist system; everyone would benefit equally and share with each
other.The legacy and relevance of Marx today is clear to see in the 2008-2009 government
bailout of the financial sector in America. Were any poor people bailed out for making
unwise business decisions? Were any poor individuals bailed out for gambling their
money away in Las Vegas?
For Citations 3 – 9 use Lemert, C. (Ed.). (2013). Social Theory: The Multicultural, Global, and Classic Readings (5th ed.). Boulder, CO: Westview
#3 “Modernity’s Classical Age: 1848-1919,” Lemert, pp. 19-27
#4 “Karl Marx,” in Lemert text, p. 28
#5 “Estranged Labour,” Marx, in Lemert, pp. 29-33
#6 “The Manifesto of Class Struggle,” Marx and Engels, in Lemert, pp. 34-37
#7 “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte,” Marx, in Lemert, pp. 37-40*
*To help you understand “The Eighteenth Brumaire…” and the historical context in which it was written, please look up brief online information, such as Wikipedia entries, on the following: “French Revolution,” “Napoleon Bonaparte,” “Louis Bonaparte,” “French coup d’etat of 1851,” lumpenproletariat, and “Society of December 10.”
#8 “Capital and the Values of Commodities,” Marx, in Lemert, pp. 41-47
#9 “Labour-Power and Capital,” Marx, in Lemert, pp. 49-52
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