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Locke and Marx: The Logic of Capitalism. What is the relationship between capitalism and democracy? Do you have to have one to have the other?

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Presentation on theme: "Locke and Marx: The Logic of Capitalism. What is the relationship between capitalism and democracy? Do you have to have one to have the other?"— Presentation transcript:

1 Locke and Marx: The Logic of Capitalism

2 What is the relationship between capitalism and democracy? Do you have to have one to have the other?

3 Is capitalism a triumph of the human spirit? Or is it a complete degradation of the value and meaning of human life?

4 We hold these truths to be self- evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.


6 John Locke Inventor of liberal democracy (1632 - 1704)

7 Thomas Hobbes on gov’t  Human beings in the State of Nature Human beings are naturally selfish, competitive, and ruthless, but they are rational  Purpose of government To protect us from one another; keep us from behaving in the savage way we would in nature  Form of government recommended Absolute monarchy (totalitarianism)

8 Locke on government  Human beings in the State of Nature Human beings are naturally moral, cooperative, free and rational  Purpose of government To protect our natural God-given rights to life, freedom, and property. Otherwise, it should intrude in your life as little as possible [laissez-faire]  Form of government recommended Liberal democracy

9 “Self-evident” truths  All human beings are created equal, and in the state of nature they tend to be moral, cooperative, and benevolent  Government serves a rational purpose, and should exist by rational consensus  Its purpose is to protect the natural rights of individuals  Chief among these rights are life, freedom and private property  Apart from protecting rights, government should keep its nose out of people’s business. [laissez-faire]  If the government fails in protecting the people’s right, the people have a right to overthrow it

10 The Declaration of Independence (1776) We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

11 Locke: “Life, liberty, & property”

12 The Labour Theory of Value Locke: Anything into which I mix my labour becomes my property. According to Locke, the reason you have a natural right to your property, what makes something your property, is the work you have put into it. Your work (investment of energy, effort) makes it legitimately a part of you or an extension of you, your own, something you own.

13 The Labour Theory of Value Locke considered many things other than land and personal possessions to be our “private property” – including our lives themselves and basically anything on which one expends one’s energy, for example 1. A relationship 2. A creative work (art, an idea, “intellectual property,” etc) 3. The things one does in private (sex, religion, etc)

14 Locke’s America In the 1680s... Almost 100 years before the Declaration of Independence; Huron tribes where Toronto is today Locke often uses America for an example of “man in the state of nature” At that time America was a land of boundless opportunity for Europeans looking to mix their labour with the land and create property for themselves This is probably one of the reasons Locke was so popular in the American colonies ; his ideas could be easily applied there

15 What is property?

16 Life, liberty, pursuit of property? One could argue that when John Locke and Thomas Jefferson came up with liberal democracy, the freedoms they had in mind to protect were not really the freedom to amass as much wealth as you want, to exploit as many people as you need to in the process, and to impinge on the freedoms enjoyed by people even in other countries if it will allow you to continue to amass wealth.

17 What Locke couldn’t foresee...  Increasing scarcity of resources  Industrialization of workforce  Emergence of a class system which made inequalities hereditary (education, capital, etc)  Hereditary and capitalist property that is not actually based on labour, and where the owner may mix almost nothing of his body or soul into the resource he is exploiting

18 a number of people were asking themselves...  What if the assumptions of liberalism – that humans are naturally moral and cooperative, that property is the result of labour, that individual freedom is the most important thing there is – are actually misguided?  What if liberal democracy doesn’t necessarily serve to bring happiness to the greatest number of people, and in fact has come to gloss over what is actually an oppressive system that allows most people to live powerless and largely meaningless lives while a small number of other people exploit them? By the middle of the 1800s


20 Next week: Debate Resolved: Private property* should be abolished * Private property, in Marx’s sense, as opposed to personal property.

21 What do you know about Marx? Marx

22 You don’t know shit about Marx. Marx German philosopher (1818 – 1883)

23 Karl Marx  Marx disapproved of capitalism.  Marx hated class inequality.  Just like Locke and Thomas Jefferson, Marx actively advocated revolution to overthrow unjust government.  Marx wanted the workers (as opposed to an elite) to have the power and control over their own labour and the products of it.

24 Karl Marx  Marx did not believe there should be a single strong dictator.  Marx was not against freedom of speech.  Marx did not think everyone should dress the same or be the same.  Marx would not have liked the centralized bureaucracies of the Soviet Union and Red China.

25 Marx on human nature: Marx didn’t think that human beings were born with any “state of nature” attributes or rights – he thought that social and economic relations created human nature, and changing the structure of society would change human nature. Karl Marx

26 Isn’t Marxism dead? With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the new capitalism of China and Cuba, hasn’t Marx been proven wrong forever?

27 Even if his historical predictions were wrong and the two most famous governments created in his name both became oppressive regimes that denied human freedom, Marx’s analysis of capitalism is still the most complex and detailed ever made, and one that is still read and studied by friends and enemies of capitalism alike. The Critique of Capitalism

28 Capitalist democracy is often assumed to serve the best interests of the individual. In what ways might that be a false assumption? The Critique of Capitalism

29 Crash course in Marxist ideas  Private property  Bourgeoisie and proletariat  Work: exploitation, alienation, the means of production, opiates  Exploitation and alienation  Division of labour  Commodification

30 Locke (liberal democracy): Private property is one of the three essential rights that government is there to protect. Marx (communism): Private property is the first thing a good government must abolish. Private Property

31 Marx sometimes distinguished between “private property” and “personal property.” Personal property is stuff you actually use in your life: your car, your furniture, your appliances, maybe even your house and your land if you actually use it (e.g., for raising vegetables). Private property is something you own but don’t use (except as an investment or in order to make profit or interest); often other people use it, e.g. an apartment building, a factory, a plantation worked by slaves, etc. “Personal” Property

32 Private Property Marx didn’t want to abolish personal property; he wanted to abolish private property. Why?

33 Private Property  Marx thought that private property was the main thing that made possible the latest version of a division of human beings into HAVES and HAVE-NOTS. There has been three basic forms of this division in the course of human history: 1. Owners/slaves (ancient world) 2. Nobility/serfs (medieval world) 3. Bourgeoisie/proletariat (modern world)

34 With thanks to Nathan Radke (owners)(workers) Bourgeoisie & proletariat

35 Pimps & prostitutes  Exploitation The pimp makes money from the labour of the prostitute  Alienation The prostitute is separated from her fellow workers, from true investment in the work she does, and from her own body  Means of production The pimp “owns” the neighbourhood or the brothel  Opiates Rampant drug use

36 Bourgeoisie & proletariat  Exploitation We have to sell our bodies and our work, the owners make the profit  Alienation Most of us don’t feel our work belongs to us; we may not put ourselves into our work or be allowed to make it our own  Means of production We don’t have control over the company, the factory, the store, the restaurant etc  Opiates Religion and other forms of fantasy & escapism keep us from dwelling on these unhappy facts of our present real existence (owners)(workers)

37 “The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his “natural superiors”, and has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous “cash payment”. It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervour, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom — Free Trade. In one word, for exploitation that was veiled by religious and political illusions it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation.” - Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto The bourgeoisie has only one ideal: exploitation

38 But – this exploitation and greed are not out in the open all the time. Instead, Marx argued, the actual social domination inherent in the system is hidden, reinterpreted, legitimized, and “naturalized” by capitalist culture. The workers live in a state of false consciousness, believing that they can become owners and that this is a worthwhile ambition, believing that the capitalist system is natural and inevitable, perhaps believing the absolute value of work gives them moral status, and believing that the commodity relationships that inform life under capitalism are real, natural, and eternal, when in fact they are created by humans, disconnected from social and material reality, and can be changed. False Consciousness

39 The Division of Labour









48 In making each individual responsible for only a small part of the production or service process, capitalism distributes and mystifies responsibility and control of what happens. No one is entirely responsible for – or often even aware of – all the steps in the process. This takes away from the meaningfulness and reality of what is actually happening, and from each person’s feeling of emotional involvement and personal investment in the labour. We are oblivious to the origins, ultimate motives, and final consequences of the work we do.

49 The Division of Labour Marx: “With the division of labour the worker is depressed spiritually and physically to the condition of a machine.” Efficiency or expediency are prized above human potential and spirit. Money is more important than a meaningful existence. “Progress” is at the expense of full and meaningful work for people during their actual lives.

50 A commodity is a good or service thought of in terms of its exchange value as though that were its intrinsic value. Commodities = $1.50

51 = $250.00/hr

52 =

53 = $11/hour

54 =

55 Commodification Disregards the real use value of a good or service to concentrate on its exchange value

56 Commodification Ignores the real labour value that went into a good or service

57 = $2.00 Commodification Fetishizes the products of labour and the relations between the commodities at the expense of the labour itself and the relations between the humans involved Commodity fetishism gives commodities a mystified status that can be almost religious and that abstracts them from the human meaning they have in the real ways they are produced and used

58 What’s so bad about capitalism? 1. Private property is wrong, because it is not based on labour, because it wastes resources, and because nobody should own anything that doesn’t also “own” them 2. Workers are exploited and alienated from their labour – you are a prostitute 3. The division of labour removes individuals from the full meaning, the motives and origins, and the consequences of their work – you don’t experience the chicken dying and you don’t experience the customer eating it 4. Commodification of goods and services empties them of their material and human value and meaning – wake up and smell the Starbucks

59 What’s so bad about capitalism? Capitalism turns you into a machine and a commodity in the name of profit. It has no belief in the value of a human being beyond their exchange value. It has no higher goals for humanity. It divides humans into haves and have-nots and tends to keep them there. It makes greed and exploitation the ideals of humankind.

60 Marx viewed social history as a series of socioeconomic systems that gradually replace each other: slavery ==> feudalism ==> capitalism ==> socialism Under socialism, the means of production would be held collectively, the welfare of the people would come before profit, and each citizen would share in society's resources and be expected to contribute to society: "from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.“ The Socialist Future

61 Marx called for a revolution to abolish private property and to redistribute social, economic, and political power. Those who do the work would “own” the means of production (farms, forests, factories, patents, technologies, etc). Everyone would work and everyone would share in the fruits of labour in this life. Workers of the world unite!

62 What happened? Some people tried it


64 ... and “communism” has been proved wrong in Russia and China and Cuba... So now that Marxism is dead

65  Social institutions under capitalism reinforce the existing power structures, which are based squarely on exploitation  The media and our culture tell us there is no other acceptable and viable way of living as humans (capitalism is the one true “world religion” today)  Resistance (from hippies to hiphop) is difficult, as capitalism embraces and exploits even the methods and expressions of resistance There is no alternative to being a pimp or a prostitute

66  At least up to middle management – in fact, if we work for anyone else at all – we are with very few exceptions living the lives of alienated prostitutes in our work  Most people’s main goal in life is to become a pimp instead of a prostitute There is no alternative to being a pimp or a prostitute

67 Be sure you understand (not just memorize) these terms and concepts:  Assumptions of liberal democracy (“self-evident truths”)  Locke’s labour theory of value  Personal property vs private property (Marx)  Bourgeoisie and proletariat  Exploitation and alienation  Division of labour  Commodification (as something bad)

68 Quiz (worth 2 marx)

69 1.What does Locke think property is? How does this differ from what property actually is under modern capitalism? 2.Marx distinguished between private property and personal property. Explain. 3.Explain each of these concepts in terms of Marx’s view of capitalist labour: Exploitation, Alienation, Means of Production, Opiates. 4.What is bad about the division of labour?

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