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Fr. Karl Marx’s The German Ideology (also Friedrich Engels)

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1 Fr. Karl Marx’s The German Ideology (also Friedrich Engels)
Marxism Fr. Karl Marx’s The German Ideology (also Friedrich Engels)

2 Context The German Ideology was originally written in 1840s.
It was influenced by the French Revolution (1789 – 99), driven largely by the idea that freedom could never be possible in an unequal society. It was also influenced by Hegelian Philosophy that maintained history is the development of ideas.

3 Context (cont.) The German Ideology was not published until 1932 in Moscow; Russian government used The Ideology out of context to support the political transition to full national communism. The German Ideology’s understanding has been confused because The Communist Manifesto (1848) was published first. The Ideology contextualizes The Manifesto.

4 Important to Remember The German Ideology explains how things are (“the materialist conception of history”); it does not advocate for anything. Philosophically, Marx and Engels wanted to author a socialist vision that was realistic, rather than idealistic. (They move toward this with The Communist Manifesto – but understand that socialism/communism in Manifesto is likely not what you believe those concepts to be. There is a difference between what Marx wrote, and what the Soviet Union did.)

5 The Basics Marx does not offer a theory as much as an idea that is foundational to all contemporary theories we will study. (All theories, in some way, either react to or continue from Marxist ideologies.)

6 The Basics (cont.) This selection, specifically, is a continuation of the ideas of Ludwig Feuerbach who wrote in response to Kantian idealism of the 1700s. Idealism, philosophically, means: We can only know how things appear to us Nothing has an inherent existence There is no “thing in itself”

7 The Materialist Method (p. 42)
History is about real people – what they do and how they live (production) Production creates material life Men differ from animals because of production Humans cannot be separated from their material / what they produce Production determines relationships between people (qt. p. 42, bottom)

8 Division of Labor (p. 43) The relation of individuals to one another is the process of production Sophistication of production = sophistication of nation As production increases, divisions of labor become more defined Divisions of labor are made up of forms / stages of ownership (stufen – suggests both a process and can stand alone)

9 First Stage of Ownership: Tribal (p. 44)
Undeveloped production Society based in hunting and gathering Live in tribes and / or families Transition to Stage Two: Family / tribe becomes hierarchical as population increases More production (food) needed With more produced, more is available – leads to wants (materialistic) rather than needs (materialist)

10 Second Stage of Ownership: Communal (p. 44)
Several tribes / families join to form a city, or community (either forced or agreed) Leads to a more developed division of labor (more people means specific people need to have specific duties / jobs) Private property exists – naturally, not intentionally (people have stuff and they move it around with them) Transition to Stage Three: Class distinctions begin to form with work and property Private interests become more important than those of the community The existence of different cities / communities creates a natural conflict

11 Third Stage of Ownership: Feudal / Estate (p. 45-46)
Clear class divisions and duties Production becomes specialized – guilds, crafts, etc Power lies with land owners and also people with specialized trades (representing “different conditions of production”) – not a true division of labor Rise of the marketplace

12 (Implied) Fourth Stage of Ownership: Capitalism (p. 52 - 53 ish)
Division of labor (or not) leads to forced positions in society Positions in society create competition as people try to acquire the most of what is produced This system will destroy society because it breaks down what was a community into individuals

13 The Cure for Capitalism (p. 52 ->)
Marx offers true communism as the cure to capitalism With communism, there is no division of labor, no private property, no class distinctions Without communism, capitalism will become the 4th stage and will drive the world with only a few ruling countries Marx recognizes the impossibility of communism in practice, but calls for a change to combat the inevitability of capitalism

14 Tangent (pp. 46 – 51) The production of things leads to a production of ideas – ideas become things that people produce. Our actions dictate our thoughts. (This is contrary to Hegelian philosophy that history is about ideas. Marx always believes history is about people and people produce ideas.) “Life is not determined by consciousness, but consciousness by life” (47).

15 Tangent (cont.) Cultural Superstructure is created from the thoughts that are created from the production that is a product of the people. All cultural superstructures are based on socioeconomics, power relationships, class struggles, etc. Who you are determines what you think: The life you lead, dictates the ideas you have.

16 Tangent (cont.) - Superstructures
Religion (our life is not based off our religion, we practice a religion based upon our life) Law (we don’t base our choices on the laws, we create laws that fit with our lives) Philosophy Art Ideas Family Language

17 Tangent (cont.) Production of ideas creates man – men will produce others who think the same (this is the purpose of religion and school, and other cultural superstructures) “consciousness is a social product” (51) [Comber comment – not in Marx: all theories of social construction stem from Marx]

18 Works Cited Marx, Karl and Frederick Engels (sic). The German Ideology. Trans. International Publishers Co Ed. C.J. Arthur. NY: International Publishers, Print.

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