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Karl Marx I: Historical Materialism

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1 Karl Marx I: Historical Materialism

2 Key points of today’s lectures (i):
1) Marx not a sociologist like Durkheim, but a revolutionary who wanted to radically change society. 2) Marx’s analytical approach to history and society = ‘Historical Materialism’ 3) This focuses upon ‘material factors’ – how labour and production are organised. 4) Marx believes this is the ‘real foundation’ or economic ‘base’ of society, which determines the ‘superstructure’ (i.e. politics, institutions, culture, ideas) 5) This base is organised in two main ways: i) by its technological level - ‘forces of production’ ii) by its social relationships – ‘relations of production’

3 Key points of today’s Lectures (ii)
6) Relations of production = the relations between social classes. So class divisions are rooted in the way production is organised 7) The combination of the relations of production + the forces of production = the mode of production: Different societies through history have different modes of production 8) Modern industrial society is based on the capitalist mode of production (or ‘capitalism’) 9) In capitalism, one class (the capitalist class) owns all the productive assets. The other class (the working class) owns only its labour power, which it must sell to the capitalist class in exchange for wages. 10) This is an unfair exchange, as the capitalists are able to exploit the workers – this is how they make a profit. 11) The only way to end this exploitative relationship is for the workers to overthrow capitalism and establish a classless society (i.e. communism)

4 Outline of today’s lectures
1) History of Marx & Marxism 2) Marx’s Influences 3) Key concepts • Marx’s Aims • Human nature • Historical Materialism • Class struggle 4) Mode of production 5) Social change: Revolution 6) Capitalism & Communism 7) Evaluation

5 History of Marx & Marxism
Karl Marx ( ) Friedrich Engels ( ) Marx: joins radical movement; exiled from Germany; goes to Paris; goes to London & writes main works Engels: factory owner; socialist; scholar; aids Marx financially Both: important figures in the Socialist International

6 Important Writings EARLY: more about philosophy
Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts (1844) MIDDLE: more about politics The Communist Manifesto (1848) (with Engels) LATER: more about economics Das Kapital (‘Capital’) (1867)

7 Influences (i) 1. German Philosophy (theory) Georg W. F. Hegel:
social change comes through social struggles and conflicts between different groups “dialectics” Ludwig Feuerbach: deal with the real human world, not just religious ideas about it “humanism”

8 Influences (ii) 2. British political economy (economics) Adam Smith:
The division of labour 3. French Socialism (politics) Saint-Simon: - must create a new society, based on cooperation between classes, not conflict between them

9 Key Concepts Marx’s aims:
● To create a form of knowledge which was critical of existing society ● To use theory to enable the working classes to understand the basis of their oppression & exploitation ● To encourage revolution – the abolition of capitalist society ● To point the way to a communist society

10 2) Human nature a) The human being is fundamentally a social animal
b) Therefore human nature is socially malleable – it changes through history: It is shaped by particular societies e.g. human nature in capitalism: selfish human nature in communism: co-operative

11 c) Humans are fundamentally creative beings
- Creativity through making things (i.e. in work) - Creative work is how humans express themselves as creative beings Work is therefore at the heart of what it is to be human: it is enjoyable But work is only enjoyable if people are allowed to work freely & creatively It’s no longer enjoyable if people are forced to work Therefore for Marx: - A good society is one which allows creativity and freedom in work - A bad society is one which forces people to work, so that work is neither free nor creative

12 3) Historical Materialism Anyone wishing to
understand society must always regard the ‘material’ aspects of society as the most important – they are ‘determining’ The ‘ideal’ elements of society are less important – they are ‘determined’

13 Hegel emphasised the ‘ideal’ factors in history
‘Ideal’ aspects: Hegel emphasised the ‘ideal’ factors in history - Ideas and beliefs (e.g. morality and religion) - Ways of thinking - Overall: ‘Culture’ Marx rejected Hegel’s ‘idealism’

14 Marx realised that it was necessary to concentrate on the ‘material’ factors in history:
● people making things (production) ● people working (labour) ● people working on raw materials to make goods ● humans transforming nature for their use

15 “Historical Materialism”
■ looks at material factors in society ■ emphasise production and labour over ‘ideal’ factors Historical: ■ looks at changes over time in material factors Social change is produced by changes in material factors Human history = driven by changes in how people work & make things

16 4) Class and class struggle
Two basic types of society: Classless societies (e.g. communism) Class-based societies (e.g. capitalism) Within class-based societies: Classes are the most important groups in the society Different classes are antagonistic to each other

17 Classes are antagonistic to each other as each class has opposing interests
E.g. In capitalist society, the interest of the capitalist class is to pay workers as little as possible, to exploit them in order to make more profit Whereas the interest of the working class is to raise wages, and eventually to abolish capitalism entirely

18 Class struggle: • classes are always in conflict with each other as they struggle to be the most powerful in society Human history • is driven by conflicts between classes • through history some classes win power, others lose power

19 Dominant class(es) Subordinate class(es)
Rulers, Leaders Ruled, Followers Hold political, economic, and Are powerless cultural power Cultural: Cultural: Control the Are controlled by dominant the dominant ideas ideas (produce (false consciousness) ideology) Political: Political: Control the Are repressed by government the government & state Economic: Economic: Control production Carry out production Controllers of economy Workers in economy Exploiters of labour Exploited

20 The Structure of a Mode of Production
- Ways of thinking, values, ideas - Social institutions SOCIAL SUPERSTRUCTURE SHAPES LEGITIMISES ECONOMIC BASE Forces Relations of of production production

21 Mode of Production (i) The most important of Marx’s ideas (in later writings) Marx identifies production as essential for human existence: Production = making things Making things = transforming Nature through Labour Transforming Nature = using TOOLS and LABOUR to transform RAW MATERIALS into useable GOODS - food, clothes, shelter, etc. “Men must be in a position to live in order to be able to ‘make history’. But life involves before everything else eating and drinking, a habitation, clothing, and many other things. The first historical act is thus the production of the means to satisfy these needs, the production of material life itself.” (Karl Marx, The German Ideology). Consumption = using those goods (to stay alive)

22 Mode of Production (ii)
● Production is a SOCIAL ACTIVITY ● Humans cannot produce much as isolated individuals ● They must work co-operatively with others ● In a division of labour: different people have different jobs ● Production has to be organised or ‘managed’ ● Different forms of organisation (‘modes’) of production = different types of society

23 Mode of Production (iii)
In class-based societies: ● The Ruling class own the Means of Production (i.e. the tools, raw materials and finished goods) ● The Ruling class therefore control production ● The Ruling class are the class of OWNERS ● The Subordinate classes do the actual work ● They are the class of non-owners (they are the workers) So the Relations of Production consist of OWNERS & NON-OWNERS  The Ruling class reaps the benefits  The Subordinate classes are exploited

24 Mode of Production (iv)
“In the social production of their life, men enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their will, relations of production which correspond to a definite stage of development of their material productive forces. The sum total of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which rises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the social, political, and intellectual life process in general.” Marx, Preface to A Critique of Political Economy, in Mclellan (ed) 1977, Karl Marx: Selected Writings, p. 262.

The Economic Base FORCES of RELATIONS of PRODUCTION PRODUCTION ►Scientific knowledge ► Social relations ►Technological which control & knowledge organize production ►Technology (tools) ►Raw materials ► The Class of OWNERS ►Labour force (people) controls the class of NON-OWNERS (workers)

26 The Social Superstructure 1) Ways of thinking, values, ideas
(“Forms of social consciousness”) (“Ideologies”) 2) Social institutions Religion Family Education The Media Government / the State

27 This means that: 1) Dominant ideologies reflect ruling class interests
■ The ECONOMIC BASE shapes the SOCIAL SUPERSTRUCTURE ► The ECONOMIC BASE is controlled by the RULING CLASS SO ► The SUPERSTRUCTURE is also controlled by the RULING CLASS This means that: 1) Dominant ideologies reflect ruling class interests 2) Dominant ideologies justify the power of the ruling class 3) Social institutions work in

28 Social institutions serve ruling class interests
Family: 1) instils dominant ideologies in the young 2) breeds and reproduces the workforce Education: instils dominant ideologies in the young Media: spreads the dominant Ideologies through society Government: controls non-owners (workers) and protects owners’ interests (private property) / ensures social stability and maintains ruling class power (repressive)

29 Recap: The Structure of a Mode of Production
- Ways of thinking, values, ideas - Social institutions SOCIAL SUPERSTRUCTURE SHAPES LEGITIMISES ECONOMIC BASE Forces Relations of of production production

30 Types of Mode of Production
1) Primitive communism ■ Primitive society, no classes, very low division of labour, ■ All work together for common good 2) Ancient (slave) mode of production ■ Ancient Greece and Rome ■ Aristocracy and slaves ■ Slaves do most of the work

31 3) Feudal mode of production (feudalism)
■ Medieval Europe ■ Feudal Landlords & peasants ■ Peasants do all the work 4) Capitalist mode of production (capitalism) ■ Capitalists & workers (Bourgeoisie & proletariat) 5) Socialism / Communism ■ No classes: equality

32 The Feudal Mode of Production
SOCIAL SUPERSTRUCTURE Ways of thinking: Catholic Christianity Social institutions: Catholic Church, Patriarchal family ECONOMIC BASE Forces Relations of of production production - Agricultural - Landlords production & peasants

33 The shift from feudalism to capitalism
CHANGING ECONOMIC BASE (happening from 16th to 19th centuries) Forces Relations of production of production Industrialism Power of aristocracy (factory production) taken over by a new class: Produced by: the capitalists - Scientific (the ‘bourgeoisie’) innovations - Technological Peasants move to cities developments Peasants become factory workers (the proletariat)

34 The Capitalist Mode of Production
CAPITALISM’S SOCIAL SUPERSTRUCTURE Ways of thinking = capitalist ideologies ● Capitalism allows individual freedom, democracy, social mobility, etc. ● This liberalism serves to conceal the exploitation which is at the core of the society Social institutions: family, media, government (the ideological apparatus) CAPITALISM’S ECONOMIC BASE Forces Relations of production of production industrialism Capitalists & proletarians

35 CAPITALISM TODAY --------------------------------------------------
CAPITALISM’S SOCIAL SUPERSTRUCTURE Ways of thinking: capitalist ideologies (social mobility, meritocracy, work-ethic, consumerism) Social institutions: media, welfare state CAPITALISM’S ECONOMIC BASE Forces Relations of production of production Post-Industrialism 1) Capitalists (service sector, ) Managerial class computers & IT, 3) Proletarians stock markets) (include ‘white collar’ office workers, McWorkers)

36 From Capitalism to Communism: Revolution
1) The Forces of production develop, and this leads to a change in the relations of production (as technology develops there is reduced need for manual labour, and no need for a working class) 2) Capitalism is riddled with contradictions (capitalists must seek profit, they are always in competition with each other, eventually there are no more profits to be made, and the whole system goes into deep crisis and then falls apart) 3) The Proletariat come to realise that they are being exploited: they organise themselves and overthrow the bourgeois class and the capitalist system in a revolution

37 A Communist Mode of Production
ECONOMIC BASE Forces Relations of production of production Highly developed Classes abolished Machines doing All work together in a lot of the routine cooperation work Humans working All contribute to freely & creatively society together Everyone gets what they need SUPERSTRUCTURE Ways of thinking: the end of ideologies, truth emerges Social institutions: government abolished: communities govern themselves; true (direct) democracy

38 Evaluating Marx 1 1) Overemphasises ‘material’ over ‘ideal’ factors
► Things like religion are just as ‘real’ and as powerful as work & the economy ► Doesn’t the ‘superstructure’ actually form part of the ‘base’? (e.g. Ownership/Non-Ownership are legally defined) 2) ‘Reductionist’ ► Oversimplifies a complex reality (base-superstructure) ► Explains everything in terms of production, labour & classes (when perhaps not all things can be explained that way) 3) Overly politicised ► Not really social science - too biased? ► More like propaganda & wishful thinking?

39 Evaluating Marx 2 1) Production is at the heart of human life
► People do need to make things in order to live and survive. 2) Outdated? Marx is still highly applicable: ► We still live in a highly divided capitalist society ► Marx’s ideas can be reworked to fit today’s conditions (globalisation, growing inequality, sweatshops, etc) 3) Marxism requires the sociologist to be highly critical of current society ► Involves rejecting dominant ideologies ► Suggests deeper truths about how society really works


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