Free The Marx-Engels Reader Essay Sample
Part A: Materialism
According to Marx, “material” refers to factors that are necessary in the production of goods and services to satisfy day-to-day human needs. Essentially, material factors necessary for the producing goods and services to sustain life include land, machinery and labor. These factors are widely used to produce food, shelter, clothes and other relevant services that enhance material living standards. The societal historical engagements are therefore dependent on existing material conditions and human needs. Therefore, historical events that transform the society to what it is are determined by material factors.
Marx reiterates that the society is a product of individuals’ interactions over time with the intent of producing goods and services to satisfy their day-to-day needs. These social interactions produce events that define how material factors are appropriated in the production of goods and services. More so, historical events results from people’s struggle to acquire material wealth to enhance their living standards. Marx particularly notes that, the conflict between those who own capital and the working class as a key driver of societal transformation. It is apparent from this argument, that the social relations that underline the distribution of the material factors or wealth determine the outcome of a given society. According to Marx, only a few members of the society have the power and control over existing material factors and resources, leaving a majority of the society struggling to earn a living through selling their labor-power for meager wages. The struggle of the working class to better their material living standards through redistribution of material factors is characterized by events that transform the social, economic and political realignment of the entire society.
Therefore, material factors determine history and society. The existing material condition determines the activities that individuals are engaged in at particular instances. These engagements produce events, which form the society’s history. Since the material condition is in a dynamic rather than a static state, people’s activities and relations change thus transforming the Society.
Part B: Class
According to Marx, class connotes an individual’s position in society with respect to ownership of material wealth. Subsequently, the society is made up of two cases, the capitalist, who owns the factors of production, and the working class who sells labor to capitalists for production of goods and services. Accordingly, the capitalist yields power which is bolstered by the control of the factors of production and therefore, they determine what the working class produces and what wages they earn. The working class is characterized by widespread impoverishment and low material living standards, which is attributable to limited income derived from wages paid to them by the capitalist as compensation for rendering their labor in the process of production.
In most instances, class antagonism arises from the ensuing struggle to control material factors of production and the conflict associated with sharing out wealth produced by a combination of the various factors of production and the human labor. Capitalists are motivated by profits and therefore, they invest in technology to reduce the cost of production. This is perceived by the working class as a strategy to exclude them from production process thus denying them income. In addition, technology reduces the demand for labor thus creating a surplus, which in turn reduces the cost of labor. The working class feels exploited by the capitalist who enjoys huge profits while they continually pay them meager wages, thus, creating class conflict.
Social change is powered by the class struggle to articulate their interests. Both the working class and the capitalists organize themselves into formal organizations to enable them articulate their issues and interests. Such organization may take the form of labor unions or political parties, which act as a platform for the desired social changes aimed at, enhancing the welfare of the respective class. These social organizations promote adoption of new forms of social order, which transforms the society.
Part C: Capitalism
Marx views capitalism as a mode of production whereby the factors of production are owned by a few individuals who determine what will be produced and at what rate of wages for labor. In this production arrangement, there exists perfect competition among capitalists; none of them enjoys special advantages and unions are discouraged. According to Marx, a capitalistic arrangement is characterized by the exploitation of the working class as they receive meager wages for their labor power. Marx does not approve of capitalism largely because of the underlying domination of the masses by a few individuals who own the means of production. Marx further observes that poverty that is prevalent in the midst of immense capitalistic wealth is not attributable to the laws of nature, but is a consequence of the inherent design of social institutions. These social institutions are supported through capitalistic ideology with the sole intent of maximizing capitalists’ profits with little concern for the welfare of the masses.
Despite the misgivings that Marx had about capitalism, he perceived it as a mode of production that would enhance progress and social change. The struggle of the working class to emancipate from capitalist exploitation is a driver of social change. Marx was right in pointing out that the development of capitalism is characterized by periodical economic downturns, characterized by reducing profits and employment opportunities. This is followed by a period of prosperity that is attributable to reorganization of production strategies and capitalists investing in technology to promote effectiveness of production. However, Marx may have missed the point by claiming that the working classes in the capitalist mode of production are the ruled and exploited masses. In contrast, the working class in a successful capitalist economy are the major players in determining how they are governed. In addition, the working class enjoys better material living standards than their counterparts do in socialist arrangement.
Marx would not approve of the Soviet Union, Maoism or North Korea since these systems have perpetuated the exploitation of the masses by a few members of the ruling class rather than promote prosperity for all. In addition, these societies despite being based on socialist philosophy, have failed miserably in promoting individual freedom, liberty and the overall welfare of the people. Their revolutions were taken over by a few powerful individuals who monopolized power and the factors of production, leaving the masses struggling to survive. The contemporary world is dominated by capitalism. Even countries such as Germany, China and Russia which were initially founded on communist ideology, have embraced capitalistic modes of production.