Classical Views of Liberalism

Classical liberalism, as expressed by Locke, contains the notions of both intellectual or physical liberty (i.e., the natural rights and freedoms of man with respect to society) and economic liberty (i.e., the right to own and transmit property). With respect to the development of property rights, Locke argued from the standpoint of both Christian theology and the development of early man. Locke wrote that, in the Bible, God gave the world to the “children of men,” and that all men thus have a claim of sorts to the fruits of the natural world. Locked suggested that it is intuitive that a man who consumes something from the natural world, such as fruit from a tree or water from a stream, becomes the proprietor of whatever is consumed and digested, and that man is also the proprietor of his own body and abilities (i.e., labor). Therefore property exists intuitively, and the starting point where something becomes one’s property is when one extracts something from the natural world; e.g., when a hunter kills a deer, the carcass becomes his property. The interaction of man and the natural world, described as labor or work, in that fashion transforms nature and creates something proprietary. Thus, combining labor and nature creates property.With respect to the development of farming, since God gave the world to man, man has a natural right to the earth, and Locke argued that an individual man can claim as his as much of the earth as he can cultivate and use: “As much land as a man tills… and can use the product of, so much is his property.” Locke wrote that doing so is “in obedience to this command of God,” and that since there is plenty of arable land on the earth, no harm is done to the rest of mankind through one man’s appropriation of land. Since land is useless and valueless without labor, the only thing that limits the amount of land one can claim is one’s capacity to work on that land; one has no such right to more land than one can cultivate. Hence wealth could not, by right, be accumulated.In Locke’s further history, population growth and the rise of sedentary communities necessitated fixed boundaries and a positive agreement to settle and defend property rights. The invention of money as an exchange medium allowed for the accumulation of wealth and the expansion of personal property beyond simply the amount of land and goods one was capable of using. With money, one would not be required, by natural law, to use all of one’s spoilable crop; instead one could farm a surplus and sell it, and thus accumulate more property. Locke argued that money’s value came entirely from the consent of men, and that this agreed-upon method of allowing the transmission of goods meant that “men have agreed to a disproportionate and unequal possession of the earth.” In other words, it is within man’s natural rights to create inequality, and this inequality entirely exists because society wills it by recognizing the value of money.In many ways, Rousseau agreed with Locke with respect to the development of property rights. Both men argued from the standpoint of the human condition of pre-civilized man, with Rousseau offering a pleasant view of “savage” man as self-sufficient, empathetic, and generally kind to other men insofar as he had no reason for competition or cruelty. When man first began to create tools and fashion hides in order to meet environmental challenges, notions of privation and necessity followed; as man settled in clans and communities and became aware of the qualities and capacities of one another, notions of jealousy and inequality came into being. Notably, Rousseau suggested that property rights and inequality began when it took more than one man to complete any craft; thus “corporations” and commoditized labor came into being, and the accumulation of wealth and property could begin. Activities like the cultivation of land and metallurgy inevitably led to the development of property and the necessity of labor. The use of labor itself meant that individual differences in productivity would be amplified in that some would create more goods than others, thus forging inequality. The poor became dependent on the rich for jobs and goods, and the rich became dependent on the poor for labor; thus self-sufficiency was eliminated. Rousseau placed the creation of money here on the timeline of human history, as a means of investment and exploitation of trade imbalances. According to Rousseau, property rights did not at all come from natural rights; instead, they were an ideological necessity emanating from the desires of wealthy “first occupants” to be secure from those who would argue that property belongs to whoever can take it.Marx offered a far more radical critique of liberalism in “Estranged Labour.” Marx rejected the “fictitious primordial condition” from which both Locke and Rousseau argued, proceeding instead from “actual economic fact.” Marx argued that laborers in the 19th century were alienated from the objects which they made, the things from nature combined with their labor — in only this respect does Marx seem to have agreed with Locke, that the combination of labor and nature creates. These objects in fact represent the objectification of labor itself and contributed to the deterioration of workers’ selves. To Marx, the act of working is itself alienation, and labor, as an unnatural act which objectifies man’s life, estranges man from his essential nature. Marx wrote that as laborers were alienated from objects, capitalists were “familiar” or “belonging” to them. From this analysis, private property appears as both a consequence of alienated labor and a means of alienation. Marx agreed with the general suggestion of Rousseau, writing that the political economy institutionalizes estranged labor and exists entirely in the favor of private property (c.f., Rousseau’s inequality). Marx’s alienation theory represents a radical departure from the liberal ideas of Locke, one that is more critical than Rousseau’s disagreement since Marx entirely condemns the capitalist-laborer relationship as one of total unnaturality and calls for its dismantling.

Marx and Burke’s Contrasting Views of Ideal Progress

Edmund Burke and Karl Marx would have been mortified at each other’s conception of acceptable progress and the movement of history. Such repugnance, in fact, was indeed expressed by Marx, reflecting the two polar views of his and Burke’s respective philosopher parents, in this quote directed at Burke: The sycophant-who in the pay of the English oligarchy played the romantic laudator temporis acti against the French Revolution just as, in the pay of the North American colonies at the beginning of the American troubles, he had played the liberal against the English oligarchy-was an out-and-out vulgar bourgeois.From Das KapitalSuch condemnation of character-‘out-and-out vulgar bourgeois’ is the most brutal of insults for Marx-outlines in the philosopher’s own words how fundamentally incompatible their two perspectives are. A component of such perspective, especially emblematic of their contrary views, is their outlook on the proper movement of history. While Burke supports an ‘organic’, gradual constitutional reform, Marx calls (literally; evidence in the closing line of his manifesto) for massive, violent revolution.Burke, within his letter Revolution in France, employs the language of naturalness throughout, so that an organic motif emerges. This motif fits with his advocation of gradual change-while he admits a dynamic conception of society within his philosophy, he is careful to reject any sudden, new order; things must evolve slowly, as does a plant: “Our political system is…a permanent body composed of transitory parts…which moves on through the varied tenour of perpetual decay, fall, renovation, and progression. Thus by preserving the method of nature in the conduct of the state, in what we improve, we are never wholly new; in what we retain we are never wholly obsolete” (pg. 39). Tradition also played a large role in Burke’s philosophy on the natural movement of history. He sees it as imperative that tradition be acknowledged; this idea, of course, echoes his appreciation for incremental evolution. The rejection of the past is not to be tolerated. One can view this notion, for example, by examining Burke’s theoretical support: he nearly always defends his ideas with historical examples. It is with such an attitude that Burke approaches the French Revolution. He is a fierce critic, decrying it as a violent rebellion against tradition and proper authority. Not only did he believe in private property (another point of contention with Marx), but such a blatant disregard for tradition was certain to receive his denunciation: he famously predicted that this “experiment” would end badly (this prediction was, in fact, what won the majority of his followers after an icy initial reception of his work). “The very idea of the fabrication of a new government is enough to fill us with disgust and horror” (p.36) he proclaims within Revolution in France. Such a radical creation contradicts his plant model and ignores the tradition of the past-it is, in a few words, unacceptable-and doomed. What also distances Burke from Marx is his essentially reactionary views. Revolution in France is blatantly anti-enlightenment, and serves to essentially criticize the revolution. His bitter, reactionary outlook is betrayed in the text: “The age of chivalry is gone. That of sophisters, economists, and calculators has succeeded” (pg. 89). Such a quote betrays Burke’s primary desires: a solid regard for tradition and the wish to slow the progression of history into controlled, incremental steps. This ‘liberal conservatism’-the desire for gradual, constitutional reform-is what most fully describes Burke’s outlook on historical movement. Marx’s view on the progression of history is quite the opposite. His philosophy is Hegelian; he thus considers history dialectically. Within this theory there is an implied movement towards greater and greater rationality with each new thesis. This evolution, however, is not necessarily smooth; as Marx describes, with each change in society’s mode of production (for example, feudal to the current capitalist), there comes a new class struggle. He further clarifies this theory in a (then) modern-day context. The capitalism of the time would prove catastrophic: as capitalists invest in more in technology and less so in labor, the rate of profit will fall, bringing with it the collapse of sectors of the economy. This cycle of growth, collapse, and regrowth will then further impoverish the proletariat, and empower the bourgeois. The inevitable end, then, or eschaton, in this Marxist model is brought about by a massive, violent, and well-organized revolution. What Marx stresses the most, however, is the necessity of violence: “These ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions” (pg. 44). This sentiment highly contradicts Burke’s ideals of calm, legal, and marginal societal evolution. Marx also shows severe contempt for tradition (one of Burke’s favorite institutions): “In short, the Communists everywhere support every revolutionary movement against the existing social and political order of things” (pg. 44), and even more explicitly: “The Communist revolution is the most radical rupture…with traditional ideas” (pg.44). The same tradition that Burke venerates and deems valuable, Marx cannot wait to eradicate. Marx and Burke, however, both maintain philosophies that are highly related with the progressions and inevitablities of time, lucidly projected by Marx as a “wheel of history” (pg. 19)-a dynamic, inexorable gear that will bring about change. This concept of time, however, is where the communion of the philosophers end, as they quickly branch out onto polar schools of thought, one revolving around steady, organic growth, the other consumed with a violent and radical new order.

Communism and the Need for Political Action

As a young writer in a time of brewing class tensions, Marx studied the historical and present relationship between the classes and wrote several works, including “The German Ideology” (1845-46) and “Manifesto of the Communist Party” (1848). In his study of the history of society, Marx elucidates a trend in society toward an increase in production of commodities but a decrease in the standard of living, culminating in an inevitable proletariat revolution. This revolution, according to Marx, would result in a system of communism throughout the industrial nations. However, in the same writings of that period, Marx’s tone encourages the proletariat to join his Communist Party, and in the “Manifesto” outrightly calls on the working men of all nations to unite (Manifesto of the Communist Party p. 500). Since Marx assumes in his historical analysis that communism is the inevitable culmination of the class struggles, and that men in desperate enough conditions will eventually join together to overthrow the entire political and social system, why does Marx see the need to actively recruit new members for his party? The answer can be found in realizing that Marx’s two lines of logic, on the economic and political trends of history, complement each other; Marx’s political activism is action taken within the framework of his theory.In Marx’s early works, he follows two lines of logic: the analysis of capitalism and history, concluding that society is headed towards communism; and the analysis of politics and history, to elucidate the agency by which the classes act. To understand Marx’s claim that communism will be the inevitable “end point” that society is hurtling toward, one must first understand his theory of history and how capitalism fits into the model. Unlike his predecessors, who theorized that changes in society were based on conquest, Marx’s model sees the underlying theme of history to be the change in the mode of production, which is determined by the role of labor. The mode of production is characterized by the extent of the division of labor. “The existing stage in the division of labour determines also the relations of individuals to one another with reference to the material, instrument, and product of labor,” says Marx (The German Ideology p.151). Thus, as the mode of production improves, the division of labor will also be more defined. The extent of the division of labor determines the class structure and class relations. However, because the mode of production will advance, it will outgrow the social structure, leading to changes in the social structure (Manifesto of the Communist Party p. 475).Marx begins his historical analysis with early agrarian societies, in which production was undeveloped and people lived by hunting, fishing, or agriculture-laboring entirely for a use value, and not an exchange value. The corresponding social structure was one of an extended family, with chieftain, tribe members, and nominally slaves (The German Ideology p. 151). This agrarian society defines the role of labor in a way that is similar to Marx’s envisioned communism, but it could not last, according to Marx, because its production could increase, changing the social and political structure of society. Later, increased division of labor transformed the agrarian society an “ancient communal and State ownership,” with a citizen/slave class relation in which the labor of the slaves became the basis of the production. On the other hand, out in the country, feudal or estate property was established, due to the decrease in the population, and therefore a decrease in the available labor. In the feudal system, the difference in the mode of production led to a working class of serfs (instead of slaves), therefore retaining a different but still antagonistic relationship between the serfs and the nobility (The German Ideology p. 152-153). Thus, from this empirical data, Marx concludes that although the mode of production changes the class structure, there has always been class struggle, whether between the slaves and masters or between the serfs and lords.From the serfs, then, “sprang the chartered burghers of the earliest towns. From these burgesses the first elements of the bourgeoisie were developed” (Manifesto of the Communist Party p. 474). As expected, the transition to the bourgeois society did not do away with the class struggle. Rather, the tension between the bourgeois and the proletariat increased, because the productive system is arranged so that competition between laborers makes living conditions increasingly worse for the proletariat, in such a way that in order to ameliorate their situation, they must overthrow the current system. “The proletarians, if they are to assert themselves as individuals, will have to abolish the very condition of their existence hitherto, namely labor […] In order, therefore, to assert themselves as individuals, they must overthrow the State” (The German Ideology p. 200). Thus, by logic, Marx reasons that since the conditions will only get worse, eventually the proletariat must join together and establish a new social system-communism.Marx’s line of logic follows the trends of history and extrapolates what will happen in the future, following his underlying theme of class struggles in each type of society. However, his analysis of the trends of history lack an explanation of a mechanism by which societies evolve; he just assumes that they happen. In his description of the expected communist revolution, he describes how in the beginning the proletariat cannot succeed because they are disorganized, but that they will swell in numbers and organize, eventually leading to the “violent, glaring character of revolt” (Manifesto of the Communist Party p. 480-481). Yet how will the proletariat organize, and how will they revolt? Marx does not explain the mechanism by which the transition from the bourgeois society to the communism will occur in his social/economic theory.Marx’s beliefs in how the transition should take place can be found in his analysis of the trends in politics throughout history. In his study of the past transitions, especially the transition from feudalism to bourgeois, he notes that the change in the type of labor available, and therefore the mode of production, is the basis of the social class. Then, the social class that has power groups together to seize the political power: “Each step in the development of the bourgeoisie was accompanied by a corresponding political advance of that class” (Manifesto of the Communist Party p. 475). With the communists, Marx posits that the same order must follow, that there is first the organization of the proletariat into a social class, and then into a political class, although the transition into a unified political party is not necessarily smooth. “This organization of the proletarians into a class, and consequently into a political party, is continually being upset again by the competition between workers themselves” (Manifesto of the Communist Party p. 481). With the political power, the ruling class is then able to pass legislation to reinforce its class, and therefore the class division between the ruling class and the laborers. Thus, while it is the change in the role of labor and the mode of production that are the driving forces behind changing societal structures, it is the political class that legitimizes and maintains that class structure.Given the importance of political power, it naturally follows that Marx should establish his Communist Party as a political group striving for power. “Every class which is struggling for mastery, even when its domination, as is the case with the proletariat, postulates the abolition of the old form of society in its entirety and of domination itself, must first conquer for itself political power in order to represent its interest in turn as the general interest,” writes Marx (The German Ideology p. 161). By organizing, the Communists can offer a party beside which the desperate proletariat can rally, thus helping to centralize and organize the proletariat social class into a political class. This organization and centralization is one of the steps that Marx defines in the evolution of the proletariat (Manifesto of the Communist Party p. 480-481). Additionally, by gaining political power, the Communists gain legitimacy with the majority of society, the proletariat, and can facilitate the transition into a communist society.Thus, to answer the question of why Marx feels that it is necessary to recruit members for the Communist party, we see that while Marx felt that the turn to communism was an eventual certainty, he did not stipulate that it would happen spontaneously, or without direction. Rather, he recognizes that an important step along the path to communism is to organize around a political party with a strong leader, which. For Marx sees his time period as one in which a social class has been firmly established, but the political class has not, and therefore Marx is fulfilling the next stage in the process of transition. In fact, while Marx may recognize the inevitability of the rise in communism, this transition cannot take place if the proletariat is not aware of the existence of the Communist Party or the platform of the Communists. Therefore, Marx’s recruitment and advertising of the Communist Party is merely fulfilling one of the stages along the road to his envisioned end.It is also necessary to remain aware that the reader sees Marx in a dual role: one as a historian/philosopher, and the other as an activist. Marx says, “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point, however, is to change it” (Theses on Feuerbach p. 145). We can see that Marx was not one who believed that a philosopher’s job was done after theorizing and writing; rather, he believed that action is necessary to change the world, and therefore took a role within the framework of his own writings. Marx’s scientific reasoning leads him to conclude that the rise of communism is inevitable, with or without him; Marx’s social conscience dictates that he take a role in the revolution. Thus we read documents by a Marx who is theoretical and scientific, and yet the documents take the tone of a Marx who is promoting the agenda within his theory.

Marxist Influences in Darwin’s Origin of Species

Less than a decade after Karl Marx completed his philosophical work, The German Ideology: Part I, Charles Darwin was finally persuaded to publish his biological masterpiece, The Origin of Species. Could these two works be bound intrinsically through Marx’s moral account of history? Is it possible that such politically charged material influenced a scientific thesis being written halfway around the world? Absolutely. When one takes a close look at the moral underpinnings of Darwin’s breakthrough discovery of evolution, it is easy to see Marxist inspiration.Marx attempts in The German Ideology: Part I to refocus German perception of history, or at least point out its flaws. He contends that, unlike the British and French, who he thinks have at least some glimpse of his truth, the Germans naively refuse to accept materialism as the driving force of their history. Marx writes that what he calls historical materialism is the proper way to analyze the course of human history. What he sees as German idealism‹intellectual separation from such materialistic grounding‹he condemns for failing to grasp the underlying power of forces of production and people’s relation to those forces of production as the determining might of the structure of society. He goes on to describe the idealist tradition in the study of human history; the problem Marx sees consists of idealist notions coming to be estranged from the empirical, realistic conditions of history and treated as the a priori determining forces of social structure. Again, this problem seems to Marx to be particularly acute in Germany.Marx does offer a solution, however. He argues that Germans should view history from a materialist perspective to understand that all notable conflicts that have led to social change can be interpreted as ensuing from the inconsistency with which forces of production are structured in any society, and the social relationships people in that society have due to those forces of production. Marx continues to explain that private property stands for that particular type of property that has been extracted from another’s labor but comes to be controlled by a certain individual for the purpose of accumulation. Therefore, the division of labor engenders private property; for Marx, the fundamental contradiction within the division of labor is that it naturally leads to the opposition of interests held by the specific individuals who do labor and by the communal body for which those individuals do labor. Marx finally takes the next step and concludes that this‹the contradiction between the division of labor and the concept of private property‹was the nascent step taken in the course of human history that led to the alienation of man from his own products of labor, and eventually even from the labor itself, his own nature, and his fellow men.Once the reader is able to think outside the religious dogma concerning “Creationism” that, at the time Darwin was writing, was extremely powerful and incredibly well indoctrinated, Darwin’s thesis is not too surprising. He starts with very simple postulates: first, that all species strive to procreate; and second, that all species face competition for key, limited natural resources. The core principle behind Darwin’s theory, though, is that all organisms struggle most basically for life. Through that struggle: any variation, however slight and from whatever cause proceeding, if it be in any degree profitable to an individual of any species, in its infinitely complex relations to other organic beings and to external nature, will tend to the preservation of that individual and will generally be inherited by its offspring (115).That, then, is the premise on which his theory was founded; anything that allows an individual within a species to better compete will allow that individual to procreate more successfully; that success will ultimately allow the trait to be passed down through generations of what came to be called “evolution.” Darwin uses the term “Struggle for Existence” in a “large and metaphorical sense” (116) including all interactions with other animals and the ability, long-term, of a species to procreate‹”a struggle for existence inevitably follows from the high rate at which all organic beings tend to increase” (116). Because of this high rate of procreation, more beings are born than can survive given competition for resources. The struggle is one of survival‹attempting to defy other species by adapting better to life in a particular area, climate, or condition.Surprisingly, these two works share similar influences. Marx almost immediately separates man from animal, contending that they “begin to distinguish themselves from animals as soon as they being to produce their means of subsistence, a step which is conditioned by their physical organization” (Marx, 150). While this seems to immediately discard any association with Darwin’s theory of evolution, it simply clarifies the similarity: man, just like the animals Darwin studied in the Galapagos, has a struggle for life that is simply fought in a different way. While animals forage or hunt to continue their existence, man creates. Even more importantly, Marx notes that “this production only makes its appearance with the increase of population” (Marx, 150). The same holds true for Darwin’s theory; if competition does not exist for basic natural resources between individuals of different species, evolution and progress are impossible. The main, fundamental difference between the two, then, is that in Darwin’s theory, animals compete against other, rival species, while in Marx’s, man competes only against himself in a struggle to produce material life.In their basic premises, however, the two men had strikingly similar ideas. Both saw life as a constant fight against others within a certain community or area. Both understood that an individual’s ability to live, to procreate, was what furthered history‹in Darwin’s case, because such changes eventually morphed the physical characteristics of the entire species; in Marx’s, because those changes were, by definition, of a productive or materialist nature. Despite the difference in both appeal and acceptance, Darwin’s Origin of Species shares many ideas with Marx’s German Ideology: Part I.

Marx: Alienation, Unity, and Human Nature

Differentiation, decomposition, alienation, estrangement: these words appear again and again in Marx’s writings as descriptions of the failures of capitalism. For him, an emphasis on community and equality was the solution to the degrading atmosphere of competition that he observed around him. Much of his work could be interpreted as an attempt, often through critiques of the divisions he observed in capitalism, to imagine and describe a social order characterized by unity. Only in this future society could his implicit and elusive concept of human nature be finally realized.In Marx’s writings, it is clear how private property and the division of labor lead to the alienation of man from man and from the product of his labor. The capitalist mode of production creates a society in which men compete for personal gain and use each other for egotistical ends, even to the point of inventing artificial needs in others in order to profit from them. Private property unjustly cuts off a piece of the external world from the worker who produced it, creating unnatural divisions in nature. The labor that allows for this private wealth is “hostile and alien;” instead of producing a product that satisfies real human needs, it becomes an indirect means to satisfying those needs. Furthermore, the capitalist system strips men and objects of their individual history and complexity, reducing them to a single trait — their exchange value.The personal implications of this economic situation —man’s alienation from himself and from nature — are more complex and less distinct. Marx claims that in the capitalist system, the wage laborer experiences a “loss of reality” during his labor. While he works, he numbs himself to the external world in order to continue. These theories were based on the conditions of urban factories during perhaps the most miserable stage of the Industrial Revolution: workers were cut off from sunlight and fresh air, and exposed to fumes and constant noise during a working day that could easily exceed 12 hours. Repetitive and dangerous work often led to deformity, illness, or injury. Laborers could not consider this setting their “real” life and continue living sanely. The worker only lives outside of work, but these scarce hours are marked by exhaustion and the unending struggle of poverty. The appalling conditions the worker must endure clearly alienate man from even his “animalâ€? nature; no creature in nature would voluntarily remain in conditions that caused such physical harm. However, Marx’s primary proof of man’s alienation from himself is his inability to engage in uniquely “humanâ€?” activities, which he has neither the time nor the resources to enjoy. These “conscious life activities” are enumerated as reading books, dancing, loving, traveling, and learning, among others. These modes of self-expression and self-development are not options for the wage laborer.At the other end of this extreme, the ruling classes enjoy a heightened experience of life, at the expense of the oppressed proletariat. The rich have the time and resources to develop their own talents, use their intellect, and cultivate a greater appreciation of the external world. However, the capitalist degrades himself when he defines his human worth by his property and possessions. He wastes his wealth on extravagance, treating it as something to be annihilated for instant gratification. He shows himself to be a “sacrificed and empty being” when he uses his prosperity simply to display power, instead of as a means to pursue “conscious life activity.” The cruel subordination of others that this unjust power allows is as inhuman as the worker’s inability to love and learn.Despite these harsh critiques of society, Marx does not propose that civilization inherently alienates man from the external world. He realizes that “the forming of the five senses is a labor of the entire history of the world down to the present.” The development of art and music, for example, has cultivated our eyes and ears. Marx recognizes the cultural contributions of the ruling class throughout history; even the capitalist system has admirably created an international culture and a degree of interdependence between nations, both of which have promoted a kind of intellectual emancipation. Until the arrival of capitalism, it was only the inequality characterizing civilization, caused partly by a lack of awareness of “species-being”, that was unjust. Uncivilized man was a slave to “crude practical need,” but we now have the means of production to produce abundance and satisfy everyone’s needs. However, capitalist society, despite the wealth that efficient industry allows, creates even greater perversions in nature in the way it divides and objectifies men, nature, and commodities, reducing them all to the common denominator of exchange value. Where former societies simply distributed wealth unfairly, thus failing to actively promote human development, the entire structure of capitalism was based on divisions that destroyed community and alienated man from external nature. In a Marxian society, however, the prosperity and other benefits of bourgeois culture would be preserved but shared, whereas the inequalities and divisions would be eliminated, in order to unite “two sides of one whole (133).” In this new social order, the isolating competitiveness of capitalism would disappear, to be replaced by harmony and collective effort. The ideal society that Marx envisions sheds light on his understanding of human nature, as well as that of man’s complex relationship to nature itself.If Marx did not have some concept of human nature, he would have no justification for valuing one kind of society over another. Clearly, he envisions a state of affairs that would do justice to humanity. Though he claims, “the human essence…is the ensemble of the social relations,” he obviously does not think that human beings can “adapt” to the kind of conditions and interactions that the wage laborer endures in the capitalist system. There must be an inherent human nature that is somehow violated and that will ultimately rebel against this situation. A clue to this conception of an innate, though malleable, human nature can be found in the statement, “the relation of man to woman is the most natural relation of human being to human being” (83). Though relations between men and women have changed outwardly, there is an element of mutual need and mutual regard that has varied little throughout history. Furthermore, he implies that socialist society will not alter this state of affairs. To the extent that this relationship can be considered a constant in human nature, he seems to suggest that certain human attributes can be assumed.Marx proposes that throughout human history, we have controlled nature to satisfy our needs, thus creating “humanized nature”. By changing the external world, we also change ourselves. But unlike animals that instinctively behave in accordance with nature, we act consciously. Marx hopes that, though we have the choice not to act in harmony with nature, we will decide to take a respectful role towards nature and create a sustainable environment for ourselves. In this society, we would interact with nature instead of simply using it for our own ends.While many philosophers would make human nature a slave to nature through innate “instincts”, Marx rather seems to put the two concepts on some kind of equal footing, as though nature and human nature were neither equivalent nor conflicting, but rather two complementary concepts. Describing socialism, he states, “thus society is the consummated oneness in substance of man and nature — the true resurrection of nature — the naturalism of man and the humanism of nature both brought to fulfillment.”With this kind of humanism, there is no need for religion, for there is no need to ponder anything “higher” than our own noble existence. With enough effort, true freedom could be achieved in this life, among men, instead of only in heaven. It seems that humanism thus becomes an exaltation of some kind of human essence that deserves dignity. This human dignity could only manifest itself when men themselves choose to treat nature and each other with respect.Nonetheless, Marx’s concept of “fulfillment” is left vague in his writings. Is it the fulfillment of an intrinsic human essence, an innate potential of humanity that has yet to be realized? On the other hand, he also maintains that “the nature which comes to be in human history… is man’s real nature.” It is unclear whether human nature can be found in the past or in the future. However, it is undeniable that Marx was looking ahead with great hopes and expectation towards a drastically different future. Whereas the idea of human nature usually connotes some kind of continuity with the past, he was more interested in human potential, and ultimately seemed to conceive of human nature as a forward-looking yearning towards a particular kind of society. Paradoxically, it seems that to remain in or regress to the past, to a crude “state of nature” is actually to deny human nature, which is undergoing a constant evolution. Instead of defining men with certain fixed characteristics, Marx emphasized humanity’s continuous desire for freedom, both physically and intellectually. It is part of human nature to strive towards this goal, to move beyond “crude practical need”, though the form of this striving may change. Seen in this light, the drive to pursue uniquely human activities could be the impetus for the ruling class to implement unjust systems of distribution. The resulting cruel behavior would not be part of human nature; it is instead a perversion of nature, the result of the capitalist model of society. However, though this desire for self-determination is perhaps the stronger feeling, Marx believes that ultimately, the even more deeply ingrained aspiration towards harmony and unity will prevail. Without eliminating the freedom that other models of society have created for the rich, socialism would create a balanced interdependence among men and between civilization and nature. To a certain extent, humanity has been incomplete up until now because civilization has opposed itself to nature. Marx, on the other hand, foresaw a new unity between society and nature that would finally fulfill human nature.

Marx: Idealism vs. Materialism

Karl Marx’s infamous statement that, “I am not a Marxistâ€? holds a profound truth deeply connected with his philosophy. It could be understood to mean that he disdained the hundreds of interpretations of his work following their publication. However, the statement resounds with a more important idea — that a person cannot “followâ€? a philosophy at all. Or perhaps even that there is no such thing as philosophy, at least not as men normally understand the term. For when philosophy is understood to be independent of the philosopher, or the reader, or any conditions of the material world in which they live, it has fallen into the garbage heap of idealism. Marx insists that, “Life is not determined by consciousness, but consciousness by life… When reality is depicted, philosophy as an independent branch of knowledge loses its medium of existence.â€? (155) When one treats “Marxismâ€? as an idea separate from their consciousness of the material world, they have lofted it into the cloudy realm of ideology, which contains the very shackles of oppression Marx attempts to fight. Indeed, this is merely the most extreme example, since the philosophy of Marx is entirely materialist. For Marx, every other ideology, philosophy, or religion is inherently idealist both because of their ideological nature and because of what they preach — that there is some truth separate from the material world, and that ideas can be the motor of history. For Marx, though, if one questions how philosophy or religion transforms history or politics, they are asking the question backwards. Marx illustrates that no ideologies move history but all are created by history, or more specifically, the current state of and relation to the productive forces in society.Marx’s attack on ideology isn’t only about whether or not specific philosophies/religions are right or wrong (though that is part of the battle), it is the very approach men take to ideology in the first place that is the problem. The concept that ideologies can transform history neglects the origins from which ideology springs: history. He states that, “The production of ideas, of conceptions, of consciousness, is at first directly interwoven with the material activity and the material intercourse of men, the language of real life.â€? Ideas are not phantoms that men diligently try to capture through logic or any other means. They are birthed from the material world, including physical surroundings and the relations men have to each other and the productive forces of their society. Marx’s statements contradict an objective (i.e., timeless) reality, or an objective truth towards which ideologies strive. “Morality, religion, metaphysics, all the rest of ideology and their corresponding forms of consciousness, thus no longer retain the semblance of independence. They have no history, no development; but men, developing their material production and their material intercourse, alter, with this their real existence, their thinking and the products of their thinking.â€? (154) This concept, that ideas have no history, is emblematic of Marx’s philosophy: if history is nothing but the succession of productive forces handed down through generations, there is no room for ideology to “transformâ€? history. This is not to say ideas don’t exist — indeed, it is ideas that change and alter the productive forces from one generation to the next. It is just that every idea is grounded only in the present state of those forces and cannot be found anywhere else. For Marx, then, philosophy is grounded in its ability to describe and reflect society, not drive it anywhere past its own limitations.It can be retorted, however, that even a quick glance at history reveals guiding ideologies that have real, material effects on the social world. The Crusades weren’t a fiction imagined by a bored philosopher. Marx responds, though, that, “The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas: i.e., the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force.â€? (172) The ideas that guide society, then, guide them retroactively — that is, to keep the rulers in power and attempt to slow the historical forces that would heave them from it. The rulers are not in power because they are the paradigm of the universal idea of an epoch, but the ideas of an epoch are universal because of the rulers in power. If an ideology is espoused by rulers, or is a leading ideology at a given point in time (except in a revolutionary time), it is because it is useful for the rulers’ own power. So ideologies that are “transformingâ€? history really aren’t: material forces of production are transforming society and rulers form ideas to embrace their own place within that structure. “The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships, the dominant material relationships grasped as ideas; hence of the relationships which make the one class the ruling one, therefore, the ideas of its dominance.â€? (173) In a revolutionary time period, the guiding ideas are not those of the rulers. They are ideas of a different class that wants to take power. However, to believe that they want to take power due to their ideas is again to view history backwards. They create ideas to justify their material needs in taking power, and in doing so, must create broader (and more universal) ideas than the rulers in power. “For each new class which puts itself in the place of one ruling before it, is compelled… to give its ideas the form of universality, and represent them as the only rational, universally valid ones.â€? (174) What we find, then, is that ideas mirror the productive forces of society, and both are controlled by the ruling class. Indeed, the production of ideas is just another niche in the division of labor, and like all other divisions, the profits flow to the top.Marx effectively dismantles idealism and the concept of ideas as the motor of history. After explaining how Hegelians and other idealists view ideas in history (“one must separate the ideas of those ruling for empirical reasons, under empirical conditions and as empirical individuals, from these actual rulers, and thus recognize the rule of ideas or illusions in historyâ€?), Marx spends the rest of “The German Ideologyâ€? writing a factual history of productive forces. (78) The commentary is implicit — his factual history is the real basis of ideology. Going back to our original problem, we can see that Marx himself is grounded in the productive forces of his time. His ideology, however, avoids the pitfalls of every other philosophy by viewing history from an entirely non-ideological standpoint. Still, the irony that Marx, who proves that ideas don’t move history, is probably one of the single most cited authors people use and have used to change society is blatant. Marx would respond, however, that the material conditions of society have brought people to change it, and they are merely using his ideology as the justification behind it.

The Communist Manifesto and the Industrial Proletariat

Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto was most appealing to and revolutionary for the industrial workers of 1848 (and those to come after that time). The call for unification of the proletariat and abolishment of the Bourgeoisie was an urgent one during a time of rapid progress in all aspects of industrial life. This urgency of The Communist Manifesto and the desire for change of political ideologies (to match the exponential rate of progress of wealth and industry) created not only a spate of revolutions, but a long lasting change in political ideas for industrialized European nations. The Communist Manifesto created a sense of unity and class awareness throughout the proletariat, thus they were able to recognize their power politically, socially and economically.Naturally, with the sudden rise of industry (particularly in England) other sectors of the European economy were affected. Cottage industries were put out of business by competition from manufactured goods and agricultural workers migrated to the cities. Not only did the farming economy change drastically, but the urban setting where migrants came for employment expanded rapidly. These changes in labor practices and the economic landscape as a whole were most unsettling and unfair for the industrial workers of the 184 0’s. Conditions were often poor and a very distinct line was drawn between rich and poor, factor owner and factory laborer. “Industrial workers, increasingly tied to the pace of machinery, found it more and more difficult to control their work processes; they had to work ten or twelve (or more) hours nearly every day on schedules fixed by factory owners.”(1) The oppressed industrial working classes, or proletariat in 1845, according to Fredrick Engles existed as “a piece of capital for the use of which the manufacturer pays interest under the name of wages.”(2) They worked grueling hours, endured beatings from factory managers, were often ill as a result of working conditions, and were paid enough for only the most meager existence. For example, in the Saddler Committee report of 1832 (which aimed to investigate factory labor practices in England) the interviewee is asked how they (the workers) managed to remain alert and attentive at their machine. The worker responded “They strapped us many times, when we were not quite ready to be doffing the frame when it was full.”(5) In response to another question about the former worker’s destroyed appetite, he responds “It destroyed the appetite, and I became so feeble, that I could not cross the floor unless I had a stick to go with; I was in great pain, and could find no ease in posture.” (5). This excerpt form the Saddler Committee is but one case of a worker crippled by labor, rather than a laborer benefiting from the fruits of his trade. Marx’s vision of Communist society offers the depraved with the hopeful message that “in Communist society, accumulated labor is but a means to widen, to enrich, to promote the existence of the laborer.” (4). The Communist Manifesto recognized poor labor conditions and overall quality of life and suggested directly to the proletariat that they were a class capable of changing (if unified). Marx offered solutions to problems that faced industrial workers similar to the Saddler Committee worker. He offered the proletariat a message of hope through action, whether or not it was a utopian vision however, is witnessed throughout the course of history. It should be stated that reforms were attempted to assist the working class. For example, the National Workshops in France were created to alleviate unemployment in France (although the final result was disastrous). As another example, in the German states “wages rose an average of 5.5 percent in the 1840s-but the cost of living rose about 16 percent each decade, canceling out the wage increases.”(3) Male suffrage increased in many industrialized European nations, although the vote of the proletariat was not always weighted equally. During the June Days in France, for example, “the assembly appointed a five man executive committee to run the government and pointedly excluded known supporters of worker’s rights.” (3) It would have seemed as if Marx was correct about the deliberate “keeping down” of the proletariat by the Bourgeoisie for its own economic reasons, thus reinforcing the notion of class struggle, if not outright class warfare.The main contribution of The Communist Manifesto to industrial laborers in the mid- nineteenth century was not distinctly mere recognition and rationalization of the class struggle. Marx seems to address the Communist Manifesto directly to the industrial laborer. He creates a sense of unity, not only throughout the text itself, but in the last line…”WORKING MEN OF ALL COUNTRIES, UNITE” (4). That last line sounds more like a call to arms rather than the closing sentence of a political pamphlet. Aside from Marx’s theories on the abolition of private property and some of the other intricacies of the communist political system, the recognition of the industrial worker’s plight alone by Marx was enough to get the emotions of the proletariat flaring and the subversive revolutionary group organized into more populous factions. The Communist Manifesto was more of a confidence-booster for the trampled proletariat than it was a political treatise. Direct and immediate reforms were desirable and it would take a unified action of the proletariat to achieve these means. Marx states…”Society as a whole is splitting into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other. Bourgeoisie and Proletariat.”(4) The notion of two great and hostile camps carries with it connotations of warfare, as does the statement “The first step in revolution by the working class, is to raise the proletariat to the position of the ruling class, to win the battle of democracy.”(4) These urgent words could be taken as a war cry, words for (imminent or immediate) warfare. According to Marx, the only way to overtake the Bourgeois is not through negotiation and rhetoric, but through violence and revolution. Marx makes few direct inferences for violence, but through the Communist Manifesto’s steadily rising tone, and ending with the “battle cry” it is certainly implied.Marx’s apparent sympathy (or better yet, recognition) for the proletariat is evident when he says “instead of rising with the progress of industry, [the proletariat] sinks deep and deeper below the conditions of his own class.”(4) Marx recognizes the plight of the individual worker by making a collective statement as he does when he says Š”All we want to do away with is the miserable character of this appropriation, under which the laborer lives merely to increase capital, and is allowed only in so far as the interests of the ruling class allows it.” (4). It is interesting that within Marx’s apparent sympathetic reaction to the worker’s plight, he does not allow them to dwell long upon their misfortunes. He offers other suggestions and solutions to the problem of the class struggle besides outright warfare and violent revolution. In his model of the communist state, there is, for example, the issue of education. When Marx speaks of the general education supplied by the Bourgeoisie, he said “it furnishes the proletariat with weapons for fighting the bourgeoisie….”these also supply the proletariat with fresh elements of enlightenment and progress.”(4) By speaking directly to the proletariat and placing them historically (“The history of all hitherto society is the history of class struggles.”[4]), economically, and socially Marx strove to develop unity among the proletariat, as they were the class with the ultimate power. Marx states “All previous historical movements were movements of minorities. The proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement f the immense majority, in the interest of the immense majority.”(4) Although perhaps a utopian vision for a classless, productive, industrial society that was beneficial to all, the mere recognition of strength in numbers and class solidarity were fundamentally effective and paved the way not only for future governments but for future laborers.Works Cited1) Blackford, Mansel G. Labor in the Industrial Revolution {Introduction} derived from Exploring the European Past Thompson Learning Custom Publishing, 20022) Engels, Fredrick Conditions of the Working Class in England, ed. Eric Hobsbawin (London 1969), 39-40, 41-423) Hunt, Lyn The Making of the West: Peoples and Cultures, Volume II, Bedford/ St. Martin’s 20014) Marx, Karl The Communist Manifesto translated by Samuel Moore, 18885) Saddler Committee Report exerpted from Parliamenary Papers: Reports from Committees, Vol 15, Labor of Children in Factories (London: House of Commons, 1832)

The Reversal of Power: A Marxist Reading of Frankenstein

As Victor Frankenstein of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein delves deeper into his search for the causes of life, he becomes consumed by his quest for the answer to his question as he toils over his creation – a decrepit but mortal form compiled of various body parts. He pushes himself to the edge of his capacity for labor, and in the process isolates himself from his family, his human needs, as well as the rest of mankind. When his project is complete, however, Frankenstein finds himself to be immediately repulsed by his finalized work and distances himself, leaving the creature to go off into the world and fend for itself without any knowledge of human society. Faced with this new set of circumstances the creature soon becomes completely separate from Frankenstein, a massive power entirely independent of its creator. This shift in control from the laborer to the product of the labor reflects many of Karl Marx’s ideas expressed in his “Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts” as well as in “The Communist Manifesto.” It is useful to approach Frankenstein through a lens crafted by Marx’s ideas as such an approach reveals the alienation that Victor Frankenstein feels both from others while in the midst of his work, the hostility he feels towards the product of his labor, the Creature, once he is past his fit of obsessive construction and is able to view it in a new light, as well as the control that the creature is able to exercise over him as soon as it has grown to be its own autonomous being.

To begin, at the very start of Victor Frankenstein’s fixation on his work he severs his ties with the world outside his laboratory almost completely, focusing only on his attempts to animate his lifeless creature. He loses all sense of time and connection with the natural world as he states, “The summer months passed while I was thus engaged, heart and soul, in one pursuit. It was a most beautiful season; never did the fields bestow a more plentiful harvest, or the vines yield a more luxuriant vintage: but my eyes were insensible to the charms of nature” (Shelley, 81). Reading this passage through a Marxist lens, however, it becomes apparent that this is an excellent example of Marx’s first form of alienation from labor: alienation of man from nature. Marx finds this to be meaningful as he believes that “As plants, animals, minerals, air, light, etc., in theory form a part of human consciousness, partly as objects of natural science, partly as objects of art – his spiritual inorganic nature or spiritual means of life which he must prepare for enjoyment and assimilation – so they also form in practice a part of human life and human activity” (Marx, 63). In this statement Marx is raising the idea of nature as an essential part of human existence, particularly in that many of the things that bring happiness are things that are considered to be acts of human nature. Therefore, through isolating himself from the outside world and from the deeds of Mother Nature, Frankenstein is denying himself the simplest pleasures in life and is furthering his separation from society.

Building further on this point, Frankenstein’s obsession begins to prevent him from taking the necessary steps to care for his own mind and body. He is unable to separate himself from his work, and as a result is unable to stop creating it despite his own needs as he states, “My cheek had grown pale with study, and my person had become emaciated with confinement […] My limbs now tremble, and my eyes swim with the remembrance; but then a resistless, and almost frantic impulse, urged me forward; I seemed to have lost all soul or sensation but for this one pursuit” (Shelley, 81). In losing his ability to tend to himself, Frankenstein exhibits the second form of alienation from labor: the alienation of man from himself. This is significant in that it begins to explain the way in which one can lose touch not only with the world around him but with his own mind as well. Marx claims that what separates man from other species is his ability to build as a means of creating beauty as opposed to only creating out of necessity, a theme that reoccurs throughout Frankenstein as Victor attempts to create what he defines as a beautiful being out of the collected remnants of human body parts. He states that due to this way of thinking “This production is his active species-life. Through it nature appears as his work and his actuality […] he produces himself not only intellectually, as in consciousness, but also actively in a real sense and sees himself in a world he made” (Marx, 64). With alienation of man from himself, however, Marx states that “It changes his superiority to the animal inferiority, since he is deprived of nature, his inorganic body” (Marx, 64). Viewing Frankenstein’s alienation process through this lens, it becomes clear the ways in which he is being robbed of his natural ability to create for himself. In losing this, he is losing part of what makes him characteristically human.

Furthermore, Frankenstein breaks off from his family almost completely, refusing to reply in his own handwriting even to the letters of his beloved cousin Elizabeth. When his companion Clerval comes to check up on him he picks up an unopened letter delivered several days before his visit that reads: “My dear cousin, I cannot describe to you the uneasiness we have all felt concerning your health. We cannot help imagining that your friend Clerval conceals the extent of your disorder: for it is now several months since we have seen your hand-writing; and all this time you have been obliged to dictate your letters to Henry […] Dear Victor, if you are not very ill, write yourself, and you’re your father and all of us happy” (Shelley, 88-91). By examining Frankenstein’s actions through Marx’s fourth form of alienation, the alienation of man from man, it becomes clear the full effect that locking himself away with his work has had on Frankenstein. In losing his ability to face himself he also loses the ability to face others, producing a system in which man is unable to comprehend what his labor is for, even in the case of producing for others.

Finally, as the creature is jilted by Frankenstein and becomes completely independent from him and as Frankenstein attempts to return to his life before his project, the creature confronts him as an aggressive and foreign object. The hostility that is felt between the laborer and the product of the labor as well as the threats that the creature places upon Frankenstein’s conscience is an example of how rather than the object becoming an extension of himself, he has become a slave to its power.Marx states in his works, “If man is related to the product of his labor, to his objectified labor, as to an alien, hostile, powerful object independent of him, he is so related that another alien, hostile, powerful man independent of him is the lord of his object. If he is unfree in relation to his own activity, he is related to it as a bonded activity, activity under the domination, coercion, and yoke of another man” (Marx, 65). This passage relates directly to control that the creature exerts over Frankenstein, similar to the control that not only the product holds over the worker but also the power the employer carries.

It is useful to read Frankenstein through a lens crafted by Marx’s works “Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts” and “The Communist Manifesto” in that it adds new depth to the relationship between Frankenstein and his monstrous creation. By examining Victor Frankenstein’s interactions with the natural world, his ability to cater to his own human needs, and the way he maintains his relationship to others during his fit of obsession using Marx’s various steps of alienation of labor it becomes clear the ways in which creating for beauty or excess results in fixation and estrangement from the rest of humanity. In addition to this, Frankenstein’s monster can easily be viewed as a symbol for the control and power that the laborer’s creation holds over both the laborer and society in the way in which he attempts to frighten Frankenstein into submission to his will. Using Marx, these aspects of Frankenstein are made apparent and the ideas are made more complex than they would be if the text were to be read alone.

Shelley, Mary W. Frankenstein. D.L. Macdonald and Kathleen Scherf, eds. 3rd ed. Canada: Broadview, 2012. Print

Marx, Karl. Selected Writings. Lawrence H. Simon ed. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1994. Print.

Conformity in the Kite Runner and the Communist Manifesto

As psychologist Rollo May once said: “The opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice, it’s conformity.” Throughout Khaled Hosseini’s novel, The Kite Runner, the reader is exposed to the dueling themes of conformity versus nonconformity, and the effects of either of those actions on those around them. But can this battle of to conform or to not really help to change someone’s life? Hosseini presents the reader with the characters of Hassan and Baba, both who seem to project that actions of conformity and nonconformity really do decide the course of another’s life. Khaled Hosseini’s character of Baba shows the reader that if one conforms to societal expectations during times of crisis then he/she will see tragedy befall those around him/her, while his character of Hassan demonstrates that if one acts against societal norms during times of crisis then he/she will save those around him/her and be able to cause substantial change in his/her society. This theme is paralleled in Karl Marx’s The Communist Manifesto, where Marx shows that substantial societal change can only be achieved through the nonconformity of the lower classes.

The character of Hassan fails to conform to societal expectations in seeking to protect those he loves, and henceforth saves and even changes the course of others lives in doing so. To understand Hassan’s nonconformity, one must first understand Hassan’s role in Afghan society. Hassan, as a Hazara, is expected to be submissive, to obey, and to follow the supposedly superior class of Pashtuns, and to not go or act against what they say or do. The Minority Rights Group explains that “The persecution of the Hazaras … has existed for centuries where the Hazaras were driven out of their lands, sold as slaves and had a lack of access to services available to majority of the population” Yet, Hassan does not bow to the stereotypes of his Pashtun superiors. For example, he defends Amir (the Pashtun protagonist and Hassan’s friend) from Assef (the Pashtun antagonist, Hassan and Amir’s enemy). Assef confronts Amir, blatantly threatening to harm him, but Hassan steps in to defend Amir, “[holding his] slingshot pointed directly at Assef’s face. (Hosseini, 43)” By doing this, Hassan intentionally and knowingly defies his place as a submissive member of society. He knows the risk accompanying him in doing this but still chooses to do so to save Amir. Next, Hassan passes his rebellious ways onto his son, Sohrab, who once more fails to conform to society’s expectations and again saves Amir from Assef. Several year later, Amir once again confronts Assef, but this time he does not have Hassan to protect him, but this time Sohrab “had the slingshot point[ing] directly at Assef’s face. (291)” Sohrab does this not knowing who Amir is but still protects him as he fails to conform to his supposed place as Assef’s subordinate, who should not go against Assef’s wishes. The protective actions Hassan takes have primarily positive effects on himself and those he loves. As an effect of Hassan’s stepping in against Assef, Hassan protects both Amir’s and his own well being. After Hassan’s threats, “Assef retreated a step. His disciples followed. (44)” By defying common principle, Hassan rescues Amir as well as himself from a physical assault from Assef and his cronies. Had he not defied the racial directives of Afghan society, both he and Amir would face severe physical trauma. Hassan’s son, Sohrab, also steps in against the societal restrictions and disobeys his superiors to aid Amir. After Sohrab follows Hassan’s footsteps and again threatens Assef, he saves both himself and Amir from Assef, and they escape Assef’s compound, “[Amir] stumbl[ing] down the hallway, Sohrab’s little hand on [his]. (291)” By defying his place as Assef’s subordinate, Sohrab, like his father before him, saves Amir’s life as well as reinforcing his future (potential) well being by attacking Assef with his slingshot. However, Hassan’s well-intended actions equally have terrible repercussions. The damaging effects of acting against society can be seen specifically when Hassan fails to conform to his supposed place as a subordinate in society and fails to obey the Taliban. This can be seen when older Hassan is tasked with taking care of Amir’s house while he is in the United States, and the Taliban come to see why a Hazara is living in such a nice house alone. The Taliban tells Hassan that “they would be moving in to supposedly keep [the house] safe. (219)” However, “Hassan protested again. (219)”. In doing this, Hassan seeks to protect his family, who are residing in the house, by keeping the Taliban far away. Hassan so forth fails to obey those whom he is expected to, and pays dearly for it. Following Hassan’s refusal to meet Taliban demands of letting the Taliban into and around the house, the Taliban dragged Hassan out into the street, “and shot him in the back of the head. (219)” Therefore, Hassan’s response of defiance resulted in not only his own death, but the death of his family too. Had Hassan graciously welcomed the Taliban into the house, they would have likely spared him, but they would also likely have raped his wife and sent his child to fight and die. So, in Hassan’s attempt to save his family and himself, he, along with his wife and child, ended up dead.

The character of Baba does conform to societal expectations and henceforth brings suffering upon those around him. First, Baba only accepts a son who matches his own masculinity. He claims that “there is something missing in that boy. (22)” By saying this, Baba is conforming to expectations by requiring his son to me masculine and only do manly things, things he himself would have done. He refuses to accept his son when he shows anything less than brute masculinity, and therefore follows what society wants him to do. Secondly, Baba acts along what he believes a Afghan and specifically Pashtun male should be like in being strong and refusing medical treatment when he believes he does not need it. He decides “That’s a clear answer for me… No chemo-medication. (156)” In doing this he conforms to the image of a strong Afghan (that he believes in) that does not need any medication. He refuses to accept advanced medical treatment as he believes it is a sign of weakness, especially when he does not believe he needs it. However, if one does abide by what they believe is expected of them, they may see their conformity pay off. This can be seen specifically when Baba refused to let his Russian superiors take sexual advantage of the Afghan people. He tells a Russian soldier that “[he will] take a thousand of [the Russian’s] bullets before [he] let[s] this indecency take place. (116)” In doing this, Baba does conform to the Afghan male’s role of protecting the female, and in doing so, saves the Afghan woman from being raped. Baba’s strict adherence to common principles tend to have devastating effects on those around, but turn out well on occasion. First, Amir feel unloved and alone, in desperate need of the ability to prove his worth. He believes he needs to “show [Baba] once and for all that his son was worthy. (56)” due to Baba’s near abandonment of Amir takes a deep toll on Amir in the he is increasingly hostile and cruel towards others in desperation to prove his worth to Baba. Secondly, Baba’s death comes more rapidly. Shortly after Baba’s refusal of chemotherapy, Amir puts him to bed and “Baba never woke up. (173)” Thus, Baba’s refusal to accept medicine and therefore caused emotional and mental pain on his family due to his death. The damages of Baba’s death are evident on Amir as he references Baba and his mortality throughout the rest of the novel. However, Baba’s conformity has some positive impacts, specifically Baba saves the afghan woman threatened with rape. The woman’s husband shows his great gratitude when he “did something [Amir had] seen many others do before him: He kissed Baba’s hand. (117)” Baba’s conformity to the defense of women not only saved her but also saved her husband from great distress. He was able to protect her without defying established principles, and his accordance with said principles resulted, however surprisingly, positively.

One can see similar themes of one’s rising up against their established place resulting their own social and economic betterment in Karl Marx’s the Communist Manifesto. Marx argues that if the lower class desires change in their society, they must be the ones who catalyze that change, which can be seen in his assertive statements in his work. First, Marx begins by stating that the lower class is the one to control the tide of change. Specifically, Marx states that the “proletariat, historically, [have] played a most revolutionary part.” He states that the proletariat, the lower class in society, who typically subordinate to the upper class, are the ones with the capacity to create change, and can only do so through nonconformity to the roles to which the upper class wants them to play. Second, Marx claims that the proletariat have the ability to rend societies natural order through its own nonconformity, specifically that it “has pitilessly torn asunder [the ties] that bound a man to his ‘Natural Superiors.'” Marx claims that the proletariat are the ones to take the reins through nonconformity to their ‘Natural Superiors’. He believes that the achievement of societal betterment has historically been though the lower class seizing control from the upper class, and that it must happen again for society to benefit. Marx believes that conforming not to the upper classes’ desires, but to the lower classes aspirations is the way for one to benefit. Finally, Marx claims that the lower class carries societies future on its back. He claims it “cannot raise itself up without the whole superincumbent start of society being sprung into the air.” Therefore, he claims the proletariat are the class that must not conform if they desire change, as they are the ones who control the changing tides in their standing social and political territory. The results of Marx’s claims can be seen in the effects of the Communist revolution and the subsequent results of it. First, Marx tells us that upon the upheaval caused by the nonconformity, the upper classes will fall, and “into their place stepped, free of competition, the economic and political sway of the proletarian class,” and indeed, this occurred when the proletariat took societal control during the communist revolution. In their upheaval, the proletariat will gain power as the upper classes will be thrown from their throne and the proletariat will be able to seek to benefit all of the populous. Second, Marx argues that “[the bourgeoisie’s] fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable,” and his argument rang true as the bourgeoisie’s fall was immediately followed by the rise of the proletariat. He states that it is only a matter of time until the revolutionary and nonconformity of the lower class seizes the reins of power from the upper class. He believes that the nonconformity of the proletariat will cause the fall of the upper class, and therefore the social and economic betterment of the lower classes. Finally, Marx states that the instatement of the proletariat in power will “deprive [of the upper class] the power to subjugate the labor to others,” and the physical appearance of this can be seen in the mutually beneficial and willing labor of the communist revolution. In saying this, Marx believes that the nonconformity of those who did have labor appropriated on them will be more reluctant to do the same oppressive techniques on others, and therefore benefit all those who were previously oppressed both socially and economically.

Works Cited

Hosseini, Khaled. The Kite Runner. London: Bloomsbury, 2014.

Marx, Karl, Friedrich Engels, and Samuel Moore. The Communist Manifesto. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1967. Print.

“A Quote by Rollo May.” Goodreads. Goodreads, n.d. Web. 06 Apr. 2017.

“Hazaras.” Minority Rights Group. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 June 2017.

Alienation in Marx and Engels’ Communist Manifesto

Alienation is a core aspect of Marxist thinking. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels argue in The Communist Manifesto that capitalism is the cause alienation. The theory is that the estrangement, or alienation, of people, is a consequence of living in a society with social classes. Social classes lead humans to be separated from each other and ultimately from themselves. Marx and Engels argue that capitalism causes workers to be alienated from others due to class struggle, their act of producing and from the human species. Throughout The Communist Manifesto, it is shown that capitalism worsens the alienation of the worker from each of these aspects. As communism offers a unity between workers, alienation, for Marx and Engels, is an effect of capitalism and its exploitation of the Proletariat and communism is the solution that they offer.

The Communist Manifesto writes, “the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles” (Marx & Engels, The Communist Manifesto 10). The idea of class is a struggle for anyone who is being oppressed by the confines of social class. This struggle is what has formed the society that Marx and Engels live in. The authors argue that history is a constant battle, “…now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending class” (10). This fight is due to alienation and oppression. Those who are being oppressed feel alienated, leading them to revolt against their oppressors. Marx and Engels use these examples from history to show how capitalism has led to revolution and war, “freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman…” (10). Why are these people being separated? It is due to social classes. Capitalism leads those in power to take what they can from the weaker party. This idea of class creates an unfair system for those in the lower class. They write, “our epoch, the epoch of the bourgeoisie, possesses, however, this distinctive feature: it has simplified the class antagonisms. Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other: Bourgeoisie and Proletariat” (10). The thing that the Bourgeoisie and the Proletariat have in common is that they are opposing each other. The Bourgeoisie and the Proletariat rely on one another but it is the workers that feel the alienation from the other as they get less out of this relationship. The upper class gets the benefits of the lower class workers while the lower class does not receive the same reward for their harder physical labor. Communism is the solution to the class struggle that Marx and Engels offer, by sharing that without class, no one would feel separate from another.

Another aspect of Marx’s theory of alienation is the alienation of the worker and his product. When the worker creates the product, the product generates wealth that is given to the bourgeois and not for the worker, and then the condition of the worker deteriorates. The worker is creating the thing that will eventually take control of him. This devalues the worker. Capitalism also takes away the value of one’s labor, “in bourgeois society, living labor is but a means to increase accumulated labour. In communist society, accumulated labour is but a means to widen, to enrich, to promote the existence of the labourer” (19). In a capitalist society, the things or objects that the worker creates are taken from him; their labour becomes a commodity. In a capitalist society, one’s labor goes into the pocket of another, while in a communist society everything one creates will equally benefit everyone, including oneself. Workers have no control over the product, or over what they are producing and the products workers create end up dominating the workers.The worker loses wealth, financially and emotionally. This is because the wealth is handed to those in power leaving the worker enslaved, degraded and impoverished. Marx and Engels believe that communism will bridge this divide. They write, “let the ruling classes tremble at a communist revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. WORKING MEN OF ALL COUNTRIES, UNITE” (33). The authors argue that the worker has been so devalued that he has nothing left to lose. This also refers to the proletariat’s oppression as they mention “their chains” (33). Under capitalism, work is controlled by employers and not by those actually doing the work. The worker lacks fulfillment. This is how the social aspects of alienation emerge. The worker’s labor becomes something that is used to generate money for survival instead of labor to exercise human creativity. The ability to be creative in one’s labor is denied to workers.

Workers become alienated from humanity when their only means of expression is their labor. One loses his sense of self when his day-to-day activities consist only of labor for someone other than himself. Marx and Engels argue that laborers are losing their humanity by becoming attached to their labor, “…the work of the proletarians has lost all individual character, and, consequently, all charm for the workman. He becomes an appendage of the machine, and it is only the most simple, most monotonous, and most easily acquired knack, that is required of him” (14). They argue that the worker is becoming such a part of their machines and labor that they do not have individuality. The potential for human creativity is lost. One becomes less human when their life revolves around labor benefiting another while getting little in return. This happens under capitalism. Human potential is non-existent in a non-expressive and capital producing environment. The worker cannot produce growth because he is doing the same thing day in and day out. Humans, as opposed to animals, have a consciousness and a will. This consciousness allows for free human activity. This free activity or will is a part of human nature. The alienated labor that capitalism creates takes away the product, thus taking away this aspect of human nature. Taking away this human advantage turns humans into animals.This creates a gap between the classes because the lower class has lost its humanity while the upper class maintains and feeds off the lower class’ struggle. A communist society would allow workers to be creative because the person that work is being created for is themselves allowing for error and experimentation.

Marx and Engels use alienation as one tool to show the problems with a capitalist system in The Communist Manifesto. Throughout the authors’ writing, it is shown that through a communist system alienation of peoples could be ended. Whether it is through one’s relationship to social class, one’s relationship to his or her production or one’s relationship to human nature it is seen through Marx and Engels’ writing that the capitalist system is a system that separates people rather than uniting them. Throughout The Communist Manifesto, it is seen that communism is the solution to this gap in society. Communism breaks down barriers created by social class, communism brings purpose to one’s labor and communism creates a relationship between human beings and human nature. Through Marx and Engels’ writing, it is seen that communism will bring value to the proletariat’s life and work.