Applying the Marxist Approach to a Poem by W. Blake
To what extent is Marxist criticism helpful in opening up potential meanings in ‘London’ by William Blake?
By applying a Marxist critique to William Blake’s poem ‘London’, the reader is able to gain insight into the human condition, corruption of society’s institutions and subjugation of the lower class. In attempting to understand these ideas Blake chooses to scrutinise ‘the politics of class’, through which he observes the ‘socio-economic circumstances’ of individuals, societies and ideologies. A study of the critical anthology allows us to conclude that authors are ‘constantly formed by their social contexts’ and in this respect Blake is no different, demonstrated by the impact of the French Revolution upon the poem. In ‘London’, he examines how the Government attempts to exert its influence in order to halt a similar uprising, evidenced by its control of the ‘charter’d streets’. Furthermore, as a poem written in the children’s book ‘Songs of Innocence’, Blake elects to examine the world through the eyes of a child. Consequently, his vision is unfettered by societal expectation, empowering him to reveal the harsh reality of humanity. Additionally, the poem alludes to the notion that his empathy and childish naivety enables him to challenge the apparatus of power without prejudice. So, he is able to explore the difficulties of the lower class by presenting his own image of London.
When exploring social denotations within ‘London’, the concept of limitation is foregrounded in the Government’s control over the City. By describing the streets and river as ‘charter’d’, an association with legal rights and privileges, Blake shows how London is placed under the ‘legalised’ control of the aristocracy. Furthermore, Blake juxtaposes the notion of freedom and limitation within London through his description of the river, stating the ‘Thames does flow’ through the City, offering the suggestion of freedom, whilst yet submitting to being ‘charter’d’. This indicates that even the river has restrictions enforced upon it by the upper class. Therefore, Blake uses the idea of the Government’s control over nature as a means to highlight the powerlessness of the lower class.
Blake also explores the circumstances of ordinary Londoners within his poem. Through the use of anaphora, Blake’s repetition draws our attention to the imagery of ‘the mind-forg’d manacles I hear’, implying they are created within the mind of the poet, not merely a physical constraint upon the Londoners. The manacles are not real, but are a metaphor to highlight the repression of the lower class, inviting the listener to observe how society has imposed its ideas and prejudices upon the poor. Like the ‘charter’d Thames’, the ‘manacles’ show us that the people have submitted to the control of the Government. This is reinforced by Bertens who states ‘it is not the consciousness of men that determine their existence but their social existence that determines their consciousness’. Blake is suggesting that the people of London are unable to have autonomy, but instead they are following the intellectual and political ideas that are imposed upon them by the ruling class. This control is evidenced by the rigid structure of the poem and its alternating rhyme scheme. Thus, the mind is no longer presented as a source of freedom; rather it is used by society as a way of controlling and affirming class boundaries. Conversely, Blake’s presentation of the ‘mind-forg’d manacles’ can suggest that people are able to release themselves from this control. By showing how tyranny imposes its strength through enforcing its control over the lower class’s minds, Blake presents the notion of rebellion as a way to free minds from societal expectation. Yet, Bertens undermines this, writing that ‘minds aren’t free at all, they only think they are’.
To assist us in exploring the connotations of the human condition, Blake uses a choice of words that have great significance in how they engage the listener. Through his use of double entendre and metaphors, the speaker is able to highlight the hardships of the poor. The ‘Marks of weakness, Marks of woe’ ‘in every face I meet’ is presented as having both metaphorical and literal importance. We know that to mark, means either to make a scratch, or closely observe. Therefore, Blake may be observing the literal marks of age on every face, emphasising the physical hardships they endure. Alternatively, it could be suggested these marks are not physical, and by observing the people he imprints the marks upon them within his mind. Thus, Blake portrays both the physical hardship and the mental pressure society exerts upon the poor, a point that is reinforced by Bertens who states that ‘the way we think and the way we experience the world around us are either wholly or largely conditioned by the way the economy is organised’. Consequently, we can understand that the lower class is unable to free themselves from the powers that supress them.
Analysis of the poem suggests that Blake uses metaphor as a tool to attack corruption within the institutions of London, primarily the Church and Royalty. By emphasising the use of child labour in the Church, a source of contention within society, Blake is able to challenge the institution and its commitment to the people. In stanza three, the speaker notes ‘how the Chimney-sweepers cry, every blackening Church appals’. In a direct reference to the Church’s use of orphans in chimney sweeping, Blake raises the notion that through this practice the Church has become corrupt. The blackening of the Church is both a metaphorical and literal description, in which the ‘blackening’ raises awareness to its loss of innocence and purity. This proposes that the Church is dying ‘morally’ through its practice of child labour. In a literal sense, the soot from the chimneys blackens the skin of the orphans, so portraying the physical blackening of the Church.
Blake also uses the poem as a way to explore the effect of the corrupt institutions upon the people of London. Bertens tells us that ‘Capitalism… thrives on exploiting its labourers’. In stanza three, the speaker shows us that the Palace is no different through the exploitation of the soldiers. By applying Marxist criticism to the metaphor ‘And the hapless Soldiers sigh Runs in blood down Palace walls’, alternative meanings are revealed within the poem. One interpretation of this metaphor perceives the Palace as having ‘blood on its hands’ through its endeavour to maintain control. Like the orphan chimney sweeps, the soldier is a slave to an institution that is using him to do its dirty work. Alternatively, the soldier’s sighing can be seen as an expression of his discontentment in his lack of power and authority to do anything about his situation. Like the chimney sweep, he is unable to take action against the institution that controls him. Instead, he must enforce the violent demands of the Palace that ultimately ends in the blood running down the Palace walls. Bertens explains how the soldier’s ‘thought is subservient to, and follows the material conditions under which it develops’. He further reinforces this point, stating that ‘all of us function as objects and become alienated from ourselves’. However, an alternative interpretation of the soldiers sigh reveals revolutionary potential in the blood on the Palace walls. This ‘graffiti’ is a sign of discontentment in which we see that the soldier’s thoughts are not subservient to the Palace demands and he is able to gain independence from the Palace.
In the last stanza, Blake uses contrast and incongruity within society to explore the worsening conditions within London. Through the speaker, the difference between fallen women and their innocent children is revealed. In a world where ‘the youthful Harlots curse blasts the new-born infants tear’, we are exposed to the disaffection of society where these fallen women are ‘attacking’ children with their curses. Either unwilling or unable to comfort these crying children, the Harlots have been labelled with societal prejudices. Blake suggests that the conditions faced by these people have caused them to decay physically, morally and spiritually. Thus, he places blame on society for pushing fallen women toward corrupt and immoral practices such as prostitution. The harlot’s curse, a metaphor describing her life and fallen status, allows Blake to suggest it is society’s fault that the harlot ‘blights with plagues the Marriage hearse ’. Hence, the institution of marriage is tarnished both by the diseases her profession may bring into her marriage and also her status as a Harlot. This ‘blight’ is further explored through the semi-oxymoronic phrase ‘marriage Hearse’, which contrasts a symbol of life with death. By challenging the institution of marriage upon which society is based, the speaker presents the institution as being impure through its loss of innocence.
Marxist criticism is a useful technique that allows the listener to develop meaning and is particularly relevant due to the social issues raised within Blake’s writing. His deliberate use of metaphor enables the listener to gain valuable insight into the concerns of the time and is helpful when interpreting the significance of social inequality that existed.
Analysis of People’s Key Drives on the Example of Prebble’s Enron and Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus
Both plays, regardless of their context, are simply about man’s need to control instincts inherently selfish, greedy and lustful. They are not political satires. It is clear that both Pebble and Marlowe are concerned with man’s inherent selfish, greedy and lustful flaws, to portray the overall Marxist critical message that perhaps man is too flawed to deal with excess power. However it seems that the plays are multifaceted and not simply about one thing. Thus they are both political satires as the plays riddle? The pope’s `seven fold power from heaven’ and capitalism in Enron, but alternatively, due to their different socio-economic contexts, Enron is more of apolitical satire than Dr Faustus.
There is little doubt that both playwrights portray their protagonists as flawed and ruled by the seven deadly sins of selfishness, greed and lust. Skillings authoritative tone compounds this idea in his statement. It doesn’t matter how you win as long as you win. The repetition of the monosyllabic lexis `win’ creates emphasis showing that this is Skilling’s sole aim regardless of its effects of causing `people to f….ing die’. This conveys how his personal hubris or greed creates an inherent selfishness. This is mirrored in Marlowe’s characterisation of Faustus. Faustus’ brain tires to become a demi-god. The active verb `tires’ shows Faustus’ preoccupation with this gaol to equal God’s power. This would have been partially shocking to a contemporary audience to whom the role and power of God was unquestionable. Thus Faustus’ attempts to despair in God and usurp him would have compounded the presence of his Greed.
Structurally these sinful characteristics are further embedded. From the beginning of Enron Skilling’s selfishness is conveyed as he exclaims his company’s `running on Darwinian principles’ and his monosyllabic distressing statement than `money and sex motivate people’ suggest our lust and greed is inherent. However, what heightens the suggestion that these sins are inherent is that on the final epilogue Skilling distorts the standard biblical corinthius quote to state `the greatest of all is..money’. It is structurally interesting and distressing that Skilling’s mindset has not changed regarding money despite the fact that ‘the Californian electricity [was] deregulated’ due to his actions. Thus, contextual knowledge about the far reaching effects of the Enron crash that would resonate with contemporary audiences enhance the notion that Prebble is preoccupied with man’s inherent greed. As Marxist criticism would thus deduce that the moral message is that man is too flawed to handle power.
This moral message is compounded in Dr Faustus which would have contextually acted as a warning to the audience, as the 17th Century was a time of emerging individualism, where questions of `who made the world’ were rampant. However, this Marxist warning is issued through the archetypal characterisation of Faustus who mirrors Skillings preoccupation with the `selfish gene’, in the phrase `I am wanton and lascivious’. The combination of the first person pronoun, which shown his selfishness, combined with the adjective `wanton’ and `lascivious’ which connotate lust, suggest that Faustus is not equipped with the necessary instincts to wield power equal to that `of a deity’.
However, wile it is clear that man’s inherent instincts are shown as base in both plays and we have to learn to control them before we can yield power, they do also have elements of political satires. Enron’s context suggests that Prebble aims indeed to satirise this world. Prebble ridicules those in power by depicting the Lehman brothers `as conjoined twins’ who `struggle to turn in unison’. The verb struggle implies the weakness of contemporarily important business men. The raptors heighten this satire through the dramatic device of using the raptors. They create a metaphorical hell, like in Faustus where the plosive consonants `bodies boil in lead’ shows its horror. It is ironic that the foundation of a ‘gold glinting’ company whom the congresswoman champions saying `I don’t know how you’re doing it but keep doing it’ is actually built on the foundation of hell were it is just a ‘tiny, glowing, red box’ holding up the company. This box is a powerful dramatic prop that Prebble employs to heighten the satire. As it is ‘tiny’ it seems clearly insufficient to the audience to hold up the company, also the combination of the ‘glowing’ and ‘red’ creates a warning for the audience as red connotates danger. Thus this is a warning about the capitalist system that ‘encourages.’ Through ‘loopholes’, these rotten foundations that lead to the desperation and fear of the public how ‘lost everything.’
Evidently, Prebble satires capitalism as it facilitates greed and lust at Enron, these seven deadly sins are in part shown in Faustus as being the responsibility of the exterior system. The Pope is satirised and made to look like a fool as `condemns’ Faustus `to hell’ for the mere crime of `stealing his holiness’ wine’. Therefore Marlow is commenting on the pope’s obsession with material items such as `wine’ that make him send Faustus to hell. It is further satirised through the dramatic irony that the audience note as Faustus has already been condemned `to a vast perpetual torture house’. Therefore this religious figure has been outdone by the devil. It seem s logical that Marlowe satirises the Pope as contextually the contemporary audience has moved towards Protestantism and thus the pope was no longer deemed necessary. However, Marlowe goes further and like Prebble the contemporary upheld belief system. This time, opposed to capitalism, it is Calvinism that is subject to ridicule by the playwright. This was a protestant belief in predestination which Marlow satirises in the chorus’ phrase `heavens conspired his overthrow’. The active verb `conspired’ suggests that Faustus’ fall was predetermined. Therefore, subtly Marlowe could be stating that the belief in Calvinism makes Faustus’ `Pleasure and dalliance’ justifiable as regardless of his actions Faustus is already destined for the `torture house’ . However, Marlowe’s satire is not as evident as Prebble’s. Indeed, an alternative reading would be that Dr Faustus is not really a satire due to its adherence to morality play traditions. The use of the chorus and the undercharacterised archetypal use of a good and bad angel suggest that the play is indeed a morality play. Therefore, Marlowe is more concerned with creating a moral message about the individual than about condemning the flaws of the overall society. This is enhanced by the contextual setting as Marlowe being a 17th century play-write would have had less poetic liberty and freedom than Prebble to comment on the overall society. Instead Marlowe would have been punished.
Therefore, to conclude, both plays do consider the inherent flaws in mankind that arguably make us ill-equipped to handle power. Therefore, Marlowe creates a more personal moral message that personal hubris will mean that `cut is the branch that might have grown full straight’ so Marlow’s warning is more about the individual. This is in contrast to Prebble, whose message is more about the duplicity of the capitalist system, portrayed through the greed of mankind in Enron. Therefore Enron is more of a political satire, enhanced by the brechtian techniques, than Faustus’ personal moral message.
John Lennon’s Imagine and Marxism Research Paper
The power of music is not fully appreciated. For hundreds of years, the art of music has evolved from modest one note beats to complex layers of multiple notes. Music might have started simply as a form of audible entertainment. But, since then, it has also become a tool for propaganda and a powerful instrument to influence people.
Music has inspired great artists and philosophers and, in some cases, the great artists and philosophers have served as the muses for some of the rich, multisensory music we know and admire today. This is true when one compares and analyzes the philosophy of Karl Marx to musician John Lennon’s composition entitled Imagine.
In 1971, John Lennon released his popular single Imagine. At present, Imagine is still very popular. The lyrics provide topics for discussion that are still relevant today. The song Imagine is a dream. It is an idea that living in a utopian world is possible. It can be argued that Karl Marx’s ideas influenced the creation of the said song. The proponent of this paper will defend this assertion by analyzing both the lyrics to the song and the idea of Karl Marx.
At the same time, the following question will be answered: 1) Why has this song become so popular and why does it have a great appeal on listeners?; 2) Is it possible to build and live in a utopian world based on the ideas of Karl Marx?; and 3) With regards to the interpretation of the lyrics and the interpretation of Marx’s ideas, how was it applied in a real world setting?
The popularity of John Lennon’s Imagine never waned from its release in 1971 to the present day. There are only a few songs that endured the test of time. Songs that remained relevant are not ordinary songs but works of art that are meaningful and evoke a great deal of emotions from its listeners.
It is important to determine the popularity of the song before it can be connected to Karl Marx. The simplest explanation with regards to its popularity is the Beatles phenomenon of the 1960s. If John Lennon’s band, the Beatles, was very popular in the 1960s, then, the name Lennon is easily recognizable a decade later.
It can be argued that there were numerous fans of the Beatles that were still interested in the lives of the former band members. Therefore, when it was announced that John Lennon’s produced a new album and that one of the songs in that album is a composition entitled Imagine, it was easy to understand why a horde of loyal fans will buy the album. However, to attribute the popularity of the song to the Beatles phenomenon is not entirely correct because many year later, people continue to listen to the said composition.
Another possible explanation is the charisma and talent of John Lennon himself. It is important to point out that even without the Beatles, Lennon can easily become an influential and popular artist. According to one historian, “he was a mass-mediated star, a creation of his time, a construction who was discussed and debated in public and given meanings by other people” (Makela 236).
Lennon’s legendary status in the music industry is a valid explanation for the popularity of the song. But there were other artists who were accorded the same status as Lennon and yet some of their songs are not as popular anymore. Therefore, the popularity of the song Imagine must also be attributed to the song itself. A very good explanation can be seen through the following commentary:
The genius of this composition is the marriage of Lennon’s controversial lyrics, that is, imagination of a world without religion or civil states among other things, with instrumental music that could very well have accompanied the sentimental, melodramatic compositions of the pre-rock era. The tension in this song is created by the juxtapositions of a pretty and understated melody with a radical message (Bielen 90).
In other words, this song is well-crafted work of art. It was not done haphazardly. There was a clear purpose in the mind of the composer and lyricist. There was a reason why a particular melody was used. More importantly, the words were not chosen in random. This particular song is an anthem. It is a declaration that emanated from the heart of Lennon. Thus, this song was not created for entertainment purposes only. It was created to influence people.
The popularity of the song is not just due to the appeal of Lennon and the beauty of the melody. The song continues to be popular because of the radical message it contains. Consider the first few lines of the song. It provides a suggestion to the listener and invites him to imagine that there is no heaven.
The impact of the first salvo was cushioned by the assuring words that it is not difficult. It went on to suggest that there is no hell and ends with an equally radical assertion that there is nothing above but only sky. If taken together the song challenges the normal conventions of society.
Lennon made the declaration that there is no God. The end result, according to Lennon, is a mindset that is only preoccupied with the present (Wesson 21). One can just imagine the impact of these lyrics to those who were brought up in a religious manner. Consider the reaction of church leaders who can easily characterize the song as sacrilegious. But Lennon was just warming up.
Lennon did not spare the politicians and the leaders of civil society. The song’s second stanza provided another set of radical messages. The composer suggested that there is no such thing as a geopolitical state. Lennon believed that politics and obsession with nationalities and ethnicities are the major causes of conflict. Lennon made the declaration that if nations eradicate the concept of a national state, then, those who believe will experience life in peace (
In the first three stanzas, Lennon made the suggestion to eradicate the concept of religion and nationality in order to live in the moment and to live a life of peace. But, in the process, Lennon did not only suggest the destruction of social institutions. Lennon also challenged the root cause of inequality.
In his mind, poverty is the result of greed. If people learn how to live every moment as if it was there last, then, they have understood the essence of the song. However, it is imperative that Lennon must provide an alternative scenario if national governments are no longer functional.
In the latter part of the song, Lennon offered a solution. He said that people should have no possession. It must be clarified that the alternative solution to the problem is to establish a utopian society wherein the citizens are prevent from acquiring non-essentials. In other words, Lennon wanted to remove these vices because these are not pre-requisites. These factors continue to influence thinkers and philosophers alike.
It can be argued that John Lennon was influenced by the writings of Karl Marx (Elster 12). The lyrics found in the latter part of the song suggest a utopian world, a world that can be created using the ideas found in Karl Marx’s work. It was Marx who provided a clear understanding of social forces that shaped the modern world.
He traced the root cause of the problem to conflict between different groups of people in a particular society. At the latter part of the discussion, more people became aware of the futility of traditional social conventions. Marx was a German philosopher who lived in London. He was convinced that at the core of the problem is the struggle between social classes (Williams 25).
Marx philosophy was a byproduct of his time. He was deeply affected by the circumstances that surrounded him. For example, he saw the impact of urban sprawl as well as the contentious relationships between an employer and employee (Popkin & Stroll 16). Marx said that social stratification is not practical and effective. Marx also suggested that it in order to experience a radical transformation it is important to remove all social institutions that are supposed to help people but in reality caused them pain.
The primary goal, therefore, is to eradicate these social institutions and replace it with a utopian community based on the ideas of Karl Marx (Gillham 34).
A Marxist form of utopia was expected because of the removal of social norms that was believed to be the root cause of the problem. But when applied in a real world setting, the experiment in the former Soviet Union and Cambodia failed. Consider, for instance, the impact of Marxism in the former Soviet Union and their failed attempt to develop a utopian society:
Seven decades have passed since the Bolsheviks came to power, but Soviet society is still poorer than the capitalist West and not very egalitarian, either. Alas, much of the history of the USSR may be thought of in terms of social catastrophe – war, famine, poverty, heartless administration, and militaristic expansion. Only after the death of Stalin in 1953 did a more humanitarian spirit prevail and the well-being of the people received due attention (Matthews, 1989).
In the case of Cambodia, the revolution was led by a mad man called Pol Pot. He too wanted to build a utopian society. Pol Pot believed that it is only possible to build a Marxist utopian world through the total eradication of social classes. He incorporated Marxism into his mental framework.
But Pol Pot went further and did not only develop a political party to support his views; he also initiated the mass murder of intellectuals, the professionals and the middle-class of Cambodia. During that time period Pol Pot was responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians and their bodies were dumped in what will be known all over the world as the killing fields (Pouvatchy 440).
When Pol Pot secured his political and military power, he went on to build a utopian society free from the social stratification found in most countries. He envisioned a society without professional titles and without a hierarchy (Zacek 21). Everyone was supposed to have equal stats. More importantly, he abhorred technology and ostentatious display of wealth.
Pol Pot did not succeed in the creation of a utopian society. In fact, he subjected Cambodia to terror. There was no happiness and there was no peace. When social conventions were removed a utopian society was not immediately created afterwards. But instead of creating a blissful community, the absence of social conventions resulted in chaos, poverty and violence (Gamble 1993).
In the case of the former Soviet Union and Pol Pot’s Cambodia, there were deliberate steps made to ensure that there should be no dominant social class. The Soviets boasted of a centralized government because they believed that a government must serve its people and not the other way around. But, instead of the creation of a utopian society, the centralized governance of the Soviet Union created problems for the people.
In the struggle for equality, the Soviets inadvertently proved that there is no such a thing as a utopian society that can be built on the basis of principles gleaned from the study of Marxism. But it was able to prove that coercion and manipulation cannot be sustained in the long run. It is much better to govern people without the need to intimidate and coerce. Another major realization is that it is impossible to build a utopian society where people do not work. The dreamy existence that Lennon envisioned is impossible to accomplish.
It is interesting to note that although Pol Pot did not hear the song composed by John Lennon, Pol Pot successfully developed a way to apply the principles seen in the song. Pol Pot did not believe in God as well as heaven and hell but Pol Pot made the attempt to personally apply ideas that he believed will lead to the creation of a utopian society. But he was wrong and as a result, the whole nation suffered due to various unintended consequences.
It can be argued that in order to establish a utopian society, the primary requirement is revolution. In the case of Pol Pot realized that a utopian society is only possible if he can turn Cambodia upside-down. But Pol Pot’s major miscalculation is the need for many people to die.
Lennon’s goal was three-fold. He wanted people to live in the moment. Lennon dreamed of a society where people are not forced to work like those workers in the factory. But, in the case of Cambodia and Pol Pot, the people had to work as farmers. They had to perform back-breaking labor in order to support the community. The same thing can be said about the inefficient production models of the former Soviet Union.
John Lennon had another dream. He wanted people to live in peace. But the application of Marxism in countries like Cambodia, China, Russia and North Korea produced a great deal of conflict within their respective societies. In a godless state like North Korea and the former Soviet Union, it required heavy military presence in order for people to behave in a certain way. John Lennon had another dream. He wanted a brotherhood of man. But, so far, there was no evidence that the application of Marxism had created such a community.
John Lennon’s song entitled Imagine is very popular because of its radical message. Lennon wanted to apply Marxism in order to develop a utopian society. But it can be easily ascertained that there was no successful experiment that was reported in history. Tyrants like Pol Pot saw an opportunity to build a utopian society but failed. The absence of religion and other social conventions can cause confusion, panic and great harm to society.
Bielen, Kenneth. The Lyrics of Civility. New York: Routledge.
Elster, John. Karl Marx. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1986. Print.
Gamble, Andrew. Marxism and Social Science. Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 1993. Print.
Gillham, Oliver. The Limitless City. Washington, D.C.: New Jersey: Island Press, 2002. Print.
Makela, Janne. John Lennon Imagined. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 2004. Print.
Matthews, Mervyn. Patterns of Deprivation in the Soviet Union under Brezhnev and Gorbachev. CA: Hoover Press, 1989.
Popkin, Richard and Avrum Stroll. Philosophy Made Simple. New York: Doubleday, 1993. Print.
Pouvatchy, Joseph. “Cambodian-Vietnamese Relations.” Asian Survey 26.4 (1986): 440-451. Print.
Wesson, Robert. Lenin’s Legacy: The Story of the CPSU. CA: Hoover Press, 1978. Print.
Williams, Andre. Marxism and Social Science. IL: University of Illinois Press, 1999. Print.
Marxism will not return as a major ideology in the 21st century Essay
During the 19th century, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels developed a world view theory referred to as Marxism (Player 165). So far, this theory has been severally reviewed by other scholars and political philosophers who have offered their own perspectives. Some of the inherent perspectives that have been developed to date include eco-socialism, Marxist humanism, feminism and Christian Marxism.
As a theory, Marxism has four main elements that are closely related and which may largely assist towards understanding how society transformed as well as evolved over the years especially among the capitalist economies. As a matter of fact, some of the elements of change that have characterized transformation in society include materialistic approach to history, social class divisions, dialectical approach to historical changes and commitment to socialism (Player 166).
It is also imperative to underscore the fact that during the very 19th century period, Marxism was adopted as the main ideology in running the communist’s governments that were spreading all over the world. Initially, the ideology was first introduced in Canada by the British intellectuals and as a result, it ended up dominating the ideals and major principles of the socialist parties in the country (Player 165).
However, it is evident that Marxism began to stagnate in the 20th century due to several interconnected reasons. We may also not ignore to mention that since Marxism theories have been critiqued by scholars, certain pieces of opinions have also developed which tend to assert that these theories may not be suitable in the 21st century (Hundelson 259). This paper explores some of the theories on Marxism and argues that the latter may not be suitable or applicable in the 21st century.
A brief overview of Marxism
It is apparent that, in order to understand why Marxism is not suitable as a major ideology in the 21st century, it is important to have an overview of what the theory is all about. It is also worthy to mention that, the proponents of Marxism targeted to fight self- emancipations that existed among the working class people. In a more subjective manner, it also aimed at eliminating any form of domination of the bourgeoisies against the poor in society.
As a result, Marxism gradually progressed and came up with movements that fought against all forms of domination by virtue of gender, race and social class. According to the Marxists’ view, the only way of decimating manifold domination and exploitation was through liberating the working lass from being oppressed by rich employers. In the process, Marxism gave birth to a socialism movement that was destined to eradicate all forms of institutional sadism.
Meanwhile, in the process of destroying the concentration of power among specific classes of people in society, Marxism aimed to empower and strengthen workers’ movements (Row thorn 26). Karl Marx and Friedrich had already realized that workers freedom was greatly limited by the wealthy elites (Keynes 9).
Therefore, they proposed to enhance it by expanding the capacity of collective action thus increasing possibilities for individual intensification within the society. Karl Marx argued that workers freedom could not be enhanced by limiting their autonomy but rather facilitating individual participation in the economy (Rowthorn 26). In this case, the freedom was to be achieved by use of a theoretical approach.
In addition to this, Marxism applied practical critiques through political actions (Hundelson 261). Therefore, the theorist mobilized masses of people to oppose certain manifold dominations. However, since Marxism had different faces, there were no specifically set principles in the sense that no face could embody any historic achievement in the entire process. In this case, the movement and its integral concerns adopted the name of its key proponent namely Karl Marx.
Meanwhile, irrespective of the many contributions of Marxism’s, the movement has several shortcomings. Criticisms of the movement have originated from a political point of view. In other words, democratic socialists declined to accept the views of Marxism on the issue of socialism (Rowthorn 34). According to Karl Marx, socialism could only be achieved through class conflict and grassroots, revolution.
Contemporarily, there are very few supporters of Marxist ideology as opposed to other movements such as liberalism and democracy. Moreover, the basic fundamentals of Marxism that have been criticized by thinkers creating a negative illusion in peoples mind (Sowell 112).That not withstanding, it is imperative to understand why the theory was highly criticized as a major ideology of the century.
Critiques of Marxism
Considering the intellectual basis of Marxism, one of the main fundamentals was on historical materialism. According to Karl Marx, advancement in technology and modes of productions impact a change on the social relations (Keynes 8). However, this view has some limitations because it fails to consider the superstructure of the society. Such factors include ethnicity, culture, religion and political views.
According to this view, Karl Marx tends to overlook both the real and perceived causes of economic underdevelopment. With Marxism, there is a general perception that material factors such as technology are the main causes of economic decline. He bases economic development on law, politics, morality and religion.
According to Marxist critics, Karl Marx oversimplified nature of the society on their impact on economic development (Rowthorn 26). The controversy here is that, the theory does not bring out clearly whether it is the material factor or the superstructure of the society that influence development. Furthermore, thinkers have argued that though Marxism theory is testable there is lot of falsified facts.
Therefore, it is arguable that the issue of historical materialism is very narrow to act as a pedestal for indulging the complexity and numerous power structures. In this case, there is a conventional twist that rules out the scientific status of Marxism. In the 21st century, we need a theory that will emphasize on the possible factors that are responsible in enhancing development (Player 165).
It is also vivid that Marxism does not put into consideration the role and effect of governments on the capitalist system of production. Karl Marx asserts that economic investors and businessmen need monopoly over their businesses (Rowthorn 43).
While the latter approach towards economic empowerment sounds awesome, Marxists did not consider that capitalism can collapse the very economy it defends and that exclusive monopoly could result to social revolution. Instead, Karl Marx perceived capitalistic monopoly as, an inherent tendency towards to overcome fiscal and ecological crises (Keynes 7).
Moreover, he perceived that capitalist system would eradicate poverty, unemployment, disparity, disaffection and environmental destruction once every individual was given an opportunity to participate in production. Karl Marx fails to understand that, capitalist system can not collapse on its own but as a result of resource depression (Hundelson 264). However, it is evident that when businesses monopolize the market forces it can be dangerous and this requires the government to regulate the market forces.
Failure to regulate investments results to capitalism system reaching its final stage. Optimum trust and monopoly in businesses affect the regular and natural mode in which the economy is run by the government (Sowell 117). In another words, total monopoly eradicate government regulation through unionization and legislations. Predictably, thinkers argue that such a state can result to economic collapse in a country.
In this case, if the theory is applicable in the 21st century, there is n way we can overcome problems associated with monopolistic nature of the current investments (Sowell 120).
Additionally, Marxism theory assumes that there are other factors other than the economy that that drives history (Keynes 12). According to some thinkers, considering economy as the only drive for history may be quite a narrow and oversimplified way of revisiting such a theory.
Needless to say, economy as a factor cannot be used to explain the history of civilization (Sowell 118). Thinkers feel that, in order to understand civilization, we need to use superstructures of a particular society in order to examine the struggles and achievements up to the contemporary period (Keynes 8).
Moreover, though Karl Marx figures out human superstructure as source of underdevelopment, it is vivid that, in as much as man needs freedom he requires a bit of barbarism such as tribalism and racism. This helps him to explore himselves and finally establishes his identity. This implies that, to some extent conflict is inevitable and thus important in shaping man’s destiny.
In one way or the other, conflict triggered competition, responsibility and increased human experience. Due to this reason, anarchists feel that, 21st century deserves a more realistic theory that will put into account the idea of self-realization. Finally, thinkers and scholars perceive that Marxism is vulnerable to corruption by the fact that all the means of productions are at the hands of private citizens (Sowell 112).
As mentioned earlier, the fact that Karl Marx assumed the role of government in regulating production, the effects is that there will be no revenues to run a state. Lack of strict regulation of wealth by the government will deprive the state from getting funds obtained from taxes (Govind 75). This also gives people the freedom to conduct businesses on their own means and thus some wealth might be created through unethical strategies.
In this case, anarchists find this theory unsuitable since it will bring revolutions that have the exact nature of those that they are struggling to overthrow. Considerably, Marxism creates ample conditions for the socialists who destruct the normal nature of a state (Keynes 18). This implies that, the anarchist campaign against Marxism reduces its chances to return as a major ideology in the 21st century.
To recap it all, it is factual that Marxism is outdated and can hardly stand as a major ideology in the progressive and dynamic 21st century socio-political and economic life. Although Karl Marx’s theory appears consistent, the assumptions are extremely disputed. This has been attributed by the complex errors and ambiguities identified when the theory was being analyzed by scholars.
Furthermore, Marxism has failed to provide an accurate theoretical framework that can rescue the world states from capitalist totalitarianism. Indeed, even the existing framework lacks coherence and means of accessibility especially among developing countries. Proactively, the 21st century era demands a theory that is independent of religious and close-minded fanatics.
Govind, Rahul. Equality, Right, and Identity: Rethinking the Contract through Hobbes and Marx. Telos, 1.154 (2011): 75.
Hundelson, Richard . Popper’s Critique of Marx. Philosophical Studies 37 (1980) 259- 70.
Keynes, Anderson. Not Just Capital and Class: Marx on Non-Western Societies, Nationalism and Ethnicity. Socialism and Democracy, 24.3 (2010): 7-23.
Player, Job. On Marx: An Introduction to the Revolutionary Intellect of Karl Marx. Capital & Class, 35.1 (2011): 165-167.
Rowthorn, Bob. Skilled Labor in the Marxist System. Bulletin of Conference of Socialist Economists, 8 (1974) 25-45.
Sowell, Thomas. Marx’s ‘Increasing Misery’ Doctrine. American Economic Review, 50.1(1960): 111-20.
History paper, Marxism theory Essay
The mid 19th century was a period of great political revolutions where most of the political philosophies were established. Maxim defined imperialism as the unequal relationship between capitalism and non-capitalism. Capitalism is the situation whereby the means of production of goods and services for profit are owned by the private sector. It involves capital accrual, competitive markets, and the price system (Fernandez-Armesto 15).
These controls are the dynamics that the Marxism theorist used to develop their theories based on material possessions. In the 19th century, there were revolutionary movements that opposed the capitalist model of governance replacing it with other systems that were acceptable to the people. This paper will discuss Marxism theories to establish how he anticipated nationalism and imperialism as well as the ideological views of the classical liberalism.
Imperialism theory is the formation of a disproportionate economic, cultural territorial rapport between countries (Fernandez-Armesto 15). This relationship is normally based on empire domination and subordination of other states (Fernandez-Armesto 11). Imperialism exploits the native people with the aim of enriching a few influential people in the political class. There are two types of imperialism, which are the regressive imperialism and the progressive imperialism.
The regressive imperialism is based on pure conquest where undesired people are removed from the territory (Fernandez-Armesto 16). In the case, the desired people are settled in the vacancies created by the mass eviction of the perceived adversaries. The progressive imperialism on the other hand is based on the cosmopolitan principle. In this case, individuals are not evicted but the living standards of the natives as well as their cultural practices are replaced by imperial civilization (Fernandez-Armesto 9).
A social class called the bourgeoisie characterizes the Marxist theory of imperialism. The term describes the scopes of social classes based on economic and materialistic possessions. Marxist philosophy describes bourgeoisies as the individuals who control and own the means of production and who are only concerned with the value of property and maintaining capital (Fernandez-Armesto 9).
They were the intermediaries between the peasants and the property owners and they controlled the money market. The bourgeoisie emerged as a political and social phenomenon during the period when Europe developed into commercially focused cities enhancing urban expansion (Fernandez-Armesto 9).
The bourgeoisie social class was seen as a progressive social class because of its support for a constitutional model of governance. This model replaced the traditional laws of privilege and the ultimate rule by divine right of the nobles.
Their support was influenced by the need to limit government involvement that was interfering with their rights and mostly their commercial rights. Ownership of property was also a problem that the bourgeoisie class attributed to federal interference which directly affected their ability to control the means of production.
This class of the wealthy controlled the economic elements in the society and consequently the industrial revolution in the 1750-1850 (Fernandez-Armesto 9). They controlled and influenced the business activities and all economic functions and they became very influential in the political directions taken by the governments. The formation of this class, which controlled the wealth of the entire community, formed the basis of Marxism theory of the minority wealthy individuals at the expense of the majority poor people.
Marxist theories of imperialism, the evolution of a concept
Marxism was based on materialistic interpretation of the historical political development and the view of social interactions in the 19th century (Fernandez-Armesto 12). Marxist interpretations have shaped quite a number of political ideologies in the past.
According to the Marxists, the means of production are the component of social interaction and social development primarily depends on them (Fernandez-Armesto 12). It is through the means of production that social phenomena such as social development, political and legal systems, ethical and moral obligations are formed (Fernandez-Armesto 19).
Marxists view capitalism as the imbalance between appropriations of the means of production where the small minority political class controls the largest share (Fernandez-Armesto 12). These minority private owners of the means of production are called the bourgeoisie.
These imbalances led to the social revolution as the conflict between the two antagonistic social classes intensified (Fernandez-Armesto 11). The conflict eventually resulted into a new system of ownership that was more inclusive compared to the imperial model. The people enforced through revolution the model of cumulatively owning the means of production termed as cooperative ownership.
Distribution of profits and benefits in cooperatives was based on personal contribution. Marx however theorized that as this new model of ownership advanced, there was a possibility that the society was taking a communist direction where the means of production will be under common ownership (Fernandez-Armesto 11). This meant that there will be no class and the society will be living in a principle of ‘from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs’ (Kinzer 14).
Dependency theory and World Systems theory
Dependency theory is a good interpretation of imperialism. In this theory, the wealthy states exploit resources from the poor resources. This enriches the former at the expense of the former creating a huge economic disparity (Kinzer 23). This theory explains why the rich and wealthy states continue to flourish while the poor states remain poor or even worse. This theory was developed in response to the modernization theory that argued that all states go through similar stages of development.
The developed countries argued that their responsibility in helping the underdeveloped world was in investments and technology transfer. The dependency theory disapproved this view arguing that the wealthy countries are not helping the undeveloped ones rather they are putting them in a defenseless position economically (Fernandez-Armesto 11).
The world system theory similarly is a modern imperialistic tactic. This theory divides the entire world into three worlds. They include the core countries, the semi-peripheral countries, and the peripheral countries (Kinzer 23).
The core states are the developed countries, which deals with the high skill capital-intensive production (Kinzer 20). The other two worlds are left with the low-skill labor-intensive production, which include the mining of raw resources (Kinzer 20). These two theories, which are based on Marxism theory, have contributed to making imperialism inevitable.
Marxism theory has defined and influenced most of the existing political philosophies all over the world. Maxim theories greatly foretold the inevitability of the imperial and capitalist models of governance which are still experienced today especially within the developing worlds. The view of the wealthy dominating the poor as well as wealthy nations enforcing their culture and civilization of the poorest countries is a good example of progressive imperialism which is evident to date.
What Does Marxism Tell Us About Economic Globalisation Today? Essay
Of late, there has been a significant rise of interactions between countries. They are interacting mostly in terms of trade and technology. It is rare to get a country that has no trade link with others. This is because there is none that has enough resources to cater entirely for its requirements. This then brings the issue of globalisation, viewed as the process by which countries “share” what they produce, buy, or sell, with others around the globe.
This is no more than trade, and hence economic globalisation, which result to the establishment of global markets. Though economic globalisation has been there before, its today’s rate of occurrence is a bit higher. Many views have been given concerning it and among them, are the Marxism views. Marxism pictures today’s economic globalisation as being destructive, unstable, among others.
Marxism view of economic globalisation
“The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the whole surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, establish connexions everywhere.” (Marx 1975). According to this quote, economic globalisation in the unseen nature of capitalism, is spreading at an alarming rate and soon it will be everywhere around the globe.
Marxists points that this globalisation is depriving the world of its heritage and traditions and owing to the crises therein, the whole world is seen to be approaching a permanent disaster. Marxism mentions capitalism pointing out a number of capitalist continents, Asia, Africa, not sparing Antarctica.
Though, crises are known to be more in the developed countries of today, Marxism reckons a time, based on today’s observations of capitalism, when the globe will be industrialised, a situation that will render the world economy unstable. Marxism predicts that as this unfolds, the world will slowly be approaching a depression. Marxism movement bases its arguments on the entire globe criticising the rising capitalism.
Besides this, Marxism has presented a precise view of the misuse of labour as well as the changes arising in the field of politics. Marxist economic analysis shows that currently, the United States leads in capitalism posing that it is experiencing a high competition from Japan, among others.
In the near future, not far from today, Marxism presents the view that, these capitalist countries will be many and their oppression to the working class will be on the peak covering virtually the entire globe. This is why Marxism posits that the economic globalisation of today carries with it the destruction of the globe.
Though it was highly criticised, virtually all the predictions made by Marxism are evident in today’s economic globalisation. Mass redundancy, world capitalist calamity, introduction of technology that would bring about the reduction of working hours, world-wide fall of profit levels, the rising living standards, not sparing the third-world war, to mention a few, were among the issues Marxism pointed.
It stands out that almost all are being experienced today in the whole world. It is deducible that Marxism had the picture of the state of the global economy as possessing the aforementioned characteristics, which are evident today.
Marx, K (1975), Manifesto of the Communist Party, Moscow, Progress Publishers.
Marxism as a Sociological Theory Essay
Karl Marx is one of the best known scholars who contributed to the development of theories that help in interpreting political, social and economic phenomena in the society. He is particularly known for the development of the Marxism theory which is has political, social and economic dimensions.
Marx studied the concept of social class and how it affected social relations (Ritzer 123). He concluded that the various classes in the society are always in conflict with each other and their conflicts lead to social change. This paper will focus on Marx’s view on the role of political systems in regard to social change.
Class Conflict: Bourgeoisies Verses Proletariats
Marx believed that there are two classes in the society namely the proletariats’ and the bourgeoisies. The bourgeoisie is the social class that is associated with the “ownership of the means of production” (Ritzer 125).
This means that they are the rich in the society. The proletariats’ on the other hand refers to the lower social class that has little or no material wealth. Thus they earn their livelihood by selling their labor to the bourgeoisies. According to Marx, the bourgeoisies focus on exploiting the proletariats in order to gain their wealth.
This is based on the fact that the output of the proletariats was “valued in terms of the labor embodied in them” (Jayapalan 105). Thus the bourgeoisies were not justified to own the good that were produced by the proletariats since the former did not apply their labor to the production process. This formed the basis of the exploitation.
The proletariats were compensated though wages while the rich retained the surplus value or the profits that accrued form the sale of the goods. This led to class conflict as the bourgeoisies focused on reducing costs (wages) while the proletariats focused on earning the highest wages possible (Jayapalan 107).
The private ownership of capital was associated with the capitalist society. Thus in order to resolve the conflict between the bourgeoisies and the proletariats, Marx suggested that the capitalist system should be replaced with a socialist system.
Role of the Political System
Marx believed that the class conflict between the haves (bourgeoisies) and the have-nots (proletariats) can be resolved through an effective political system. As discussed above the inequality between the two classes can be reduced by replacing the capitalist system with the socialist system. Capitalism is an “economic system that is characterized by profit maximization and private ownership of property” (Ritzer 128). Socialism on the other hand encourages communal ownership of property and equity in regard to distribution of wealth.
According to Marx, the political system should favor socialism in order to promote equality (Jayapalan 107). This means that the government should discourage private ownership of property. In the contrary all resources or wealth should be owned by the government. Such wealth will then become the property of all citizens since the government represents the citizens.
Besides, the resources should be used for the benefit of the citizens especially the poor who are also the majority in the community. This involves eliminating the profit motive in order to facilitate equal distribution of resources by lowering the cost of accessing resources. Thus Marx believed that the political system should promote socialism in order to encourage equality. This leads to a reduction in class conflict.
Socialism: Role of Revolution
As discussed above, Marx believed that social change can only be achieved through class struggle. Thus capitalism will only be defeated through the proletariats’ revolution. The proletarian revolution is a “socio-political revolution in which the workers attempt to over through the bourgeoisies” (Jayapalan 108). The revolution is thus an integral aspect of the process of defeating capitalism. Marxists perceive the revolution as the first step in the process of replacing capitalism with socialism.
The revolution is meant to help the proletariats to gain control of the government in order to have power over the bourgeoisies. After gaining power, the proletariats will have the opportunity to implement the reforms that serves the interest of the poor. Such reforms include confiscating all the wealth or property that is privately owned by the bourgeoisies (Ritzer 128).
The confiscated property will then be used to benefit all citizens especially the poor. This will lead to equality since the resources will be redistributed from the rich minority to the poor who forms the better part of the population. The implementation of the reforms will culminate in communism which is a classless society.
The above discussion indicates that the society is divided into two classes namely, the bourgeoisies and the proletariats. The class struggle between the two social classes leads to social change such as equitable distribution of resources and elimination of exploitation.
According to Marx, the role of the political system is promoting socialism in order to facilitate equity and elimination of class struggle. This involves replacing capitalism with socialism (Ritzer 128). Socio-political revolution is thus a tool that is meant to help the poor (proletariats) to gain political power in order to introduce socialism.
Jayapalan, Nicholas. Sociological theory. New York: Atlantic Publishing, 2001.Print.
Ritzer, Goerge. Sociological theory. New York: McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 2007. Print.
Income Inequality in Marxism, Structuralism, Neoliberalism, and Dependency Theory Essay
The peculiar features of every country’s development should be discussed from the point of the character of the economic relations within the country and from the point of the country’s position within the global economic environment. Thus, one of the main criteria according to which it is possible to analyze international relations theories in their connection with the sphere of economy is the notion of income inequality.
Such theories as Marxism, Structuralism, Neoliberalism, and Dependency Theory discuss the notion of economic inequality according to their specific concepts which differ from each other and have a lot of variations. That is why inequality in the sphere of economy is a multidimensional concept which can be analyzed in various contexts with references to different international relations theories.
The Institutionalisation of Inequality in the Context of Marxism
Examining the economic inequality as the main criterion to determine the major aspects of Marxism, it is important to pay attention to the fact that in the case of Marxism the inequality is discussed at the country’s level. The distribution of the necessary means among the population in the Marxist’s society is based on the individuals’ needs1.
This principle of distribution makes people be rather equal in their economic status within the society. However, the opposite approach to the distribution of means is the base of the Capitalist’s society where class relations function. Thus, the economic inequality is the main condition for the development of the class relations. The ideas of Marxists were further developed by Structuralists with determining the additional categories.
Structuralism and the Aspects of Economy
Basing on the Marxist’s ideas on the class relations as the key factor of the domestic economic development, Structuralists focus on the global economic progress and make accents on the position of the country within the world context. From this point, the world is divided into the developed and developing countries, and there are definite relations of dependency among them which are connected with the issue of class relations2.
The developed countries have the fundament of their economic progress in following the principles of capitalism which is based on the economic inequality of classes and individuals. The income inequality as the economic injustice is the main characteristic feature of the Capitalistic society.
The distribution of the world resources between the developed and developing countries is unequal and contributes to the progress of the economic polarization within the global market. That is why it is possible to state that according to the principles of Structuralism the world relations are based on the rather unjust rules provided by the Capitalistic countries which impose the relations of inequality at the global arena. Such relations provoke the dependency of the developing countries on the economic state of the developed countries. This aspect becomes the key one for working out the Dependency Theory.
Dependency Theory and the Factor of the Economic Inequality
Dependency Theory operates the notion of the economic inequality at the world level and discusses it as the global inequality which is realized in the unequal relations between the developed and developing countries3. According to the Dependency Theory, it is almost impossible to speak about the notion of justice in the relations between the classes within states and between the definite countries because there are always dominant countries and the dependent ones.
In this situation the relations of dependency are based on the fact that the developed countries are inclined to enrich their potentials using the developing countries with the high level of poverty which emphasizes the notion of global inequality4.
Neoliberalism as the New Approach to the Economic Inequality
The principles of Neoliberalism are often discussed as the possible measures to restrict the level of the poverty in the developing countries5. Thus, Neoliberalism argues any governmental restrictions and barriers between the countries as the ways to limit the economic possibilities of the individuals and states6.
That is why the only way to the economic progress is the establishment of the free markets and free trade between the countries. It is the first step to the globalization when the low income of the societies of the developing countries can be explained by the fact of the existing barriers which separate these countries from the global market7.
Economic inequality is the category which determines the peculiarities of the development of the countries as an independent state and the part of the global market. In spite of the fact the notion is characteristic for all the international relations theories in connection with the sphere of economy the approaches to its discussion are rather different.
Devetak, R, J George & M Weber, ‘Marxism and critical theory’ in R Devetak, A Burke & J George (eds.), An introduction to international relations, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2012, pp. 62-75.
Gill, S, ‘Globalisation, market civilisation and disciplinary neoliberalism’ Millennium: Journal of International Studies, vol. 24, no. 3, 1995, pp.399-423.
Pasha, MK, ‘How can we end poverty?’ in J Edkins & M Zehfuss (eds.), Global politics: A new introduction, Routledge, London, 2008, pp. 320-344.
Peck, J, & A Tickell, ‘Neoliberalising space’, Antipode, vol. 34, no. 3, 2002, pp.380-404.
Steans, J, L Pettiford & T Diez, ‘Structuralism’ in International relations: Perspectives and themes, Longman, London, 2005, pp. 75-102.
Wade, RH ‘What strategies are viable for developing countries today? The World Trade Organization and the shrinking of development space’, Review of International Political Economy, vol. 10, no.4, 2003, pp. 621-644.
Williams, M ‘Global economic institutions’ in R Devetak, A Burke & J George (eds.), An introduction to international relations, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2012, pp. 336-347.
1 R Devetak, J George & M Weber, ‘Marxism and critical theory’ in R Devetak, A Burke & J George (eds.), An introduction to international relations, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2012, pp. 62-75.
2 J Steans, L Pettiford & T Diez, ‘Structuralism’ in International relations: Perspectives and themes, Longman, London, 2005, pp. 75-102.
3 RH Wade, ‘What strategies are viable for developing countries today? The World Trade Organization and the shrinking of development space’, Review of International Political Economy, vol. 10, no.4, 2003, pp. 621-644.
4 MK Pasha, ‘How can we end poverty?’ in J Edkins & M Zehfuss (eds.), Global politics: A new introduction, Routledge, London, 2008, pp. 320-344.
5 S Gill, ‘Globalisation, market civilisation and disciplinary neoliberalism’ Millennium: Journal of International Studies, vol. 24, no. 3, 1995, pp.399-423.
6 J Peck, & A Tickell, ‘Neoliberalising space’, Antipode, vol. 34, no. 3, 2002, pp.380-404.
7 M Williams, ‘Global economic institutions’ in R Devetak, A Burke & J George (eds.), An introduction to international relations, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2012, pp. 336-347.
Human Rights: Universalism, Marxism, Communitarianism Essay
The Marxist and the communitarians have a common perception about Universalism. They all believe in the inefficiency and incompetence of Universalism. They also stipulate that Universalism is demolishing the global community. However, Marxist and Communitarians hold different views regarding perspectives against the Universalist conceptualization of human rights.
According to Marxism, individual’s rights are created through socialism. This concept is formed by individual’s actions but not an individual’s nature (Tremblay et al, 33). Marxist stipulates that human rights are man-made.
Thus, for individuals to achieve their goals, they must work together as a community. This will facilitate attainment of goals and interests. Moreover, proper balancing of social economic aspects will ensure that there is the advancement in people’s rights and interests.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the founder of communitarianism believes that human beings are born free and equal. Communitarians believe that the society incorporates some aspects of equality. What is more, modern civilization has hindered freedom and rights that are granted at birth. Modern civilization has brought self-interest that encourages people to seek power.
Marxist and Communitarian do not believe in the existence of human rights. On a Marxist’s point of view, human rights reflect the values and priories of political knowledge. Communitarians state that human rights are unnecessary and conquer with Universalism beliefs regarding human beings and their rights.
Marxist argues that people are part of the capitalist society. They work for their personal gains rather than working for the society. Marxist indicates that Universalism holds the principle of individualism and selfishness. Communitarian elaborates the same thing. It stipulates that universalism does not protect human beings from constraints and violence.
According to Communitarians, individualism or self-interest has a solution. This lies on creating a new social contract. Here, the state makes decisions to address the will of the people. The people do not contribute to the matters involving their interests (Tremblay et al, 63). In reality, this is not what happens in the democratic system.
The people are represented by one person who does not address their needs. Thus, communitarians appreciate the reality of human rights. Under the social contract, the state is bound to do what the people want. Hence, there is no need of having the human rights. In fact, having and exercising human rights will not benefit the members of the society.
Marxist believes that capitalism should be replaced by communism or cooperation. This will encourage proper and strong activities that will benefit the society. Again, private property should be converted to public property to serve the community. This will eliminate social classes and ensure that there is equality in resource distribution.
Universalism has received a lot of criticism with regards to its principles and concepts. While there are shortcomings that come along, Dalai Lama tries to respond to Universalism by giving clarification.
In the speech at the United Nations World Conference in 1993, Dalai Lama made significant clarifications and allowed many people to understand the essentials of universal beliefs. The speech tried to mend the differences among extremists whose ideologies and beliefs contradicted.
With the existence of various beliefs on matters concerning human rights, Dalai Lama urges people not to side with either Universalism or Cultural relativist. It insists on a pluralist approach to the global society, which encompasses a balance between universal beliefs of individuals and Cultural relativists’ perceptions on community matters (Tremblay et al, 41).
He says that all people should not fight to secure personal gains, but to work as a team for the good of all mankind. He argues that human rights are essential for both individual and community expansions.
Dalai Lama stresses on the need of global harmony that defines and respects human rights. He continues and notes that, it is not wrong to have individual and societal needs irrespective of a person’s country. The rich diversity of cultures and religions should be used to assist in strengthening the fundamental human rights to all.
For this reason, individuals should not fight to justify their needs. Clearly, human rights strongly oppose negative aspects of certain issues in the society such as exploitation of children, racism, and suppression of women. The foundation of world’s peace is achieved through universal responsibility.
Adaptability to universalism in developing countries, especially in Africa and Asia, is quite evident. African and Asian countries have improved since colonization. For instance, Christianity was introduced during this time, and it redefined the religion as seen in most of the developing countries.
Dalai Lama strongly disagrees with the perception of Western theories and Eastern (Asia and Africa) cultures. It is quite clear that Eastern countries, especially Asia, have their traditions held firmly in values of duty, order and community stability.
This eliminates individual commitment. Dalai Lama, who came from Asia, was dissatisfied with this ideology. He made it clear that all individuals seek happiness, equality and freedom. These are values that run a society and make it a good place for all people.
Tremblay, Reeta C., et al. Understanding Human Rights: Origins, Currents, and Critiques. Toronto: Thomson Nelson, 2008. Print.
Contribution of Marxism and Imperialism in Shaping the Modern International Political System Essay
Many political, economics, and philosophy scholars contend the Karl Marx is an iconic thinker who has influenced the modern political, economic, and social systems in numerous ways. Central to Marxist theory is the argument that societies are divided into two main strata.
The first stratum is composed of all those people who own all means of production or what Karl Marx called bourgeoisie. The other stratum is composed of subordinates (proletariat). They are the labourers hired to support and ensure that the production process continues without being halted.
These two strata provide substantive grounds for cutely understanding the mechanisms of operation of social relationships in the international arena. Marxists hold that social relations are enshrined within the perspectives of the “material conception of life” (Samir 1982, p.48). For nations to remain materially endowed, they engage in capitalistic productions. Imperialism also holds a similar point of view.
With regard to Barbara (2006), imperialism involves “the massive export of capital to foreign countries for the purpose of exploiting and dominating both their labour forces and markets” (p.45). Therefore, it may be argued as encompassing the highest order of capitalism, a concept that advocates for globalisation view as being the only way that societies can remain competitive.
The paper argues that the modern political systems are giving a rebirth to the reemergence of situations characteristic of societies operating under imperialism and Marxism revelations. Therefore, it is suggested that Marxism offers a coherent account of the modern international political system.
Interpretation of modern international political system from paradigms of Marxism
The international political system is ideally capitalistic in nature. Therefore, the postulated concepts of class struggles, materialism, and the surfacing of a capitalistic world market incredibly provide a point of alignment of the Marxism concepts and theories of international relations.
However, while associating Marxism concepts with the interpretation of the international political system, it is crucial to note that Karl Marx never postulated a theory of international or world politics. The interpretation offered for Marxism paradigms sets forth a means of interpreting the concepts of materialism and class struggles within the modern international politics.
Advocates of Marxism are predominantly concerned with providing an explanation of various world events from the perspective of economic factors. In this context, Marxism runs short of being a right paradigm of interpreting the modern international politics since such categories of politics are driven by many factors rather than just economic self-centeredness.
Nevertheless, it is also possible to argue that economic gains supersede any action taken by nations to influence the political environment in any particular direction. Marxists essentially claim that they are able to subtly understand various world’s events among them being treaties and wars from the context of global capitalism (Hobden & Jones 2008, p.144).
Arguing from the dimension of impacts of capitalism, as suggested by Karl Marx, being a mega trait that is shaping the modern international politics, global capitalism has the implication of fracturing the world’s population into two main distinct groups. At the core of the political arena, the wealthy and the dominant group exist. On the other hand, the poor and powerless are situated at the periphery.
What makes the occupants of the core prosper materially is the possession of an ability to oppress those in the periphery. Arguably, this happens because the poor and powerless have no equal capacity to control the factors of production. The aftermath of this is creation of an ever-enlarging inequality gap between the two groups of people. In the modern international politics, the ideas of Karl Max related to class struggle are still relevant.
Nevertheless, the Marxism theory fails to operate purely as a mechanism of interpreting the modern international politics. In fact, “the conflict has shifted from the bourgeoisie and the proletariat who are confined by the national boundaries within the core and periphery operating in a world-market without national boundaries” (Hobden & Jones 2008, p. 146).
Nonetheless, the modern international politics has the historical materialism concept of Marxism still resonating in it. The chief argument for holding this position is that historical change is a depiction of various societal economic progressions. This means, “Economic prosperity or change drives social relations, which are responsible for social change” (Dunn 2009, p.47).
Therefore, economic factors in any society determine the history of that society in a vivid way. The Marxism theory outlines two main economic factors that propel the history of people. These are the “means of production and the relations of production” (Anievis 2010, p.79).
These two concepts are related though different in some aspects, especially in their capacity to influence the modern international politics. McComick (1990) exemplifies this relationship when he argues, “as the means of production develop, for example, technological advancement, the relations of production become outdated hence restricting the full utilisation of the new technology” (p.127).
Therefore, when new production means occur, development of different production relations follows as well. Arguably, this situation has happened in the international political arena in the recent past. A good example is the formation of trade treaties among various nations following the rapid embracement of technology in the production of consumables in a cost-effective way.
In particular, there has been a rapid migration of many corporations to base their production plants in emerging economies especially in Asia, which is done to ensure that the corporations remain competitive in the world market hence continuing with their domination in the international market.
Arguably, in the context of Marxism theory, this claim suggests a full embracement of the concept of ‘material conception of life’ in the modern international political system. Although this concept is inherently economic in its stipulation, it has the ability to alter political and legal international relations.
From this argument, it sounds sufficient to infer that, despite the fact that Marxism theory is laid on economic stratum, it may be a subtle paradigm of explaining the modern international political system.
People opposed to the argument that Marxism theory can be used to explain the modern international political systems see liberalism and realism as close approximations of paradigms that can be deployed to provide an explanation to the problems that are experienced in the modern political systems.
One of the cited evidence for this is, “realism was vindicated by the power politics of the cold war, and Liberalism is relevant because of an increase in interdependence and reliance on international institutions” (Samir 1982, p.50). On a different perspective, the modern international political system may be described from the contexts of being a process of seeking international understanding and harmonisation of ideas.
In this dimension, the incidences of engagement of superpower nations in wars to curtail individual acts of other nations perceived as exposing the international human race to danger are attempts to enforce particular ways of social interaction between international communities.
Congruent with this line of argument, Marxism theory introduces a significant problem when explaining the reason why the war against individual nations is justified though it amounts to exposing the citizens to life risks.
The concept of capitalism and or how it shapes relationships of persons who are economically segregated is evident in the modern international political system in the sense that some nations have dominated the world markets simply because they are wealthier and hence owning most of the global factors of production.
However, the ideas of Marx have a myriad of limitations. For instance, cultural and feminists’ critics believe that Marxism theories are predominantly economic. They over-dwell on perspectives of class dominations.
Therefore, Marxism ignores “other forms of oppression and dominations that exist in the modern society, including those based on gender, race, or ethnicity” (Little 2010, Para.11).
Arguably, utilisation of Marxism theory as an explanation of the modern international political systems places concerns on critics of capitalism, which makes Marxism theory inappropriate in explaining the modern forms of ideological oppressions and dominations.
In the same line of augment, theorists who investigated the roles played by media in shaping international political systems immensely believe that the forms of oppression and domination produced by public opinion instruments cannot be explained by Marxism theories.
Indeed, Kornai (1992) declares the forms of oppressions presented by such opinions “as profound as the more visible forms of political and economic domination that Marx emphasized in the contemporary world” (p.107). Amid these critics of the Marxism theoretical paradigms’ capacity to explain the international political systems, Marxism has a central vision for emancipating people from economic forms of oppression.
Economic forms of oppression give rise to other types of oppression since, even in presentation of public opinions, the economic endowment levels of different people play active roles in determining the vocal levels in the international political arena.
Therefore, the modern political system forms of oppression can be traced collectively as having their roots ingrained in economic and social class struggles discussed by Karl Marx. All these oppressions hinder the collective development of people across the globe, even in the modern age where equality is a central public debate.
New imperialism accounts and the modern international political system
Consistent with classical Marxism arguments, imperialism represents capitalism of the highest order. It occurs the moment the production capacity of nations reach high levels such that all the products and services produced intrinsically within the nations cannot be fully consumed by the citizens (Barbara 2006, p.52). Consequently, external markets must be sort.
Myriads of international politics scholars deploy the term imperialism to refer to any form of subordination and domination, which is structured such that there is a centre of expression of power and with peripheries, which are the subordinated and the dominated persons.
“Internal logics of the capitalists’ competitive systems forced them to seek opportunities to control raw materials, markets, and profitable fields of investment from the less developed countries” (Dunn 2009, p.64). Apparently, the modern political system is shaped by such quests.
For instance, many areas where confrontations have occurred in the recent past are the areas endowed with resources. Such resources include oils and minerals. In particular, oil has been a significant propeller of economies since the onset of industrialisation. The nations, which are well endowed with oil reserves, have the capacity to control the global economy if not maintained under checks.
For this reason, wealthier nations with global influences strategically move to control capitalisation of the management of oil and other minerals that drive the global economies in foreign nations. Opposed to pure imperialism that existed in the imperialism age, this new form of imperialism has no formal colonies.
However, as Barbara (2006) argues, “informal imperialism with no formal colonies is properly described as such, and remains a controversial topic among historians” (p.46). Nevertheless, the modern expression of indirect colonialism is mostly an expression of milder forms of imperialism.
Stemming from the above arguments, a crucial question is whether the traditional Marxism beliefs on imperialism are coherent interpretations of the modern international political systems. In response to this question, Castree (2006) argues that domination has been the main driver and source of motivation of global conflicts (p.36).
To exemplify this argument, in the age of imperialism, the US was widely opposed to the exercise of imperialism claiming that it adhered to the democratic rights of people. Unfortunately, during the early 20th century, policies aimed at ensuring that the entire world embraces democracy received hefty military backings.
However, such an endeavour was not directly implied since the participation of the military mostly took place behind scenes that were enshrined within the perspectives of hegemony. After the end of World War II, the US had a clear interest of being the world’s superpower, as well evidenced by the US’ participation in resolution of global conflicts, something that prompted the collapsing of the Soviet Union.
Even after the collapsing of the Soviet Union, the US never heralded its efforts to project military force in ensuring that it remained a superpower solely. This resulted to a ‘unipolar’ global domination. In the twenty-first century, domination is also a central objective of globally influential nations.
Cohen (1997) amplifies this argument by further claiming, “Department of defense and the US’ administrations stated and restated in the various Quadrennial Reports, force posture statements, etc. in execution of its role as the sole remaining superpower” (p.27). By 2005, the US had established about 737 foreign nations’ military bases.
The spending on the military is also tremendous since, by 2010, it stood at 43 percent of the global total. The significance of these statistics is that they indicate the US’ concerns in protecting its status of dominating the world’s political system.
Arguably, in the context of this example, the classical Marxism beliefs on imperialism are valid, subtle, and coherent explanations of the modern international political system. Amid the position held in the above discussion, classical Marxism beliefs on imperialism face a significant drawback in explaining the international political systems coherently.
The position that classical Marxism may be used to explain the political systems of the world is based on the argument, “Marxism is viewed as a ubiquitous and benign theory apt to explain all kinds of social injustice ranging from slavery and poverty to the malfunctioning of colonial institutions and political systems” (Adama 2011, Para.1).
Unfortunately, using it to explain an array of issues characterising the modern political systems subjects political scholarship to challenges because any scholarly body of knowledge cannot predominantly depend on a single paradigm to provide explanations to many problems, which are often different in nature, as classical Marxism would attempt to suggest.
When a single paradigm is applied to explain a range of issues in any scholarly body of knowledge, it infers that the explanation rests on very thin and inappropriately anchored conceptions. However, this criticism does not put off the fact that the modern world globalisation politics has resulted to the reemergence of imperialism theory under the tag name ‘new imperialism theory.’
Whether it is denied that Marxism beliefs on imperialism can be used to explain the modern international political systems or not, it is widely contended by many political scholars that globalisation politics are based on capitalism concepts raised by Karl Marx.
The reason why every nation (especially the industrialised) would like to seek for global markets for its industries is pegged on the needs to acquire new markets for their excessive productions. Many of the markets sought by such nations are located in the less developed nations.
Since the paradigms of capitalism, as set out by Marxism theories, are principally framed to take optimal advantages of markets, substandard goods are produced and sold in these markets because such goods are cheap and can be afforded by the periphery occupants of the global market sphere. Arguably, this exemplifies the concept of class distinctions and divisions central to the classical Marxism.
Therefore, even though it is possible to argue that, based on the interpretations of the modern international political systems on the classical Marxism beliefs on imperialism, which introduce narrow conceptions of explaining a wide range of issues, imperialism theory has reemerged.
Indeed, it has high probabilities of leading to vivid and substantive theories of explaining the modern international political systems, especially when integrated with the Marxism theories.
Through globalisation of politics, the modern international politics has prompted the reemergence of imperialism theory as a possible explanation of the modern political systems. In this paper, several arguments about the possibility of the classical Marxism beliefs about imperialism to provide a mechanism of explaining the modern international political systems have been considered.
Several challenges are experienced by deploying Marxism paradigms as means of coherently explaining the modern political systems.
However, the paper maintains that, in the modern world societies, capitalism has fully impinged their production systems so that the owners of the means of production are all oriented towards gaining the maximisation at the expense of consumers, as well as those who support their means of production by providing labour.
The central objective is to gain global competitiveness. Additionally, the needs of the powerful nations such as the US to remain in power have been argued as crucial indicators of the reemergence of imperialism. Opposed to the kind of imperialism that existed in the age of imperialism, which the US highly opposed, the modern imperialism has no formal colonies.
However, the immense political power possessed by the wealthy nations makes it possible for them to impose an indirect colonisation to poor countries tantamount to that of imperialism age.
This move has the consequence of leading to subordination of the poor nations besides domination of the wealthy nations in the global markets in global policy enforcement. From this stand, the paper holds that Marxism beliefs on imperialism can coherently explain the modern political systems.
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