Karl Marx is one of the most renowned economist, philosopher, and a revolutionist of the 19nth century. His works and ideas are now referred to as Marxism. Karl Marx worked hand in hand with Friedrich Hegel in ensuring that the humanitarian concept put forth by Feuerbach is practiced. To achieve this, they established socialism to be to be the new social movement. A supreme end of man according to Marx is material and happy. In order to attain the material happiness, being organized as a group is called for. The general aim of this paper is to discuss ideas found in Marx’s philosophy; ascertain some of the problems associated with them and to find out the ways in which Marx or (Marxist’s) might defend his philosophical world view against possible critics. Marx’s ideas subject to this discussion include; the labor theory of value, the inevitability and necessity of a revolution, ideology, planned obsolescence, the notion of a classless society, Marx’s view of history, Marx’s critique of liberalism, and, Marx’s view on human nature.
Marx’s labor theory of value
According to Karl Marx, labor was the only source of value in production, since it could add more value than itself. In simple terms Marx argued that, the more labor or labor time used to produce a commodity, the more is its worth. He defined value as the “consumed labor time” He further argued that the sole source of profits was surplus value which is the difference between the value embodied in a worker and the value a worker added to production (Keen 278). With regard to Marx’s labor theory of value, all profits earned in production belong to the workers and when they are denied by capitalists they are simply being robed.
From the above information, it is apparent that, the labor theory of value had its flaws. First and foremost, labor should not be treated as the only source of value. Since some natural objects like minerals lack it. Second, the theory does not put into consideration the needs and desires of the consumers. For instance, in a society where there are many Christians, a Bible is of great value but when the same is taken to a society dominated by Islam, the commodity becomes virtually useless hence with negative value. Third, according to Keen (279), “the theory does consider the importance of time and position”. A good example will be a comparison between a well matured turkey and their two weeks old chicks. The two cannot have the same taste and therefore cannot have the same value. Last but not least, the theory ignores time preference. Here consumers usually prefer to have goods when they need them rather than later. Just in the same way laborers prefer being after working rather than after the goods they produce have been sold.
Despite the above problems associated with the labor theory of value, Karl Marx and the Marxists have come out strongly in defense of the theory. Marxists strongly believe that, capitalism should completely be overthrown in order to bring to an end it’s unjust practices which has rendered millions of people into abject poverty, massive unemployment, periodic economic crisis and even wars. In addition, Marxists are of the opinion that, the theory puts in to account the two aspects of the problem of value, both the qualitative and a quantitative one. With regard to the quantitative aspect, the value of a commodity is the quantity of simple labor socially necessary for its production. In terms of the qualitative aspect of the theory, the value of a commodity is abstract human labor commodities (Marx and Mendel 38).
The necessity and inevitability of a revolution
In Marxist theory, capitalism was increasingly declining into a technologically advanced barbarism, hence, risking all living things on the earth together with the earth itself. Due to this contemporary reality, a necessity for anti-capitalism is created. What this means in essence is, a communist revolution. The Marxists saw the necessity of the revolution as a “Historic necessity”. Through the global proletariat’s awareness of the barbaric nature and human maltreatment posed by capitalism, the communist revolution became inevitable.
The Marxists idea on the necessity of the revolution had some problems all together. According to them, the necessity for the communist revolution was a “Historic necessity”. This fact is refuted in totality by anti- Marxists who say, the kind of necessity in question has no teleological or a ‘scientific’ sense but rather practical. By virtue of the threat and reality posed by capitalism to man kind’s material and practical needs, a revolution became necessary. It is the need to survive that led people to collectively refuse technologically advanced, barbarism, and environmental degradation brought a bout by a man-made socio- economic system. Therefore there was no historic necessity but rather a practical one. In addition, critics to Marxist theory emphasize that, it is a serious mistake to separate the collective “consciousness” from the collective “will” of the working class.
In defense of the above mentioned criticism, Marxists argue that, Marx had developed a kind of science of society and history through his mature, “econometric”, “objectivist” theoretical framework which clearly establish the inevitability of communist revolution (Narveson 35).
Marx’s Ideology and truth
Karl Marx’s ideology represents the production of ideas, conceptions, and consciousness”. His ideology includes; politics, morality, laws, metaphysics, religion, just to mention. According to him, ideology acts as the core conventions and culture that constitute the dominant ideas in a given society. Marx further asserts that, the ruling ideas of a certain period in history are of the ruling class. To him, “consciousness is nothing else than conscious existence, and men’s existence is their actual life processes”. Furthermore, he sees all ideas as a reflection of the social group holding such ideas and the true ideas as a reflection of experiences of those subordinated social groups. Moreover, he equates ideology with class mentalities inside the social world and at the same time treats truth as scientific knowledge of society (Jessop and wheatley 258).
Marx’s ideology and truth theory however did not go without criticism and contradictions. First of all, Marx contradicts himself on the notion all ideas being a reflection of social groups having those ideas. On the other hand, he conceives of conventional ideas as reflecting the interests of the dominant class in society, not withstanding the class that thinks conventionally. In addition, Marx, also contradicts himself with his notion of equating ideology with class mentalities inside the social world and truth with scientific knowledge while he conceives of the scientific as both precipitant and precipitate inside a world theorized about (Jessop and wheatley 258).
Regardless of the above contradictions, Marx and Marxists affirm that, they only know of one science, the science of history. They assert that the ideology itself has been misconceived or blocked all together from history and therefore insist on the importance to examine the history of men.
Marx’s Planned Obsolescence
Planned obsolesce in a nutshell is a process of a product becoming non functional after a given period of time or after a certain amount of use in a way that is designed by a manufacturer. It is intended solely to benefit the producer because the consumers will be forced to buy the products again sooner again to continue having a functioning product. Planned obsolescence is one the many principles of capitalism that were strongly criticized by Marx and other Marxists. They argued that, planned obsolescence was a wasteful practice that misused the resources that were available. He suggested that, only public ownership could pave way for a democratic and efficient control in production. It is such principles held by capitalist that widened the degree of wealth distribution between the rich and the poor.
Marx’s notion of a classless society
According to Marx, a classless society is one that allows individuals to exercise a much greater and more equal control over their destinies. Through it, people will be able to salvage themselves from the tyranny of state and bureaucracy. In addition, in a classless society capital and technology would be productive rather than acquisitive. Moreover, it would provide people with pleasure and support in their social cooperation with others rather than antagonism and bitterness brought about by conflicts. Marx was however not optimistic in attaining this type of society, he termed it as being ideal (Bottomore103).
Marx’s notion of a classless society when analyzed does not make sense at all. However Marx and Marxists believe that, increasing the level of production will be what will usher in communism.
Marx’s views on history (dialectical materialism)
According to Marx dialectical materialism, the origins of change are all materialistic. In other terms the root cause of change is mainly attributed to cultural dimensions of technology and economy. He further explains that, as people’s technology is advanced from simple hunting and gathering, to Agriculture and ultimately to industrial revolution, it therefore leads that, it is this change in technology that brought about changes in the social organization, peoples beliefs and values. Marx explains that, in the agrarian society the major conflict at the time was between the land owners and their workers, while the source of conflict in the industrial age was between the workers and the factory owners. To him the oppressed favored to have a change towards more equality an aspect strongly objected by the oppressors. Marx concludes his views on dialectical materialism by saying that, it is the society that possesses the seeds of destruction within itself. Therefore he anticipated a time when capitalism will fall due to conflicts between the factory owners and the workers just like feudalism did. The fall of capitalism will the usher in communism, where, equality is paramount. However his anticipated communism did not take place in the industrial settings but rather in agrarian and feudal societies.
Marx’s critique of liberalism
Karl Marx had his own interpretation of the principles that were embraced by liberalism. First and foremost, he objected some of the basic rights and liberties in particular the ones connected with the basic rights of man. Marx argues that, those rights were only meant to protect egoisms of those in a civil society in a capitalist world. In addition, Marx asserts that, the political rights and liberties governing the political regime are just in paper and that they are never followed and if they are it’s not for the poor. Moreover Marx argues that, liberalism was a constitutional regime that allowed for private property ownership and accumulation reaps nothing but negative liberties. Lastly, Marx strongly objects the liberal’s idea of division of labor, which he argues as being oppressive demoralizing for to the worker.
Marx’s view on human nature
Karl Marx understood human nature in terms of labor than anything else. He believed that, the estranged labor laws that were rut in place by capitalism had Infact alienated beings from their own nature. It is worth noting that, both Marx and Engels considered labor as a desirable activity in men.
Karl Marx was a philosopher, social scientist, a historian and a revolutionist. He was the most influential socialist thinker in the 19th century. He made numerous contributions through his socialist theories that earned him friends and foes alike. Through his labor theory of value and other theories he highlights the basic importance of labor and equality in society. His works also criticize the elites from exploiting the poor especially through a capitalist economic system.
Bottomore, Tom. Elites and Society. London: Routledge. 1943
Jessop, Bob and Wheatley, Russell. Karl Marx’s a Social and Political Thought. London: Routledge, 1999.
Keen, Steve. Debunking Economics: The naked emperor of the social sciences. London: Zed Books, 2001.
Marx, Karl and Mandel, Ernest. Capital: A critique of Political Economy. London: Penguin Classics, 1990.
Narveson, Jan. Respecting People in Theory and Practice: Essays on Moral and Political Philosophy. New York: Rowman &Littlefield, 2002.