What did Karl Marx really say - Trying to Separate the Philosophy from the Myth

Tadhg Gaelach

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Professor Steve Keen gives a rather different, but very interesting, take on Marx.

 

Tadhg Gaelach

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This is quite an unusual and interesting discussion where four top professors speak of Marx, Keynes and the current financial crisis.

 

Tadhg Gaelach

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Yale lectures on Marx

Marxism is the second Enlightenment tradition upon which the course will focus. Contrary to popular belief, Marx did not hate capitalism but derived from economic analysis that it would self-destruct and lead to socialism. It is also a myth that Marx did not care about freedom; he was only egalitarian in the sense that he wanted everyone to have freedom. Ergo, Professor Shapiro asserts that Marx's dialectical materialism is as committed to the two principles of the Enlightenment--basing politics in science and emphasizing individual rights--as utilitarianism. In fact, Marx draws deeply from the Lockean workmanship ideal in formulating his secular labor theory of value, and he was also strongly influenced by classical economists Adam Smith and David Ricardo. Professor Shapiro explains Marx's ideas about natural and market prices, use-value and exchange value, commodification of labor, and alienation. The question Marx--and the class--is left with is, in a world where equivalents exchange for equivalents, where does profit come from?


 

Tadhg Gaelach

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Marx begins his intellectual life as a Young Hegelian, in the company of Bruno Bauer and others. The Young Hegelians, a radical group of scholars, intended to subject Hegel's theories to critical scrutiny. Eventually, Marx breaks with this tradition altogether by saying that alienation does not come from thoughts and therefore cannot be solved by ideas alone. Alienation comes from material conditions and can only be addressed by changing those conditions. Due to his radical, revolutionary ideas, Marx was forced to move around Europe quite a bit. In his lifetime, he saw his predictions about the uprising of the working classes come to fruition in some places, but he also saw these revolutions fail, including the short-lived Commune in France. Next time, we see how the young Marx who is occupied with Hegelian thought and the concept of alienation transitions to a more mature Marx with the concept of the capitalist mode of production.

00:00 - Chapter 1. Marx's Early Life

07:01 - Chapter 2. The Critical Critic
16:05 - Chapter 3. Marriage and Early Career
27:58 - Chapter 4. The Paris Commune and Its Aftermath
33:33 - Chapter 5. "The Paris Manuscripts" and the Theory of Alienation

Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website: Open Yale Courses


 

Ire-land

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Kant's famous advice to the world on how best to live was to always treat human beings, including yourself, as an end and never a means to an end. That means never to exploit other people as a way to get money or fame or whatever, and, indeed, never to exploit yourself either. Of course, Jesus had also said: Treat others as you would have others treat you.

Hegel and Marx pointed out that the human individual is what he or she does. The person\subject is not inside the human being, ready made and always the same no matter what that human being does. Instead, the person is always in the process of being created - by his or her actions - by their labour (and labour simply means any human activity, including thinking.)


So, is it not true that if you sell your labour as a means to an end (to get wages), that you are selling yourself, and treating yourself as a means to an end? After all, you spend most of your waking day getting ready to go to work, going to work, working, coming home from work, and then being too exhausted to do anything else after work.

If work is to be regarded as a means to an end, i.e. wages, then the people who do that work are also a means to an end.

And this holds for all types of human labour\activity. If we are not in the process of self actualisation in our everyday lives, then we are becoming alienated from ourselves, and becoming a pawn in someone else's game.

Marx believed that this is the reason why Capitalism must fail as people become more and more self aware, and demand that they be treated as an end in themselves and that they treat themselves as an end in themselves - not a means to the enrichment of the Capitalist Oligarchs - and their own daily survival.
This is might go a ways to answering my question above!
 

Tadhg Gaelach

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Why is that?

Well, in the first place, the system is directed towards training, rather than educating, the working class and the middle classes. Genuine education is regarded as a luxury that only the elites have any use for. Then it is considered that the only ones going to a college like Yale will be the children of the rich - and they are hardly likely to want revolution. Indeed, teaching them Marx helps to prevent revolution - by teaching the elites how to avoid the mistakes that Marx points out. In reality, if you want to defend Capitalism you have to understand it - and if you want to understand Capitalism, you have to read Marx.
 
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