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Alienation There is more to Marxism, however, than the labor theory of value.

THE COMMUNIST MANIFESTO - FULL AudioBook - by Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels

Marx wove economics and philosophy together to construct a grand theory of human history and social change. His concept of alienation, for example, first articulated in his Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of , plays a key role in his criticism of capitalism. Marx believed that people by nature are free, creative beings who have the potential to totally transform the world. But he observed that the modern, technologically developed world is apparently beyond our full control.

Marx condemned the free market, for instance, as being "anarchic," or ungoverned. He maintained that the way the market economy is coordinated—through the spontaneous purchase and sale of private property dictated by the laws of supply and demand—blocks our ability to take control of our individual and collective destinies. Marx condemned capitalism as a system that alienates the masses.

A Dictionary of Marxist Thought, 2nd Edition

His reasoning was as follows: Although workers produce things for the market, market forces control things; workers do not. People are required to work for capitalists who have full control over the means of production and maintain power in the workplace. Work, he said, becomes degrading, monotonous, and suitable for machines rather than free, creative people. In the end people themselves become objects—robotlike mechanisms that have lost touch with human nature, that make decisions based on cold profit-and-loss considerations, with little concern for human worth and need.

Marx concluded that capitalism blocks our capacity to create our own humane society. Marx's notion of alienation rests on a crucial but, in fact, shaky assumption. It assumes that people can successfully abolish an advanced, market-based society and replace it with a democratic, comprehensively planned society.

Marx claimed we are alienated not only because many of us toil in tedious, perhaps even degrading, jobs or because by competing in the market-place, we tend to place profitability above human need. We are alienated because we have not yet designed a society that is fully planned and controlled, a society without competition, profits and losses, money, private property, and so on, a society which, Marx predicts, must inevitably appear as the world advances through history. Here is the greatest problem with Marx's theory of alienation: even with the latest developments in computer technology, we cannot create a comprehensively planned society that puts an end to scarcity.

Marx must assume that a successfully planned world is possible in order to speak of alienation under capitalism. If socialist planning fails to work in practice, Marx's notion of alienation falls apart. Alienation is a meaningful concept in this sense only if there is an alternative that does not produce the same alienation. Scientific Socialism A staunch antiutopian, Marx claimed his criticism of capitalism was based on the latest developments of science.

He called his theory "scientific socialism" to clearly distinguish his approach from other socialists Henri de Saint-Simon and Charles Fourier, for instance who seemed more content to dream about some future ideal society without comprehending how existing society really worked.

Marx's scientific socialism combined his economics and philosophy—including his theory of value and the concept of alienation—to demonstrate that throughout the course of human history, a profound struggle has developed between the "haves" and the "have-nots. Marx claimed he had discovered the laws of history, laws that expose the contradictions of capitalism and the necessity of the class struggle.

Marx predicted that competition among capitalists would grow so fierce that eventually most capitalists would go bankrupt, leaving only a handful of monopolists controlling nearly all production. This, to Marx, was one of the contradictions of capitalism: competition, rather than creating better-quality products at lower prices for consumers, in the long run creates monopoly, which exploits workers and consumers alike.

What happens to the former capitalists? They fall into the ranks of the proletariat, creating a greater supply of labor, a fall in wages, and what Marx called a growing reserve army of the unemployed.

The Making of the Black Radical Tradition

Also, thought Marx, the anarchic, unplanned nature of a complex market economy is prone to economic crises as supplies and demands become mismatched, causing huge swings in business activity and, ultimately, severe economic depressions. The more advanced the capitalist economy becomes, Marx argued, the greater these contradictions and conflicts. The more capitalism creates wealth, the more it sows the seeds of its own destruction.

Ultimately, the proletariat will realize that it has the collective power to overthrow the few remaining capitalists and, with them, the whole system.

The entire capitalist system—with its private property, money, market exchange, profit-and-loss accounting, labor markets, and so on—must be abolished, thought Marx, and replaced with a fully planned, self-managed economic system that brings a complete and utter end to exploitation and alienation. A socialist revolution, argued Marx, is inevitable. An Appraisal Marx was surely a profound thinker who won legions of supporters around the world.

But his predictions have not withstood the test of time. Although capitalist markets have changed over the past years, competition has not devolved into monopoly. Real wages have risen and profit rates have not declined. Nor has a reserve army of the unemployed developed. We do have bouts with the business cycle, but more and more economists believe that significant recessions and depressions may be more the unintended result of state intervention through monetary policy carried out by central banks and government policies on taxation and spending and less an inherent feature of markets as such.

Socialist revolutions, to be sure, have occurred throughout the world, but never where Marx's theory predicted—in the most advanced capitalist countries. On the contrary, socialist revolts have occurred in poor, so-called Third World countries. Most troubling to present-day Marxism is the ongoing collapse of socialism.

Revolutions in socialist countries today are against socialism and for free markets.

In practice, socialism has failed to create the nonalienated, self-managed, and fully planned society. Real-world socialism in the twentieth century failed to emancipate the masses. In most cases it merely led to new forms of statism, domination, and abuse of power. Marx's theory of value, his philosophy of human nature, and his claims to have uncovered the laws of history fit together to offer a complex, yet grand vision of a new world order.

If the first three-quarters of the twentieth century provided a testing ground for that vision, the end of the century demonstrates its truly utopian nature and ultimate unworkability. About the Author David L. Prychitko is an economics professor at Northern Michigan University. Further Reading Boettke, Peter J.

Unthinkable: ‘Freedom was Marx’s central concern,’ says philosopher Peter Singer

Karl Marx and the Close of His System. Monopoly Capital. Marxism and Social Movements. Bayat, Assaf. Beirne, Piers and Richard Quinney, eds. Marxism and Law. Jennings, Brigid Doherty, and Thomas Y. Levin, eds. Benn, Tony. Arguments for Socialism. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, Benton, Ted, ed.

The Greening of Marxism. New York: Guilford Press, Berman, Sheri. Blackburn, Robin. The Overthrow of Colonial Slavery, Blackledge, Paul. Marxism and Ethics: Freedom, Desire, and Revolution. Bloch, Maurice. Marxism and Anthropology: The History of a Relationship. New York: Oxford University Press, Boggs, Carl. Bottomore, Tom, ed. A Dictionary of Marxist Thought. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2nd ed. Bottomore, Tom and Patrick Goode, eds.

Braverman, Harry. Brechman, Warren.

(PDF) Marxism bibliography | Patrick S. O'Donnell -

New York: Columbia University Press, Brenner, Johanna. Women and the Politics of Class. Brenner, Robert.