Marx and Marxism Journal
Sept 6, 2005
“If the gods had before dwelt above the earth, they had now become its centre” (12). This quote implies that we need to reclaim the most virtuous parts of our human essence which we have taken from ourselves and attributed to the divine. We can see how we have denied our essence by exploring Christianity. Jesus was a man who possessed many of the qualities that humans admire. He was compassionate and loving. He was just and wise. But Christians have robbed humanity by attributing divinity to Jesus negating his human essence. When the Christians made Jesus divine his actions were no longer actions achieved by a man and achievable by every man; they were transformed into actions achieved by a god. Instead of looking at Jesus’s actions as human actions that we all have the capacity to achieve Christians now look at Jesus’s actions as extremely benevolent actions that confirm his divinity. Because Jesus’s actions have been placed on an imaginary pedestal above humanity the moral character that Jesus had and the righteous actions that Jesus did no longer seem to be in reach of ordinary mortals. Christianity’s main focus is no longer on working to become like the human Jesus but it is instead focused on convincing others of the belief in the divinity of Jesus—which the moral actions he performed serve only to confirm. The prevailing religious notion in America is that we are born in sin. We are condemned from birth and only by belief in a divine being can we attain moral character. We have denied our human essence as inherently good, lovable, communal beings. However, I do not think the answer to solving this problem is convincing the religious that they must abandon their notion of god and see god as a manifestation of themselves. Not only the non-religious but the religious also need to bring the heavens to the earth. The religious person must strive to acquire all the attributes they consider to be godly. The belief in God is will never go away. Parents pass on the belief in God to their children and many people today are still having mystical experiences by which they become certain that god exists. Neither the belief that god was created by humans and imparted with all of humanity’s best attributes, nor the belief that god created man with these divine attributes, can be proven. Flip a coin. Make an educated guess, but no guess has more validity than another. The problem is not religion or the belief in God. The problem is the people who take a doctrine of how to live a good life, in which one aspires to attain all the moral attributes which we consider to be the highest form of the human essence, and turn it into… whatever this mess is that Christianity has been turned into. Then there is the problem of the Fundamentalist Islamic terrorists. The problem is… so much a problem that I don’t think I can even attempt to describe it (or know what it is)…
Sept 8, 2005
I find some similarities with the Old Hegelians of Marx’s time and the conservatives of today. I listened to a conservative talk radio show the other day and the host was saying something like “liberals want you to think that world is worse than it really is.” Do conservatives think we have reached the end of history? Do they think that everything is well and good and that a world with poverty and terrorism is the world as it should be? I find it hard to believe that anyone would really hold this position. Looking at the world today it seems obvious that things are not as good as they could be. We need to try to make the world a better place. There is always more work to be done. We will never reach the end of history.
Sept 9, 2005
There is positive freedom and negative freedom. Positive freedom is being constrained by oneself. And negative freedom is when you owe nothing to anyone. If I had negative freedom then I would be allowed to do whatever I want. Negative freedom is good; but without positive freedom then negative freedom is useless. If we only had negative freedom then we wouldn’t have any responsibilities and we wouldn’t ever do anything. Positive freedom is giving ourselves goals. I do not feel that the government should make laws appealing to morals. We should encourage people to be good without requiring them to. Are we really being good if we are forced to act in a in a certain way? Morality should be left up to positive freedom. We should make laws for ourselves because we choose to be good.
Sept 13, 2005
I like what Marx says about humans being communal beings. If we feel like we are part of something bigger than ourselves then our lives often become more meaningful. People often look towards religion to find meaning in their lives through something greater than themselves but even closer to a person is one’s relationship to his/her fellow man. We are all together and united in the fact that we are born into this world where life is hard and meaning escapes us. We all face the same problems. We are all in this together. We need to help one another and look out for each other’s happiness because the greatest happiness we find is in the company of others. We do our best work when we work together. Okay I am blabbering. The point is we are a communal species. We have lived together in communities since the dawn of man. We need love from each other. We need to help each other. As communal beings we are happiest and we accomplish more. If we feel we are a part of something larger than ourselves then when we act to make the community better we will be acting to make ourselves better because we are all part of the community. When we apply positive freedom to this situation it will be the case that communal beings will govern themselves in ways that will be best for the community (and hence themselves).
I like Marx’s critique of the French constitution. The constitution is focusing too much on each person’s negative freedom. The government is merely protecting each person’s right to be egoistic. We are not required to look out for the welfare of others in our society. I do not know however if a clause in a constitution encouraging community would foster one. I am not sure how it might be that people could be moved to look outside of oneself and care for the wellbeing of each member of a society. Eliminating racism is one thing. Making people realize that they are part of something bigger than themselves—the community, the human race—would be good. But how can we do this? The point of philosophy is to change the world. So how can we change it? This seems to be the question everyone is asking lately.
Sept 15, 2005
In “On The Jewish Question”, Marx writes that the Jew, “fancies himself justified in separating himself from humanity, as a matter of principle takes no part in the movement of history, and waits on a destiny that has nothing in common with the destiny of mankind as a whole. He considers himself a member of the Jewish people and the Jewish people as the chosen people” (47). Religion should not separate humanity. It should unite humanity in love. However, this has never served this greater purpose. We can read this quote by Marx and be reminded of how religion can bring about the fiercest of divisions among humans. Every person in the whole world is united by the fact we are human. This bond that we have with our fellow man should trump all sects. As long as the Jews believe themselves to be the chosen people separated from humanity strife and division will still occur. As long as the Christians believe that they are first and foremost members of the body of Christ rather than members of the human race then peace and tolerance will not occur. We need to critically examine religion and cast off those dogmatic beliefs that cause us to be separated from the rest of humanity. We need to abandon all dogmatic beliefs that lead to wars and oppression and intolerance. We need to abandon all dogmatic beliefs that negate our human essence as an animal species of the planet earth. We need to abandon all dogmatic beliefs that lead to hate and division. The religious need to focus on teachings of their religion that encourage a better life for themselves and a better life for the people around them (and this doesn’t include forming a religious state).
Sept 19, 2005
In the introduction to “A Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of right, Marx writes, “In politics the Germans have thought what other people have done” (76). We can’t have passionless reflection, we must have action. The point of philosophy is to change the world, not merely understand it. Marx writes in the critique, “A theory will only be realized in a people in so far as it is the realization of what it needs… A radical revolution can only be a revolution of needs” (78). If there is going to be a revolution it is going to be because the people feel it is in their own self interest to revolt. They must feel the need to revolt. “I am nothing and I should be all” (80)… we should not be working so that someone else can rule us. We should be able to rule ourselves.
Sept 23, 2005
Marx feels that individuality and community are both destroyed by capital. In America you can be decent without doing anything at all. In a community if you want to be perceived as decent you have to contribute to the community and do your part. With capitalism we work for ourselves. But with socialism we would work for ourselves, which would be the community.
Today in America we largely site individuality in professions. We introduce ourselves and say “I am a doctor”, “I am a grocery store clerk”, “I am a banker”. But we are so much more than this. Even though we work for ourselves in capital we still are working for things that have nothing to do with ourselves in the process. The work we do often has nothing to do with our individuality. We are alienated from the things we create. Marx argues that humans are creative beings and that we remake the world. It is natural and healthy to create and change the world. But all of our creative energies are going into producing shit that we don’t care about. We are no longer free to be creative. Faced with survival we are forced to get a job which drains all of our energy. We no longer have the freedom to create for the sake of creation. Art is often created with the intention of making money rather than for the purpose of making good art. The people of our country are being degraded by cutthroat capitalism. We are engaged in the war of all against all. We are bombarded with so many advertisements a day that jingles become a staple of human conversation. There is so much shit that we are exposed to and is consequently running through our minds all the time that it is distracting ourselves from what is important. Our economic system has no regard for the wellbeing of its citizens. At least there have been restrictions placed on tobacco advertisements. But there are still cereal boxes with magic colored dragons and children who won’t eat anything but chicken nuggets and potato chips. Money is placed above all else. Economics is placed above the well being of the American people. The economic system’s sole purpose is convincing the American public that they need this or that. We have forgotten what we need to be happy. We are focused on what we need to make money.
Sept. 25, 2005
Marx feels if we are to understand history we must look at what people are doing in a particular time in history—not what they are saying about themselves. What is being said is most likely the delusion of the ruling class. History is motivated by a desire to change the immediate future. Marx feels that the primary tool for changing the world cannot be moral persuasion; instead we must change the material. Marx is not preaching morality because he feels that it is ineffective and that peole won’t do the right thing even if they know it is right. Marx feels if we want people to be good we should create a world in which it is easy to be good… I agree… however it seems to me that if we want to create a world in which it is easy to be good it will take some persuasive morality to convince people that they need to try to create a world in which it is possible to be good. Otherwise it seems to me that change would only come in a deterministic kind of way—whenever it so happens that is in the people’s own interest to change the world, then they will. But that time could be now and people don’t know that it is in their own interest to change the world. I feel that people must be persuaded that it is in their own interest to change the world. Maybe this will take a different kind of persuasion than moral persuasion? I don’t’ know.
Sept. 26, 2005
More about Marx’s belief that moralism doesn’t work. I think he is right. You cannot tell people how to act. You must show people how to ct. Actions speak louder than words. We must lead by example. Those who believe that the world must be changed so that it is easy to act well must engage in the project of changing it; then others will better understand the cause and proceed to act. However I do believe that moralizing is involved in the process. Those who are acting in the ways that they believe others ought to act need to justify their actions. People will not be persuaded by mere argument, but they may not be persuaded by mere action either. Both argument and action are needed. But one has no authority to speak if he or she doesn’t act.
Sept. 30, 2005
About the ruling class controlling mainstream ideas… I think this is very apparent in religion. The religion of America is the rich man’s actionless religion—where mere belief in a diety is all that is required for salvation—which allows him to have pleasure and riches in this life, and in the afterlife as well. This ideology does not require good works; a man can live his life comfortably knowing that his ego will be preserved in the afterlife without ever having a concern for the welfare of others.
Oct. 3, 2005
Society needs to have goals. We live in a society where individuals have their own goals, but it doesn’t seem that society has goals. Their isn’t some ideal that we as Americans are unified in striving towards. There are goals in various political movements, but the country as a whole does not have a vision of any goal for our country which we are aspiring to. It is sort of like the view of the Old Hegelians… we have reached the end of history. This is America. This is it. This is what we want. But… this is not freedom. This is not democracy. There is so much work to be done. Perhaps we do have a goal… perhaps the goal is freedom… and democracy. But there is so much talk of protecting our freedom… as if we have already attained it. But we don’t have freedom. The poor don’t have freedom. The minorities don’t have freedom. The American people don’t have freedom. The opinions of the majority of Americans are not reflected in policy decisions. We live in fear. To meet our basic needs we are forced to take jobs which have nothing to do with us. Only those rich enough to purchase property can live self-subistingly off the land. We cannot go to a public park after dark without a visit from the cops. We cannot choose what plants to ingest… Etc… Are we free? Yes. But could we be more free? Yes. We as Americans should strive to achieve what we set forth as the basis of our country in the beginning… Freedom and democracy. We cannot digress. We cannot believe that freedom and democracy have been attained. It is a constant struggle that will never end.
Oct. 4, 2005
Why have we not pursued alternative energy resources? The people with the money (coal and oil companies) have all the power. The power is a problem. Even if all the people want something it won’t be done if the ruling class only allows what is in their interests. The people need to be empowered.
Oct. 7, 2005
“The bourgeoisie, by the rapid improvement of all instruments of production by the immensely facilitated means of communication, draws all, even themost barbarian, nations into civilization. The cheap prices of its commodities are the heavy artillery with which it batters down all Chinese walls, with which it forces the barbarians’ intensely obstinate hatred of foreigners to capitulate. It compels all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeois mode of production; it compels them to introduce what it calls civilization into their midst, i.e., to become bourgeois themselves. In one word, it creates a world after its own image” (The Communist Manifesto 249).
I don’t know if this is really happening today. But it seems so.
“The lower strata of the middle class—the small tradespeople, shopkeepers, and retired tradesmen generally, the handicraftsmen and peasants—all these sink gradually into the proletariat, partly because their diminutive capital does not suffice for the scale on which Modern Industry is carried on, and is swamped in the competition with the large capitalists, partly because their specialized skill is rendered worthless by new methods of production” (The Communist Manifesto 252).
This is definitely happening.
Oct 10, 2005
Capitalism might work if we didn’t have so many machines doing all of our work for us. Fields would be more specialized and workers would have more of a connection to their work than they do stocking shelves or watching a conveyer belt. There would be more jobs and less exploitation. There would be more jobs available if we handed the work that machines do over to real people. Also we wouldn’t make so much mass produced shit. We can make good stuff. We can make good chairs… good radios… good everything. But we have machines produce millions of identical copies of ugly plastic chairs, and piece of shit radios for the sake of profit. We need human hands to make things. This would make things better and increase the value of the worker. I honestly don’t think we can have machinery in a capitalistic society without degredation of the things produced as well as the exploitation of the worker. However in a Communistic society machinery instead of workers would be fine. Technological advances would mean less work and allow workers to focus their efforts elsewhere. But in Capitalism technological advances leads to the devaluation of the worker. A technological advance will lead to increased profit for the capitalist and decreased profit for the worker. If we want to have a healthy Capitalistic society we must eliminate machine labor. If we want to keep the machines then we must turn to Communism.
Oct. 15, 2005
I just watched a documentary about Noam Chomsky called Manufacturing Consent. It talked a lot about the ruling class... Ya da da. In the news media we have one hour news broadcasts with 20 minutes dedicated to a speaker. How can the argue for any radical ideas? Everything is on such a tight-knit schedule that on television there is no time for important relevant debate. There is simply the stating of what is already understood by the general public.
Oct. 28, 2005
After watching a PBS documentary about a country (I think Guatemala but I am not sure) where it is socially acceptable for husbands to beat their wives and 6 out of 10 women are killed by their husbands (and no legal action is taken against the husband) I am questioning a lot of things. Should America interfere in the affairs of others or should we only try to change ourselves and become an example country for other nations? I tend to be on the side that says we should leave other countries to sort themselves out and focus on our own problems, but I think I sometimes don’t realize how bad it is for some of the people in other countries. But even if it is bad in other countries I feel it is worse to have military intervention in those countries. I do not know what kind of help Americans can lend to other countries in need; regardless I think I need to become more educated about the living conditions in other countries and explore the possibilities of aid. I know that the people of America need a lot of help and change but after hearing about a country like the one in the PBS documentary it seems that what is going on in America isn’t as bad as what is going on elsewhere in the world. I am no longer so stricken with grief about the sad state of American affairs. I don’t have to be plunged into a reflective state of grief every time I watch a busy intersection, hear sirens 6 times a day, or see billboards posted up and down the interstate. Things can be better, but we have it better than so many other nations. I still feel that change in America needs to take place, but I am no longer pessimistic about the possibilities for change. I recognize that we have come a long way, and we aren’t so bad off, but things can be better, and we need to continue working to make change for the better.
After sitting and looking out the window in the writing lab in the third floor of Peck Hall for the last few minutes I feel ill at ease with the comments I just made. They sky is beautiful and the birds are flying above the trees and down below the humans are racing toward their deaths for the sake of money and security and are destroying the earth in the process. The world is beautiful. Living should be simple. I just can’t let myself be so disillusioned by my grief over the ills of America that I fail to see the freedom Americans have that other countries don’t have.
2nd Marx and Marxism Journal
Nov. 11, 2005
Most of the writers we read tend to agree that the revolution must come from the proletariat—the working class. Today, I don’t even know what the working class is. Usually when I hear the term “working class” I think of blue collar factory or construction workers. I do not feel this type of class is capable of a revolution. This class is not educated and are usually working to sustain themselves and their families. When they are not working they are probably occupied with their favorite leisure activity… perhaps television. I do not imagine the idea of revolution entering into their heads that often or at all. I may be mistaken, but in the south anyways, this class seems to have more pride for America than anything else and are convinced that capitalism is the best economic system for America. I do not believe this generation is capable of sparking a revolution. Perhaps there is another working class that I am not aware of. Perhaps the working class should include all those who do not own the means of production. In this case, in addition to the workers I have already described there would also be middle class parents who work at facotires such as saturn (who seem to me to be generally content living the American consumer-driven life) as well as those individuals working office jobs. I would imagine those working office jobs to be generally concerend about accumulating wealth and moving up in the company so that they can support a family and engage in the pursuit of happiness. I don’t think the revolution will start with these people… I almost forgot 1.7 million Wal-mart employees. Are they capable of sparking a revolution? They may have the revolutionary spirit but I don’t forsee all the wal-mart employees organizing a mass takeover of all Wal-mart’s across America. Corruption would likely occur… if the revolution wasn’t already stamped out by the police force. So where will the revolution come from? I like Lenin’s idea of professional revolutionaries whose job it is to become educated, educate others, and spark the revolution. All those groups who I described earlier who were not capable of the revolution themselves need to be educated. Only by educating and radically changing American consciousness can revolution take place. A few professional revolutionaries cannot cause a revolution themselves, and neither can the working class. The revolution will come after the professional revolutionaries educate the majority to the possibilities for and the benefits of a revolution. The majority of the American people must be open to the idea of revolution before one will take place.
If you want a communist revolution it is not going to take place by just reforming the current beuogosie society (as it seems Bernstein thinks may be able to happen). A radically new state must be created.