question week 6

Critical Historical Theorists



As you have probably noticed by now, Marx is not necessarily a political theorist. His material takes on broad issues that involve economics, sociology, class, politics, etc. Although it is difficult to place Marx – and Hegel – in political theory, you should focus on thoughts and stances that may contradict previous theorists we have read. For example, Marx is anti-Lockean in many theories so carefully consider how this works into the broad themes of our class.

This week we extend continental thought to critical and historical theorists G.W.F Hegel and Karl Marx. For the purpose of this course, Hegel is a foundational thinker only for Marx’s early work, particularly his theory of historical materialism.

One thing I find interesting and important to remember is to reflect on conditions of the time, how it was in society. These were influences on Marx and all philosophers.

One other thing to look at is what Marx and Hegel were saying, and we all have some idea of Marxism. Were these ideas corrupted? For you to think about and to decide.

– Select a forum that interests you most for your initial post; then reply to two of your classmates in another forum thread than your initial post.

– please chose one of the 5 ( 380 Word Minimum) Max 500 words

1. Marx’s Human Nature & Historical Materialism:

1. How would you assess Marx’s view of human nature (“species being”) and his version of a kind of state of nature? How are human beings integral to his understanding of ideology and materialism? For example, in German Ideology, Marx says:

Men can be distinguished from animals by consciousness, by religion or anything else you like. They themselves begin to distinguish themselves from animals as soon as they begin to produce their means of subsistence, a step which is conditioned by their physical organisation. By producing their means of subsistence men are indirectly producing their actual material life (First Premises of the Materialist Method, para 3).

. . .

Life is not determined by consciousness, but consciousness by life. In the first method of approach the starting-point is consciousness taken as the living individual; in the second method, which conforms to real life, it is the real living individuals themselves, and consciousness is considered solely as their consciousness (The Essence of the Materialist Conception of History. Social Being and Social Consciousness, para 4).

. . .

Now this view can be expressed again in speculative-idealistic, i.e. fantastic, terms as “self-generation of the species” (“society as the subject”), and thereby the consecutive series of interrelated individuals connected with each other can be conceived as a single individual, which accomplishes the mystery of generating itself. It is clear here that individuals certainly make one another, physically and mentally, but do not make themselves (History as Continuous Process).

What is Marx getting at with respect to my questions above?

2. Marx’s State and Property:

In German Ideology and elsewhere, what does Marx mean by the “superstructure”? Marx says:

Since the State is the form in which the individuals of a ruling class assert their common interests, and in which the whole civil society of an epoch is epitomised, it follows that the State mediates in the formation of all common institutions and that the institutions receive a political form. Hence the illusion that law is based on the will, and indeed on the will divorced from its real basis — on free will.

Based on this and other writings, how would you explain Marx’s view of private property throughout history? Is it a “natural right”, like Locke? Or, is it the private will or general will?

3. Marx & Engels: Capital, Labor, and Class Struggle:

In Communist Manifesto, how do Marx and Engels criticize capitalism (capital/labor relations)? What do they mean by commodification and alienation? At the same time, how do they praise these new industrial transformations in history and how do they describe what we now call “globalization”?

Web reading:

1. Industrial Revolution Timeline

2. Karl Marx, SEP: Sections 2 (all) and 5 (all).

3. Beginners Guide to Marxism, Marxist Internet Archive. This is an excellent website for research on any about or related to socialist and communist scholarship both past and present.

This link contains selected and adumbrated readings from Karl Marx and Frederick Engels.

Read part of Karl Marx. 1849. “Idealism and Materialism” from German Ideology. You may begin with “First Premises of Materialist Method”.

Read part of Engels and Marx. 1848. The Communist Manifesto, Parts I & II

4. The Right to Private Property, IEP: Sections 1-5. Other sections optional.

Not Required but helpful:

Full versions of selected readings from Marx.

Video Lectures:
1. Video Lecture from Yale University, “Marx’s Theory of History”.

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