(This is the first of two posts on Karl Marx. The first will talk about the political, the second about the personal)
I wouldn’t call myself a Marxist a for two reasons 1.) By nature, I am not an ideological person. I look at each issue that affects life and come to a view based just on that issue. Of course, patterns will emerge but I don’t apply said patterns to unrelated issues (Something a member of a political party or a follower of a doctrine/ideology would do) 2.) Even though it’s a blanket description of many competing theories, Marxim itself demands a certain slavish devotion of doctrine that would contradict my first reason - Like religion in that regard.
However, I do think Karl Marx got a number of things right and I also think there is a necessity for a healthy and just society to apply to apply at least a few of his principles to governance. I describe two Marx influenced ideas at the end of the post.
Marxism correctly identifies the conflict between the wealthiest members of society who are always looking to maximize profit and those who work for them whose wages and benefits are continually under assault as a result of this. Obviously, a completely profit driven society that was first world in its legal protections for workers and in its taxation and infrastructure relationship would eventually relocate its business to somewhere with less regulation like for example in the third world. This has happened time and time again the last several decades in America.
If profit is your motive then it feeds greed, yours and the greed of your shareholders, but how many people are shareholders of a given company (assuming the company is public)? At this point, providing jobs for your fellow countrymen takes a backseat for your own selfishness. This is what has been happening and is happening now in America.
Class as defined by a dictionary may seem outside the conversation if America is the nation we are talking about but class = money, pared down just to wealth and not assuming any superhuman qualities assigned to those who have wealth either inherited or earned, is very much described in Marxist doctrine . America tends to mythologize those who seemingly go from rags to riches although many of the stories are often embellished and/or the wealthy person had a lot of help along the way. Often you dig below the surface and you find the Horatio Alger storied figure had a wealthy parent(s) like Bill Gates or Donald Trump for example.
Marxism can correctly be applied to another key problem with Western capitalism – The misidentification of the individual standing alone as what makes up society particularly societal change and history. We are all in this together and it is the relationship the individual has with the different groups in his life be they his family, his place of employment or the government that moves life. The individual as great man of history standing alone and triumphing is a creation of Hollywood – total fiction, American folklore.
When we think of the Proletariat we think of factory workers in the industrial revolution of the 1800’s but a guy working in customer service for a credit card company, an insurance salesman, an auto mechanic, a debt collector are the Proletariat of today’s society. The Bourgeoisie of today are those that own businesses either directly or through shares.
One of the key points of Marxism which was expounded with even more clarity and broadness of vision by Theodore Adorno is the Bourgeoisie also own the narrative (since they own everything else) and promulgate the viewpoint that best helps them so the Proletariat often act against their own best interests by supporting this. It’s form of brainwashing - think of modern political advertising.
Adorno takes this even further showing how instilling wants for unnecessary material goods and saturating an audience with dumbed down entertainment further anesthetizes and distracts the proletariat I wrote more about Adorno here http://rajdronamraju.wordpress.com/2008/06/19/the-world-according-to-theodor-adorno/
So two ideas I have that I would like to see implemented that one could say were based on Marxist principles.
1.) A wealth cap – No individual would be worth more than a pre-set amount. I’m all for freedom but when we are talking about a finite amount of resources then what you have hoarded is automatically depriving someone else. There is no need for any one person to be a billionaire. I would also eliminate the ability to incorporate oneself as a business.
2.) Partial government ownership of all businesses – All business big or small would be semi-government owned. This would be a benefit of entrepreneurs as they could go to the government with an idea and they would be able to receive backing. Big business should not be an adversary to a society and the wellbeing of its citizens. Often its priorities, for once again the reason of profit cause that business in a whole host of areas such as the environment, worker rights, etc. to be hostile to the Proletariat. Let government run business in a democratic society and both will be responsive for what is good the citizenry.