Marxist Theory A very brief overview An important note Marxist theory can be talked about in multiple ways. 1. A theory of society: How society is structured, the roots of culture, power relations • This will be our focus for this course • Many people agree that this is a strong, useful description/ way to talk about class 2. A call towards revolution; Marx also assumed that the proletariat would rebel and overthrow the capitalist system. • This is the more controversial part—and the one that has not yet come to pass. Dialectical Materialism Derived from Hegel’s Superstructure Dialectical Idealism (Culture) Base (Economy) *See notes on “The Economic Sub-Structure” (handout) Production Proletariat (Working class) Means of Production Owned by the Capitalists (a very small group) Makes a profit. • Owns only his or her own labor • Wage worker Social Effects Alienation • Workers are alienated from their own labor • Work is routine and boring • Workers are not connected to the products of labor • Work is often fragmented (especially factory work) • A strict division of labor • For Marx, work is an important part of being a fully realized human being. Commodity Fetishism • In the marketplace, the product of labor is displaced from the laborer. •The value of the object is disconnected from the work that has gone into it. (The work is invisible.) • People are more focused on the exchange of things than relationships between people. Commodity Fetishism Commodity Fetishism • Commodity Fetishism: In the marketplace, the product of labor is displaced from the laborer. • The value of the object is disconnected from the work that has gone into it. (The work is invisible.) • People are more focused on the exchange of things than relationships between people. • “A commodity is therefore a mysterious thing, simply because in it the social character of men‘s labour appears to them as an objective character stamped upon the product of that labour; because the relation of the producers to the sum total of their own labour is presented to them as a social relation, existing not between themselves, but between the products of their labour” (Marx 46-47). • “ . . . the relations connecting the labour of one individual with that of the rest appear, not as direct social relations between individuals at work, but as what they really are, material relations between persons and social relations between things” (47). In other words . . . Bianca: There's a difference between like and love. Because, I like my Sketchers, but I love my Prada backpack. Chastity: But I love my Sketchers. Bianca: That's because you don't have a Prada backpack. — from 10 Things I Hate about You False Consciousness • “Dominated and exploited classes typically do not understand their situation or their interests. They do not realize that the situation is unjust” (Trainer). • False consciousness = support of a hegemonic (dominant) ideology even if it is in direct conflict with a person’s personal interests. • A person’s mental image of society obscures the systems of exploitation that shape society.