Marx’s Social Critique

We now look to another course, which I tend to listen to often called “European Thought and Culture in the 19th Century” The course is taught by Professor Lloyd Kramer.

Professor Lloyd Kramer
Professor Lloyd Kramer

This time I will discuss how the lecture revolves around one of the most famous political philosophers Karl Marx. This is on lecture 14 called “Marx’s Social Critique”.

Karl Marx

The lecture starts off on what cultures had influenced Marx, mainly being German, French and English. The lecture then moves on to how Marx began to develop his critique. As stated earlier, Marx’s had the widest influence in the world of economics from Mid 19th century culture context, but now we live in a very different world. Prof Lloyd who mentions several times throughout the lecture that Marx was heavily influenced by Hegalism.

We look into the reasons why Marx moved to Paris in 1843. One of the reason is that Karl Marx had no work in Germany, also he saw Paris as best place for revolution. Many exiles there due to the revolution of 1883, plus many Political activists were also in Paris.

Marx spent a lot of time on Conception of socialism. Marx broke with friend Reuger. but Reuger was not interested in socialism and he decided to leave Karl Marx since he did not want to be associated with the left Hegalism

The lecture explores how Marx had the passion to study the French revolution, French socialism and importantly English economics.

It seems Marx ideas were taking form, they were changing. Marx started to Study thesis of other famous thinkers. He then would create an anti-thesis. Marx would check for the mistakes of the famous thinkers in their written works. Marx uses the German tradition to attack the French and English thought. He then would give a Radical critique of German theories by using French and English thought.

Around this period the lecture talks about the Famous book he wrote with Friedrich Engels called “The German ideology”, which was written around 1845. We then explore Marx’s changes in his theories and thought.

Friedrich Engels

Most of this lecture centres in on Marx’s critique on the early French revolutionaries and English classical economists.

Marx main critique of them is that he felt that they lacked an understanding of history

Marx felt the French, lacked direction and that they did not understand history. Marx felt the Leaders of French revolution did not understand class structure. They only served their own social group. The Jacobins only served the private property class.

Marx felt that the “rights of man” was a masks to serve the rights of the property classes. Marx Does not feel that the revolutionary leaders represented “The rights of man”

Marx criticised many of the famous French thinkers, one of them was Pierre Joseph Purdon Again Marx felt they did not understand the process of history, only revolution. Marx did feel that the French did understand politics and the understandings of starting a revolution.

Marx then moved on to studying the British economists

Marx still felt that the British economists did not understand the Historical perspective. but the French did understand politics and revolutions. The lecture talks about how he felt the economic analysis was good, but then again that they did not explain any historical relevance. Can you see how the idea of history is being formed for Karl Marx class conflict?

Karl Marx studied and criticised the following being Adam Smith and David Richardo.

The lecture mentions Karl heavily disagreed with their ideas of the Universal standard. Mark felt that this is the worst state of privation in which life can know. He disagreed that all workers must be miserable, Marx disagreed with Ricardo, he felt that this a part of history, not a natural law.

Karl Marx felt that suffering is not the natural condition of the workers, history made things that way, and things can change…but what would cause the change?

Prof Lloyd mentioned how Marx admired the economists view of how hard they studied economic relations and how society was affected by it.

Next Marx now moves on to critiques the German Hegelians.

This is when Marx co-wrote his famous book “The German ideology”, but no one dare not publish it, with the response stating it was either too long, too complex or irrelevant.

Marx Felt German philosophers of history lacked the crucial political and economic reality of analysis, as the lecture mentions, German thought is upside down compared to French and English theories. Marx felt that the Hegelian dialectic is not correct. He felt history is basically social relations and economic relations, no need for this vague unfolding spirit. It is too metaphysical and does not make sense in anyone’s life.

The lecture explains in some detail why Marx felt socialism as a more radical way in which history is moving into. Notice the keyword being History. Marx felt that Hegal’s ideas were as if he was “standing on his head”, Marx pondered how to bring German thought back on its feet.

The lecture now moves on to another key part of Marx’s ideas that being of Alienation.

First according to Hegel, Alienation occurred when the thought and idea struggles to move into the material world.

Alienation to Feuerbach was caused by religion, For instance a man would place highest ideal form outside of him self and then worship it, which would take him away from his present imperfect form. Take him away from society.

Alienation to Marx was that people separated by the objects they produce. The lecture brilliantly explains that We are made human by what we produce, but the capitalist takes the objects from what people produced.

Here we are giving a quote from the lecture.

“The worker places his life in the object”, but then the object is taken away from the worker.

Object -> money -> used against the workers

Man creates capital, then worships money, but life is lost by worshipping something outside the self.

So then, how can we unite the worker with what he creates? how do we stop the alienation?

As before, Marx felt alienation is not natural or permanent law. Marx felt that History had a strong influence on society and work. Marx pushes the concept that history is always changing, it is moving towards a higher form of production

We get another quote on the lecture from Karl Marx

“From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs”

Marx felt the struggle will come from opposing classes, rather then opposing ideas, which the Hegelians focused too much time upon.

The lecture finishes up with this brilliant quote to sum up Marx’s ideas.

“Philosophers have only interpreted the world, but the point is to change it” which was launched as critique of German idealists. They spent too much time on analysing the spirit of history.

Professor Lloyd Kramer does speak slightly fast on this lecture and you will probably have to replay it several times, but it does explain difficult thoughts and concepts at an easy basic level.