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Marxist Theory

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Elizabeth Ellinger

on 22 October 2013

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Transcript of Marxist Theory

Marxist Key Terms
Marxist Theory
Marxist Theory
By: Abby Winchester, Liz Ellinger, Becca Cady, and Shannon Ballard
Background and Development
Explanation of Marxism

Bourgeoisie: the educated population associated with money for whom the system is working for. They serve as controllers of the world's natural, economic, and human resources.

Proletariat: the industrial and manual working class that produces goods. This class works for wages rather than a salary.
Karl Marx
Karl Marx was originally trained as a philosopher. In his mid-twenties, he turned away from philosophy and turned toward economics and politics. Marx became best known as a revolutionary communist. "Marx's theory of history — is centered around the idea that forms of society rise and fall as they further and then impede the development of human productive power."
Marxist literary criticism is a loose term describing literary criticism informed by the philosophy or the politics of Marxism. Its history is as long as Marxism itself.
Base and Superstructure
Base- the methods of production in a given society that consist of materials and economics. The base of economics, politics and art emerges a superstructure (consisting of law, politics, philosophy, religion, literature, and art) “everything else”.

* A Marxists believes the economic world is a base and the rest of the world is a superstructure produced by the base.

The belief that our value as people is directly related to the social class to which we belong.
An economic and political system defined in terms of worth and money (trade and industry are privately owned by the wealthy few instead of the state). Capitalism is a socio-economic system where social relations are based on commodities for exchange, in particular private ownership of the means of production and on the exploitation of wage labor.

*A Marxist believes no man can own or control the value of another man's labor or the relationship is inherently exploitation and, thus immoral.

Alienation is a condition of workers in a capitalist economy, resulting from the lack of identity with the products or their labor and a sense of being controlled or exploited, whereby they become foreign to the world they are living in.

-Marx went on to show that the specific form of labor characteristic of bourgeois society, wage labor, corresponds to the most profound form of alienation. Since wage workers sell their labor power to earn a living, and the capitalist owns the labor process, the product of the workers’ labor is in a very real sense alien to the worker. It is not his or her product but the product of the capitalist.

*Alienation can be overcome by restoring the truly human relationship to the labor process, by people working in order to meet people's needs, working as an expression of their own human nature, not just to earn a living.
A belief system adopted as inherently true that operates unconsciously and permeates a culture as truth itself. Ideologies serve to make sense of the world while obscuring the social interests that are expressed therein, and by its completeness and relative internal consistency tends to form a closed system and maintain itself in the face of contradictory or inconsistent experience.
* Marxists believe a society cannot change the existing means of production and class structures without changing the existing ideology
*Example: Colonialism: one group uses racism, ethnic nationalism or its own inherent values to justify exploiting another race or nation's labor and natural resources. Marxists don't believe people exploit others because they are racist but rather that racism exists so that we can exploit each other because ideologies come from economic relations.
Class Structure
The attitude of valuing things not for their utility but for their power to impress others or for their resale possibilities by attaching an exchange value to a human being. For example, through this belief, friendship, knowledge, women, etc. are understood only in terms of their monetary value. They are no longer treated as things with essential worth but as commodities. (They are valued only in terms of money.)
A class alliance by means of which one, leading (hegemonic) class assumes position of leadership over other classes, in return guaranteeing them certain beliefs, so as to be able to secure public political power over society as a whole.

*The bourgeoisie were hegemonic to the proletarians.
Friedrich Engels was a co-founder of Marxist Literary Theory alongside Karl Marx. Engels was an author, political theorist, and philosopher. Marx and Engels co-authored "The Communist Manifesto" accompanying other works which predicted the triumph of the working class. Engels also financially supported Marx's writing career and proceeded to finish it after Marx's death. His assistance to Marx's writing made Engels a large influence on the Marxist Theory.
Concerned with..
Class differences (mostly economic)
Complications with capitalist system
How lower classes are oppressed
Whom an act or object benefits (elite, middle, or lower class)
Material Dialect..
Marx believes that there is a continuous cycle of contradictions, tensions, and revolutions.
Contradictions are built into social systems
Tension erupts between classes
A social revolution takes place, usually by the oppressed peoples (working class)
Development of new society upon the old

Follows Material Dialect..
"...what drives historical change are the material realities of the economic base of society, rather than the ideological superstructure of politics, law, philosophy, religion, and art that is built upon that economic base" (Richter 1088).

Economic status is more important to Marxism than religious affiliations or political beliefs.
Common Questions when Applying Marxism..
What is the social class of the author?
What social classes do the characters represent?
How do characters from different classes communicate or clash?

In the lifeboat, Pi has control of all of the supplies which gives him economic power.
Their names create a level of equality, Richard Parker being a human name and Piscine meaning fish in the English language.
Pi returning to the lifeboat represents the equality that can and should exist between classes in Marxist Literary Theory.
Pi has three different religions, but because economic power is above all other social and political standards, his various religions don't help Pi gain class power.
"What drives historical change are the material realities of the economic base of society, rather than the ideological superstructure of politics, law, philosophy, religion and art that is built upon the economic base."
Pi's retreat to the raft and the separate claim of territories between Pi and Richard Parker further represents inequality between the two.
Animals are generally regarded as a lower class than humans, and in the scope of Marxist Literary Theory this is due to their lack of economic power.
Works Cited
Brizee, Allen, and J. Case Thompkins. "Marxist Criticism." Purdue OWL: Literary Theory and Schools of Criticism. Purdue OWL, 21 Apr. 2010. Web. 14 Oct. 2013.

Delahoyd, Michael. "Marxist Criticism." Marxist Criticism. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Oct. 2013.
"The political and economic philosophy of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in which the concept of class struggle plays a central role in understanding society's allegedly inevitable development from bourgeois oppression under capitalism to a socialist and ultimately classless society."
Friedrich Engels
Works Cited
"Marxist Literary Criticism." Marxist Literary Criticism. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Oct. 2013.
Wolff, Jonathan, Wolff,. "Karl Marx." Stanford University. Stanford University, 26 Aug. 2003. Web. 14 Oct. 2013.
“Workers of all lands unite”
"Karl Marx Biography." Bio.com. A&E Networks Television, n.d. Web. 14 Oct. 2013
Marx also published "The Communist Manifesto" which explains the goals of Communism along with the theory underlying this movement. It illustrates that class struggles, or the utilization of one class by another, are the motivating force behind all developments throughout history.
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