Marxism is a widely practiced method involving societal analysis that is based on attention to relations of class as well conflict majorly centered on materialistic historical development and interpretation. There is great emphasis on social transformation. Marxist ideology and methodology, in a great way, informs sociopolitical and economic enquiry that applies to critique and analysis of capitalism development. The role played by class struggle in the systematic economic changes witnessed from time to time is also examined. Most of Karl Marx’s ideas and philosophies were applied in the last century, but are arguably still applicable in today’s world. To what extent is this statement true? How is Marxism used today?
While the theory of Marxism can be said to have taken a beating in the last two decades, it is believed that its stress on economic materialism is applicable in the modern setting, more less the same way it was in the time the ideas on which it is founded were born. It is not disputable that billions of people around the world have been affected by the global economic crisis experienced in recent years. In this context, Karl Marx’s emphasis on how human beings are reduced by capitalism is indeed clear in the modern setting. This happens as they struggle and work towards profitable ends. The argument that they are now working for money, instead of having money work for them, is now a reality. The global economic recession can speak volumes towards the effect of the theory’s statement that depending on who controls it, capitalism is indeed a ‘runaway train’. The theory’s argument that government is technically an extension of the capitalist industry cannot seem to be more true, given that governments continually give bailouts to banks to ‘save them’. In the words of historian Howard Zinn, the government and businesses are very closely related, and the latter exerts great influence on the former (Zinn 41). This is what was initially stated by Karl Marx in the early stages of the development of his theory.
To a great extent, Marxism is applied in understanding capitalism today. It is true that people everywhere in the world are organized into diverse categories or classes, an arrangement dictated by their relationship to the way things are made. A good number are referred to as ‘workers, since they work in farms, offices, or factories for money. They, therefore, belong to the working class. Proletariat is the term used to define them. Another category, though not as large as the proletariat, are the ‘capitalists’ since they own the offices, farms, and factories, where the working class labor (Saha 23). They own even the tools used in laboring. In Marxism, the capitalists are called the ‘ruling class’ because their existence is pillared on the works and sweat of all the others. They own the courts, the government and the army, over which they exert great control. As the theory states, the means of production is the capital and money that is used by capitalists in investing so as to get more of it, which is called ‘profit’. This understanding is achieved on the basis of Marxism which clearly grasps the nature of capitalism. In spite of the fact that capitalism may have changed in its different forms, the essence of it remains the same. It is still a system built upon the deformation and exploitation of wage workers for profit purposes that benefits those owning the means of production ( Devlin and Maurice 32).
Away from the very tenets of Marxism, more applicable situations in today’s world can be discussed. It is today’s economically catastrophic and hard times that have triggered an inevitable revival of Marxist ideas and thoughts. Ever since 2008, sales soared at Das Kapital, often considered as Marx’s most symbolic masterpiece of political economy. This has also been the case with the Grundrisse and the Communist Manifesto. These sales went up at a time when British workers were pressed to bail out banks in an effort to ensure survival of the degraded system. Unknown to an uninformed mind, this was an effort to keep the rich stable. Job insecurity and debts the majority of people today face as this goes on, cannot be ignored.
Perhaps, one of the most interesting developments towards the revival and reintroduction of Marxism in so much a literal sense was the recent choosing of Karl Marx from a list of ten famed contenders intended to be the face of a new MasterCard for a German Bank. The revolutionary theorist carried the day. A survey carried out by Reuters in 2008 revealed that about 52 percent of people in German thought that the free capitalist market was exploitative and, therefore, unstable. More than 43 percent prefer a return to socialism. Clearly, as Karl Marx’s remains rest in Highgate Cemetery, he seems to be still alive amongst the credit-hungry and economically pressed Germans.
Every year in London, an annual festival dubbed ‘Marxism’ is organized by the left-leaning Socialist Workers’ Party. The five-day event has, in recent years, seen more of its attendees grow, and the majority of those are the youth. This clearly shows a renewed interest in Marxism, mostly to the young people. This can be explained by the fact that more and more individuals now want to understand the theory. They know it provides knowledge and enlightenment, tools necessary in understanding and critically analyzing the capitalism ideology. It can aid in understanding capitalist problems, such as global economic recession. In many countries across the world, many governments have been overthrown. Many more are at logger-heads with their subjects. An examination of the underlying causes point to a common factor: a desire for fundamental change that will bring about an expectedly irreversible shift in wealth and power balance that would be in favor of the working class. A renewed interest in the politics of class has taken center-stage. This was the very foundation on which the first ideas of Marx and his analysis of an industrial society were based (Saha 54).
It cannot be denied that there is an on-going war based on class. Even most reforms by governments are based on it. For example, one would expect that simple developments like increases in VAT would affect people uniformly. On the contrary, effects of such are disproportionate across the social ladder. It is projected that the working class will be worse off in the near future than they are now. An aspect of Marxism that remains so solid in today’s world is class struggle. In this regard, these acts can be witnessed in the ruling bourgeoisie. How else would one explain the disappearance of factories from other countries? It is brought about by attempts to maintain a grip on the means of production while still maximizing on profits. As such, industrial work is outsourced to other countries where labor is relatively cheap. This leads to the mentioned de-industrialization.
Another front for Marxism today is in the consideration of class antagonism when it comes to ‘exchange value’ and ‘use value’. One would want to know what the difference between the two is. Every item has an attached value of use. This is usually measured through its usefulness as far as satisfying wants and needs is concerned. By contrast, the exchange value of a commodity is evaluated by considering the amount of labor that goes into its production. Under the terms of current capitalism, an item’s exchange value is autonomously transformed into capital that is self-propelling and uses productive needs and capabilities of the people as its disposable embodiment. The gap here is what formed Marx’s notion of an economic crisis, which he argued occurs once reality catches up with the continually illusory self. This then generates a mirage of available money, even bringing more of it. This trend cannot go on in a similar way all the time; it breaks to other forms, sometimes, yielding more crises witnessed in any capitalistic system. The source of crisis in this context according to Marxism is the gap between ‘use value’ and ‘exchange value’. This is because the sequence of exchange value follows its self-dictated logic that does not take into consideration the needs of the people.
In conclusion, the applications of Marxism in today’s world are so wide one may not touch on each one of them. The world is in more crises today than ever before. Perhaps this explains why many people are getting more interested in Marxism because they understand it could give better insight as regards what is going on. Times are so uneasy and unpredictable that one cannot agree more that, perhaps, Marxism has the key to calmness, peace and harmony.
Devlin, Kevin, and Maurice Friedberg. Marxism Today. London: Congress for Cultural Freedom, 2010. Print.
Saha, Satyendranath. Marxism Today. Kolkata: Naya Udyog, 2008. Print.
Zinn, Howard. Howard Zinn on History. New York: Seven Stories Press, 2009. Print.