The central concepts of Marxist economics include the theory of labor value, the disposition of production, and the inevitable conflicts between the classes. Conflicts will always persist because the upper class can never totally control the lower classes. Lesser concepts include the idea of increased misery, the obsession with possessions, and the consequences of economic alienation.
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Karl Marx’s theories of labor value combined with his concepts of capitalism endeavor to clarify how the revenue system operates to the benefit of the upper classes and the detriment of the lower classes. Marx defines wealth as something produced by labor from resources originating in the natural world. In terms of capitalism, wealth becomes a vast accrual of possessions. Commodities are articles of wealth created solely as a means to exchange other objects so as to enhance wealth.
Marxist theory envisions the future of society as free of capitalism, replaced by the collective utopia brought about by communism. This was thought to be the natural course of mankind in which Marx had drawn up the blueprint. 1 Marx held the optimistic viewpoint that the working class would create a society based on equality and more humane than capitalism was capable. Marx envisioned that communism would produce “a society in which the full and free development of every individual forms the ruling principle in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.” 2
Marx could not have been more wrong regarding the demise of capitalism and in their calculations regarding the timing of a communist rebellion. He foretold of the end-time of capitalism being about eight years from 1845, the year of his prediction. He viewed the 1847 depression as the beginning of the end for capitalism. Marx was rather over-optimistic in their collective assessment of the rise of socialism and somewhat unwise to set a specific date. This can be written off to their confidence in the socialist system but it is puzzling that these learned men believed the working masses would collectively and quickly educate themselves then systematically adopt socialist ideals. 3
Marxism theorizes that the socialist system redistributes resources much more equitably than the capitalist system thus making the socialist society the favored way for people to exist. He believed social inequalities can be resolved by socialism. A person’s contribution to society, as evidenced by their labor output, determines to what degree their needs are met. The philosophy for the distribution of resources is based upon labor, not need. In this and in many respects, Marx’s theory was thought of as idealistic, naïve, and somewhat contradictory to his arguments. “Marxism is impotent in explaining the social inequality in the distribution of resources.” 4
The Marxist theory contains many unresolved issues which sociologists have considered since the time of Marx. The limitations of Marx’s premise have given rise to different forms of neo-Marxism which have attempted to modify the conflict theory as it applies to modern sociological and economic theories. Some suggest, however, that Marxism should not be considered a plausible, workable social theory at all. The former Soviet Union was viewed as the ultimate test of communism and Marxist thought.
Its failure was widely seen as the failure of Marxism. It should be noted, however, some believe governmental corruption was at least as much to blame for the fall of the Soviet Union. Marxist stances are at least intriguing to not only the people of the 19th century but to those of today and most probably beyond. It is no wonder why Marxism has held the public’s imagination regarding social and political thought even though in practical terms, the communist experiment of the Soviet Union was a decided failure.
Hunt, R.N. The Political Ideas of Marx and Engels. Pittsburg: University of Pittsburg Press. (1974).
Sowell, Thomas. Marxism. New York: Basic Books. (1985).
Zhou, Peterson B. (2003). “A Theoretical Test by Sino-U.S. Relations.” Superdirector. Web.
- Hunt, R.N. The Political Ideas of Marx and Engels. Pittsburg: University of Pittsburg Press. (1974).
- Sowell, Thomas. Marxism. New York: Basic Books. (1985) p. 25.
- Hunt, 1974. p. 141.
- Zhou, Peterson B. “A Theoretical Test by Sino-U.S. Relations.” Superdirector. (2003). Web.