During the 19th century, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels developed a world view theory referred to as Marxism (Player 165). So far, this theory has been severally reviewed by other scholars and political philosophers who have offered their own perspectives. Some of the inherent perspectives that have been developed to date include eco-socialism, Marxist humanism, feminism and Christian Marxism.
As a theory, Marxism has four main elements that are closely related and which may largely assist towards understanding how society transformed as well as evolved over the years especially among the capitalist economies. As a matter of fact, some of the elements of change that have characterized transformation in society include materialistic approach to history, social class divisions, dialectical approach to historical changes and commitment to socialism (Player 166).
It is also imperative to underscore the fact that during the very 19th century period, Marxism was adopted as the main ideology in running the communist’s governments that were spreading all over the world. Initially, the ideology was first introduced in Canada by the British intellectuals and as a result, it ended up dominating the ideals and major principles of the socialist parties in the country (Player 165).
However, it is evident that Marxism began to stagnate in the 20th century due to several interconnected reasons. We may also not ignore to mention that since Marxism theories have been critiqued by scholars, certain pieces of opinions have also developed which tend to assert that these theories may not be suitable in the 21st century (Hundelson 259). This paper explores some of the theories on Marxism and argues that the latter may not be suitable or applicable in the 21st century.
A brief overview of Marxism
It is apparent that, in order to understand why Marxism is not suitable as a major ideology in the 21st century, it is important to have an overview of what the theory is all about. It is also worthy to mention that, the proponents of Marxism targeted to fight self- emancipations that existed among the working class people. In a more subjective manner, it also aimed at eliminating any form of domination of the bourgeoisies against the poor in society.
As a result, Marxism gradually progressed and came up with movements that fought against all forms of domination by virtue of gender, race and social class. According to the Marxists’ view, the only way of decimating manifold domination and exploitation was through liberating the working lass from being oppressed by rich employers. In the process, Marxism gave birth to a socialism movement that was destined to eradicate all forms of institutional sadism.
Meanwhile, in the process of destroying the concentration of power among specific classes of people in society, Marxism aimed to empower and strengthen workers’ movements (Row thorn 26). Karl Marx and Friedrich had already realized that workers freedom was greatly limited by the wealthy elites (Keynes 9).
Therefore, they proposed to enhance it by expanding the capacity of collective action thus increasing possibilities for individual intensification within the society. Karl Marx argued that workers freedom could not be enhanced by limiting their autonomy but rather facilitating individual participation in the economy (Rowthorn 26). In this case, the freedom was to be achieved by use of a theoretical approach.
In addition to this, Marxism applied practical critiques through political actions (Hundelson 261). Therefore, the theorist mobilized masses of people to oppose certain manifold dominations. However, since Marxism had different faces, there were no specifically set principles in the sense that no face could embody any historic achievement in the entire process. In this case, the movement and its integral concerns adopted the name of its key proponent namely Karl Marx.
Meanwhile, irrespective of the many contributions of Marxism’s, the movement has several shortcomings. Criticisms of the movement have originated from a political point of view. In other words, democratic socialists declined to accept the views of Marxism on the issue of socialism (Rowthorn 34). According to Karl Marx, socialism could only be achieved through class conflict and grassroots, revolution.
Contemporarily, there are very few supporters of Marxist ideology as opposed to other movements such as liberalism and democracy. Moreover, the basic fundamentals of Marxism that have been criticized by thinkers creating a negative illusion in peoples mind (Sowell 112).That not withstanding, it is imperative to understand why the theory was highly criticized as a major ideology of the century.
Critiques of Marxism
Considering the intellectual basis of Marxism, one of the main fundamentals was on historical materialism. According to Karl Marx, advancement in technology and modes of productions impact a change on the social relations (Keynes 8). However, this view has some limitations because it fails to consider the superstructure of the society. Such factors include ethnicity, culture, religion and political views.
According to this view, Karl Marx tends to overlook both the real and perceived causes of economic underdevelopment. With Marxism, there is a general perception that material factors such as technology are the main causes of economic decline. He bases economic development on law, politics, morality and religion.
According to Marxist critics, Karl Marx oversimplified nature of the society on their impact on economic development (Rowthorn 26). The controversy here is that, the theory does not bring out clearly whether it is the material factor or the superstructure of the society that influence development. Furthermore, thinkers have argued that though Marxism theory is testable there is lot of falsified facts.
Therefore, it is arguable that the issue of historical materialism is very narrow to act as a pedestal for indulging the complexity and numerous power structures. In this case, there is a conventional twist that rules out the scientific status of Marxism. In the 21st century, we need a theory that will emphasize on the possible factors that are responsible in enhancing development (Player 165).
It is also vivid that Marxism does not put into consideration the role and effect of governments on the capitalist system of production. Karl Marx asserts that economic investors and businessmen need monopoly over their businesses (Rowthorn 43).
While the latter approach towards economic empowerment sounds awesome, Marxists did not consider that capitalism can collapse the very economy it defends and that exclusive monopoly could result to social revolution. Instead, Karl Marx perceived capitalistic monopoly as, an inherent tendency towards to overcome fiscal and ecological crises (Keynes 7).
Moreover, he perceived that capitalist system would eradicate poverty, unemployment, disparity, disaffection and environmental destruction once every individual was given an opportunity to participate in production. Karl Marx fails to understand that, capitalist system can not collapse on its own but as a result of resource depression (Hundelson 264). However, it is evident that when businesses monopolize the market forces it can be dangerous and this requires the government to regulate the market forces.
Failure to regulate investments results to capitalism system reaching its final stage. Optimum trust and monopoly in businesses affect the regular and natural mode in which the economy is run by the government (Sowell 117). In another words, total monopoly eradicate government regulation through unionization and legislations. Predictably, thinkers argue that such a state can result to economic collapse in a country.
In this case, if the theory is applicable in the 21st century, there is n way we can overcome problems associated with monopolistic nature of the current investments (Sowell 120).
Additionally, Marxism theory assumes that there are other factors other than the economy that that drives history (Keynes 12). According to some thinkers, considering economy as the only drive for history may be quite a narrow and oversimplified way of revisiting such a theory.
Needless to say, economy as a factor cannot be used to explain the history of civilization (Sowell 118). Thinkers feel that, in order to understand civilization, we need to use superstructures of a particular society in order to examine the struggles and achievements up to the contemporary period (Keynes 8).
Moreover, though Karl Marx figures out human superstructure as source of underdevelopment, it is vivid that, in as much as man needs freedom he requires a bit of barbarism such as tribalism and racism. This helps him to explore himselves and finally establishes his identity. This implies that, to some extent conflict is inevitable and thus important in shaping man’s destiny.
In one way or the other, conflict triggered competition, responsibility and increased human experience. Due to this reason, anarchists feel that, 21st century deserves a more realistic theory that will put into account the idea of self-realization. Finally, thinkers and scholars perceive that Marxism is vulnerable to corruption by the fact that all the means of productions are at the hands of private citizens (Sowell 112).
As mentioned earlier, the fact that Karl Marx assumed the role of government in regulating production, the effects is that there will be no revenues to run a state. Lack of strict regulation of wealth by the government will deprive the state from getting funds obtained from taxes (Govind 75). This also gives people the freedom to conduct businesses on their own means and thus some wealth might be created through unethical strategies.
In this case, anarchists find this theory unsuitable since it will bring revolutions that have the exact nature of those that they are struggling to overthrow. Considerably, Marxism creates ample conditions for the socialists who destruct the normal nature of a state (Keynes 18). This implies that, the anarchist campaign against Marxism reduces its chances to return as a major ideology in the 21st century.
To recap it all, it is factual that Marxism is outdated and can hardly stand as a major ideology in the progressive and dynamic 21st century socio-political and economic life. Although Karl Marx’s theory appears consistent, the assumptions are extremely disputed. This has been attributed by the complex errors and ambiguities identified when the theory was being analyzed by scholars.
Furthermore, Marxism has failed to provide an accurate theoretical framework that can rescue the world states from capitalist totalitarianism. Indeed, even the existing framework lacks coherence and means of accessibility especially among developing countries. Proactively, the 21st century era demands a theory that is independent of religious and close-minded fanatics.
Govind, Rahul. Equality, Right, and Identity: Rethinking the Contract through Hobbes and Marx. Telos, 1.154 (2011): 75.
Hundelson, Richard . Popper’s Critique of Marx. Philosophical Studies 37 (1980) 259- 70.
Keynes, Anderson. Not Just Capital and Class: Marx on Non-Western Societies, Nationalism and Ethnicity. Socialism and Democracy, 24.3 (2010): 7-23.
Player, Job. On Marx: An Introduction to the Revolutionary Intellect of Karl Marx. Capital & Class, 35.1 (2011): 165-167.
Rowthorn, Bob. Skilled Labor in the Marxist System. Bulletin of Conference of Socialist Economists, 8 (1974) 25-45.
Sowell, Thomas. Marx’s ‘Increasing Misery’ Doctrine. American Economic Review, 50.1(1960): 111-20.