Karl Marx and His Perspective of the Current U.S. Economy

Kalyn Daude – Period 2

“Revolutions are the locomotives of history,” claimed Karl Marx, undoubtedly referencing his future hopes for a proletariat revolution. Karl Heinrich Marx of Germany was a man of many titles: economist, philosopher, writer, and revolutionary. He wrote many fundamental, world-renown works, including Das Kapital and The Communist Manifesto, collaborating with his colleague, Friedrich Engels. With Marx began the theory of Marxism, which includes the idea of class struggles that societies place upon themselves. Often called “the father of communism”, Marx would certainly question the economic system that the United States implements today. One cannot help but wonder, how would Karl Marx view the capitalist society our country currently attains?

In the Introduction of The Communist Manifesto of 1848, Marx writes, “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.” He claims that throughout the history of the world there has been a simple social opposition: the oppressor against the oppressed. According to Marx, this oppression inevitably results with a revolution. Marx describes the previous, more complicated orders of society to eventually compare them to modern class divisions: “In the earlier epochs of history, we find almost everywhere a complicated arrangement of society into various orders, a manifold gradation of social rank. In ancient Rome we have patricians, knights, plebeians, slaves . . . in almost all of these classes, again, subordinate gradations.” Marx goes on to describe the current, simplified class separation: “Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes, directly facing each other: Bourgeoisie and Proletariat.” The proletariat is defined as the working class, valued by what they are able to produce. The bourgeoisie belong to the wealthiest class of society, and they are the oppressors of the proletariat. With the “development of Modern industry”, the bourgeoisie gained control, essentially replacing the middle class.  Marx identifies the bourgeoisie as evil and self-destructive, and recognizes the eventual revolution against the bourgeoisie by the proletariat. The oppressed will apparently challenge the oppressors.

The Communist Manifesto includes that the bourgeoisie grew with the momentum of “Modern industry” expansion. Marx contributes this to the formation of America, “Modern industry has established the world-market, for which the discovery of America paved the way . . . in the same proportion the bourgeoisie developed, increased its capital, and pushed into the background every class handed down from the Middle Ages.” Marx blames industrial advancements, specifically in the United States, for the bourgeoisie. They gained control of companies, eventually making huge profits that took away from the proletariat salaries. The bourgeoisie even began to skew politics, gaining some control of the “State’s” decisions. While observing Marxist theories, it is obvious that he was entirely against capitalism, for class division is expected in the capitalist economic system.  Since Marx essentially blames the power of the bourgeoisie expansion on the formation of America, he would undoubtedly detest the economic structure we have in place today.

The United States has a government-regulated capitalist economy. Capitalism includes private ownership of property, means of production, and income. In her article titled “Capitalism”, Blackwell states, “in allowing people and businesses to act unhampered by government regulations, capitalism causes wealth to be created in the most efficient manner possible, which ultimately raises the standard of living, increases economic opportunities, and makes available an ever-growing supply of products for everyone . . . as one person creates wealth for himself or herself, that person simultaneously creates wealth and opportunities for everyone else—as the rich become richer, the poor become richer too.” Capitalists believe that no exploitation of workers should exist, for each employer has the freedom to choose their own workers. The article states that evils of capitalism, like monopolies, only occur when the government interferes by granting advantages to certain companies. In the United States, our economy is constitutionally regulated, and we also have multiple acts to prevent monopolies.

To understand how Marx might feel about American economics today, the major differences between communism and capitalism must be recognized initially. Within the capitalist system, the market determines what to produce with determinants of supply and demand. Within communism, the state decides what to produce depending on the society’s needs. Also, the individuals of a capitalist society decide to produce something if they believe it will be bought successfully, while the government of a communist society decides which government-run factories will produce a certain good. One essential element of capitalism is private property, whereas in communist societies, all property is owned by the state. Communism does not allow for free enterprise, while capitalism does. Principally, communist states are run by the government, while capitalist systems are mostly run by the people of the state.

Obviously, the ideologies of capitalism and communism also differ greatly. Capitalists stress freedom and individuality. They believe that competition is healthy and that it helps members of society reach their potential. While capitalism may seem unequal, it is believed that the more fortunate have earned their wealth because of their better abilities and work ethic. Government interference is disliked, and it is believed that the government should not intrude on an individual’s right to support himself monetarily. Communism idealizes the members of society depending on each other and their state. It is important that employees work together instead of competing, for they will accomplish more this way. Also, no member of society should own more property or goods than anyone else, for each person is made equally. It is the government’s purpose to provide equality, and it is pivotal for every individual’s needs to be met.

After reflecting upon the differing ideologies and components of the capitalist and communist economies, it should be apparent that Marx would not be fond of the United States’ current economy. In America, we apply capitalism to our economy in every way. Our citizens obtain private property, we practice a free enterprise system, and our workers compete against each other in the free market. Obviously, Marx was extremely against each and every one of these principles, for he believed that each person deserved equal opportunity and results, while our capitalist system only (supposedly) provides equal opportunity.

We also go against the fundamental value of Marxism: class struggle. There are struggles between different classes in our country, and they are inevitable due to the inclusion of capitalism. In the United States, we divide our classes into the upper class, middle class, and lower class. Recently, after the recession, there has been word of a “disappearing” middle class due to a growing gap between the lower and upper classes. It is very interesting to compare this to Marx’s proposal of history: many classes eventually evolving into two classes: the Bourgeois (upper class) and the Proletariat (lower class). This proposition is almost eerie, for it appears that our upper class is becoming more rich and powerful, while the lower class is becoming increasingly more poor. Is it possible that Marx could be laughing at us from his ivory tower? Could he be yelling “I told you so,” predicting a sort of doom upon our society? Of course, it is drastic to predict a massive, violent revolution from the lower class, but a more gradual and silent revolution could be taking place. It is certain that Marxist theories oppose each element of the capitalist economy. Marx would be disgusted by the current system of the United States, for it not only cherishes its capitalism, but it excessively promotes its own economic structure upon other countries.

Works Cited:

Blackwell, Amy Hackney. “capitalism.” American Government. ABC-CLIO, 2013. Web. 12 Dec. 2013.

“communism.” Issues: Understanding Controversy and Society. ABC-CLIO, 2013. Web. 12 Dec. 2013.

Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. “Section 1.” The Communist Manifesto. Harmondsworth: Penguin,

1967. N. pag. Print.

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