Marx and Marxism

Questions:

  1. In what sense is money, according to Marx, a source of alienation? Alienation of what from whom?
  2. Describe Marx’s critique of the credit system in as much detail as possible.
  3. What might it mean for human beings to produce as human beings (rather than as wage-laborers and, correlatively, as consumers of commodities)?
  4. What are wages, and how are they determined by the dynamics of a capitalist economy?
  5. In what sense is wage-labor, according to Marx, a source of alienation? Alienation of what from whom?
  6. How does Marx imagine communism emerging out of the dynamic of capitalism? Why, by the way, is he convinced that the human senses will come fully alive only under communism?
  7. Marx argues that “Since the worker has been reduced to a machine, the machine can confront him as a competitor” (Early Writings, p. 286). Describe what he means by this claim.
  8. Marx argues that “Communism is the positive supersession of private property as human self-estrangement, and hence the true appropriation of the human essence through and for man; it is the complete restoration of man to himself as a social, i.e., human being, a restoration which has become conscious and which takes place within the entire wealth of
    previous periods of development” (Marx-Engels Reader, p. 84). Explain this claim to the best of your ability.
  9. Marx argues that “A cotton-spinning jenny is a machine for spinning cotton. It becomes capital only in certain relations. Torn from these relationships, it is no more capital than gold in itself is money or sugar the price of sugar” (Marx-Engels Reader, p. 207). Explain this claim in detail.
  10. What are the principal forms of property ownership that have defined human history, according to Marx, and how are we to understand the form and content of the ideologies that have arisen in conjunction with them?
  11. Marx claims that “The existence of a class which possesses nothing but its capacity to labour is a necessary prerequisite of capital” (Marx-Engels Reader, p. 208). Why is this?
  12. Marx argues that “The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas” (Marx-Engels Reader, p. 172). Describe this claim in as much detail as possible.
  13. How and why does the ruling class in any given era represent its beliefs as universally valid? Provide specific examples, contemporary or historical, to illustrate this claim.
  14. Marx claims that “When . . . capital is converted into common property, into the property of all members of society, personal property is not thereby transformed into social property. It is only the social character of the property that is changed. It loses its class-character” (Marx-Engels Reader, p. 485). What does this mean?
  15. What is capital, and how is it accumulated? Moreover, why are the relations among capitalists necessarily antagonistic? Finally, why are the relations between capitalists and proletarians necessarily antagonistic?
  16. What is profit, and how is it created? In answering this question, employ the concept “surplus value.”
  17. Why, according to Marx, is the proletariat the revolutionary class whose mission is to overthrow the bourgeoisie and bring an end to capitalism?
  18. In what sense is capitalism an economic order predicated on an ethic of denial of all that renders one truly human?

Sample Solution

Marx and Marxism

Questions:

  1. In what sense is money, according to Marx, a source of alienation? Alienation of what from whom?
  2. Describe Marx’s critique of the credit system in as much detail as possible.
  3. What might it mean for human beings to produce as human beings (rather than as wage-laborers and, correlatively, as consumers of commodities)?
  4. What are wages, and how are they determined by the dynamics of a capitalist economy?
  5. In what sense is wage-labor, according to Marx, a source of alienation? Alienation of what from whom?
  6. How does Marx imagine communism emerging out of the dynamic of capitalism? Why, by the way, is he convinced that the human senses will come fully alive only under communism?
  7. Marx argues that “Since the worker has been reduced to a machine, the machine can confront him as a competitor” (Early Writings, p. 286). Describe what he means by this claim.
  8. Marx argues that “Communism is the positive supersession of private property as human self-estrangement, and hence the true appropriation of the human essence through and for man; it is the complete restoration of man to himself as a social, i.e., human being, a restoration which has become conscious and which takes place within the entire wealth of
    previous periods of development” (Marx-Engels Reader, p. 84). Explain this claim to the best of your ability.
  9. Marx argues that “A cotton-spinning jenny is a machine for spinning cotton. It becomes capital only in certain relations. Torn from these relationships, it is no more capital than gold in itself is money or sugar the price of sugar” (Marx-Engels Reader, p. 207). Explain this claim in detail.
  10. What are the principal forms of property ownership that have defined human history, according to Marx, and how are we to understand the form and content of the ideologies that have arisen in conjunction with them?
  11. Marx claims that “The existence of a class which possesses nothing but its capacity to labour is a necessary prerequisite of capital” (Marx-Engels Reader, p. 208). Why is this?
  12. Marx argues that “The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas” (Marx-Engels Reader, p. 172). Describe this claim in as much detail as possible.
  13. How and why does the ruling class in any given era represent its beliefs as universally valid? Provide specific examples, contemporary or historical, to illustrate this claim.
  14. Marx claims that “When . . . capital is converted into common property, into the property of all members of society, personal property is not thereby transformed into social property. It is only the social character of the property that is changed. It loses its class-character” (Marx-Engels Reader, p. 485). What does this mean?
  15. What is capital, and how is it accumulated? Moreover, why are the relations among capitalists necessarily antagonistic? Finally, why are the relations between capitalists and proletarians necessarily antagonistic?
  16. What is profit, and how is it created? In answering this question, employ the concept “surplus value.”
  17. Why, according to Marx, is the proletariat the revolutionary class whose mission is to overthrow the bourgeoisie and bring an end to capitalism?
  18. In what sense is capitalism an economic order predicated on an ethic of denial of all that renders one truly human?

Sample Solution