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Thursday, April 7, 2016

Karl Marx-Historical materialism, Base/Superstructure, Forces of Production, Relations of Production, Mode of Production, Dialectical materialism, Class Theory, Surplus value, Dictatorship of the proletariat

Historical materialism

Materialism is the basis of his sociological thought
Materialism simply means that it is matter or material reality, which is the basis for any change
Materialism means the materialist structure of society
Marx’s general ideas about society
In Marx’s own phrase, it is the “guiding thread” of all their works
It is the materialistic interpretation of the history of societies
Historical materialism is based upon a philosophy of human history
best understood as sociological theory of human progress
it provides a scientific and systematic research programme for empirical investigations
Theory is contained in ‘preface’ to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859).
Actual basis of society is its economic structure
Economic structure of society is made of its relations of production
Legal and political super structure of society is based on relations of production.
Relations of production reflect the stage of society’s forces of production
For Marx material conditions or economic factors affect the structure and development of society
Material conditions essentially comprise technological means of production
Human society is formed by the forces and relations of production
In historical materialism Marx has traced the evolution of human societies from one stage to another
Marx has interpreted the evolution of societies in terms of their material or economic bases
All society passes through unilinear evolution,
Every society progresses stage by stage
Every society has marched ahead.

Stages- Primitive Communism → Slavery → Feudalism→ Capitalism →Socialism →Communism

All objects, whether living or inanimate are subject to continuous change
The laws of dialectics determine the rate of this change
New developments of productive forces of society came in conflict with existing relations of production.
When people become conscious of the state of conflict, they wish to bring an end to it
This period of history is called by Marx the Period of Social Revolution
The revolution brings about resolution of conflict.
It means that new forces of production take roots and give rise to new relations of production.
Growth of new productive forces which outlines the course of human history
Productive forces are the powers society uses to produce material conditions of life.
Human history is an account of development and consequences of new forces of material production. This is the reason why his view of history is given the name of Historical Materialism.

Terms mentioned in Marx’s theory of Historical materialism

Social relations, over and above individuals:
Man must live to eat
Production of material requirements of life, compel individuals to enter into definite social relations that are independent of their will.

Infrastructure and Super-structure
Every society has its base and superstructure.
Social relations are defined in terms of material conditions which he called infrastructure.
The economic base of a society forms its infrastructure.
Any changes in material conditions also imply corresponding changes in social relations.
Forces and relations of production came in the category of infrastructure.
Within the superstructure figure the legal, educational and political institutions as well as values, cultural ways of thinking, religion, ideologies and philosophies

Forces and relations of production:

The forces of production appear to be the capacity of a society to produce.
This capacity to produce is essentially a function of scientific and technical knowledge, technological equipment and the organisation of labour force.
The means of production include things that are necessary to produce material goods, such as land and natural resources. They also include technology, such as tools or machines, that people use to produce things. The means of production in any given society may change as technology advances. In feudal society, means of production might have included simple tools like a shovel and hoe. Today, the means of production include advanced technology, such as microchips and robots.
The relations of production arise out of the production process but essentially overlap with the relations in ownership of means of production.
Relations of production should not be entirely identified with relations of property.
Throughout history, the relations of production have taken a variety of forms—slavery, feudalism, capitalism—in which employees enter into a contract with an employer to provide labor in exchange for a wage.

Four Modes of Production:

1. Asiatic mode of Production:

The concept of Asiatic mode of production refers to a specific original mode of production.
This is distinct from the ancient slave mode of production or the feudal mode of production.
It is characterised by primitive communities in which ownership of land is communal.
These communities are still partly organised on the basis of kinship relations.
State power which expresses the real or imaginary unity of these communities controls the use of essential economic resources and directly appropriates part of the labour and production of the community.
This mode of production constitutes one of the possible forms of transition from classless to class societies.
It is also perhaps the most ancient form of this transition.
It contains the contradiction of this transition, i.e. the combination of communal relations of production with emerging forms of the exploiting classes and of the state.

2. Ancient mode of Production:

Every part of history has its end point.
So primitive communism was to go and slavery came into being.
People who had physical, political and material strength had authority over others.
 So two classes were found and this is where the concept of private property emerged.
There were two classes—the owning class, they are the masters, and non-owning class, they were the slaves.
In course of time different people grabbed certain plots of land as a result of which there was grabbing and as a result of which a large number were left wretched.
So they had to depend on these owners in order to make a living and it went on rising and so when they would not pay their debts they were sold and engaged under the so called masters.
Slaves were mere chattels.
They had no right and were used like commodities and they could be bought and sold.
So individuals were slaves and it went on resulting in a family of slaves and masters were masters.
So it became very heinous of people worked without any voice, even if the torture was unbearable. Slaves were made to work under stringent physical conditions.
They were engaged in agricultural, menial and physical labour.
If the society has experienced heinous system at any point of time, it is slavery.
So it was to go and another stage was to come.
So, towards its end, a sort of internal struggle was found so that the slaves, peasants started a revolution against the masters so as to release certain slaves from the clutches of the masters.
Slavery is called the stage of initial agriculture.
So agricultural capitalism was to come.
Agricultural innovations would take place.
Technology was applied to agriculture.
People started to understand the dignity of labour and the stage came, i.e. Feudalism or Agricultural capitalism.

3. Feudal Mode of Production

Marx said throughout the pages of history we find two classes.
They were feudal lords and serfs.
Lords owned the land in their favour and their job was to lease land and employ agricultural labour in their lands.
The owners who were leased had to pay certain taxes and the labourers were given wages.
This is even a heinous system and the lords exploited by not paying the labour its due.
So Marx said that this stage was also exploitative in character.
Heavy taxes were imposed on serfs.
This stage could not grow much as industries were growing and people sought their job in industries and in cities. So the serfs fought against the lords.
With the spreading of industries, urbanization grew, so emphasis was on industries and came the next stage, i.e. Industrial capitalism.

4. Capitalistic mode of production

Marx was very much bothered about this stage because this represented the most heinous and migration was found from rural to urban areas.
Those who worked in agricultural lands shifted to industries.
There were two classes— the working classes, the proletariats and the bourgeoisie.
Marx wanted to champion the cause of proletariat and he wanted that the exploitative character must go and equality be established.
So Marx was Futuristic.
Socialism is the stage where the society is classless and it is based on the principle of equality.
Marx had experienced socialism and there was spread of socialism based on his ideas.
Communism is the ultimate final stage where there is prevalence of equality among all.
Everybody works according to his capacity and gets according to his due, when capitalism goes and communism comes into being there are some elements found in some form or other of capitalism in socialism.
As per Marx, socialism is the initial communism and communism is the later socialism because everybody is equal and can stand in the same queue and communist society is thoroughly equal and no concept of private property ownership.

In socialism, there are two ownership structures

1. State ownership
2. Ownership by co-operatives

However, under communism there is single ownership; i.e. State /Community ownership.
Everybody gets as per his due and works as per his capacity.
This stage was difficult to find.
So we find that with spread of Marx’s ideas we find communism in Russia and China.
But socialism is the gap that still remains.

Dialectical materialism
History and philosophy of dialectics: Idealistic Dialectics (Hegel) Historical Materialism (K. Marx), Dialectical Materialism (F. Engels , K. Marx)
dialectical materialism, official philosophy of Communism, based on the writings of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, as elaborated by G. V. Plekhanov, V. I. Lenin, and Joseph Stalin.
In theory, dialectical materialism is meant to provide both a general world view and a specific method for the investigation of scientific problems.
The basic tenets are that everything is material and that change takes place through "the struggle of opposites."
Because everything contains different elements that are in opposition, "self-movement" automatically occurs; the conflict of opposing forces leads to growth, change, and development, according to definite laws.
Dialectics is the philosophy of motion.
Everything is in a constant state of flux and change; all reality is matter in motion.
Nothing in life is static
Greek philosopher Heraclitus: "All things flow, all change."
Dialectics is nothing more than the science of the general laws of motion and development of nature, human society and thought." (Engels: Anti-Duhring)
Marx and Engels elaborated three broad and interconnected laws of dialectics,

The law of quantity and quality

Just as a scientist is familiar with the concept of things altering their quality at certain quantitative points (water into steam at boiling point), so too an observation of the evolution of class societies illustrates the same law.
Society does not develop in a slow, evolutionary manner

The Interpenetration of Opposites

The Law of Unity and Conflict of Opposes
Dialectics applied to the class struggle does not have the same degree of precision as it does in the science laboratory.
The role of individuals, political parties and social movements is not scientifically pre-ordained.
A trade union leader might be a respected left-winger, but may capitulate when faced with a determined onslaught from the bosses.
A moderate trade union leader may surprise himself or herself however and become much more "militant" than intended, when faced with mass pressure from below.
There are no absolutes in the class struggle!
Within every economic growth of capitalism are the seeds of future recession and vice versa.

The Negation of the Negation

Described by Engels as "an extremely general, and for this very reason extremely far-reaching and important, law of development of nature, history and thought", the negation of the negation deals with development through contradictions which appear to annul, or negate a previous fact, theory, or form of existence, only to later become negated in its turn.
Capitalisms economic cycle illustrates this law.
Great wealth is created in the boom, only to become partially destroyed by episodic crises of over-production.
These in turn create afresh the conditions for new booms, which assimilate and build upon previously acquired methods of production, before once again coming into contact and being partially negated by the limits of the market economy.
Everything, which exists, does so out of necessity.
But everything perishes, only to be transformed into something else.
Thus what is necessary in one time and place becomes unnecessary in another.
Everything creates its opposite, which is destined to overcome and negate it.
The first human societies were classless societies based on the co-operation of the tribe. These were negated by the emergence of class societies basing themselves upon the developing material levels of wealth.
Modern private ownership of the means of production and the nation state, which are the basic features of class society and originally marked a great step forward, now serve only to fetter and undermine the productive forces and threaten all the previous gains of human development.
The material basis exists now to replace the bosses system with socialism, the embryo of which is already contained in class society, but can never be realised until the working class negates capitalism.

Class Theory

The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles (The Communist Manifesto)
Ever since human society emerged from its primitive and relatively undifferentiated state it has remained fundamentally divided between classes who clash in the pursuit of class interests
for example, the nuclear cell of the capitalist system, the factory, is the prime locus of antagonism between classes--between exploiters and exploited, between buyers and sellers of labor power--rather than of functional collaboration
Marx sees society evolving through stages.
He focuses on dialectical class conflict to control the means of production as the driving force behind social evolution.
According to Marx, society evolves through different modes of production in which the upper class controls the means of production and the lower class is forced to provide labor.
In Marx's dialectic, the class conflict in each stage necessarily leads to the development of the next stage (for example, feudalism leads to capitalism).
Marx was especially critical of capitalism and foresaw a communist revolution.
Marx predicted that class conflict between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat would lead to capitalism's downfall.
According to Marx, under capitalism, workers (the proletariat) must alienate their labor.
The bourgeoisie try to preserve capitalism by promoting ideologies and false consciousness that keep workers from revolting.
Marx's understanding of history is called historical materialism because it focuses on history and material (versus ideas).
Class struggle pushed society from one stage to the next, in a dialectical process. In each stage, an ownership class controls the means of production while a lower class provides labor for production. The two classes come into conflict and that conflict leads to social change. For example, in the feudal stage, feudal lords owned the land used to produce agricultural goods, while serfs provided the labor to plant, raise, and harvest crops. When the serfs rose up and overthrew the feudal lords, the feudal stage ended and ushered in a new stage: capitalism.

Surplus value

Adhering to David Ricardo’s labour theory of value, Karl Marx held that human labour was the source of economic value
Each class society, part of society (the ruling class) appropriates the social surplus product
For Karl Marx, surplus value is critical to the expansion of capital.
Surplus value is a specific expression of the capitalist form of exploitation, in which the surplus product takes the form of surplus value. The production and appropriation of surplus value constitute the essence of the fundamental economic law of capitalism.
Difference between a worker's wages (exchange value) and the value of goods and services he or she produces (use value). Since use value is (or should be) always higher than the exchange value, workers produce a positive surplus value through their labor. German philosopher-economist Karl Mark (1818-83) used surplus value as a measure of worker exploitation by capitalism.


Exchange is the practice of releasing property on condition of receiving an equivalent in return.
Exchange of labour (i.e., commodity production) is the “cell” of bourgeois society (i.e., capitalism). Exchange of labour is not identical with cooperation or division of labour, but is simply one, historically developed system of social cooperation and division of labour.
Within the family, for example, the various members of the family meet each others’ needs without the expectation of something of equal value in return. In feudal society, the different classes carry out work that is their duty according to feudal right, and do not expect nor receive anything “in exchange”. In a future socialist society, people will work within a developed division of labour without counting out their hours of labour to ensure that they get the equivalent in return: in the words of Marx’s Critique of the Gotha Program: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!”
Exchange began at the margins of tribal society in the form of occasional barter, and gradually grew until it engulfed the whole of social life and gave birth to capital

Exchange-value is the quantitative aspect of value, as opposed to “use-value” which is the qualitative aspect of value, and constitutes the substratum of the price of a commodity.
“Value” is often used as a synonym for exchange-value, though strictly speaking, “value” indicates the concept which incorporates both quantity and quality.
Exchange-value differs from “price” in two ways: firstly, price is the actualisation of exchange-value, differing from one exchange to the next in response to a myriad of factors affecting the activity of exchange; secondly, price is the specific value-form, measuring the value of the commodity against money.
In political economy and especially Marxian economics, exchange value refers to one of four major attributes of a commodity, i.e., an item or service produced for, and sold on the market. The other three aspects are use value, economic value, and price.[1]
Thus, a commodity has:
·         a value (note the link is to a non-Marxian definition of value)
·         a use value (or utility)
·         an exchange value
·         a price (it could be an actual selling price or an imputed ideal price)
Use value or value in use is the utility of consuming a good—the want-satisfying power of a good or service in classical political economy. In Marx's critique of political economy, any product has a labor-value and a use-value, and if it is traded as a commodity in markets, it additionally has an exchange value, most often expressed as a money-price.

Dictatorship of the proletariat
In Marxist sociopolitical thought, the dictatorship of the proletariat refers to a state in which the proletariat, or the working class, has control of political power. The term, coined by Joseph Weydemeyer, was adopted by the founders of Marxism, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, in the 19th century. In Marxist theory, the dictatorship of the proletariat is the intermediate system between capitalism and communism, when the government is in the process of changing the means of ownership from privatism to collective ownership.
Both Marx and Engels argued that the short-lived Paris Commune, which ran the French capital for over two months before being repressed, was an example of the dictatorship of the proletariat.
According to Marxist theory, the existence of any government implies the dictatorship of one social class over another. The dictatorship of the bourgeoisie is thus used as an antonym of the dictatorship of the proletariat.
Rosa Luxemburg, a Marxist theorist, emphasized the role of the dictatorship of the proletariat as the rule of the whole class, representing the majority, and not a single party, characterizing the dictatorship of the proletariat as a concept meant to expand democracy rather than reduce it, as opposed to minority rule in the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, the only other class state power can reside in according to Marxist theory.

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