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July 23, 2008

The Communist Manifesto

Filed under: Book Reviews, Philosophy — Robert John Ed @ 2:27 pm

Written in conjunction by Karl Marx and Frederich Engels, The Communist Manifesto is a simple and direct shout during the 19th century that called for the overthrow of the Bourgeois (or more presently apt, capitalists) through that of the Proletarians (working class).

Why read this?  There are a few reasons.  Beyond the historical weight of the work, it’s important to understand the situations you are in.  I have no formal education in philosophy, trends in capitalism, political ideologies of any sort, etc.  It’s probably time that was remedied.  Often, studying the criticism of what is happening around you can lead to an excess of knowledge comparatively speaking to the explanations.  Criticism tends to focus on the weaknesses within the pillars of an idea, whereas explanations tend to gloss over the pillars and focus on great amounts of detail.  Though this criticism is certainly very old, it is one of the most important criticisms of all time.

This writing was originally published anonymously as a pamphlet in London.  As mentioned, the idea behind the pamphlet was to urge others to take action and begin the stirrings of social revolution.  The writing focuses on the problems associated with a capitalistic society (though Marx hasn’t fully recognized the idea of capitalism) where the people with capital can control the wages of humans and treat them as commodities.  A description of all societies of history being in constant class war opens the book.  It is a bipolar representation.

It goes on to urge many large changes, including the switch to a classless society, the abolishment of owning land (another form of capital) and nation states.  That was 150 years ago.  Marx has proven incredibly apt in his first thoughts on capitalism and how it operates.  He pointed out that it must always grow larger in order to thrive, and thus, globalization would occur for proliferation (that’s very evident today).  Marx believes that eventually capitalism will collapse upon itself, as production is optimized and the workers wages are pushed down (there is an argument for this as the price of inflation out grows the minimum wages locally, exponentially internationally).  He also points out the geographical likelihood that concentrations of people will become more drastic (quite so) in order to facilitate production.

Is there still a Proletarian class?  Yes.  Although the situation isn’t quite as Marx points out, he thought that their wages would be just enough to allow for continuation of their work.  Today, it seems that wages are in excess of that, though not necessarily for everyone.  I think that capitalism allows for people to excel, which is something hard to take away.  I certainly want the opportunity to excel and increase my holdings based on my work.  The problem is that those with capital essentially hold all the keys.  Those without do not necessarily have the means to achieve those ends they seek.  Despite what we are told, not just anyone can achieve status in a capitalistic society, there are certain prerequisites and the first is some sort of capital to employ a relative surplus value.  Because I haven’t investigated these concepts in any depth, I’m not going to elaborate now, but I am ordering much more Marx material and reading up on his ideas.

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