Hi, friends. I've been reading lots of Marx lately. Three hours worth over the course
of yesterday, to be exact. ...and more to read over the weekend. Yesterday, I read
excerpts from The German Ideology and The Economic and Political Philosophies of 1844.
I read a section of The Communist Manifesto for my Intro to Socio class at HACC and
will be reading a longer portion for Tuesday (for Sociological Theory). My assignment
for HACC was simply to write a critical reaction paper. This paper, "Marx Missed Some
Things," should be archived here.
As I was even more enveloped in the depth of Marx's theories over the course of the
week, I at first felt that I disagreed more with Marx more than I had before. Later, I
felt completely mentally exhausted after reading original texts for three hours and
trying to retain as much as possible and I remedied this by watching some "Arrested
Development." Finally, after discussing our assigned reading in class today and
tying it to some things we mentioned in Methods later in the day, I once again feel
that Marx really was onto something. He did, indeed, miss some things due to some
vast logical leaps he made, but the general conflict he was addressing resonates with
so much of what I've been saying for so long. Marx missed some things in regards to
the fact that he blamed such issues on Capitalism, rather than on individuals.
Blaming the system is much like writing in the passive voice (which, by the way, is
becoming less and less accepted in scholarly research articles...we're back to I
statements, that is).
Blaming the individuals, if done with care and balance and moderation, can actually
give said individuals a great deal of freedom and responsibility. Instead of telling
a person that a negative situation is his or her fault, blaming the individual should
be done so that it sounds more like, "You can fix this."
This is called something, some term I can never quite remember. Attribution theory?
Blaming external circumstances removes the blame from the individual and also removes
autonomy from that same individual.
Blaming internal circumstances places the blame on the individual and also gives an
amount of autonomy back to that individual.
(Perhaps, here we should remember and keep in mind the "Serenity Prayer")
Blaming the individual returns autonomy and a certain kind of freedom. And, in all
honesty, after reading Marx for three hours and discussing him for another one and
a half, on top of thinking about his theories before and after the discussion; it
sounds like that's really all Marx wanted.
He describes that, in the Communist system, all individuals would have the freedom
to fish in the morning, hunt in the afternoon, and be a critical critic in the
evening (paraphrased), all the while NOT being pigeon-holed into any of those (or
Freedom and mobility - what Marx really wanted.
However, he missed some things. He had the right premise, the right idea, but he
landed in the wrong spot.
Speaking of that, this is also why I disagree with Hegel's theory of the dialectic.
Hegel proposes that there is some idea, a thesis, that is in tension with the opposite
idea, an antithesis. Through this tension, society will arrive at a synthesis. This
synthesis becomes the new thesis, which is in tension with its antithesis. Again, a
new idea will arise through synthesis and this process will continue until society
But, see, this doesn't do it for me because, a person can have the right premise
and the right idea, and through whatever logical or personal error, miss the mark.
Truth does not arise from such a natural process as that of the dialectic.
Anyway. Marx had the right idea, the right premise, but he landed in the wrong spot.
The greatest logical flaw that was apparent at least twice throughout all the original
text I read was this... Marx argued that the ability to labor (creatively and freely)
is what makes us human. He goes on to say that becoming laborers is also what strips
us of our humanness. While the distinction can be made that we cease to be human when
our labor ceases to be creative and free, we become simply as part of a machine, and
we become a commodity; there's a pretty significant gap in Marx's logical argument.
This process of losing the human essence, the species being, and become a simple
mode of production, an animal laborens, is what Marx refers to as alienation.
Alienation occurs because the joy is taken out of work (labor).
Marx blames this on Capitalism.
I do not.
Alienation occurs when a person is reduced to having some job that is not fulfilling.
This occurs because that person is expecting having some job, any job, will be
(Oh, I've been talking about expectations vs. reality a LOT lately, haven't I?)
And this, my friends, ties back into EVERYTHING I've been saying for, oh, about the
past YEAR about core values.
A stupid little job (factory work, assembly line, cashier, gas station attendant, and
so on) probably will not be completely fulfilling. (I do agree with Marx that it is
especially difficult for assembly line work to bring fulfillment in regards to simple
productivity because a factory worker is so alienated and removed from both product
and the production design). However, almost all jobs will at least be fulfilling to
the extent that the worker is being productive. I believe that being productive is
a very important part of being human. This is why so many people experience post-
retirement depression and why the cycle of depression is so very difficult to stop.
However! Even though a stupid little job will not be completely satisfying, that does
not mean that an individual must be completely alienated. I realize that Marx was
criticizing a very different time in history, but I wonder what would have been
different had Marx taken this more metaphysical(?) bent?...
I've been writing for too long now and I fear that, if I continue in this same
manner, my thesis-conclusion will be blurred and muddied. So, sorry that this is
going to be short and blunt, but...
Alienation due to a stupid little job occurs when meaning is not found in a place
other than that mostly insignificant job.
Alienation can be avoided.
Alienation occurs when all meaning is wrapped up in and expected to be provided by
something that simply cannot provide all meaning.
Alienation due to a job will only occur when an individual expects that job to
provide some meaning that it simply cannot give.
I'm sorry if it's simplistic, but I believe that it works.
If you decide that you're not happy -- change your mind.