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Week Seven Blog Revision – Theresa

August 19th, 2011 No comments

“The division of labour offers us the first example of how, as long as man remains in natural society, that is, as long as a cleavage exists between the particular and the common interest, as long, therefore, as activity is not voluntarily, but naturally, divided, man’s own deed becomes an alien power opposed to him, which enslaves him, instead of being controlled by him.” (160, Marx, The German Ideology)

 

I chose this quotation because it is key to Marx’s argument against specialization. Marx suggests that job specialization as a result of division of labor leads to people being enslaved by their careers.

I agree that if you specialize in a specific field and become very good at it, people around you (society) will expect you to continue doing that job. You will not be able to do whatever job you feel like doing on any day because somebody else will have specialized at it, and will be better than you are. Because you have to perform work in your specific field of specialization, your job controls your actions and you lose your freedom to do any jobs you want.

Marx’s argument regarding this point assumes several things: first, that people want to do whatever work they feel like doing on any given day, second, that people don’t care about becoming experts, and third, that people are content with having just enough to survive. The fact of the matter is that specialization increase efficiency. As Smith stated, “the division of labour…occasions, in every art, a proportionable increase of the productive powers.” (Smith, Wealth of Nations, Chp 1) If we were to return to a state of unspecialized workers, everyone could create just enough to support their own basic necessities, but not be able to create any surplus. And people love their surplus.

Also, labels are a major part of our identity. “Hi, I’m Theresa, and I’m a college student. I’d like to be a surgeon someday” is more defining than “Hi, I’m Theresa, and I do unspecialized jobs that don’t require any unique training.” Members of our society need to be specialized to have that aspect of their identity.

Overall, I disagree with Marx’s assumptions. There are just too many things that could not be done without specialization. If doctors (I use this label loosely—if there was no specialization, there would be no doctors) also had to tend their potatoes and raise chickens for food, they would not have enough time to also treat sick patients. Also, modern societies enjoy surplus too much to give it up for career freedom. We may become slaves to our jobs, and changing fields of specialization may be nearly impossible, but we would much rather stick to our single path in life than return to a state where computers and Harry Potter movies did not exist (I use these examples with the assumption that it takes specialists to make computers and special effects).

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Week 7 Blog Post Revision – Chelsea

August 19th, 2011 No comments

“Up till now violence, war, pillage, murder and robbery, etc., have been accepted as the driving force of history. Here we must limit ourselves to the chief points and take therefore, only the most striking example-the destruction of old civilization by a barbarous people and the resulting formation of an entirely new organization of society.” (Marx 151-152)

At this part of the reading Marx is speaking about the division of labor and the separation of town and country.  He is making the point that labor results in ownership and the value of the things you are able to own is based off of the level of labor you are at. This statement on violence follows the discussion of ownership and implies that the want and need for higher levels of ownership have resorted in violence and war in the past. Many events or trends in history are noted because they were a large enough issue that they are considered an effective part history that can be learned from. Marx is saying that the countries history has been guided by negative issues, that typically came about because of the want for more valuable ownership of some type of property within society. Throughout his article, Marx makes it clear that without being the owner of some type of property that is valuable to the society, you cannot be considered a contributing member of that society, and even further a man. This is what pushes people to work to having something of their own, the need to be a man and a citizen.

Although the core driving force is having a negative impact on history, it is vital that the positive aspects of those issues are the key points that are looked upon to grow and build a substantial base for the new organization for the civilization. Violence is necessary for a society to grow and learn from their mistakes, as well as constantly build upon the security and procedures of that society. The lack of violence would mean there was a lack of drive in a civilization, so Marx is ultimately making the point that violence and war are necessary for the growth of a society.

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Week 7 Revision-Thomas: Division of Labor

August 18th, 2011 No comments

“And finally, the division of labour offers us the first example of how, as long as man remains in natural society, that is, as long as a cleavage exists between the particular and the common interest, as long, therefore, as activity is not voluntarily, but naturally, divided, man’s own deed becomes an alien power opposed to him, which enslaves him, instead of being controlled by him. For as soon as the distribution of labour comes into being, each man has a particular, exclusive sphere of activity, which is forced upon him and from which he cannot escape.”

Talking within the context of private property and division of labor, Marx explains how people can become enslaved by their lifestyle depending in what kind of division they work. While people work within the context of a larger group and that group within the community with other groups, they work under their ideology to fulfill material needs like private property. Similar to a family with hierarchical structure, each member works with the others, thus dividing labor. In the case that members of labor fall into a structure without common purpose, they will naturally be enslaved by their work as their freedom is limited by others within the structure. The more divided labor becomes, the more people depend upon one another and are restricted.

At the point that a person only knows one specific task, he or she must rely on others for support. Apart from the system, the labor has no use and therefore a person must do the work continuously. Such a restriction on the laboring individual is found today in the instance that work is found in only specific regions where the individual is forced to live. A farmer must live in a rural area where there are spaces open to harvest enough to supply his or her whole income. On the other hand, the farmer must live close enough to a shipping route or market to find means to distribute the produce. Once labor is divided, it cannot live without any of its parts and they all work involuntarily with each other for survival. The truck driver cannot live without the farmer and vice versa. Without a bureaucracy and a common goal, uncontrolled division of labor in society reduces the livelihoods of people solely to their work.

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week7-revision

August 18th, 2011 No comments

“History is nothing but the succession of the separate generations, each of which exploits the materials, the capital funds, the productive forces handcd down to it by all preceding generations, and thus, on the one hand, continues the traditional activity in completely changed circumstances and, on the other, modifies the old circumstances with a completely changed activity.”

Karl Marx is stating that history is an important tool for human beings to use for their own advantage.  Also, because mistakes can and will always happen, humans can learn from past mistakes in order to prevent those mistakes from happening again such as war, famine, and the like. However, there are a few situations where events are inevitable. One situation would be the current situation of the economy. Our economy, as we all know, is struggling in an economic depression but this has already occurred in the 1930’s-the Great Depression. Perhaps, when the economy has stabilized, our future successors will prevent another economic downfall. Thus, we learn from our past from ancestors, past successors, etc, we can better ourselves economically.

History helps us define ourselves and have a better understanding of what we are. It gives us a sense of identity because every human has his/her own history to claim. We create our own history (past, present, future) which can cause problems such as our current economy. Yet, we can also produce optimistic events, for example, having an African American president. The citizens of America created history when we elected Democratic candidate  Barack Obama as president because we tore down the racial barriers that prevented non-Caucasian candidates to be presidents.

The past gives us an guidance on how to govern ourselves and to help us economically. And the future gives us, perhaps, an optimistic view for the unknown. In some way, it gives us a sliver of hope that things will get better because it has already happened in the past. We are a part of history whether we play a large or small role.

 

 

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The Relationship Dilemma, Week 7 Revisited

August 16th, 2011 No comments

“The production of life, both of one’s own in labour and of fresh life in procreation, now appears as a double relationship: on the one hand as a natural, on the other as a social relationship.” (157)

As civilization progresses from small family groups spread out in the wilderness to large and tightly packed cities, the more one needs to be mindful of those around.  While living isolated from the rest of society, natural needs for food and shelter are shared by all individuals in the community, but as more people are added to the society, more social relationships need to be established as labor is divided further.

Marx observes that society requires significant cooperation in order to continue functioning, but greed is not only present, it seems to thrive even at the cost of others.  The system seems to be corrupt and biased in favor of the rich, but like the lines from Mandeville’s The Grumbling Hive, “Thus every Part was full of Vice, Yet the whole Mass a Paradise” (155-6).  In theory a world where everyone collaborated for the good of the whole would be ideal, but without the desire to one-up your peers or neighbors, the economy and production stagnates.

In the modern world, as the population continues to grow and lifespans continue to be extended, people have become more and more dependent on each other to ensure their own welfare.  Greed is still the driving force behind the world’s economy, and in recent years we have seen the fallout of excessive speculation, ranging from the dot com bubble in the late 1990’s to the lending industry’s recent crash.  Greed can be good for prodding a stagnant economy back into life, but when it exceeds reason, the results can be devastating in today’s tightly connected society.

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Week 7 Blog – Caitlin

August 2nd, 2011 1 comment

“Men can be distinguished from animals by connsciousness, by religion or anything else you like. They themselves begin to distinguish themselves from animals as soon as they begin to produce their means of subsistence, a step which is conditioned by their physical organisation.” (150).

In this section Marx is discussing the points that mark humans as different from animals. He says that men are different from animals based on our ability to become aware of ourselve and how we work in a larger system. Marx uses the example of religion because it is a system made up of many smaller systems of people all working toward a common goal, whether it be heaven or some other place. People are connected to one another through these various systems.

That idea works in general, but Marx also talks about the very moment when people discover their conciousness and the immidiate choices they make after this discovery. Men become different from animals as soon as “they begin produce their means of subsistence” meaning what we need to survive. Because there will almost be items or services needed to subsist that one cannot do themselves it forces people to become organized and agree upon who will do what to benefit the whole. This ability to organize ourselves and rely upon one another and the fact that we do it conciously and not based on driving insticnt is part of what makes us human.

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Week 7 Blog Post

August 2nd, 2011 No comments

“The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it. The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships, the dominant material relationships grasped as ideas.”

What Marx meant by this is that humans are capable of making or shaping their own nature to some extent depending in the social class they belong to. The members of the ruling class have the same ideas. These ideas rule the whole society. That is, the class which owns the property, factories, and, in fact, all the means of material production, at the same time controls the means of mental production. The ruling ideas of a society are the ideas of the ruling class. These ideas express and justify the power of the ruling class over the rest of society. Just as there is division of labor in factories, there is also division of labor in the field of thought. Some members of the ruling class earn their living by being the thinkers of that class. They come up with the ideas which express what the ruling class wants to think about itself. Other members of the ruling class don’t have time to make up these ideas. This creates conflict  but, in reality, this conflict never comes to anything because, at bottom, the members of the ruling class all have the same beliefs.

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Week 7 blog – Vivian

August 2nd, 2011 1 comment

“Further, that the multitude of productive forces accessible to men determines the nature of society, hence, that the ‘history of humanity’ must always be studied and treated in relation to the history of industry and exchange.” (157)

Here, Karl Marx is saying that the amount of resources that a society or individual has available to them will determine how the society is. The economy and industry of a society often impacts the state of the society, both internally and in relation to other societies. If a country’s industry is suffering, this could cause turmoil inside the country and conflict could break out about whose fault it is or what they should do about it. Then, that country will also be weaker in comparison to other countries and may be taken advantage of. That is why Marx says the “history of humanity” must always be studied in relation to the history of industry and exchange. Perhaps he is suggesting that if we want to learn more about a country’s history—why this happened at this point in time—we should look at how its economy was at that point in time too.

Overall, Marx is emphasizing his point that your material surroundings will influence who you are—what you do, how you do it, your status and role in society, etc. His point is that the individual’s lifestyle and status is confined to the environment and the resources he was born with. In other words, the wealthy aren’t because they work hard and the poor aren’t poor because they are lazy; they were born with the materials that pushed them to succeed or fail.

 

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History

August 2nd, 2011 1 comment

“History is nothing but the succession of the separate generations, each of which exploits the materials, the capital funds, the productive forces handcd down to it by all preceding generations, and thus, on the one hand, continues the traditional activity in completely changed circumstances and, on the other, modifies the old circumstances with a completely changed activity.”

Karl Marx is stating that history is an important tool for human beings to use for their own advantage.  Also, because mistakes can and will always happen, humans can learn from past mistakes in order to prevent those mistakes from happening again such as war, famine, and the like. However, there are a few situations where events are inevitable. One situation would be the current situation of the economy. Our economy, as we all know, is struggling in an economic depression but this has already occurred in the 1930’s-the Great Depression. Perhaps, when the economy has stabilized, our future successors will prevent another economic downfall. Thus, we learn from our past from ancestors, past successors, etc, we can better ourselves economically.

History helps us define ourselves and have a better understanding of what we are. The past gives us an guidance on how to govern ourselves and to help us economically. And the future gives us, perhaps, an optimistic view for the unknown. In some way, it gives us a sliver of hope that things will get better because it has already happened in the past. We are a part of history whether we play a large or small role.

 

 

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Week 7 Post Thomas: Division of Labor

August 2nd, 2011 1 comment

“And finally, the division of labour offers us the first example of how, as long as man remains in natural society, that is, as long as a cleavage exists between the particular and the common interest, as long, therefore, as activity is not voluntarily, but naturally, divided, man’s own deed becomes an alien power opposed to him, which enslaves him, instead of being controlled by him. For as soon as the distribution of labour comes into being, each man has a particular, exclusive sphere of activity, which is forced upon him and from which he cannot escape.”

Here Marx is saying that society divides labor naturally which in turn also divides people from one another. By dividing labor, men become focused only on their own work and happiness instead of the well-being of the social group they live in. When people can do many different activities rather than a single one all of the time, it is possible for society to work towards a common goal and benefit.

Furthermore, division of labor even causes careers to enslave people. This implies a never-ending cycle of work without rest for simple self-sustainment. While a specialized occupation seems at first to be beneficial for the individual, it becomes inescapable. There is no happiness or feeling involved in the labor.  We need a sense of common interest in order to avoid enslavement by our labor.

This point that Marx makes implies a kind of cause and effect relationship. By working under the division of labor for our “particular” interest, we cannot avoid becoming enslaved by our labor. It is only when we combine the goals of particular and “common” interest that we can avoid becoming “exclusive” in our work and flourish as a complete society. When labor becomes very specialized for one purpose only, it takes advantage of the system by becoming most efficient for generating personal profit. More specialization allows people to work more independently from one another, not needing to face one another personally, but in a way that they can take advantage of each other to be most productive. It is not possible to avoid this downward spiral into one’s self, but rather it is necessary to get at the root cause of such “exclusive sphere of activity”. Here, the root is the mentality of the labor, the purpose and motive.

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