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Karl Marx: Capitalism and Class Conflict. Lecture by. Sociology 4530 7 Feb. 2008. Dr Christopher Kollmeyer. Historical Materialism (Review From Last Lecture). Historical change brought about by Class conflict battle over surplus value Structural contradictions within society

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karl marx capitalism and class conflict

Karl Marx: Capitalism and Class Conflict

Lecture by

Sociology 4530

7 Feb. 2008

Dr Christopher Kollmeyer

historical materialism review from last lecture

Historical Materialism (Review From Last Lecture)

Historical change brought about by

Class conflict

battle over surplus value

Structural contradictions within society

Communism will be the “End of History,” but…

requires “class consciousness”

class-in-itselfclass-for-itself

structural contradictions of capitalism
Structural Contradictions of Capitalism
  • Social

Cash-nexus replaces reciprocal social relations

      • “callous cash payment”
      • humans become commodities (wage-labour)
  • Economic

Under-consumption or over-accumulation crisis

  • Political

Capitalism “producers its own gravediggers”

marxist debate about capitalism s political contradiction
Marxist debate about capitalism’s political contradiction

Question: Is our government (1) a state within a capitalist society (i.e. neutral ) or (2) a capitalist state (i.e. biased against working class).

(1) “State with a capitalist society” argument

Friedrich Engels (Tactics of Social Democracy, 1895)

  • Communists debate political strategy for class struggle (legal vs. illegal methods or just wait for capitalism to fail).
  • Engels argues:
    • Universal suffrage (voting) = “sharpest political weapon” and “instrument of emancipation”
    • Armed conflict is a losing strategy
marxist debate about capitalism s political contradiction5
Marxist debate about capitalism’s political contradiction

(2) The “capitalist state” argument

  • Marx claimed that “The executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the bourgeoisie” (CM).
  • Capitalism and democracy are incompatible
    • Economic power = political power
question why does the state favour capital s interests
Question: Why does the state favour capital’s interests?

Businesses is said to occupy a “structural privileged position” in society.

      • Workers need jobs and want social benefits
      • State needs tax revenue
      • But business can move somewhere else
  • Economic policy becomes “depoliticized.” Who governs matters little for class politics.

Conclusion: Democracy under capitalism must be partial

marxist definition of power
Marxist Definition of Power
  • The ability of a social class to realize its (objective) class interests.
  • Politics = class politics = battle over surplus value