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Karl Marx: Capitalism and Class Conflict
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  1. Karl Marx: Capitalism and Class Conflict Lecture by Sociology 4530 7 Feb. 2008 Dr Christopher Kollmeyer

  2. 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

  3. 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”

  4. 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

  5. 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

  6. 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

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