Theses on Marx

 by Jim Spickard

  1. Marx sought to understand the nature of human existence in capitalist society: people's limitations, their potentialities, and their consciousnesses within the concrete context of their existence.
  2. Unlike earlier theorists, who had found the basis of society in such concepts as "legalism", "positivism", "the Absolute Idea"—-i.e., who had found the important element of a society to be its philosophical ethos—-Marx proposed that these ideological forms were merely the reflections in consciousness of a particular set of relations of production. That is, he thought that people's consciousness of themselves and their surroundings was formed by the way in which they earned their livelihood.
  3. For Marx, the basis of human society in whatever form is human activity (i.e., labor). The organization of this activity (the relations of production) in a particular society is basic to any of its manifestations.
  4. In his analysis of concrete human activity under capitalism, Marx focused on two movements:
    1. the exploitation of the laborer in the process of the creation of commodities;
    2. the development of consciousness among the participants in the relations of production, which mystify the true relationships between them.
  1. In the second of these, Marx assumes that it is possible for the philosopher to demonstrate the relative truth or falsity (from the point of view of the emerging society) of the consciousness of these participants.
  2. Marx discovered that:
    1. the workings of the capitalist market had social consequences over time, which were unforeseen by the participants in the capitalist process. These consequences (the laws of motion of capital) tended toward the breakdown of the market system, and the spread of human suffering;
    2. the results of these developments—-in combination with the critical activity of intellectuals—-would provide the working class with the opportunity to finally see its own situation in the light of day. The working class would realize that it was the true creator of wealth in society, and could be the master of its fate. This realization would spark a social revolution, which would usher in the beginnings of a socialist society. For the first time, the world would witness a classless, non-exploitative society, the ground for which had been prepared by the great increase in productive forces under capitalism.

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revised September 2001