Marx was concerned with the origins of political power and identified it with the relationship between the owners and the users of the means of production by which society makes a living. Marx identified modern society as arising from the relationship between the producer-consumer (the working class) and the owner-controller of the means of production (the capitalist class). The conflict arising between these classes produces, for Marx, the dynamic of history. This conflict is manifest in the alienation of workers as they are exploited as commodities in the employment market. It is only by the overthrow of the economic system (capitalism) that this conflict can be resolved.
Capitalism requires the never-ending expansion of commodity production and consumption to maintain surplus value and profit. This has delivered the biggest improvement in living standards (for some) in the history of the human species. However, this expansion is out of democratic political control and is responsive only to demands of the market – demands manipulated by the commodity producers themselves. Modern environmentalists believe that the never-ending expansion of commodity production demanded by capitalism must result in the destruction of the planet.
Marxists argue it is the economic system of production that defines a society, its structure, its ethics and its values – values which, under capitalism, are not freely chosen, but imposed by the nature of the system. Capitalism, by its nature, excludes social and aesthetic values, such as justice, freedom, altruism, and community.
The orthodox Marxists view capitalism as an indivisible whole – markets, money, wages, price, and profit – much the same as the modern capitalists. Their paths differ when they look to the prognosis. Here the modern capitalist cannot speculate as to capitalism’s future. Marxists, and socialists generally, believe that one way or another capitalism’s end is necessary, indeed inevitable, if we are to take control of human destiny, and they dare to look to the consequences and the possibilities.
© Lusion 2005