Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.
(Marx, from the “Introduction to the critique of Hegel’s philosophy of right,” 1843)
Marxism analyzed the development of societies based on economy, industry, and capitalism with emphasis on class conflict. It stated that capitalism enforced exploitation of workers (paid below the value of their labor) by the bourgeoisie who pocketed the economic surplus.
The common thread in Neo-Marxist theories is that imperialism and colonialism (past and present) are viewed as the most significant development-impeding factors in the Global South. The theoretical roots point to internal class conflict and external domination of industrialized countries. (Martinussen, 1997)
Paul Baran: emphasized nationally controlled industrialization rather than dual economies. Developing countries tended to have small industry and large agricultural divisions of economy. The inequality of class and distribution of power and economic surplus prevented the kind of development that could compete globally. He believed the solution was government control and ownership of heavy industry as well as enforced internal conditions of equally distributed power.
Andre Gunder Frank: believed that Third World countries (satellites) should focus on internal trade rather than feeding their resources to capitalistic merchants (metropoles). He blamed colonialism around Third World countries for perpetuating poverty in the satellites; therefore it would be critical for them to de-link from the metropoles.
– Delinking, Decoloniality & Dewesternization
Samir Amin: contrasting to Frank’s external exchange theories, concerned with more internal focus, specifically the production processes. Autocentric reproduction: self-reliant in process and goods produced. Peripheral economy: dependent on the world market. Overdevelopment of exportation lead him to focus on internal cooperation, similar to Baran’s perspective.
Arghiri Emmanuel’s Theory of Unequal Exchange: The unequal rate of labor costs in international markets yields exploitation of workers in peripheral countries through lower pay. This results in significant transfer of value/capital from poor to rich (periphery to centre) and perpetuates underdevelopment. His theory is a challenge to the neoclassical assumption that trade is advantageous for all parties involved.
F. H. Cardoso, D. Senghass and U. Menzel moved away from the notion that countries could be generalized as one type of economy. Their economies should be seen as differentiated by internal systems. This negated the idea that there was one central, one-size-fits-all strategy for development. Internal studies held the direction for change.
I. Wallerstein: held a wide-angle, historical view of underdevelopment and capitalism. His theory was not born from classical dependency theories, but does incorporate some of its ideas. He emphasized global conditions and where each country falls in the systems of economy and politics: the center, semi-periphery and periphery.
Warren: theory held to the Marxist views of unequal and exploitative systems, but paradoxically believed that capitalism would end dependency. He believed capitalism to be an inherent stage in the process toward socialism.
Africa’s next boom: Internal/Independent development in Africa
“…democracy is encouraging governments to invest in education. Education is helping growth and investment, and that’s giving budget revenues, which is giving governments more money, which is helping growth through education. It’s a positive, virtuous circle.”
Jesus and Marx Compared (Parker Palmer article): While originating in different assumptions about reality, Marx reminds us of dimensions of Christianity that Christians have a habit of forgetting:
- Marx believed that the intellectual and institutional forms of religion were the opiate of the people, thereby “drugging” the masses into accepting an unjust status quo. Similarly, Jesus and many Biblical prophets tried to give voice to the living experience of God against the dead forms of their times.
- Marx critiqued the wealthy’s complacency towards the poor and oppressed; Jesus placed an emphasis on economic justice for the poor (e.g., Luke 6:20; Matthew 19:24).
- Marx advocated for the ideal of a classless society. The church in Acts 2:44, to borrow a phrase from the socialist movement, gave according to ability and took according to need. If the church is a harbinger (and a hope) of things to come, then the eradication of economic injustice is an essential sign of God’s kingdom.
- Marx decried our enslavement to “false consciousness”, i.e., our bondage to free market capitalism, and proclaimed revolutionary class struggle as the road to liberation. Jesus decried our bondage to sin — not least its economic form — and proclaimed that liberation would come as we submitted to God’s justice, mercy, and love.
As Thomas Merton puts it, Marxism and Christianity alike want to shatter our illusions, reveal our true condition, and empower us to act in ways that will win our liberation.
There is a common presumption that Marx held a disdain for ethics. This assumption leads to the exclusion of Marxist theory in the global justice debate, which arguably results in an incomplete dialogue. Professor Lawrence Wilde wrote a paper on the ethical underpinnings of Marx’ social theory, arguing that there is an ethical gravity to Marx’ conception of the ‘self-realized social being.’ He answers some interesting questions to his ideas in this video:
Within his ideas, Wilde proposes that in Marxist theory there exists a strand of eudaemonistic ethics – “a system of ethics that evaluates actions in terms of their capacity to produce happiness.” Wilde suggests that Marx’ animosity towards moral discourse was a strategic decision related to the societal conditions of his time – that an emphasis on morality in 19th century political discourse would have taken away from the crucial business of exposing the pitfalls of capitalism, and marred the effectiveness of resulting political strategies.
Class consciousness is the awareness a social class possesses of itself. Perhaps the problem with the world now is that we don’t have class consciousness in the proletariat. Before action can occur, a “class” needs to be aware of where it stands or what its ranking is. Without this consciousness, people are not aware that they are being exploited or trampled upon by another.
It seems to be ingrained in the American mentality that a capitalist society is the only way to successfully develop. This mindset, however, supports the refusal to acknowledge that there is a class system and such an acknowledgement would be breaking the very idea of there being capitalism in action in the USA. Perhaps there is a fear of the feeling of powerlessness that comes along with recognizing you are a part of the lower or working class, but an acceptance of this reality would allow the “have-nots” to harness the knowledge of their position and use it to do something that implements social change as Marx advocated for.
Let’s Go Global
In the past, country borders have restricted the dialectic cycle described by Marx. In today’s global market, the dialectic cycle exists in the economic system and the borderless concept of globalization would logically infer that the cycle, too, is borderless. With this in mind, the idea of class can be enlarged to a global scale – core, semi-periphery, and periphery/upper, middle, and lower. It could therefore be possible for the “have-nots” to implement some sort of revolution because they have been pushed to the very limits of what they can provide. The gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots” has been widening and once we hit an economic crisis (in an all-encompassing global sense), such a revolution may become inevitable. There is now so much more availability for the “have-nots” to become involved with social change that a revolution may look different from before – whereas the previous idea of a revolution was violent, nowadays it could be the Third Way with passive resistance.
- The idea of Marxism revolves around class struggle between the “haves” and the “have-nots.” Do you think there is a global class system, and is there a way for them to rise up in a dialectic? How does a “class” become self-conscious?
- Now we’re all part of the same global economic system, do you think it would be possible for there to be a global revolution (like the Russian revolution but on a world-wide scale)?
- In today’s global dialogue, there is a demand that people’s needs need to come first. How do we justify these demands from within a capitalist system?
- We have been depleting resources continuously and many people are saying we are at a pinnacle of social change. If we take the Marxist view that social change happens due to the tensions between classes in the same society that are at odds with each other, do you think we will be seeing increased social change because of this struggle? Have we already seen some of this beginning to happen? Are WE a part of that social change, by choosing to take a program such as ICD?
Harish Manwani, the COO of Unilever, talks about the need to add a fourth element to Capitalism – “Responsibility.”
Kerala’s Democratic Communism: Kerala (India) was the first state in the world to democratically elect a communist government in 1957. Many of its social indicators are on par with the developed world and it has the highest human development index in India. It also has the highest literacy rate (more than 90%) and life expectancy in India, lowest infant mortality, and lowest school drop-out rate. Amartya Sen holds up Kerala as an example of Human Development and its history is communism (and Christianity). But many today are questioning how sustainable it is.