Marxism and Neo-Marxism

marxism

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)

SUMMARY

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.

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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.

EXPANSION

Ethics

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.

Waking Up

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.

QUESTIONS

  1. 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?
  2. 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)?
  3. 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?
  4. 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?

 

RESOURCES

Harish Manwani, the COO of Unilever, talks about the need to add a fourth element to Capitalism – “Responsibility.”

Essay critique on “Dependency” Concepts

Delinking or Globalisation?

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.

The Kerala Model

53 thoughts on “Marxism and Neo-Marxism

  1. lizapandra

    Thanks for the very informational post. I really enjoyed reading it. I found your second question to be very interesting. Palmer mentioned about the dialectic stages. Firstly a thesis dominating the scene, which is then overruled by an opposition (antithesis), followed by yet another domination of a “synthesis” (which becomes another thesis). This cycle, I think, is what would most likely happen in the world. We’ve seen it throughout history – the rise and fall of nations, economics, etc. And as long as humans are corrupt in the way they see relationships, I think the likelihood of a global revolution is most certainly possible. It might not look exactly like the previous revolution but technology is a definite transport of it. Just look at how people are so connected these days; ideas in the West travels to the East in seconds. Dialogues of all sorts of issues are present in the virtual world – which allows a global talk. Question is, does a revolution necessarily happen when the other stage dominates? It looks like we are somewhat in that transition stage developmentally and economically. So, what WOULD happen is very interesting because it talks about the global future.

    Reply
    1. KC Cox

      Thanks so much for your comments! I agree that the stages of thesis that breed an anti-thesis (which eventually becomes a synthesis) are seen in the rise and fall of nations. What do you imagine the “synthesis” would look like if there were a global revolution? I wonder if the “have nots” could successfully choose resistance, holding onto their resources (and labor) for their own gain or if national debt to the “haves” will continue to keep their hands tied!

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    2. jmcalladine

      Hi Liza,
      I think your comment on the cyclical fashion of the dialectic throughout history is really important. The what-happened-before provides a great wealth of information for us to use in the present whilst looking forward to what could potentially happen in the future. I do think, though, that we need to be careful not to assume that the pattern will occur in the same way as it did before – history shouldn’t so much be used as a blueprint, but more as one of many “tools,” if you will, for paving a better path for the global future. With that in mind, it may seem difficult to conjecture about whether a revolution only happens during the synthesis stage, as you posited in your question, especially as there are so many forces at play that shake up the dynamics and speed at which things occur – again, as you pointed out, technology enables all kinds of dialogues to come to the forefront of a world-wide conversation. Already, we have seen how even the simple use of text messages has enabled news to spread of riots around a country, leading to social uprisings. This access to information and knowledge has sparked what we might be able to call “mini” revolutions already – what’s happened in Libya, Syria, and Egypt spring immediately to mind – and perhaps these are examples of an answer to your question that would say no, a revolution does not necessarily have to happen only when the other stage dominates in one large crescendo. We are living in a fascinating, albeit frustrating, time period in terms of these kinds off questions and the next few decades are going to be extremely interesting.

      Reply
      1. Monica Cheng

        Jessica,
        Great point about not assuming that historical patterns will occur in the same ways now as they did before. I think our failure to consider this can lead to an all-too-human tendency to transfer what we see as historical “blueprints” (as you put it) to contemporary circumstances, without taking social, political, economic, cultural and geographical differences into consideration. Here, as in many other attempts to extrapolate lessons/applications from contextualized events or texts, context is of critical importance.

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        1. jmcalladine

          That’s very true, Monica, and it reminds me of last week’s Fikkert reading in which he stressed the need to consider the context of Biblical events. Rather than attempting to translate as-is from the past to the present, we should extract lessons and values. We cannot “transplant” because it ignores, as you said, the “social, political, economic, cultural and geographical differences” between the then and the now. When we base a current situation on history and don’t take contextualization into consideration, it also assumes a certain result will be yielded based on the result the past event had. Again, we can perhaps at most try to predict based on history, but not develop an expectation that a specific outcome will occur or a situation will unravel/develop in a certain way. I would gladly challenge the idiom, “history repeats itself,” or at least add an addendum of some sort!

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  2. jlembright

    One of the things that strikes me in the Palmer reading is the text regarding a) the eradication of economic injustice as an essential mark of God’s kingdom and b) the early church in Acts which gave according to ability and took according to need. For me this begs the question of which economic system is most conducive to realizing these outcomes?

    On the one hand I can dismiss this question by resigning myself to God’s sovereignty in the present distribution of wealth and power — perhaps it’s God’s will and it’s not my place (or the church’s) to challenge it. On the other hand perhaps I should be actively supporting those social movements or systems that appear to better align with the ideals of the Gospel? If the ladder is true then Leonardo Boff (liberation theologian) would say that the socialist economic system gets us closer to Christian ideals than capitalism. Regardless of if Boff is right or not, it certainly gives me pause for reflection on today’s dominant neoclassical paradigm and its affinity (or lack thereof) with the ideals of my faith.

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    1. ASee

      Jonathan,

      Your post reminds me of something we talked about in Social Justice last semester, the idea of a “third way” in dealing with power. The first is similar to what you said about resigning ourselves to the way things are, shunning the use of power. As Christians, some believe we’re only passing through, anyway, so why bother trying to change things? The second is to wield power forcefully/violently and make demands in an attempt to dominate a situation (typical of Communist revolutions). The third way is the one Jesus himself espouses, which is to challenge those in power through passive resistance. The examples Jesus gives involve interaction with Roman officials and make a political statement. For example, he says, “If a soldier forces you to carry his pack one mile, carry it two miles” (Matt. 5:41). It was legal to make someone carry a pack for a mile, but more than that would be breaking Roman law. It was a non-violent way to challenge power.

      Reply
      1. KC

        Ah, yes, a third way! That is the paradox isn’t it?!! I wish I had taken that class with you as your example emphasizes that there is usually an ironic, creative way to resist legalism without violence or harm, a way that makes people think critically about why we do things the way we do. Sometimes we do things because it once made sense, but if we stop and consider or fast changing world, does it still make sense? For instance, we need to ask ourselves, how much more profit do we need? What does it profit us to exploit someone’s resources or labor at their expense? Why is it necessary to extract national debt from a country that has no self-sustenance? Isn’t one country shooting itself in the foot if it depletes the very countries that provide resources/labor?? Also, maybe one paradox here is that the “have nots” really would ‘have’ if they simply de-linked from the Core countries as Frank suggested. Another paradox for discussion is Warren’s theory that Capitalism will actually end dependency. Paradoxical thinking really does promote creativity!

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        1. Monica Cheng

          KC,
          Great point about how we often continue to uncritically do things that used to make sense. Sometimes we get comfortable with or focused on doing things in ways that benefit us, but are not conscious of how fast the world around us is changing, such that our old ways of “doing” are either not adaptive (at the best) or harmful to others (at the worst). Your question about how much profit we need is, I think, related to the question of how much wealth/accumulation we need. This is something I struggle with every time I am about to make what is–for me, at least–and expensive purchase. Do I really “need” what I am about to purchase? How does my sense of “need” for a possession or experience take away from someone else even having all their most basic needs met? Perhaps the answers to these questions come down to what we think of as “profit”–to add another paradox, the Apostle Paul considered “everything as loss because of [or compared to] the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:8, ESV). For Paul, true profit was knowing Jesus, not having anything this earthly world could offer.

          Reply
          1. KC

            Perfect example of a paradox, Monica! Paul’s comments are not necessarily contradictory to how profit was defined, yet rather they expanded thinking, putting a spiritual and eternal perspective on what is valuable, what is profitable. We need this perspective to think critically about what our goals are. We can all agree that global revolution will come with such a change in focus and on the kind of scale that Jesus is counting on believers to implement. I relate to feeling conflicted when I “need” something new or different knowing some people don’t have even their basic needs met. I hope to always be sensitive to this crisis of conscience as it is valid and helps us to remain focused on our relative wealth of resources and our ability to advocate for those who have so much less.

    2. KC

      I was struck by Merton’s comments as well (in the Palmer article). As you said, there is a place to examine the ideals of our faith. For a nation initially founded on Christianity, it’s interesting to examine the unequal distribution of wealth and power in the context of capitalism. I think that’s why Harish Manwani’s comments resonate with me. Adding ‘Responsibility’ (not just doing well but ALSO doing good!) as an important factor of growth, gives growth a more meaningful purpose and a compelling social value. Unilever’s leadership seems to be on the right track with having a larger purpose than just selling a product.

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      1. jmcalladine

        I also really enjoyed the Manwani TED talk. Though he didn’t go into excessive detail, the fact that a leader in such a renowned international company is voicing this need for the addition of “Responsibility” was assuring. From a social justice standpoint, it’s very easy to see the conglomerates as forces of evil but, realistically, they’re not going to disappear over night and if we can see more companies forging a collaboration with “responsibility” then we should hopefully see some changes occurring on a corporate level.

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        1. Monica Cheng

          Agreed! In one of the readings for this coming week, I was reminded that we need social change to come from and occur within every sector of society–including corporations.

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    3. Joshua

      Jonathan,
      these points also cause me to reflect and think between those two paradigms. Can there a balance between trusting God’s providence and Will yet fighting for the causes that seem to fit the ideals of God’s kingdom? The Church of Acts provides a great example of Jesus’ love, and supporting the capitalistic, competition, even self-serving ideology seems contrary to the way Christians should think of their resources. In that case, Boff makes a good point.

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  3. Denae Bauer

    Great post! I really enjoyed reading your comparisons between Marx and Jesus. Its interesting to see that Jesus, “a radical” and Marx another “radical” had many of the same ideas and concepts about social justice, shared resources and the global neighborhood. Additionally I find it interesting that many believers are ok with Jesus’ teaching, but fly off the handle at the mention of any of Marx’s ideas. Are Christians really understanding and interpreting Jesus’ teachings correctly?? If we truly understood and put into practice his teachings the world would be different.
    The Ted Talk by Manwani also resonated with me. He calls global businesses to play their role when it comes to helping their global neighbor. There must be ways in which we can make money and do good at the same time. Manwani is not necessarily saying that capitalism is an evil, but booming businesses and companies must play their role and take responsibility. This idea makes me think of what we have been reading in Groody’s text; clearly there is a huge unbalance between classes. We live in a world where CEOs are making 75 million in 5 years and where kids in India are dying from easily curable infections. There must be a balance and while there may never be a complete breakdown of classes, at least in our lifetime, we cannot ignore the fact that these social structures are increasing the gap and hurting the marginalized.

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    1. KC

      Denae, you raise a good point that believers often react so strongly to Marxist ideas as if there has to be “Us” and “Them” camps. Sometimes we ascribe error to other ways of thinking, forgetting there may be some overlap in ideology. This is good to remember when negotiating across boarders and politics! To that point, and Manwani’s, we have to admit Jesus didn’t have issue with wealth, just gluttony and selfishness when there are those around us with needs. As we learned about power differential indices in our Multi-cultural class, sometimes hierarchical power is what holds together a shaky nation. If we never see an elimination of classes, perhaps we might see in our lifetime, the ability of leadership (the ‘haves’) to reach down to the ‘have nots’.

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      1. Rachel Bechtel

        I agree with you KC. Great points Denae. 🙂

        KC, i like that you brought to light this idea that “Jesus did not have a problem with wealth, but with selfishness and gluttony, etc”. I do agree with this, but in my mind and heart this point goes around in circles. Is wealth in itself gluttony? Gluttony is technically taking more than you need, and wealth is having more than you need….so what does it look like to be wealthy and not be selfish/gluttonous? This is just food for thought. I do agree that God has given people wealth for specific reasons, but how should a person of wealth use wealth?

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    2. Joshua

      Denae,
      the comparisons between Marx and Jesus are definitely interesting. The huge imbalance of wealth and freedoms does reflect (as Groody and Myers) the heart of man. Those who do have resources period, not just vast resources, have a responsibility to share that for the common good of man. How much more then, are those with vast wealth more responsible for the good they can do? Gluttony and wealth are brothers because of our depraved hearts. This is also plays out in colonialism, as Frank talks about, in where the global north came to wealth at the expense of the global south.

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      1. jmcalladine

        Ah the age old question of whether those who have more wealth have more responsibility to do good, much like “with great power, comes great responsibility.” Wealth in the sense we’re thinking of here, whether it be money, power, fame, are resources for helping the less fortunate and achieving better ends for others. My personal view is that people are given power and wealth for a purpose, not because they are deserving of it. And idyllically, of course, people would use their wealth and power for good but as you’ve been talking about, the frailty of the human heart comes into play in forms such as gluttony and the purpose for having that wealth and power gets lost. In Judaism, there is an expression about wealth – “when all is said and done, what you’re left with is what you’ve given away.” Wealth is what we unselfishly transfer to another. It is what we bestow, devote, and donate. It’s what we leave behind for others. Wealth, perhaps, is not measured by how much we have and how much we keep in excess, but by how much we give to others in abundance.

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  4. Monica Cheng

    I was pleasantly surprised by Parker Palmer’s comparison of the similarities between Jesus’ teachings and Marxism. It is a reminder that we have much to learn, perhaps especially from those philosophies or belief systems that we most resist. His comparison illuminates the truth that we have more in common with each other than we think, but that recognizing these commonalities takes a conscious and intentional openness to being challenged, proven wrong and maybe even made uncomfortable.

    You raise some thoughtful questions. In terms of the importance of people’s needs coming first within a capitalist system–I think Frank is instructive here. Frank claimed that economic surplus generated within developing countries as part of the capitalist system was transferred to affluent capitalist countries, rather than allowing developing countries to re-invest their surplus into building their own economies. Basically, it seems that affluent countries only allow developing countries to develop to the extent that their development benefits the affluent countries. Although Frank has been criticized and his theories expanded upon, it seems like there is still a measure of truth in his claims. As we have been reading and learning throughout the ICD program, the wealthy often create policies and structures that maximize their own profit and wealth without considering the impact of these policies on developing nations. What if, instead, we (as individuals and nations), truly put the needs of the world’s poorest people first? On an individual scale, this could look like strategically choosing what we spend our money on–both in the types of necessary things we purchase (Clawson’s ideas in “Everyday Justice” come to mind) and our decisions about whether to purchase “luxury” items at all. On a national level, this could mean some form of policy change such that we allow less restrictive trade policies with developing countries (that would allow them to export/trade in the commodities they are strongest in) and “sacrificial” policies that limit the amount of profit we get from trading with these countries in order to allow them to keep more of the economic surplus they generate.

    Finally, I agree with Jessica that we are already beginning to see different forms of social change. I’ve been struck by how frequent things like the Arab Spring uprisings have been happening over the last few years. However, I would also say that there is a more subtle “uprising”, if you will, occurring that is creating social change–the modern movement within the global evangelical church to return to Jesus’ teachings about bringing freedom to the oppressed, healing to the broken, and lifting of the poor out of poverty.

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    1. jlembright

      Thanks, Monica. Your comment “the wealthy often create policies and structures that maximize their own profit and wealth without considering the impact of these policies on developing nations” I think embodies the notion of Explanatory Nationalism (from Pogge). It’s a belief held by the privileged that poverty and oppression are problems whose root causes are domestic to the foreign countries in which they occur. So then it can be easy to say, “Why should we help if they are responsible for their own misery?” As you note, while Frank can be understood as a bit dated, he does remind us that we are connected and that Explanatory Nationalism should be treated with a critical eye.

      Reply
      1. Monica Cheng

        Jonathan–
        It seems that Explanatory Nationalism is also reflective of the very individualistic (perhaps “Western”) ideal of “Every man for himself”, or, dare I say, of the “American Dream”–that anyone can succeed if they just pull themselves up from their bootstraps and work hard enough. Perhaps the concept of the American Dream was created as a way of patting ourselves on the back if we’ve been “successful” while implying that those who are still marginalized, poor and oppressed in America are responsible for their own misery.

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    2. jmcalladine

      Monica, “subtle uprising” is just the image I’ve been searching for to try to illustrate what I’ve been calling an “undercurrent” in society. I think these subtle uprisings are taking place all over the world in a variety of capacities and in a plethora of areas, perhaps most of them unnoticeable or the kinds of movements and events that people brush off today, but look back on tomorrow and do in fact see the relevance and impact of them. This makes me think that a revolution could occur, although maybe not globally, and in a way that isn’t violence-driven but rather steered by such movements as in the Evangelical Church and the changes we’re seeing in the Catholic Church since Pope Francis was appointed – through positive, social progression that is focusing on social injustice. Going back to what Liza said, looking at things in this we makes me agree that we are indeed in a transition phase, one that will be propelled forward in the dialectic by these subtle uprisings.

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      1. Monica Cheng

        Jessica–It encourages me to know that many of the great social movements and subtle uprisings that have led to positive change were not, as you noted, noticed or recognized during their times. In fact, I’m sure that–as with anyone who dares to challenge the status quo of his/her time–many past social change leaders were thought ridiculous, mocked at or scoffed at for their crazy ideas! I’m reminded of the title of a book by Lynne Hybels (the wife of Bill Hybels, pastor of Willow Creek Community Church) that is aptly titled “Nice Girls Don’t Change the World”. I’m so glad we’re in this ICD program, surrounded by people who are not content to just be “nice”!

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  5. Stephanie Bickler

    Of course my favorite part of the blog was the TED Talk on the African Economy by Charles Robertson 🙂
    Though he is way more qualified to talk on this subject than I am, but I have to question some of his notions. He talks about how the African Economy is growing and that they are in a position to grow even more. He talks about Foreign Direct Investment into Africa from various countries. Yes, there are a lot of different countries investing into Africa, but that does not mean it is always a positive thing, even if the economy grows. He claims that Africa is being looked at for these types of things because the younger generation is most of the African population. What made me think differently about this is that through experience and research I have come across many situations where forgein investment does nothing else for Africa than the build up the economy. For example, China came into Zambia because they are known for having a lot of copper. The Chinese invested in this resource and were able to basically buy out the Zambian Government. Now, China owns all of the copper plants in the area and they are not hiring local Zambians, they are importing their own workers from China. I hope that this is not the case everywhere.

    He also claims that if the country is poor it is corrupt and if you are a rich country you are less corrupt.
    To me, he is basically saying that if a country has money they will be less corrupt and that money solves the issue of corruption. What?! America is one of the richest countries in the world and we are no where close to being corruption free. We just have the money to better cover up our corruption here. I feel like his view is very narrow and it only looks at one piece of the pie.

    He also talks about how technology can be used by us to help Africa. That we can buy their goods and products off the internet. That we can go to Africa on vacation and give someone a job to do and teach them things to help society raise up. Wow, this statement at the very end actually pisses me off. He never once mentioned how the community could work together in Africa to come up with their own solutions and the only solution he has is to make Africa dependent on outside resources. How is that any better?

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  6. KC

    Stephanie, you are very astute! I had to go back and listen to Mr. Robertson again and determine if he was identifying corruption as causation for poverty or if he was noting a correlation. I believe from an economist’s viewpoint, he may have been acknowledging the correlation, but that it should not discourage investment anyway. Meaning, corruption is measurably present, but should not be a determinant for poverty or a motivation for withholding outside assistance. I agree with you that what you describe as China’s ‘investment’ is not admirable. Their case sounds more like a hijacking of Zambian resources and should not be an investment model! As Robertson was praising the strengthening leadership in Africa, I thought, it’s too bad the leadership in the Zambian was exploited in such a detrimental way. 🙁

    Reply
  7. lionambessa

    I enjoyed reading your post and watching the Charles Robertson’s speech of “Africa’s next boom”
    Neo-Marxism, helped nations to get out of colonization and labor exploitation. But Marxism by itself is destruction of culture, religion, identity, economic, and socio-political development of a society. Most countries that involved in socialism, or Marxism and Leninism principles, they were isolated from the rest of the world. The class conflict was based on religion view, political, and economic.
    I didn’t like Paul Baran’s believe in government owned and control of heavy industries, but I do agree with his recommendation of equally distributed power. The reason lays on the complexity of the political and economic relationship. When governments control large economies, they tend to control the power and the power will be remained with the individuals who are controlling the power and their closest allies. This is true particularly in developing nations. On the other hand, governments have a very slow system that can’t satisfy the economic demand of a society. Ethiopia were under a dictatorial Marxist-Leninist government until May 28, 1990; and most of the countries’ industries were under the control of killers
    Charles Robertson, “the emerging economist”, is giving a good hope for Africans. The economy booming is quite true. I like his Idea of investing in Africa and buying African products can be the best way to support African trade and economy. Also, African millionaires and billionaires are increasing in number within the past five to six years. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/04/ethiopia-faster-rate-millionaires-michael-buerk
    However, the number of millionaires and billionaires may not help us to see the economic challenge, corruption, and injustice that the majorities are facing. For instance, Robertson tried to persuade us those most African countries are enjoying democracy and corruption is less; that doesn’t seem true. But I still like his approaches and positive thinking.

    Thanks;
    Ambassador

    Reply
    1. Monica Cheng

      Ambassador,
      Great point about how the growing number of millionaires and billionaires in Africa may obscure the continuing injustices and problems of the majority. It is so easy to measure the economic progress of nations by the number of financially wealthy people in those nations–i.e. if the number of millionaires is increasing, the economy must be growing as well. Yet, as we’ve been discussing throughout the last few weeks on this blog, financial wealth does not equate to progress–it only masks problems that still exist, making these problems easier to ignore and thus creating an environment where injustices can get worse because they are being left unchecked.

      Reply
      1. KC

        Ambassador and Monica, I too have been intrigued by the assumption that greater wealth for some, means greater economy and stability for the rest of the nation. This could be true if the increase in one class had a positive correlation with all the other classes, but we know that is not always the case. In these assumptions, I look for someone to compare and contrast the trends in upper, middle, and lower classes. Beyond that, as we’ve been discussing, there’s more to progress than economy and we need to be more mindful of the other things that constitute progress e.g. decreased corruption, decreased dependency on foreign aid, debt reduction/forgiveness, educational opportunities, availability of healthcare. Ultimately, a small population holding the larger percentage of financial gain does not imply or ensure progress for all, especially if the gap between rich and poor becomes even greater and if those holding the financial gains do not invest back into their country’s needs.

        Reply
        1. lionambessa

          Thanks KC;
          I agree with your points. This is one of the biggest problems of development that governments tend to favor one group from the other, and when you ask them why they will say “we can’t make rich everyone”. Unfortunately, citizens only need a fair and equal opportunities in all services such as education, health, administration, and other resources of their country. Most importantly, participation in national politics has a vital role in a societies wellbeing.

          Reply
      2. lionambessa

        Thanks Monica;
        That is true! You reminded me the vicious circles of economic and political poverty and genuine economic development (Martinussen, 2007). Martinussen (2007) said that genuine economic development is not only about growth, but also improving the over all living condition of the poor and the marginalized groups of the society (p. 299)

        Reply
    2. Sharlene

      Hi Ambassador,

      Regarding your response to Charles Robertson, “the emerging economist”, I think we can take for granted in the U.S. just what the infrastructure is and what it took to build it. Without a growing economy, what would our school system(s) look like; our roads; our transportation. Could it be that a national economy needs to grow along with, that of different classes, communities, ethnic or gender groups?

      Reply
      1. lionambessa

        Thanks Sharlene;
        You are right! Even the growth of GDP may not reflect the actual economic status of the people. Just like the United States’ unbalanced income and property ownership. Many countries in the developing nations are using the American economy as a model and the result may be the same as here.

        Reply
  8. Rachel Bechtel

    The question of whether or not the “have nots” may rise up is an interesting one, and something I’ve thought of on multiple occasions. As said in previous conversation, I don’t believe that history has to repeat itself, but I do think that there is gap between the rich and poor on a global scale and that there is a possibility that the “have nots” will rise up. I think that we have seen hints of this in campaigns in our own country such as the “occupy wall street” movement.

    Something that just came to mind was the idea of a year of “jubilee”. Biblically speaking every 50 or so years slaves are set free, land is given back to families, debt is wiped clean, etc. A quick Google search shows multiple organizations working toward this type of relief for the poor. ….

    I found the video on Kerela so interesting. Obviously, my head and heart are pretty caught up in the country of India. I knew that the state of Kerela was predominantly Christian and had the highest literacy rates, life expectancy, etc. but I had no idea the history behind the people groups and that there is peaceful relationships between Communists, Christians, and Muslims. I would be interested to look further into the way things function in this state.

    Reply
    1. ASee

      I wonder what Marx would say about the idea of Jubilee. In fact, I wonder what he would say about a lot of things. I think because Marx was so opposed to the idea of private land rights, he would think it unnecessary to have a Jubilee, but that it would be better than nothing. What do you think Jubilee would look like in industrialized countries? Do they even need a Jubilee at this point?

      One interesting point of a global economy is that the “haves” and the “have-nots” are completely undefined on a world-wide scale. The “have-nots” of the United States and other industrialized countries are the “haves” of most of the rest of the world, and it would be difficult for such disparate “have-nots” to really unite. Would they even be fighting for the same thing? The Occupy Wall Street movement was more of a stance AGAINST really rich people than a fight FOR anything. It was an unorganized complaint with vague demands. I had the chance to visit it in New York while it was occurring; it was essentially a giant drum circle of restless college age kids hanging out in a park. If there is going to be a real uprising, it’s going to need strong leaders with clear direction.

      Reply
  9. Joshua

    I found Frank’s article quite compelling. I find this point he brings up convincing, that we as westerners might tend to think that the third world has not developed because they are “behind” in history or were not part of the historical process leading to capitalism. But as Frank says, “On the contrary, these issues stem from being part of Colonialism, in where they are subject to “satellite-metropolis” relationships, where the satellite regions benefit the center.” Being a satellite (tied to another) limits your growth.
    Another interesting and compelling hypothesis he brings up is that the countries with the weakest ties to any metropolis have experienced more growth historically. For example, the resource poor Japan with very weak ties became one of the richest countries. The resource-rich global south has had strong ties to metropoles and have been subject to the bourgeoisie and have become a culture of latifundium. Again, not the typical way of thinking about the root of poverty and other injustices, but a very valid point and perhaps even THE point to make when talking about the root of a lot current unjust practices. We must be careful not to assume that people are in poverty because they didn’t get it “right” in history, that their way got them to where they are. Quite the contrary, our luxury has come at the expense of so many.

    Personally, I never thought of the development of underdevelopment- the perpetual cycle of poverty being a result of a history of colonialism. It shows how easy it is to assume that the western way is THE way of doing things. Perhaps, developing communities starts from within without outside help.

    Reply
    1. jmcalladine

      Hi Josh,
      You’ve picked up on some pertinent points from the Frank reading. The first being the Western assumption that a country’s low position on the economic and development scale is because they were not exposed to the same historical influences and because they have not adopted the same approach to doing things as the successfully developed countries have. As we know, this has been a destructive way of thinking and I would argue it’s an assumption that has lead to the ill feelings that exist towards the prospect of the West’s involvement in development today.
      In light of Frank’s discussion, as you pointed out, there have been links and interplays in motion between “satellites” and “metropoles” throughout history that have had a profound effect on the current state of global affairs. I would go so far as to say that history in its entirety is a picture of these causal effects and elbow joints, whether we’re looking at the Roman Empire, colonialism, or this era of globalization etc. I do think there is too often a neglect of just how much power and influence history has had on the present. I’m wondering if this has anything to do with the psychology behind our fast-paced, forward-thinking tendencies in society today?
      Frank’s musings on the weak/strong ties between satellites and metropoles was also a fascinating aspect of that reading. It seems almost counter-intuitive in today’s interlinked world to think that looser ties between countries would actually lend themselves to a far greater development success rate, than would ties that are tighter. I can’t help but imagine satellites going into a state of panic at the thought of loosening their ties with the metropoles, but I’m toying with the idea that perhaps this kind of relinquishment would serve to greatly benefit the development prospects of a country, and not act as a detriment. Almost a sink or swim effect. From that, however, I feel as though a cut-throat throwing-to-the-sharks approach would be neglecting the justice-seeking aspect of development that we vie for. I come to the same conclusion, that balance is key!

      Reply
      1. Joshua

        Nicely worded, Jess!
        As yo say, It is odd that, perhaps due to our culture of fast pace, we tend not to think of today’s realities as rooted in historical events or processes. I do think you are on to something when you say that this may very well be the reason why we experience animosity from other nations. Why accept help from the ones who caused you harm? Also, your right- balance is key, and we wouldn’t want to up and leave anyone to deal with their problems themselves.

        Reply
  10. Sharlene

    I appreciated Merton’s focus on the similarity/link between Marxism and Christianity in regards to the alienation of labor (Marxism) and the alienation of our hearts (Christianity). As Christians, many of us live our lives in a capitalist economy by a set of values that we did not knowingly buy into. This has set our lives on a course different from what our God calls us to, as well as what we truly long for. I have heard how capitalism robs people “of both meaning and the benefits of their work” and dismissed the thought. I did not make the spiritual connection. The course we are taking, said Merton, “robs us of our hearts.” Without being in full faculty of our hearts, desensitized to the great needs in the world, we do not respond – and further, helped create the economic destruction in poor nations that cause those in now poor countries to be robbed of both work and the benefits of it. Thank God He is a God of restoration.As more people in poor countries turn to Him, and we in wealthy countries follow His Spirit’s leading, He will direct their and our efforts and bring healing.

    Reply
    1. ASee

      Sharlene,

      I also appreciated Merton’s evaluation of Marxism, and how he points out that true Christianity agrees with Marx when he says that “religion is the opiate of the masses.” It numbs the rich into thinking they are living a life of faith, when they are really being complacent on issues like serving the poor and bringing about justice. They rely instead on feeling self-righteous because they attend church and live “good” lives. Religion is also used to manipulate people into servitude by threatening their eternal soul with punishment if they do not do certain things on earth.

      As you mentioned, in America, certain values are upheld without much though by certain camps, especially in a lot of churches. How do you think we can open up discussion without making people feel threatened or judged? Political beliefs run deep, and it can be a touchy subject.

      Reply
      1. sharlene

        Hi Amanda,
        I have had some of those thoughts that you state the wealthy people have – I have thought I must be living a good life according to God’s Word, because our family is doing fairly well. I have, sadly, also thought that poor countries must be courting God’s disfavor because of their rejection of Christ. I do know better now.

        I thought of your question in relation to Marxism and my attitude toward it in the past. Marxism has usually been presented in a critical or condemning tone- not inviting. Gracefully finding common ground, as Merton did helped me be receptive to Marx’s views presented in Palmer’s paper.

        Reply
  11. Elizabeth

    The problem with capitalism and free market is that the working class thinks they are free, and it couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s seen as the natural order, the only way, the right way and God’s way. I so appreciate the pointing out of the similarities between what we see in the Bible and what Marxism advocates for. And I so agree that there are so many people deluded and numbed to the oppressive nature of our current system.

    But it’s an exciting time. I think we are just starting to see people waking up. Conversations that used to be had only by those locked away in ivory towers are now being discussed by the average joe on facebook – with some understanding.

    It does seem like we might be approaching something drastic – not right away, probably, but from occupy wall street to the arab spring to the protests in Kiev – things are happening, things that I think historians will point back at as defining moments in the direction our world goes.

    Revolutions are usually violent and messy, with both sides going out of control past what they would originally have done. Usually, even if there was a good side – the people’s side – by the end, they have developed their own form of oppression.

    But people can only be pressed so far until things like revolutions do happen.

    Reply
    1. seeamandaj Post author

      Elizabeth,

      I’m glad you bring up the very present relevance of this topic. It’s easy to skirt around the implications of capitalism and Marxism and to develop theories of world systems, but recognizing that we see change happening now because of such ideologies really hits home. Communism is such a historically taboo ideology in America that to speak up on behalf of any of its tenants can get you labeled as a radical (Pinko Commies, haha). It seems evident, however, that the more unhappy Americans get with the present system, the more likely they are to open up to other possibilities.

      Do you think smaller revolutions like the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street are enough to alleviate the pressure of the economic system? Will we see more leaks like these? Or do you think we will see a more unified, global reaction when the small upstarts don’t make enough change?

      Reply
      1. jmcalladine

        I would agree that it is easy to skirt around the implications of such ideologies, but I’ve also noticed that for those who are aware and who do disagree with the system as it functions now, so many of them seem to want to escape and find an alternative way of life elsewhere in the world rather than recognizing the need for them to engage with making change from where they are now.
        From conversations I’ve had with people who feel passionately about change needing to happen, I’ve also noticed that they seemed intent on not believing that change within the West was occurring at all. I don’t know whether this is a purposeful denial or not, but nevertheless it’s something that honestly frustrates me. I’m a great believer in not running away from a problem. If someone really does want to see change, then remain inside of it, seek out the conversations that ARE taking place and get involved with the “waking up.” I worry that, despite the number of us who are speaking up etc., there are many who are so consumed by their despair at the system that they have, essentially, just given up and they are blind to those pockets of enlightenment that are breaking through.
        Similarly, once someone is aware, how do we get them to stop saying “the West will never change” and to SEE. I’m constantly wondering how people’s eyes can be open to the dialogues that are in action and how, when they are aware, they find the courage to engage. When more people take that last step, I think we’ll see a greater surge in larger uprisings.
        At the moment, I think the system is too powerful to be overturned by the smaller revolutions we are seeing but they are definitely serving as eye-openers, especially with the coverage they receive on social media. I also wonder whether we even need a “global reaction,” and whether revolutions in the power states would be enough…

        Reply
        1. Elizabeth Stromsness

          I think you makes some really important points. I absolutely agree. Throwing up our hands and saying the west will never change is the worst response. It is cliched but true that we have to live in the world we want to change, be the change in it that we want to see, engage with the systems we want transformed.

          It is very difficult to do, however. I often feel so powerless in the face of such giants as these.

          Reply
      2. Elizabeth Stromsness

        I don’t think things like the arab spring and occupy wall street are enough. The pressure of the economic system is too powerful, too much of a crushing current. If something is to alleviate it, I think it will have to be a more unified global reaction. Or, alternatively,, a domino effect that starts in someplace like the United States – a complete revolution.

        Reply
  12. NaThor

    Hello,

    There is a global class system. The first thing I thought of when I thought of the “haves” and “have-nots” I thought about in a global. The developed countries verses the developing or underdeveloped countries/ the core, semi-periphery, and periphery countries but more on an individual scale. I thought about the slave labor that produces products developed countries use. Imagine all of the men, women and children who are forced into slavery standing up all at the same time, passively walking away. The world would stop for at least a moment. I really enjoyed the last couple or three paragraphs in the blog. The statement “without this consciousness, people are not aware that they are being exploited.” Without knowing where they have been placed in the social structure how are they to know that they have room to graduate to another class.

    I also think of the above quote in reverse. Without consciousness, people are not aware that they are exploiting. I am related to people who do not believe me when I tell them that there is slave labor in our world today. “Slavery was abolished after the United States civil war” is a statement that I have actually heard leave a person’s mouth. As if slavery began and ended in the United States and Confederate States. Because GOD created us I like to believe that each of us has the potential to do good and that if we could help ease or end the suffering of another they would. I like to believe that if people knew about the “have-nots” and were given the tools and skills that would make a difference; we would begin to see a change in production habits.

    Thank You,
    Na’omi

    Reply
    1. seeamandaj Post author

      Na’omi,

      Raising awareness of unethical treatment of laborers worldwide is still a big issue. Like you said, many people are either unwittingly supporting practices like slave labor, or they refuse to admit it even exists. As much as I would also like to believe people would change their spending habits to urge a positive change in working conditions, I think many Westerners feel far enough removed from those being exploited to be rather apathetic. Sometimes overexposure to an issue can even create a decrease in concern. For example, every time that Sarah McLachlen commercial comes on with the starving animals and “In the Arms of an Angel” playing in the background, I immediately change the channel. Not that I don’t care about suffering animals, but I don’t feel like caring at the moment, especially while I’m trying to watch The Simpsons.

      Do you think that people in the higher classes (“haves”) really care about those less privileged (“have-nots”)? Isn’t their lack of concern the main issue we study? If you do think they really would change lifestyles/habits, how do you think is the best way to spread the word about action they can take to make a positive difference in the lives of poor labourers around the world?

      Reply
      1. NaThor

        Amanda,

        I know the week for this blog is technically over, but that is what I get for posting at such a late hour. My apologies.

        To answer your questions:
        I have hope that if they were made fully aware they would care. I know that in our current society the absolute of that is no where near 100%. People are very consumed with themselves and their own lives. I think just creating awareness is not enough. People need to be taught, slowly, how to change their habits so that as many people as possible are not being exploited. You are correct many Westerners do feel far enough removed and overexposure is just as bad if not more damaging than no exposure.

        This will need to be a systemic change. It needs to start when we are still in school. I think a social studies class would be a great place to introduce such a topic maybe even sooner. Teach starting from a young age to think about what they are purchasing and the people attached to that product. I believe that if enough people care, change can happen.

        It is not easy changing ones spending habits. I know. I have slowly been making changes for a while now and I still do not have it down. I made a goal to have an ethical Christmas. It was the hardest goal to accomplish and it still wasn’t 100%. It starts with awareness and education. Making the story personal and relate-able, instilling a since of responsibility to our global neighbors is going to be the hard part.

        Thank You Amanda,
        Na’omi

        Reply
        1. NaThor

          One more thought: the change has to be more than just a society change. The government and corporations will eventually have to get on board. But I think the change needs to either start with the consumer or those producing the materials and products. A revolution as the original post suggests.

          And I do believe it can be done the Third Way.

          Thanks Again.

          Reply
  13. auzeeen

    Great post guys, thank you!
    The idea of a global uprising of the “have nots” gets me thinking. Looking at the Arab spring and everything that happened their, the green revolution in Iran that was quickly stifled, as well. People are getting fed up and tired of the brazen inequality that many are suffering because of. It is very unfortunate because if the more well off folks in the world didn’t exhibit such greed and if the global economy and those who manipulate it didn’t have such greed in their hearts all of this misfortune, unrest, and the possibility of an uprising can be avoided.
    I think that when people here the ideas that are around Marxist thinking they automatically associate it with Communism, and it becomes the Red Scare all over again. The underlining connotations that come with anything associated with Communism- that the wealthy will either be like everyone else OR all their precious riches will be ripped from their cold dead hands to be handed out to others. It is amazing what a buzz word will do to people!
    There definitely needs to be steps taking to “delink” the global society. Unfortunately the western way of manipulating the globe is just a new form of colonialization, and as was said in the blog colonialism and imperialism, past and present, are viewed as the most significant development impeding factors in the Global south. I definitely agree that there needs to be a refocus on National controlled industrialization. I think it is necessary for countries to focus on empowering their own nations economy rather than continuing the “dual economy” model (Baran). Perhaps if individual economies become self sufficient Globalization will become less destructive to those who do not have control over it, namely the poor and marginalized.

    Reply
    1. seeamandaj Post author

      Auzeen,

      It’s good to hear from your point of view, and you make some great points. Many of the rebellions during the Arab Spring were because of dissatisfaction with dictators/monarchies, human rights violations, and political corruption- all caused by greed. Capitalism (and the current system of globalization) also seems to depend on greed and the assumption that people will make decisions that earn them the most money. It almost seems the rebellions were pushing from one form of greed to another; do the rebels just want a piece of the action? The Arab Spring was composed largely of educated youths who were unhappy with the status quo and their own unemployment. How can we make sure that systematic upheavals benefit everyone, not just those that complain the loudest?

      Reply

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