Recently in [1-25] Marx & Engels I: Alienation and Historical Materialism Category

"The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society is at the same time its ruling intellectual force." Foremost, the theory of "historical materialism" pertains to the study of human society. Specifically, how humans use their advantages to acquire their needs of materials. I believe materials/materialism signifies the necessities of production in order to survive. Necessities can relate to a wide range of things. For example, your basic needs of life for survival may include: food/water, shelter, health, and so on. Some people may extend their needs outside of a physiological aspect; such as love/relationships, self-esteem/confidence, personal morality/ethics, and self-actualization. Not everyone's materialism needs are the same. "The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas"-that direct quote itself relates to the historical aspect. Throughout history, especially during the early rise of civilization- it was all about subsistence. The basic means of foundation are all the same whether in what era or time frame. The objection is what you need in order to live. The production of material may not technically be similar in terms of generations, but it is the underlying mean of survival.
To breakdown the second section of the quote, "the class which is the ruling material force of society is at the same time its ruling intellectual force," is somewhat ambiguous. Personally, I believe that it means the class (people in general, not social class) who know what their needs of survival are and know how to obtain them. That gives them the sense of ruling material force of society. They are able to conceptualize the processes they have to endure to reach where they want to be in their lives. Since they are in fact of doing so, simultaneously they are in the forefront; thus means ruling their intellectual force. By definition, intellect means: "the power or faculty of the mind by which one knows or understands, as distinguished from that by which one feels and that by which one wills; the understanding; the faculty of thinking and acquiring knowledge." By putting the two together, ruling of material force and intellectual force, it equivalents to having control. Whoever is able to attain these rulings are in dominance.
There is more to it than just knowing your necessities and how you will grasp it, but you have to know how to maintain it as well. Without being able to maintain it, then there is no control. If there is no control; then there is actually no dominance. The adversity in all of this is being able to manage it all while still being able to develop. Another obstacle may be that your resource for a particular need may not be the right fit for you. Or it may turn out to be not as what you expected, so you may have to go about finding another alternative. It is more than just a physical process, but a mental one as well. Without one or the other, then there is truly no ruling material force and intellectual force.

Blog Post #1, Marx & Engels - Materialism and Alienation

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"The German Ideology (1845)":

1. Explain Marx & Engels' theory of "historical materialism," or "the materialist position" by interpreting the following quote from the reading:
"The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society is at the same time its ruling intellectual force" (83).

Marx and Engels' theory of "the materialist position" is very much embodied in the quotation from the prompt. The authors explain that the ability to think and reason comes from people being able to create their own possessions through manufacturing and other means. Therefore the means with which you create objects is a source of power, because those with the ability, (the ability being materials), to create have the power to choose what is made with them. If those who are contributing effort to materialism are not using their own materials and are only making products that they are told to make, they have no power. Marx and Engel believe that this means that general laborers have no room to develop intellectually outside of what the ruling class determines for them. This idea makes sense to me because being able to create objects requires reasoning and creative effort and materials required for an object. This would then lead to the tyranny of the individuals who own the means of production, i.e. physical materials, property, machines, money, etc.
During Marx and Engels' time, there were very few opportunities to own material because when there was a tyranny of the wealthier class, the lower class had no means to overrule them. Therefore Marx and Engels' theory held true. Applying this theory to present day, I believe that in our society people have the ability to think, reason, and develop intellectually outside of materialism. For many, a college education is material in itself -- intellectual material. Though there are limits to receiving an education, because of the financial obligation of it. In this scenario the material can be defined as the money required to attend a university, and therefore one who owns the material also own the ability to further himself intellectually. Fortunately for us, many people without the means to attend a university still are able to do so because of government aid.


"Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844":


4. Alienation is a key concept in Marxist logic. What are the implications of alienation for humanity's "species-being?" Describe the process of how the worker becomes alienated from the product of her labor, as laid out in detail in the reading. Reflect on the notion of alienation in our world today-- Can you see alienation at work in your own life, or the lives of people you know?

According to Marx, a worker becomes alienated from the product of his/her labor through mass production and the loss of the idea of trades. Before industries took over, manufacturing had typically been done by one individual who was a master of his trade. Industries replaced trades with mechanisms like assembly lines to increase production and make it more efficient; Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, describes this as the division of labor. As a result of the division of labor, Marx believed that the worker was extremely depreciated. Workers became easily replaceable and were of very little value. Workers need not know specifics about the entire process, rather, they need only know the bare minimum of information needed to participate in one small part the process. The owners of production discovered that because the general public needs some type of income, they will work for very little if that is all there is offer. The wages of general workers then decreased so that the owners of production could maximize profit. The alienation then comes from the resulting working conditions as they are doing repetitive tasks to receive a paycheck, and in most cases the labor they do does not directly benefit them, other than producing a paycheck, or further them intellectually. A person's "species-being" is what drives them; it makes them have a purpose for what they are creating. Through the separation of labor and the devaluation of workers, they no longer have a connection to the labor they are performing, and it pulls them apart from their "species-being", alienating them.
I see alienation every day. I, personally, work in a position as a student laborer. I am handed a list of items to accomplish and given specific directions as to how those tasks should be accomplished. If I depart from the directions in any way I am reprimanded or possibly fired. This leaves absolutely no room for personal interpretation, and I become a replaceable robot. Thankfully, this is only a part time job that helps pay rent while I am furthering myself intellectually in hopes of one day being in a position of complete intellectual freedom.

Reading Questions for "The German Ideology" and "Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts"


Note: Remember, use these reading questions to guide your exploration of the text and prepare for class. If you choose to use these readings as your post-for-credit, you must respond fully to at least one of these questions in your reflection.

"The German Ideology (1845)":

1. Explain Marx & Engels' theory of "historical materialism," or "the materialist position" by interpreting the following quote from the reading:
"The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society is at the same time its ruling intellectual force" (83).

2. How does the materialist position advocated by Marx "turn Hegel on his head?" In other words, explain how Marx transformed earlier theories on the relationship between ideas -and- political, economic, or social transformation. Now think about Kant's statement on humanity's intellectual progress, as realized in the Enlightenment. How would Marx critique Kant's work?

"Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844":

3. "The Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts" provide the basis for a radical critique of political economy. Sketch out this critique, illustrating how Marx built his theory on the following concepts: private property and competition, labor and production of commodities, objectification of the worker, alienation, species-being, and emancipation of the worker. How does Adam Smith's theory of the "invisible hand" of the market contradict the Marxist perspective?

4. Alienation is a key concept in Marxist logic. What are the implications of alienation for humanity's "species-being?" Describe the process of how the worker becomes alienated from the product of her labor, as laid out in detail in the reading. Reflect on the notion of alienation in our world today-- Can you see alienation at work in your own life, or the lives of people you know?

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