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A Critical Look At Marxism In Literature

1131 words - 5 pages

A Critical Look at MarxismMarxism is a political and economic philosophy originating with one, Karl Marx. Karl Marx was a German philosopher who lived in the nineteenth century. Marx outlined that the capitalist economic system is designed to keep the upper classes (the bourgeoisie) wealthy, while at the same time the lower classes (the proletariat) remain trapped at the bottom of a biased construct. "Marx defined ideology as 'the ruling ideas of the ruling class'" (Rivkin 237). The adversity is compounded because the proletariat is forced to support a system that repeatedly keeps them from improving their situation. Marx believed that the bourgeoisie would eventually be stripped of their political and economic power by the proletariat and all property would be placed in the hands of the government who would equally distribute the wealth of the community. In short, revolt will lead to a restructuring of the system. I seek to critique Marxism, point out some inconsistencies, and explain why it does not provide accurate insight into modern literature.Marxism could not exist without Hegel's "Dialectics", "a mode of philosophical analysis that saw the world as operating logically in that it moves from one premise to another"; each idea "determines or gives content and shape to the other. Without one you cannot have the other" (Rivkin 234). Also Marxism is based on a "base" and a "superstructure. The base is the bourgeoisie and the superstructure is everything else. The base feeds the superstructure and holds all the control. "For Marxism, texts belong to a superstructure determined by the economic base (the 'real relations of production'). To interpret cultural products is to relate them back to the base" (Culler 129).A major problem with Marx is that he believes this revolt of the proletariat would result in an ideal society. I find there to be an inconsistency here. Marx has no confidence in society as whole, and believes it to be based purely on money and power. Yet, he places a great deal of faith in the "government" to fairly distribute wealth? Who decides what is fair, and who makes up such a government? The result of such a revolt would never be the ideal. Marx fails to note the human condition: greedy and self-serving. His lack, in the ability to see the holes in his own ideas, makes Marx's concepts a little hard to support.Marxism says that a writer is merely creating what the bourgeoisie want him to express and that literature reflects the values and ideals of the ruling class. "Culture is capitalism's way of getting people to construe domination as freedom" (Rivkin 232). Literature and culture simply convey "the values, ideals, and imperatives of capitalism," from a Marxist standpoint (Rivkin 233). Writers draw on their surroundings and on their experiences, so of course they would write about the life that they were living. It is hardly surprising that social and economic conditions directly influence how we live our lives or what we...

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