Karl Marx Capitalism and Class Conflict

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					         Karl Marx:
Capitalism and Class Conflict

              Lecture by

      Dr Christopher Kollmeyer

                           Sociology 4530
                              7 Feb. 2008
           Historical Materialism
             (Review From Last Lecture)
Historical change brought about by
  1. Class conflict
     • battle over surplus value
  2. Structural contradictions within society

Communism will be the “End of History,” but…
  – requires “class consciousness”
      class-in-itself  class-for-itself
       Structural Contradictions of
•   Social
    Cash-nexus replaces reciprocal social relations
      • “callous cash payment”
      • humans become commodities (wage-labour)
•   Economic
    Under-consumption or over-accumulation crisis

•   Political
    Capitalism “producers its own gravediggers”
    Marxist debate about capitalism’s
         political contradiction
Question: Is our government (1) a state within a capitalist
  society (i.e. neutral ) or (2) a capitalist state (i.e. biased
  against working class).

(1) “State with a capitalist society” argument
Friedrich Engels (Tactics of Social Democracy, 1895)
• Communists debate political strategy for class struggle (legal vs.
   illegal methods or just wait for capitalism to fail).

• Engels argues:
   – Universal suffrage (voting) = “sharpest political weapon” and
      “instrument of emancipation”
   – Armed conflict is a losing strategy
  Marxist debate about capitalism’s
       political contradiction
(2) The “capitalist state” argument

• Marx claimed that “The executive of the
  modern state is but a committee for managing
  the common affairs of the bourgeoisie” (CM).

• Capitalism and democracy are incompatible
  – Economic power = political power
   Why does the state favour capital’s interests?
Businesses is said to occupy a “structural privileged position”
  in society.
      •Workers need jobs and want social benefits
      •State needs tax revenue
      •But business can move somewhere else

Economic policy becomes “depoliticized.” Who governs
 matters little for class politics.
Conclusion: Democracy under capitalism must be partial
    Marxist Definition of Power
• The ability of a social class to realize its
  (objective) class interests.

• Politics = class politics = battle over surplus