Marx's Critique of Capitalism

3124 Words13 Pages
by Tom Chance

Throughout his work, Marx's primary concern was the intellectual destruction of capitalism. Despite his belief in a progressive history, and in the inevitable downfall of capitalism, Marx thought that in destroying capitalism's intellectual support he could hasten its real demise and usher in a socialist era. Many of his works can be seen as reactions to the growing status of the relatively new field of political economy, pioneered by figures like Adam Smith, David Ricardo and Thomas Malthus, whose increasingly laissez-faire theories promoted an extension of exactly the features of capitalism that Marx thought were most defective. Hence his critique ranges from attacks on the complacent liberal bases of capitalism to complex
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But Marx went further, to claim that it is "the mode of production [that] constitutes the economic structure of society and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness" (Marx, 2001b : 425). To illustrate, a society that is predominantly based around farming will have an economy based on the seasons, markets, and definite social relations between farm owners and farm workers. If, as Marx claimed, it is the "social being [of men] that determines their consciousness", then it is the case that an individual's consciousness is determined by the forms of social consciousness, which are themselves determined by the modes of production in said society. In other words, Marx thought that it was in the economic superstructures that social and political strife have their origins, and so that political theory ought to concern itself with modes of production, rather than abstract ideas such as justice and liberty. And it was in the structures of capitalism that Marx found his major concern, and which he saw as both the source of all strife in the developed world, and as a necessary step in the development of society.

In fact, some Marxists claim that we should not criticise capitalism because it is unjust, but because "it crushes human potential, destroys fraternity, encourages the inhumane treatment of man by man, and has other grave defects generically different from justice" (Cohen : 139) Whether one accepts that
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