The Social Origins Of Marxism

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Marx is credited as being one of the founding fathers of sociology and the social sciences (along with Durkheim and Weber). Marx lived through the majority of the 19th century (1818-1883), when the Industrial Revolution and capitalism were at their peak, and his work was a critical analysis of this relatively new form of society. The aim of this essay is to explore the social origins of Marx’s theories with a look to assess how useful these social origins are when it comes to understanding the strengths and weaknesses of his theories. I will first briefly describe some of Marx’s most well known theories of Human Nature, the Proletariat and
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The products of human work are the ‘objectification’ of an individual’s human nature; the individual is in what he makes and through this objectification we ultimately come to understand ourselves (ibid: 92). Furthermore, the application of the human mind’s unlimited conceptual abilities to our work means an unconstrained life with unlimited possibilities, and therefore work is what liberates the human. This is how Marx comes to theorise that work is the distinctive essence of his human nature that sets us apart from all other species.
However, Marx writes that capitalism has warped this sole idiosyncrasy of humans by placing an individual’s work at the center of his/her survival; it has constrained work to the means by which we survive, just like an animal, hence Marx’s assertion that in a capitalist society the individual erroneously feels most free in the ‘animal’ aspects of life like eating, sleeping, and propagating: “What is animal becomes human, and what is human becomes animal” (Marx, 1964; cited from ibid: 95); Marx sees this as problematic for society. ‘Free labour’ can only be achieved once the ‘animal aspects’ of life are satisfied (ibid.), but Marx finds this term ironic; ‘free labour’ refers to the legal right of the individual to enter a labour
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