Thursday, January 23, 2014

Marx and Singer Revisited

Marx's use of melodrama in the Communist Manifesto makes for a powerful document when considering his purpose and target audience. The language that Marx uses is perfect for the average proletariat reader, crafted in such a way calls back to church-like experiences. It is clear in the beginning sections that he considers the bourgeois a revolutionary class, praising their virtues and the secularization that came with modernity. However as Singer explains in his article, in a classically tragic notion, these same virtues become the flaws of class stratification and exploitation. 

"The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his “natural superiors”, and has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous “cash payment”. It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervour, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom — Free Trade. In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation."

The notions of capitalism and free trade as virtues now become to Marx flaws, the vehicles through which the bourgeois have grasped control of the working-class wage laborer. He explains that human history has always been a history of class struggles, what Singer may describe as productive tension (the balance between cooperation and competition). But no matter how dependent the proletariat may seem on the bourgeois, Marx explains that the working class has a chance to rise up, that the same economic stabilities which are valued so much by the upper class are ultimately their downfall.

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