SOCB42H3 Lecture Notes - Lecture 5: Workers United, French Revolution, The Communist Manifesto
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Classical Soc – October 19 – Lecture 5
- Marx: Biography
- Marx biography
o Born in 1818, worked and lived in the time of social upheaval (after the French
revolution), although he’s about 20 years younger than Comte.
o Did not believe that science would provide a new center for social order. Did not believe
that ideas or social concern held or broke societies together or apart.
o Our religions our breaking down, society’s not functioning.
The reason why everything’s in chaos is capitalism. The most important task for
any social thinker is to understand how deformation gets expressed in
capitalism, and bring consciousness to that situation (how is capitalism
o Father was a prominent lawyer; parents came from a long line of rabbis (very educated
Jewish family). When Jews lost all their rights, the family converted to Christianity.
o Wanted to be in the middle of action; moved to Berlin. Here he fell into radical circles,
especially one that was dedicated to Hegel, a prominent philosopher at the time. They
were interested in seeing how societies could become great over time; the human mind
changes over history.
o The group he hung out with only followed some of Hegel’s ideas. They wanted to take
his ideas to new extremes. He graduated from school and was too radical to get a job.
Managed to get a job in a magazine, got himself kicked out of the country for writing
something negative about Russia, and he got married and moved to Paris.
o Read Adam Smith and Ricardo. Met the lead anarchists of the day. At the same time, he
met Engles, who became his co-writer. ENgles was the son of a textile manufacturer- he
knew the real ins and outs of how factories worked. Through him, Marx met many of
the radicals and leaders of the workers movement.
o Everyone believed that there was going to be another revolution. It was a moment of
expectation. This is the environment that he wrote his book in.
o Was forced to leave paris and moved to Belgium. They met the Communist League, who
asked them to write “the Communist Manifesto”. He formed his basic idea: “class rules
o In 1848 revolutions broke out across Europe. The students and workers united against
big business owners and the government. But this revolution failed.
o Marx moved to London and got a job in a library. His writings got more analytical.
During that period in his life, he was rereading Adam Smith and Ricardo and pouring
over reports from factories. Got really poor and never got a real job. During this period,
three of his children died of malnutrition, and the rest were very sick all the time.
o Joined “Communist International”, and when his book came out it was a must read for
any radical. He eventually formed a new group that took over Paris for a few months
before their downfall in the form of a bloodbath.
o His death was barely noted in the public eye, despite the fact that he is now considered
one of the most important men in history.
- Ideology Critique
Marx thought that one his most important contributions to social sciences is
that it’s not ideas, but social practices that make the world go round. What is
real is what is most fundamentally decisive for everything else.
Religious teachings and philosophical ideas are in a way covers for what
is real (our material lives). Marx thought he needed to show that
religious is an expression of social tension by starting from a very
important author named Ludvic Feureroach. He had just written a very
controversial book called the essence of Christianity. He made the
proclamation that God isn’t real, and that human needs are real. It’s
because of those needs that we create gods. The irony is that we then
make ourselves dependent on God. God is those ideals we have that we
can never fully live up to (ie. Loving, fearless). Once we created those
gods, we think a lot about what they think about us, and we’re afraid of
casting a negative opinion about ourselves.
o Marx makes a general key movement within his thesies. There’s
a general shift:
Traditionally, if you want to think about religion
you think about theology (the truth of God,
what god wants, what god is etc.; when you
understand all this, you’ll understand what
humans need to do- if gods wants us to be pure,
we’ll be pure etc.
Conclusions about anthropology are dependant
on conclusions about god.
Feureroach wanted to reverse this
o Start with the truth about human
beings (what is basic structure of
humanity). Once you understand that,
you’ll understand where religions come
from and what God is. ( ie. If humans
are insecure, you’ll have an image of
god that is wholesome)
Marx agrees with this, but he
doesn’t think that it goes far
enough because it stops with a
general understanding of
human beings. You need to go
Sociology. The sources of
alienation, why people believe
they have to project an image
of a higher being, are social.
They’re caused by the social
world we live in and the kind of
work you do in that social