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Lecture 6

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Dan Silver

Classical Soc – October 26 – Lecture 6 AGENDA - Alienation - CAPITAL o Mystification o Commodities o Exploitation - Alienation  your work loses purpose; it just becomes something you do as a means for an end… we do it so that we can stop doing it; Capitalism (working for wages in exchange for work; wage-work) separates us from the truest aspect of ourselves. o From productive activity  When you’re at work, you’re not producing things according to your ideas or vision, and you’re not working to directly satisfy your needs. If I’m making bread at home, I’m making it so that I can eat bread. But if I’m making bread at a bread factory, I’m making it for other people. Instead I’m working for the owner, who pays me a wage, in return for the right to use my labor in any way that he/she wants. I have sold my activity to someone else. I’m not expressing myself, I’m expressing the owner. As the DOL happens, my own feeling to my activity in the overall creation of a final product goes down. If I’m just tightening bolts on an engine doesn’t allow me to see the overall production of a car. What could’ve been the highest expression in the world becomes meaningless. o From the product  That thing I make is not mine, and the fact that I produced it doesn’t give me any special connection or right to use that product as I please. The owner didn’t put any work into it, you did, but it’s the owners. Let’s say you’re a worker and you want to acquire the product that you produce. You don’t get it because you made it, you have to get it by buying it. If you eat a piece of the bread you produced for the owner, you just stole bread, because it doesn’t belong to you. People in capitalist societies become more and more defined by what they consume instead of what they produce. Our personalities become defined by the clothes we wear, the car we buy, the colour of our ipod. What you make at work becomes a mere vehicle to get things that you consume. o From fellow workers  What could be a collective expression of contribution to what everybody else needs… it could connect us to our fellow workers. In a workplace, everyone’s in competition with everyone else to get the highest wages. They’re all making deals with the owner. The owner is pitting them against each other by threatening to fire someone who isn’t as productive as another. o From human potential  Working could be the deepest fulfillment of your humanity. Now it’s that area in our lives where we feel least human. The worker just becomes machine like creating a certain product. It happens in every capitalist enterprise. Turns human beings into cogs that help run that machine. o Alienation doesn’t just happen in your head, it is built in a certain way of existing on a day to day basis. You can’t think your way out of it- you may like your boss or the things you consume, but if you spend 8 hours a day being split apart, that’s what you’re doing. If you want to change your circumstances, you have to change the world. That’s Marx’s key idea. - Capital o Mystification  Marx is a debunker. If he sees something in the world that is surrounded by mystery, he tries to tear it down. He wants to show that things that seem magical are really human activities that are driven by human needs. If you think otherwise, you’re in the grips of an illusion. The task of a de-mystifier is to rip away that illusion.  There are 3 great realms of experience: theology, politics, and economics.  Theology had been demystified by a series of German authors. Emmanuel Kant demonstrated that it’s impossible for human beings to understand God independently of the structure of the human mind. (God is based on the structure of the human mind). David Strouss wrote a book called the Life of Jesus. It’s the first book that treated Jesus as a human being, not a god. Foyerlock said that the religious drive is really an expression of human needs. o The Pope and the church start looking like the Wizard of Oz (a little tiny man); the church looks like an instrument of human domination.  Politics… the king is the god on earth; the aristocracy was seen as a higher type of human being. That idea was wiped away in the blood bath of the French revolution. King Louis XIV was killed, and nothing happened. The skies didn’t turn over.  Economics seems to be missing that layer of aura and mystery. It seems like it doesn’t need to be demystified. It seems to be plain and clear as you try to make a deal for goods, you write about it in plain English (instead of Latin), you wear everyday clothes. But Marx disagrees. He thought that the realm of the market and of commodities and exchanges was more mystified than theology and politics, because it seems so unmysterious. For Marx, the market is a strange, other worldly supernatural place. It’s inhabited by things that looks like people, and people who are turned into things. It runs on exploitation. o “lambs of gods” o “whole world of capitalism is crack brained crazy” o Religion and politics wear their mysteriousness on their sleeves. But capitalist life is so mysterious that we don’t even see it. We’re so deeply meshed in its illusions that we don’t even see it. Once we get suffiencently amazed that we live in a topsy- turvy world, and then we can begin to expose its dark undercurrents, not in an accidental way, but a necessary way. o Commodities  What’s a commodity in daily life? Anything put forward as an item for exchange or purchase. But we have to go deeper. What type of existence does something have when it’s put up for exchange or purchase. We all from the time that we’re kids have had the experience of feeling like we can perceive the cost of a piece of property (ie. A Mercedes just looks expensive, especially when you put it next to a Hundai) It’s as if you can actually perceive it’s value or it’s price, and it’s as if this value is immediately given to be felt. It might seem in the same as looking at Christ or the King. Marx thinks that this is completely dillusional.  What is a commodity? An object outside us, that satisfies human wants. Commodities have a use-value; whatever it is that you can do with the object when you buy it. The Use-value is physical and sensible. You can measure it and see it with your eyes. The commodity’s relation to other things is irrelevant to the use-value. (ie. You put on a coat, it’ll protect you, regardless of the time or where you go)  Because it’s physical, there’s no mystery. But Marx
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