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Marxist theory
Karl marx 1818 1883
2. What is Marxism? Marxism is a philosophy of history. It is also an
economic doctrine. Marxism is also a theory of revolution and the basic
explanation for
Social life is based upon the conflict of interest. Just as Darwin discovered
the law of development of
organic nature, so Marx discovered the law of development of human
history. (Engels,
1884) By materialism, Marx meant that the engine that drives society is the
Consciousness is from the very beginning a social

Aim of maxism

As you will hopefully all remember from history class, the aim of
Marxism is to bring about a classless society, based on the
common ownership of the means of production, distribution,
and exchange; it sees progress as coming about through the
struggle for power between different social classes. I wont go
through the entire Communist Manifestoor Das Kapital with
you, but only focus on those ideas and concepts that shape
Marxist literary criticism. ~ Marx, reality is material, not spiritual. Our culture, he
says, is not based
on sO:lle dlv~ne essence or the Platonic forms or on contemplation of timeless abstractIons.
It IS not our philosophical or religious beliefs that make us who we are for
,,:e are n,ot spiritual ~eings but socially constrncted ones. We are not products of divme
deSIgn but creatIOns of our own cultural and social circumstances.

"Men can be distinguished from
animals by consciousness, by religion
or anything else you like. They
themselves begin to distinguish
themselves from animals as soon as
they begin to produce their means of
subsistence, a step which is conditioned
by their physical organisation. By
producing their means of subsistence
men are indirectly producing their
actual material life.

According to Marx, reality is material, not spiritualwe are not products of

divine design but creation of our own cultural and social circumstancesthe material
world will show us our reality---social groups, making all of our actions interrelated. By
examining the relationships among socioeconomic classes and analyzing the super
structure, we can achieve insight into ourselves and our society (84) Therefore, by
analyzing the relationships in literature between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, as
well as capitalism and Marxist theory readers can gain further insight into their
consciousness and the society they live in.

Unlike other materialist philosophies, Marxism does not just

seek to understand the world, but wants tochange it.
Historical materialism
a mass of people without organisation and without a consciousness of its
own demands cannot make history, and nor can a "leader" who does not
voice the aspirations of masses. The subjects of history are not the "forces of
production" nor the "laws of history," but instead people make history always
acting under certain material and spiritual conditions. It is these conditions
and how people sought to change them which give meaning to the stories
that are told in history.

a mass of people without organisation and without a

consciousness of its own demands cannot make history, The
subjects of history are not the "forces of production" nor the
"laws of history," but instead people make history always acting
under certain material and spiritual conditions.
It employs the approach of historical materialism;
according to this theory, changes in material conditions (how
people produce the bear bare necessities of life) affect how
society is organised. This means that how men work defines
their existence and aspirations. It is a ground-up view of human
society: the higher qualities of culture (the superstructure)
are founded on the lower qualities of life (the base). This

process of thinking is called the material dialectic. The conflict

is sometimes realized as a clash of management and
labor, sometimes simply as friction between socioeconomic classes. They are two
parts of a whole that struggle against each other, not just physically but also ideologically.
Marx referred to this confrontation as dialectical materialism. Actually the
term includes more than class conflict, for it refers to the view that all change is the
product of the struggle between opposites generated by contradictions inherent in all
events, ideas, and movements. A thesis collides with its antitheses, finally reaching
synthesis, which generates its own antithesis, and so on, thereby producing change.

of human society: the higher qualities of culture (the superstructure) are founded on the
lower qualities of life (the base). This process of thinking is called the material dialectic.

Base and superstructure

In Marxist theory, human society consists of two parts: the base and superstructure;
the base comprehends the forces and relations of production employer-employee
work conditions, the technical division of labour, and property relations into which
people enter to produce the necessities and amenities of life. These relations determine
societys other relationships and ideas, which are described as its superstructure. The
superstructure of a society includes its culture, institutions, political power
structures, roles, rituals, and state. The base determines (conditions) the

The base primarily determines the superstructure; in orthodox Marxism, this was a
one-way street, but later critics tinkered with the model and found that the superstructure affects
the base as well (though the base-to-superstructure influence is still the predominant one).
The way in which society provides food, clothing, shelter, and other such necessities
creates among groups of people social relations that become the foundation of
the culture. In other words, the means of production structures the society. Capitalism,
for example, divides people into those who own property, and thereby control
the means of production, the bourgeoisie, and those who are controlled by them, the
proletariat, the workers whose labor produces their wealth. (Although in American
society today we have come to use the term bourgeoisie to mean "middle class," it
originally designated the owners and the self-employed as opposed to wage earners.)
Because those who control production have a power base, they have many ways to ensure
that they will maintain their position. They can manipulate politics, government,
education, the arts and entertainment, news media-all aspects of the culture-to
that end.
In Guy de Maupassant's short story "The Diamond Necklace," we are given a
clear picture of a society that has unequally distributed its goods or even the means
to achieve them. Madame Loisel has no commodity or skills to sell, only her youth
and beauty to be used to attract a husband. Without access to those circles where she
can find a man with wealth and charm, she is doomed to stay in a powerless situation
with no way to approach the elegant lifestyle that she desires. The material circumstances
of her society have relegated her to a dreary existence from which she can
find no exit. Her husband is so conditioned to accept the situation that he does not understand
her hunger to be a part of a more glamorous and elegant world. He is content
with potpie for his supper because he has been socially constructed to want
nothing else.
The result was ongoing class struggle, such as the one depicted
the "The Diamond Necklace" between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. The
Marxist, then, works to reveal the internal contradictions of capitalism so that the proletariat
will recognize their subjugation and rise up to seize what is rightfully theirs.
As he states in a famous passage from The Communist Manifesto, "Let the ruling
classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose
but their chains. They have a world to win. Working men of all countries, unite!" Although

Mme. Loisel makes no move to create a revolution, she is keenly aware of the
source of her sufferings. Rather than physically revolting against her circumstances, Rather than
physically revolting against her circumstances, however, Mathilde escapes her circumstances
through fantasy, desiring the things that the upper classes possess and thereby accepting
bourgeois values as her own. it is not through revolution but through capitulation, an act that
supports the storys irony As she tells her affluent friend, who is "astonished to be so

familiarly addressed by this common personage," "I have had some hard days since
I saw you; and some miserable ones-and all because of you-".The fall of the
bourgeoisie and the victory of the proletariat Marx deemed to be "equally inevitable,"
and the new system born of such a revolution would be a classless society in which
everyone had equal access to its goods and services, such as food, education, and
medical care.
The Dramond Necklace" is significant to all that is depict that the superstructure is
controlled by bourgeiose
. Loisel's ,husb~nd is a clerk whose employers have power
ovel IllS plofessronal lIfe and therr socral relationships with him also reflect that
pO\~er. They lead vel:y di.fferent kinds of lives.

It is the material world that has created Mme. Loisel, for example, and it is the
material world that destroys her. Her desire for expensive objects and the circles
where they are found, generated by the capitalistic system she lives in rather than
by any character flaw, lead her to make a foolish request of a friend. When she loses
the "diamond" necklace, she too is lost. Her relationship with her friend, as well as
any hope for a return to the glittering world of the reception, is shattered. She is
destroyed not by spiritual failure but by an economic system that has created a superstructure
that will not allow her a better life. She is trapped by material circumstances,
and the final revelation about the false jewels deepens her sense of alienation
and powerlessness.
s own antithesis, and so on, thereby producing change.
Dialectical materialism The Marxist is aware that the working class does not always recognize
the system
in which it has been caught. The dominant class, using its power to make the prevailing
system seem to be the logical, natural one, entraps the proletariat into holding
the sense of identity andworth that the bourgeoisie wants them to hold, one that will
allow the powerful to reIr;.ain in control. Monsieur Loisel, for in,stance, is content with
his lot. He aspires to no more than he has and has difficulty understanding his wife's
dreams. As for Mme. Loisel, she longs for things that "most other women in her situation
would not have noticed." She believes herself born for luxuries-that is, a misplaced
member of the middle class. They both experience the consequent debilitation
and alienation described by Marx. Before the loss of the necklace, M. Loisel is given
little credit for what he does. As a "minor clerk" he has little personal connection tohis labor and
is given no credit for what he produces. After the loss the situation is
i~tensified, for the couple are finally shut out of all social contact wi~h bourgeois soCIety.

In the end Mme. Loisel moves to carry out what Marx calls upon the proletariat
to do. She realizes that her life has been controlled by others. Freed of the debt she
has owed her wealthy friend, she determines to free herself of the social enslavement
to her by speaking openly and honestly at last. In doing so, she becomes painfully
aware of the unsuspected depth of the control the latter has had over her. The neckl~
ce is false. She has been stripped of her dreams and forced to suffer for nothing.
Fmally, by speaking clearly she engages in revolution by refusing to want any longer
what the bourgeoisie values.

In the Marxist tradition, literary texts are not mysterious creations to be judged according to
timeless artistic criteria, but material products of work,
Marxist theory is a way of looking at a story, movie, or society in ways that
bring out different meanings. It is meant to look at things in a different
perspective, looking at things in a way that change your views.