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Marxist Doctrine Of Alienation – It’s Relevance To The Nigerian Society

Marxist Doctrine Of Alienation  – It’s Relevance  To The Nigerian Society

Karl Marx was born in May 5, 1818, in the City of Trier (Rhenish Prussia) Germany. He was born into a Jewish family that later renounced the Jewish faith to embrace Christianity. His father was a lawyer.1 At the age of 17, Marx entered the University, first at Bonn and later in Berlin where he read law, majoring in history and philosophy. He concluded his University course in the University of Jenna, in 1841, where he obtained his Ph.D. degree, submitting a doctoral thesis on the Philosophy of Epicurus.2

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After graduating from the university, he worked as a journalist. Marx became a severe critic of the existing economic and political order. In 1848, Marx and his friend Engel wrote the “Communist Manifesto”. He wrote his massive major work – “Das Kapital” in 1867. He wrote among others, two articles entitled “On the Jewish Question” and Introduction to a “Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right”, in 1843. He was the greatest socialist writer of the 19th century, socialism as an ideology was heavily influenced by Marx’s views.3
Karl Marx died in London on March 14, 1883, two years after the death of his wife, Jenny.4

The influence of Romantic Philosophy, popularized at the University by August Von Schelgel, can be seen in Marx’s early poetic efforts.5 The University of Berlin was the great stronghold of Hegelian philosophy, which Marx was so much in love with. Marx held that Hegel’s principles are of three folds; (i) Thesis: Reality is an embodiment of ideas and spirits (ii) Antithesis: Ideas and Spirits move dialectically (iii) Synthesis: Reality moves dialectically.6 All these made Marx to be regarded as Hegelian in reasoning and in thought. He later abandoned Hegelianism but he embraced Hegel’s principle of dialectics and what moves dialectically according to him was matter. The opposing view to the “Absolute Spirit” or idealism is materialism which as a concept holds that ultimate reality constitutes in matter.
Feuerbach gave materialism a modern thought that matter is the ultimate in reality which is substantial and can explain the dynamics in reality rather than spiritual. Social development results from changes in material development. Historically, changes in material order are from simple to complex and leads to the changes in social order. According to Marx, matter is anything of objective reality aside the human mind.7
Karl Marx theory of class struggle was influenced by Saint-Simon. He sees the history of human society as the history of human conflicts. Marx economic theory is due to both Locke and Ricardo. They helped in shaping Marx’s view on man in relation to goods and services, the economics of production and distribution, exchange, capital and labour value.8
Putting together the works of Hegel, Feuerback, Saint-Simon, Locke and Ricardo, Marx now interprets the history of development in the following ways; the basic constituent of reality is matter, matter moves dialectically, therefore matter is the force of production and distribution.9

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The traditional meaning of the term “political economy”, is that it is the branch of the art of government concerned with the inquiry into the nature and causes of the wealth of nations.10 Marx writings on political economy was not only to criticize the system but also to present his own theory (i.e. factors that influenced his writing).

2.3.1    The Theory of Class Struggle
Karl Marx believed that every conflict rested upon economic issues, which were struggles between owners of means of production (industries and factories), known as the capitalist or the bourgeoisie and the workers in the factories and industries called the labourers or proletariat. These struggles he believed, were basic in the capitalistic society.11
Marx held that capitalism has produced two classes – the bourgeoisie (the ‘have’) and the proletariat (the ‘have not’), since they are “fetchers of water and hewers of wood”.12 With increased productivity and other inherent contradictions, the classes become more pronounced. At the initial stage of the relations of production the workers are not aware of the existence of the classes. But with the emergence of class-consciousness, exploitation and expropriation of the workers, surplus value, and alienation; as a result of the level of education of the workers, they become aware of their position in the productive configuration.13

2.3.2    The Labour Theory of Value
This theory is used to explain how the bourgeoisie uses the surplus value to the detriment of the proletariat. The labour theory of value is about the intrinsic worth an object has. The value of an object may be defined as object plus labour.14 The economist is interested in the exchange or real value of an item or commodity. The exchange rate is the amount of money one gets in exchange for an item or community. This is determined by the amount of labour used to produce the commodity. The price of such commodity is determined by market forces while the value is determined by the labour time.15

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2.3.3    The Theory of Surplus Value
This theory is based on the labour theory of value. Surplus value is the excess in value derived when value of the cost of hiring labour and tools is subtracted from the intrinsic value of a commodity. That is, the profit made by the owners of the means of production.17
Driven by the excessive perchant to make profit, the bourgeoisie forces the proletariat to provide an excess which they keep to themselves instead of using part of the profit to uplift the working conditions of the proletariat. The surplus value, Marx argues belongs to the proletariat as of right.18
The point is that the use of the surplus value by the bourgeoisie is exploitative. The capitalist thus drives the proletariat to the level of subsistence. What the proletariat is paid is not enough to maintain himself and his families.19 The proletariat is then driven into alienation.

—This article is not complete———–This article is not complete————
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