The main objectives of this module are: to introduce students to Marxist political economy; compare the Marxist approach with alternative theoretical perspectives on capitalism and its drivers and contradictions; compare different approaches to key concepts in Marxian political economy; and examine critically the Marxist contributions to the study of development and contemporary capitalism.
Objectives and learning outcomes of the module
On successful completion of this module a student will be expected to be able to:
- Identify and understand the most important concepts, debates and problems in Marxist political economy;
- Critically interpret economic issues, problems and debates in the light of Marxist methods, concepts and contributions;
- Apply more developed analytical and critical skills through the ideas discussed in the lectures and through individual research;
- Enhance their communication and critical thinking skills through seminar debate and discussion.
Teaching takes place through a weekly 2 hour lecture and 1 hour tutorial.
Scope and syllabus
8 out of the following 10 topics:
- Value and Price
- Capital, Labour Process, Competition and Innovation
- Classes, States and Modes of Production
- Economic Reproduction
- FromSraffa to Okishio
- Marxism and Development
- Distribution and Unproductive Labour
- Finance and Interest-Bearing Capital
- Crisis Theory
- Method and Themes in Marxist Political Economy
This course will be delivered alongside the parallel module Marxist Political Economy and Development. Students will have the opportunity to attend all lectures and tutorials of various political philosophers.
Method of assessment
Assessment weighting: Exam 60% / coursework 40% (one essay of no more than 4000 words). Resubmission of coursework regulations apply.
Marxism is a method of socioeconomic analysis that analyzes class relations and societal conflict using a materialist interpretation of historical development and a dialectical view of social transformation. It originates from the mid-to-late 19th century works of German philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.
Marxist methodology originally used a method of economic and sociopolitical inquiry known as historical materialism to analyze and critique the development of capitalism and the role of class struggle in systemic economic change. According to Marxist perspective, class conflict within capitalism arises due to intensifying contradictions between the highly productive mechanized and socialized production performed by the proletariat, and the private ownership and appropriation of the surplus product (profit) by a small minority of the population who are private owners called the bourgeoisie. As the contradiction becomes apparent to the proletariat through the alienation of labor, social unrest between the two antagonistic classes will intensify, until it culminates in social revolution. The eventual long-term outcome of this revolution would be the establishment of socialism – a socioeconomic system based onsocial ownership of the means of production, distribution based on one's contribution, and production organized directly for use. As the productive forces and technology continued to advance, Marx hypothesized that socialism would eventually give way to acommunist stage of social development, which would be a classless, stateless, humane society erected on common ownership and the principle of "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs".
Marxism has since developed into different branches and schools of thought, and there is now no single definitive Marxist theory. Different Marxian schools place a greater emphasis on certain aspects of classical Marxism while de-emphasizing or rejecting other aspects, and sometimes combine Marxist analysis with non-Marxian concepts; as a result, they might reach contradictory conclusions from each other. Lately, however, there is movement toward the recognition that the main aspect of Marxism is philosophy of dialectical materialism and historicism, which should result to more agreement between different schools.
Marxist analyses and methodologies have influenced multiple political ideologies and social movements, and Marxist understandings of history and society have been adopted by some academics in the disciplines of archaeology, anthropology, media studies, political science, theater, history, sociology, art history and theory, cultural studies, education, economics, geography, literary criticism, aesthetics, critical psychology, and philosophy.
The Marxian analysis begins with an analysis of the material conditions and the economic activities should satisfy society's material needs. It is assumed that the form of economic organization, or mode of production, gives rise to, or at least directly influences, most other social phenomena – including social relations, political and legal systems, moral codes and ideology. The economic system and these social relations form a base and superstructure. As forces of production, most notably technology, improve, existing forms of social organization become inefficient and stifle further progress. Karl Marx observed: "At a certain stage of development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production or – this merely expresses the same thing in legal terms – with the property relations within the framework of which they have operated hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then, begins an era of social revolution.
These inefficiencies manifest themselves as social contradictions in society in the form of class struggle. Under the capitalist mode of production, this struggle materializes between the minority (the bourgeoisie) who own the means of production, and the vast majority of the population (the proletariat) who produce goods and services. Starting with the assumption that social change occurs because of the struggle between different classes within society who are under contradiction against each other, a Marxist analyst would summarize by saying that capitalism exploits and oppresses the proletariat, which leads to a proletarian revolution.
Capitalism (according to Marxist theory) can no longer sustain the living standards of the population due to its need to compensate for falling rates of profit by driving down wages, cutting social benefits and pursuing military aggression. The socialist system would succeed capitalism as humanity's mode of production through workers' revolution. According to Marxism, especially arising from crisis theory, socialism is a historical necessity (but not an inevitability).
In a socialist society private property, in the form of the means of production, would be replaced by co-operative ownership. A socialist economy would not base production on the creation of private profits, but on the criteria of satisfying human needs – that is, production would be carried out directly for use. As Engels said: "Then the capitalist mode of appropriation in which the product enslaves first the producer, and then appropriator, is replaced by the mode of appropriation of the product that is based upon the nature of the modern means of production; upon the one hand, direct social appropriation, as means to the maintenance and extension of production on the other, direct individual appropriation, as means of subsistence and of enjoyment
"The discovery of the materialist conception of history, or rather, the consistent continuation and extension of materialism into the domain of social phenomenon, removed two chief defects of earlier historical theories. In the first place, they at best examined only the ideological motives of the historical activity of human beings, without grasping the objective laws governing the development of the system of social relations ... in the second place, the earlier theories did not cover the activities of the masses of the population, whereas historical materialism made it possible for the first time to study with the accuracy of the natural sciences the social conditions of the life of the masses and the changes in these conditions."