Anthony Giddens On Marx

Anthony Giddens, in Capitalism and Modern Social Theory, discusses the development and evolution of Karl Marx from a youth to a theorist with Marx analyzing his own time and specific epochs in history to determine what he later determined to be patterns of economic development towards capitalism.  Marx’s focus was on three subjects:  1. His theory of history that breaks all eras down to a simple analysis of how an economy is organized, 2. His belief that capitalism is only interested in maintaining itself by any means necessary, and 3. His belief that what makes us human is that we create.

Marx’s theory of history breaks down to a simple process of constant and continuous creation with each successive generation building on the previous, developing and progressively evolving industry as resources and conditions become available, needed, and exploitable.   These resources would include capital, natural resources and human labour.

Marx begins with Rome and theorizes that Feudalism began somewhere with the breakdown of the Roman Empire when the society of farmers could not sustain itself on fixed land and stagnant slaves to do all of the work.  Marx says nothing of how society graduated from Roman slave-working culture to Feudalism but he speculates that Rome caused Feudalism to appear in Europe.

Once Primitive Capital and its allies force the peasants out of the surrounding countryside and into cramped cities to live in boxes, the exploitation becomes greater, more progressive, and easier.  For Technology (or Technique as Jacques Ellul calls it), which is married to Capital, existed before steam, before electricity, and once Capital realized the potential for increased production, and hence great wealth, it exploited this technology and the peasants.  And similar to Marx, Ellul believes, and has proved, that once technology is unleashed, nothing can stop it, not even the most repressive or progressive government.  Rather, everyone can only run to keep up with it, because it is even more pervasive and insidious than Capital, which regulates itself through crises and cycles.

Marx states in Giddens (p. 19) that “the whole of what is called world history is nothing but the creation of man by human labour. . . .”  In each human there exists the need to create.  Creation manifests itself from the need to procreate, to the need to write, to create music, and art, to create large mammoth-like corporations, and to work and make a living.  There is this artistic urge in everyone.  Primitive Capital and Capital exploited this creativity by forcing agricultural labourers into the cities, forcing them to create/work or die.

This violent upheaval of forcing everyone into cramped boxes has not ended, rather it has succeeded from centuries of propaganda designed to indoctrinate whole groups of individuals that opportunity lay just around the corner.  The propaganda may have been sophisticated and sponsored by the Catholic Church or accounts that ranged from town criers and (secretly) Factory-published accounts advertising limitless and exotic opportunities and riches.

Marx did much to analyze capitalism as it truly functions better than anyone had before.  However, he analyzed its principles and tenets in isolated context, failing to consider other forces at work that promoted, and encouraged capitalism to birth and to grow.  In 2012, Capitalism and Socialism still exists in modified forms, but one wonders what Marx would make of our heavily bandaged international Capitalism and Socialism.

Source:  Giddens, A. (1981). Capitalism and Modern Social Theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.