The interest of modern scientists in Karl Marx’s relevance has arisen due to the globalization of the world economy and the financial crisis that has hit the leading industrial countries in recent years. The opinion of Marx’s importance today is divided between two camps of scientists and critical scholars: one says that there is a certain historical “backwardness” of the teachings of K. Marx, because he lived in his time with his laws, and, based on this, they argue that his theory does not correspond to our time. Others believe that Marx is as relevant as has ever been before. Many works have been written that examine the theory of Marxism from the point of view of absolutely opposite philosophical and political positions. This essay’s purpose is to answer the question “Is Karl Marx relevant today?” with a positive reply and demonstrate why his ideas can still be used 200 years later after his death.
Before trying to answer the given question, it is necessary to say a few words about Mark’s initial ideas. Classical Marxism arose based on the observations of Karl Marx on the society of early capitalism, which at that time was just emerging from the “womb” of the feudal society under the heavy yoke of the sufferings of the proletariat. The society that Mark is focused on is based on the legacy of a society that is dying, declining, and trying to continue its existence with the last force. The decline of the feudal society is accompanied by a series of social and political revolutions, during which the old system of relations becomes only a particular of the new system of relations.
Marxism is based on the philosophical principles of G. Hegel, whose key principle was historicism. Karl Marx considered history to be a natural process, which is why it is considered “cognizable”. He considered the development of mankind as a natural-historical process, defining the patterns of mutual influence of scientific thought, technology, economic relations, politics, religion, art, and morality. It was his methodology that made it possible to predict the trajectory of the historical process as the result of the interaction of objective laws and accidents.
Marx was definitely not an “economist of the system,” seeking to prove that capitalism creates the basis for creating a “harmonious” society. Unlike Keynes, Marx was not an economic expert who would advise the ruling class on what they should do for the system to work. Marx is a revolutionary who is solely interested in understanding how exploited classes can use the disastrous contradiction of the system to advance their anti-capitalist strategy.
Marx never used the idea of a bourgeois economy as a part of their ideological activity to convince the public that generalized markets tend to reveal a stable equilibrium, and therefore capitalism represents the “end of history” where it will triumph forever. At the same time, Marx shows how the system moves from one stage of disequilibrium to another, reacting to the class struggle and counterstrategies launched by the bourgeoisie in the absence of a system striving for unreliable stable harmony. But as long as the public believes in this magic, bourgeois ideology remains the dominant ideology in society.
Karl Marx, for the first time in the history of philosophical thought, formulated a logically impeccable methodology of scientific knowledge of society, merging dialectics and materialism together. Moreover, Karl Marx exposed the nature of the contradictions of the capitalist mode of production, predicting its historical doom and the inevitability of the formation in which the age-old alienation of man from the means of production would be finally eliminated.
Mark’s greatest work is “Capital” where the analysis of the system of all economic relations does not begin with a consideration of wealth, since wealth is too broad and too general as a category, but rather focuses on the goods - as an important part of the economy. Karl Marx believed that goods played a huge role in the economy where their price is the most important factor.
In the first volume of his work, the author examined in detail the problem of the value underlying the price. It is determined by many factors, but the key criterion is the value of social labor, which is incorporated into the manufacture of goods. And each good is considered separately and is only an average of its kind. The basis of the calculation of the value of Karl Marx is social labor. Thus, the law of commodity exchange is formed, in which the exchange of goods takes place according to the value of each of them (more precisely, according to the equivalent of public working time spent on a product). In other words, barter is calculated from equivalent to equivalent.
The law of commodity exchange is essentially nothing more than the usual law of equilibrium, a kind of economic balance, in which the resource expended on the production of a commodity (which is made up of many factors) must be reimbursed. This thread can be traced from the time of natural exchange, when the goods were exchanged for an equivalent product directly, bypassing monetary relations. Subsequently, this practice grew into a monetary relationship, and the cost of resources expended on production was replaced by money value. This transformation has survived to this day. The relevance of calculating the value of a thing relative to the expended resource for production retains its leadership among the methods for evaluating the goods. The fundamental factor today is the cost of labor. This postulate is confirmed by the growing tendency of large companies to transfer their production to countries where the level of economic development is rather low and labor costs are quite cheap. This allows marketers to reduce the cost of goods and successfully promote them in the market. In this way, it is even possible to compensate for the overestimated cost of raw materials needed for production. And this is only one of many examples where we can surely say that Marx is still relevant today.
According to Karl Marx, there is a certain special product, the cost of which may include consumer interest in it. This might be machine tools, or specific medical equipment, which will be purchased despite its high cost even if the process of creating it was not that expensive since with its help it will improve the production, from which it is possible to extract profit. It was this component that enabled Marx to explain why it happens that a worker couldn’t receive the entire price component that is could be thought that be for him, but rather only it is part in the form of the wage for labor. Thus, the labor force that is bought on the labor market not only pays for itself completely but even serves as a way of extracting additional profit, which the capitalist appropriates for free under the capitalist system.
The second volume of “Capital” is devoted to the process of capital recourse. In his work, K. Marx analyzed most of the processes of capital movement and its turnover in the economy. Circulation is a process of continuous movement of earned money, which constantly brings new profit. Circulation can be both closed and open. A closed circuit is such a circuit, according to the results of which all the profit gained is returned to circulation. So often do modern enterprises that have just entered the market. In an open cycle, the profit is withdrawn and spent on various needs to achieve further development, which in its turn, will lead to potential higher profit. This is the other example that Marx's ideas are still relevant today.
In Volume 3, K. Marx summarized the issues discussed in previous volumes and studied the process of capitalist production as a whole. In other words, he considered a model for the production of goods and services in a full-fledged capitalist society. It is in Volume 3 that the process of transforming the value of a commodity into a price for its production is described in detail. Karl Marx believes that in a capitalist society, equivalent capital yields different-value profits. What is more interesting for the purpose of this essay is the 4th volume of “Capital”.
The fourth volume of “Capital” largely reflects the relevance of K. Marx's work in the modern world. It reflects the essence of the theory of surplus value. The modern economy of many countries is based on the surplus value principle. According to Karl Marx, it is not the labor itself that is involved in the creation of a product, but the ability of the worker to work, that is labor. He argued that labor is the same as a commodity as has 2 values. The first is the cost of funds necessary for the reproduction of labor, and the second is the source of the creation of an additional product. “Capital” fully reflects all the positive and negative aspects of the capitalist mode of production.
What certainly needs to be mentioned is that there is some opposition to Karl Marx’s ideas that are also true nowadays. Certainly, the industrial, working class from the moment of the life of the famous theorist has undergone significant changes in the present: first, today’s informatization and digitalization are common sense; and second, interstate relations became stronger and more solid than in times of Marx.
One argument not in favor of Karl Marx is that, in his opinion, the capitalist can be easily expelled from work; any other person can fulfill his role. However, it is not true. As J. Schumpeter noted, the capitalist is primarily the organizer and his work is very difficult, and cannot be easily replaced by others. The point here is that at the time of Karl Marx, simply had no idea about the structural resource as a set of interrelations between elements of the system.
The other view is given by the French sociologist Andre Gorts. He argues that the classical Marxist definitions are no longer suitable for the depiction of today's work. This is because every work now “includes a developing element of knowledge”. This understanding, however, is in no way a formal knowledge. A. Gorts distinguishes between “science” and “human capital” - living experimental knowledge, intellect, and fantasy. In modern conditions, even the most low-skilled workers are required to have imagination, enterprise, and the ability to detect out-of-the-ordinary solutions and introduce them into production practice[footnoteRef:1]. [1: Gorts A. Nematerial’noye. Znaniye, stoimost’ i kapital [Non-material one. Knowledge, cost, and capital]. Moscow, 2010. 208 p. (In Russian) ]
It should be noted that the economic laws that were discovered and disclosed by K. Marx are present in modern days. Most of them did not disappear despite the change in time and governance. Despite the fact of who the people in power are, no matter what they are guided by: either the slogans or the public opinion; the basis of our life lies in economic relations. A state built on capitalism may well be willing to call itself social, democratic, etc., but the interests of big business will always be above any verbal “cover-ups” for it.
In her book “Why Marx was right”, a supporter of K. Marx, Terry Eagleton, a leading British literary critic, and philosopher, wrote: “The main essence of the work of K. Marx is a human pleasure. A good life for him is one that consists not of labor, but above all of the rest. a Free self-realization is undoubtedly a form of “production”, but not one that is coercive. And rest is necessary because people take the time to organize their common affairs. Therefore, at first glance, it may seem surprising that the masses of full-time loafers and professional idlers are in no hurry to join the ranks of the Marxists. But everything falls into place if you remember how much effort must be expended to achieve this goal. Rest is what you have to earn”[footnoteRef:2]. T. Eagleton believes that the Marxist assessment is considered the only one that has been able to influence a large share of the entire globe. Hence the conclusion: right up to the time when capitalism continues to “make money”, Marxism is also obliged to be in the ranks. [2: Eagleton, T. (2012). Why Marx Was Right. [online] Levoradikal.ru. Available at: http://levoradikal.ru/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Terri-Iglton.Pochemu-Marks-by-l-prav..pdf [Accessed 16 Apr. 2019].]
At present, as K. Marx predicted, there is a deep differentiation in the income level of the population. Today, as T. Eagleton writes, the income of one Mexican billionaire is equal to the earnings of seventeen million of his poorest fellow citizens. Capitalism has generated more wealth than history has ever known, but the costs incurred by society, which include the extreme poverty of billions of people were enormous. Against this background, there is a high probability of significant depletion of resources due to capitalist management in the near future. Capital will act antisocially if it becomes profitable for it, and these days it can mean the bankruptcy of people on an unbelievable scale. What previously might have seemed an apocalyptic fantasy today is turned into a sound assessment of reality.
The political and revolutionary influence of Marxism is still fundamental and relevant. Many forget that even before the Bolshevik revolution, which spread Marxism throughout the world, Marx’s ideas focused on creating the first people's party in history. This party was the Social Democratic Party of Germany, which had a great influence on the history of Germany and all of Western Europe. Marx’s ideas, which became the basis for reforms in China in 1978, formed modern “socialism with Chinese characteristics”, which “illuminated the way for humanity, thanks to open historical laws, and pushed humanity towards freedom and independence” Xi Jinping at the ceremony in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing[footnoteRef:3]. [3: https://antizoomby.livejournal.com/636185.html]
Today, when a new wave of crisis tsunami is rising in the world when tens of millions of people are awakening to political activity and decisive action, and when the controversial process of consolidation of left forces is taking place, Marxism again becomes extremely relevant. It is addressed to those who are looking for a way out of the catastrophe impending on humanity, those who wish to gain confidence in a happy future for their children and grandchildren. However, Marxism today needs a renewed one that takes into account the new realities of the third millennium.
As Branko Milanovic once said, “As long as capitalism exists, Marx will be considered the most astute of his analyst. When capitalism ends, he will be considered the best critic of him. Whether we agree with this or not, we can be sure that Marx will be relevant for another 200 years. Of course, the teachings of Marx should not be taken as a book of recipes for saving capitalism, or only as a purely scientific analysis. The most important thing in the ideas of Karl Marx - he considered capitalism the last chapter in the drama of the struggle between man and nature.
Thus, it seems that Karl Marx created his own scientific program and paradigm of political economy, which was synthesized from the provisions of previous theories into an organic whole. Attempts to synthesize Marxism with the achievements of other schools and areas of economics have become much more productive, which is impossible without a certain freedom of creativity and discussion. The economic theory of K. Marx had a huge impact on almost all schools and areas of economic science in the twentieth century. Discussions around his theory, regardless of whether the participants divided the goals and values of K. Marx and his theory, played a significant role in the progress of science. The question of whether Marxism will become a leader in rethinking the role of capitalism and its future remains open.
References and Bibliography
- Marx, K. and Engels, F. (2004/1848) The Communist Manifesto. London: Penguin
- Eagleton, T. (2012). Why Marx Was Right. [online] Levoradikal.ru. Available at: http://levoradikal.ru/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Terri-Iglton.Pochemu-Marks-by-l-prav..pdf [Accessed 16 Apr. 2019].
- Heilbroner, R. (1999) The inexorable system of Karl Marx. In: The Worldly Philosophers, 136-69.
- Kremleva, E., Benz, D., Mamaeva, N. and Platonova, A. (2018). ACTUALITY OF MARXISM'S DOCTRINES IN THE MODERN WORLD. THE 200TH ANNIVERSARY OF K. MARX IS DEDICATED. Bulletin of Chelyabinsk State University, Вып. 61. С.(2018. No 7 (417), pp.184—191.
- Antizoomby.livejournal.com. (n.d.). 'Актуальность Карла Маркса' The relevance of Karl Marx. [online] Available at: https://antizoomby.livejournal.com/636185.html [Accessed 16 Apr. 2019].
- Fasenfest, D. (2018). Is Marx Still Relevant? Critical Sociology, 44(6), pp.851-855.
- Paulman, V. (2012). Is the teaching of Karl Marx relevant today? [online] Proza.ru. Available at: https://www.proza.ru/2012/02/15/380 [Accessed 16 Apr. 2019].
- Актуален ли марксизм сегодня? на портале Newsland. (2012). Актуален ли марксизм сегодня? - Newsland Is Marx relevant today. [online] Available at: http://newsland.com/user/4297726085/content/aktualen-li-marksizm-segodnia/4280921 [Accessed 16 Apr. 2019].
- Amin, S. (2019). The Relevance Of Marx Today| Рабкор.ру. [online] Рабкор.ру. Available at: http://rabkor.ru/columns/editorial-columns/2018/05/21/marx-2/ [Accessed 16 Apr. 2019].
- Gorts A. Nematerial’noye. Znaniye, stoimost’ i kapital [Non-material one. Knowledge, cost and capital]. Moscow, 2010. 208 p. (In Russ.)