The work of early philosophers has influenced the way society has adopted certain cultural practices, religious beliefs, and even political philosophies. Some of the influential philosophers from ancient history include Marx, Nietzsche’s and Freud. These three philosopher’s work has impacted the Asian region and Korean cultures, religion, moral thinking and values. Karl Marx was a philosopher from German, he was also an economist, journalist and revolutionary. Born from 1818-1883 he became one of the most influential figures in history through his theories on economics, political history and subsequent intellectual. His works include the famous communist manifesto, historical materialism, class struggle and the theories of alienation which explains the alienation of workers in a capitalist society.
Nietzsche just like Karl Marx was also a German philosopher who wrote on essays, criticized cultures and wrote on truth, morality, language, aesthetics, nihilism, power consciousness and the meaning of existence. He purported that an exemplary human being must craft his or her own identity through self-realization and also do so without relying on anything that transcends that life, either God or a soul. Freud, on the other hand, was another philosopher who made a great contribution to the field of philosophy, sociology and psychology. Freud is well known for his psychoanalysis work and the story of bringing the plague when he introduced psychoanalysis to the United States of America.
Although the work of these philosopher was written ancient years ago, their relevance has been evidenced in the Asian region and Korea. Marxist claims on capitalism are being evidenced in China where multinationals exploit local employees by making them work long hours and give them lower wages. His concept of alienation is also evidenced in industries where employees have no control over the process of production and are made to work longer hours with only few hours that belong to themselves. In addition, the communist manifesto has been experienced in Korea where the socialist influenced a liberation movements against the minority rule of the petit bourgeoisie. Nietzsche work is also being relevant in Asia and Korea through the creation of values. Korean institutions have created the confucianism values which guide institutions to aid societal development and growth. This is related to the work of Nietzsche which postulates that the overman must create his own values which influence others. It also relates to Nietzsche work which explains that the god of Apollo help society to maintain its culture, dignity and to implement justice. Lastly, Freud’s work on psychoanalysis and the use of psychoanalysis therapy in treating patients has influenced the development of psychoanalysis in Korea. Marx, Nietzsche and Freud’ s great work in philosophy has had positive and negative impacts on society, particularly in Korea and the Asian region.
Marx work, contributions and their relation to Asia and Korea.
Karl Marx’s work can be traced from the history of materialism, class struggle and the communist manifesto. Historical materialism is a concept or methodology that was used by Marxist which focused on human societies and how they developed throughout history. Marx’s arguments postulate that history is a result of material conditions rather than ideas (Claussen). He asserted that the material conditions of a society’s mode of production, the union of a society’s productive forces and their relations to production determine a society’s organization and development (Claussen). He identified six stages within which these material conditions will develop particularly in Europe. He explained that there is the primitive communism stage, the slave society, feudalism, capitalism, socialism and a communism society (Claussen). Because Marx lived in a capitalist society, his work was more centred on how capitalism concentrated wealth in the hands of the few and created two classes in society. These classes are made up of the bourgeoisie (those who own the means of production) and the proletariats, those who work under the bourgeoisie.
Karl Marx claimed that the society is characterized by class struggle, rather than of by being based on consensus. He defined class struggle as the tension that exists in a capitalist society due to the fact that there are competing socio-economic interest and different desires between people of different social classes who existed in society. As a result, this class struggle played an important role in the history of capitalism which allowed class-based hierarchical systems (Claussen). As a result, the basis of social conflict is caused by the struggle between classes. Marx and Engel explained that the proletariat is a class made of people who earn their livelihood by selling their labor and have little or no choice but to work of those who own the means of production (Claussen). The bourgeoisie, on the other hand, is known to create their income or surplus of wealth with the value they get from exploitation of labor. Therefore, their income and their wealth dependent on their exploitation of the workers.
Because of the exploitation, the proletariat then suffers from four types of alienation. The first alienation which the worker experiences is the alienation from the product itself because the product is determined by the capitalist and the worker has no control over it. The second is alienation is the alienation from the process of production. According to (Claussen), workers are told what to do during the production of production, as a result, their labor is not voluntary but it is made compulsory due to wages. The third alienation is that the worker is alienated from himself during work. During working hours the worker does not belong to himself but to the owner, therefore his personality and behavior have to align with the work and production set by the capitalist. Fourthly, the worker is part of the competitive labor market which determines his wages. This competition for higher wages alienates workers from making a collective effort that allows the betterment of society.
The work of Karl Marx on materialism, class struggle and worker alienation has been highly evident in the Asian region including Korea. Materialism is highly evident in countries such as China and Singapore. According to (Pradella) Karl Marx, the material conditions of a society’s mode of production, the union of a society’s productive forces and their relations to production determine a society’s organization and development. Singapore and China have highly developed mean of production and productive forces of skilled labor which makes the country to be considered as a hug of production for many American companies like Apple (Pradella). This is because the country has material conditions of mode of production such as advanced technologies which makes it a developed country. Singapore on the other hand also has developed means of production such as technology, good infrastructure and society’s productive forces of skilled labor. All these resources have a positive relation to production, which aligns with Marxist theory of materialism.
Marx’s concept of class struggle and the alienation of workers is also evident in Asia today. According to (Gurman) in some Chinese plants, workers are alienated from their own work and are exploited by working longer hours. In addition, there has been evidence of poor working conditions and low wages. One good example is the case in which Apple attracted negative media publicity because it exploited workers in its Chinese plant. According to (Gurman), the workers worked long hours without being paid overtime and they were not allowed to have lunch breaks or deal with emergent personal issues during working hours. This case is an example of how Marx’s theory of alienation is evident in Asia particularly in China. Asian countries have been chosen as the hub of production by Western countries due to the availability of cheap labor and means of production.
Marx’s work on the communist manifesto also believed that as workers were pushed more and more into poverty, they would rise against their bosses and overthrow the capitalist society. According to (Claussen), Marx believed that the socialist propaganda would convince the workforce that it was better for production to be for human need rather than profit thereby persuading the proletariat to overthrow the capitalist systems. Marx continued to say that the revolution would be violent and there will be a phase which will see the proletariat being dictated with a working-class government that will manage the economy (Claussen). This will imply that the means of production, banks, transportation and land will then become publicly owned and a central plan will be created which would ensure that the goods produced will match the needs of the population. In addition, after a length of period the state will cease to exist as an alien organization and eventually the communist society will be achieved in which most forms of slavery, coercion and exploitation would end.
In Korea, Marxist has been evidenced in the history of a social movement which was closely related to communism and socialism that in turn formed part of the national liberation movement. This liberation movement which made a wave in Korea during the 1950’s was mainly influenced by socialism. According to (Shanin), the first independence march was influenced by socialist which was led by people who went to study in Japan. This march was made up of peasants, students, labourers who had the aim of seeking liberation from the petit bourgeoisie (Shanin). The socialist influenced an organized activity which aimed to revolve tenancy disputes, labor disputes and overthrowing the petit bourgeoisie and imperialism.
In order to ensure that there was a high influence, the socialists took control of the media and mobilized people even in the rural villages’ thus increasing enlightenment in night schools (YiChing-bok). The centre of discussion in the enlightenment schools was based on materialist interpretation and how the means of production were retained by the petit bourgeoisie. The socialist discussed strategies to overcome class structure, class contradictions and advocated for the formation of a united front which was based on anti-imperialism, anti-feudal bourgeoisie, and democratic revolution (YiChing-bok). These movements marked the qualitative change in the Korean society which made it become a socialist state.