The Marxist Society
Poster I have designed and
information I have gathered.
I organize bi-weekly meetings for the Marxist Society and we intend to plan trips and more guest speakers for additional port talks. I run a book club where we discuss readings and write a summary of the ideas discussed after every meeting for the group.
This is also essential to my practice as I argue that we are living in a traumatized society due to neoliberal capitalism. Therefore to find alternative ways of existing within the world and how I can integrate this into my artistic practice it is essential to read and explore ideas such as Marxism. These are the issues I have explored.
DEPENDENCE ON CAPITALISM:
We start with learning about the movement from feudalism to capitalism. Mike Gonzales in The Rebel’s Guide to Marx mentioned that a new law defined peasant traditional right to gather wood from the forest as theft because the wood was private property. This effectively made people dependent on capitalism because they lose living skills that would be passed down through generations. Here Marx realised that a “capitalist economy based on private property would still provide no guarantees for the poor and propertyless” (Gonzalez, 4).
“The worker becomes an ever cheaper commodity the more commodities he creates. With the increasing value of the world of things proceeds in direct proportion the devaluation of the world of men…[the] realisation of labour appears as a loss of reality for the worker… the alienation of the workers in his product means not only that his labour becomes an object, an external existence, but that exist outside of him”. (Gonzalez, 6-7)
Marx believed that the work humans do should fulfill our species essence. For those in poverty who had nothing to sell but their labour, work can destroy workers. To “factory owner, a worker is simply an abstract idea...” (Waterburton)
“Alienation is a disorienting sense of exclusion and separation. Factory labor under capitalism alienated the workers from the product of their labour. They made stuff they couldn’t afford to buy” (Waterburton) Furthermore, by splitting jobs into smaller repetitive tasks it made work “tedious, empty and bleak” (Waterburton) “they became cogs in a gigantic machine. Workers lived for a few hours at home when they could eat, sleep and relax. The rest of the time they weren’t fully alive. This work also alienated them from each other… [The only way out is] for the workers to organize and revolt… [which lead] to his famous rallying cry Workers of the World Unite, You Have Nothing to Lose but your Chains” (Waterburton)....
I think alienation is something we all experience. This is definitely something that I want to address within my work, specifically the consciousness film.
SOCIETAL VALUES: How can you change values in society? In our discussion an individual brought up an example of a fine for smoking in that town in Italy. Although the fine is no longer implemented the behaviours changed where people no longer wanted to smoke. Is this really changing values or just behaviours? This of course brings up the question of the difference between the two.
Another approach to change would be rather than punitive action a self willing change could emerge. Although it was mentioned that this may be too idealistic and utopian to hope for. One approach to changing values we spoke about was through education.
Another approach we discussed was through healing the individual, to take on a holistic approach to life. Rather changing values from a top-down approach. One individual argued that people have certain value systems because it solves certain issues for them and to move forward from an highly individualistic society to a collaborative community society we need to resolve those issues. If enough individuals heal this subsequently catalyzes changes in values and society.
I would argue we need an equilibrium of bodily and rational intelligence. If we neglect the emotional wellbeing, it allows for not only difficult unnecessary suffering for individuals but for those individuals to further traumatize future generations. In valuing this essential aspect of life we can reconnect to our own wellbeing and empathize and care for the wellbeing of others. I personally believe it is harder to dehumanize when you are more connected with your wellbeing…
The writer Thomas Hubl sheds some light on how we should approach change “There is an [climate] urgency… [that] might induce the feeling that we don’t have time to take care of trauma... We need the urgency for the habits [to change them] but we need to slow down to digest the past. We need both and it's a paradox… [if you don’t deal with the trauma] it will slow you down anyways. If you don’t slow down voluntarily then you will be slowed down by all kinds of events… skilful intervention knows when to speed up and when to slow down. Just running is not the best solution. We need both. We need intelligent running and intelligent slowing down” (Hubl, State of emergence)
The possibilities of having more localized power, rather than a unilateral form of power. These smaller bodies of government interact with larger bodies. A step beyond municipal power, with active participants organizing local lives. Again to have such a mode of life you would need individuals to desire to participate within their local community which returns to our question of how you change values. Additionally, having economic stressors along with the events and challenges of everyday life.
SOFT POWER VS HARD POWER:
This is a really great point as history has shown us how Marx’s name was taken out of context and “used to justify tyranny and exploitation—claims that flew in the face of everything he believed” (Gonzales, 1)
Here arises the question between hard power and soft power. I referred to the activist Deeyah Khan who talks to extremist groups and by trying to understand the human behind the rhetoric and ideology. She creates change within the individuals who sustain these groups. This may be one tactic in which value systems can change without bloodshed. I think this notion of soft power although less obvious and a slower form of power can still catalyze change. In terms of my practice, I think it can take a soft power through exploring ideas.
AN INTERSECTIONAL APPROACH:
Intersectionality is the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage. “Intersectionality emerged in the North as a response and challenge from Black and Third World feminists [third world liberation movements] to Northern feminist theorizing that was Eurocentric and centered around the experiences of white, middle-class women. (Sara Salem 407)
Salem, in Intersectionality and its Discontents, argues for a move away from only considering “‘dual systems’ – patriarchy and capitalism – [as they neglect] race, sexuality and other social relations of power” (Salem, 408), and toward an intersectional approach.
I know this is something to consider in my consciousness film and be aware of who i place within the video
DOCILE BODY THESIS VS HUMAN AGENCY
The second chapter of the Rebel’s guide to Marx ends with “When some of his contemporaries argued that the German workers were not politically educated enough, Marx contemptuously replied that they had class consciousness in abundance” (Gonzales, 8). Although I am 100 percent for human agency and there is something to be said of lived experience rather than theorizing I also remember Foucault; The Docile Body Thesis.
“Foucault ‘Docile Bodies,’ comes from the larger work Discipline and Punish, in which Foucault argues that individuals are under constant surveillance and regulation in ways that are often subtle and thereby seemingly invisible, leading to normalization and acceptance of such systems” As Dellinger and Williams explains “through self-surveillance and everyday disciplinary practices, individuals internalize and reproduce hierarchies of social status and power” (Kristen Dellinger and Christine Williams 152). Therefore individuals can adopt and transform their bodies “into ‘carriers’ or representatives of the prevailing relations of domination and subordination” (Dellinger and Williams 1997: 152) to obey their culture’s demands. “Training’ is an important facet of the operation of power upon the docile body, and Foucault focuses on a range of institutions from prisons, to the military, to schools as he describes the settings in which docile bodies are disciplined”. It is important to remember that individuals can internalize, accept, and even reinforce their own social status (even if it goes against what could benefit them)—whether it being of the position of the dominant or subordinate.
Foucault theory has limitations as there are some instances where adopting the “inferior persona” can be used for a source of power. An example from Trading in broken things: Gendered performances and spatial practices in a northern Vietnamese Rural-Urban Waste Economy, Minh Nguyen explains how working in junk trade can not be viewed as any other trade as the notion of waste, and by extension dirt, is deeply rooted in negative connotations. Their everyday practice in performing “junk trader” establishes an inferior persona. However the individual working as a “junk trader” can negotiate power because their performance in accepting what society deems as an “inferior role” may be a trope to use to negotiate the best prices, therefore, forming their own power. However this does not mean there is no internalization of these negative connotations
A limitation in adopting only a docile body perspective to reality is that it diminishes the power of human agency; “[this] lets…[people] off the hook’ ... by relegating… [their] agency or identity in its account” (Pearson, 1258).
I personally believe we have to keep both in our minds as we proceed with considering change and how we interact with the world. Humans have power and agency but it Is definitely a possibility that individuals have internalized their positions in life and accepted them. I don’t think it's one or the other.
BUREAUCRACY FORMS A DEHUMANIZATION
Bureaucracy can act as a way to make individuals more of an abstract idea as we never see the process of the creation of the product. You do not need to see, care, or empathize with an abstract idea. This deepens that sense of Alienation
THESIS: OUR STARTING POINT, Predominate ideology, the status quo.. In regards to society it is a term used to describe exactly where we are at this given moment in time.
ANTITHESIS: THE OPPOSITION. In order for change to occur there needs to have some opposition. MECHANISM FOR CHANGE
SYNTHESIS: THE CLASH. When the thesis and antithesis clash and form a new way of existing. The meeting of the two groups. This is a process so it means it does not end. The synthesis becomes the new thesis and the cycle continues.
“machine is not the enemy—only the purposes it serves. That, as Marx saw clearly, is the paradox: the more human beings are able to produce, the nearer they get to the possibility of freeing human beings from the slavery of labour. Yet, under capitalism that possibility is snatched away; the machine instead of liberating humanity, enslaves it more and more (Gonzalez, 20)
Working class is seen as the means to revolution:
“The working class was the agent of socialist revolution. That was not because Marx idealized workers in any way, nor thought them stronger or better fighters or somehow exempt from all the contradictory attitudes that arise in capitalist society. Individual workers could be selfish or sexist or cruel as anyone else it was the unique position workers occupied in the new capitalist society that gave them both an interest in changing society and the potential power to do so” (20)
The Ruling Class
“The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, ie the class which is the ruling material force of society is at the same time its ruling intellectual force” (Gonzalez, 11-12)
“What are presented as common sense, as universal, general truths are in fact what Marx called ideology- in other words, a way of seeing and making sense of the work from the point of view of one class And that class controls not only the means of representation, of explanation. So, for example, nationalism suggests everyone in Britain has a common interest, yet that only serves to veil deep seated class conflicts at the heart of society. Ideology maintains social cohesion in the interest of the rulers for most of the time—concealing the interest from behind the mask of truth.” (Gonzalez, 12)
Left may have failed to allow for mourning. Individuals feel as though something has been taken away from them and idealize the past, a nostalgic past which never existed. Falsehood. Ideology can present an umbrella that connects but also can misdirect the blame of alienation and misfortune in life to migrants rather than holding the unfair distribution of wealth accountable.
Capitalism ruptures/destroys pre-existing socio-cultural relations between people/communities.
This increases alienation. The deeper the alienation the more we may consume/play into the role of capitalism to soothe that pain. The rise in nationalism and identity politics are direct responses to increase/intensification of alienation. This causes neoliberal capitalism.