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Many literary critics have not yet attempted to come up with any ideas which were related to Karl Marx and it is therefore very important to be able to make a clear and precise distinction between the specific political agenda and the socio-economic agenda of Karl Marx to the literary theories which emerged in the later years. Most of these Marxist literary critics like Terry Eagleton have proceeded from the assumption of the fundamental philosophy that “consciousness can never be anything else than conscious existence...Life is not determined by consciousness, but consciousness by life” (Marx 568-569). These critics have used the challenges of the notion of an individual human who was prefigured so as to reexamine the creativity of nature or the literary authority. The main idea which were found in Marxism were that there was exploitation of a class of the society by another superior class in the society, there were key elements of capitalism and the presence of free markets, workers were paid less than the real value of their labor, and there was the enabling of the capitalist class to make huge profits.
The preface to a “Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy” (Tucker, 4-6) shows how Marx was able to employ the immanent critique method in order to be able to reveal all the contradictions brought up by the political economy. He pointed out that there was a contradiction which existed between the presuppositions and the state where Private property was abolished by the State and the political suppression of this private property did not only mean to abolish the private property but to presuppose its mere existence. Marx was able to examine the bourgeois economy system in terms of its capital, wage-labor, landed property, and the foreign trade. The presence of commodities shows that the political economy is beginning when the products are exchanged between communities.
Marx’s work is very important in helping an individual to understand a variety of the many political philosophies which are available today and his political thought is transparent like the Manifesto of the Communist party which provides the reader with a historical emergence of the of the proletarian and the bourgeoisie class and the causes of the contradictions which were between the social classes and the hostilities in the modes of production (Tucker, 469-500). It brings out the goals of the communism and explains how the general exploitation of one class by another can be a source of motivation force since with time a new class evolves and becomes the ruler. The communist manifesto discusses about the history and relationship between the proletarians and the bourgeoisie and the relationships between other parties and the communists.
“The Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State” talks about three main epochs: barbarism, savagery and civilization (Tucker, 734-759). It shows that with labor, a man can be able to own and possess private property. Men are not products and they cannot be changed into what they are. This work is set out to be able to give a social explanation as to why the women’s oppression came about with the development of the patriarchal family and the emergence of private property at that particular historic time. Marx and Engels argued that views which were determined by women’s oppression were unchangeable and timeless.
The recurrent terms which were used in the Marxist literary criticism included the base vs. the superstructure, the ideology, the Hegemony, and the Reification. In the base vs. the superstructure, the base as used in Marxism referred to the economic base while according to Marx and Engels, the superstructure emerged from the base and it consisted of the law, art, philosophy, and politics. The ideology is the beliefs which were shared and many cultures held unto them in a manner which was unquestionable and they governed the whole culture and according to Marx, he believed that ideology was purely determined by economics. The Hegemony was the pervasive assumption system which helped in the shaping of how the things actually appeared to a large number of the people within a specific culture. Reification was used in describing the ways in which people were able to be converted to useful commodities in the exchange market.
The Marxist literary critics often admitted avoiding the hegemony effects which made the criticism to remain a steadfast commitment to the attempt to be able to understand all the mediating contexts where the hegemony pressures exerted a lot of pressure on its author, the text, and also its audience. In order to be able to make a discovery of such contexts which manifested themselves within specific cultural, political, historical or economic conditions, art work could not be uprooted from the circumstances which in most cases were reported to be temporal in which the text was read and then it was later to be an isolation of a pure original entity which is mired in history ( Williams, 23).
What the Marxist literary critics did with the texts is that they explored the different ways to find out if the text revealed any ideological expression of an economic class over another subordinate class so as to be able to know if there is any group which has been treated with a given privilege over another group so as to know if there are any values which can be undertaken which can make it self-confident, if the text reflected any form of ideology or if it resisted any form of ideology, they also used the text to determine if the main characters who were used in the narratives resisted or affirmed to the bourgeoisie value, and if the story which was told ignored or devalued the lower economic groups.
The Marxist critics commonly used hegemony term to be able to describe the renegotiated power relations framework. Power was seen to be residing beyond all the humanity bounds which make many artists to be determined by the prevailing power relations which are reported to be existing which tethered the literature to a socio-political continuum concern. In this case, the hegemony was not supposed to be confused with the effective and dominant culture institutions (Williams, 4-6). This is because these institutions had the capability of reaffirming some certain and specific power statements. Raymond Williams stated the fact that “a whole body of practices and expectations...our ordinary understanding of the nature of man and his world...a sense of reality...a sense of absolute” (Williams,4).
Reification which was a commodification notion was explained by the capitalist economy which in most cases led people to be treated as being commodities rather than being treated according to their own individual characteristics which made them to be valued for their economic functions. In this time when there was the rise of the middle class, money was used as a very powerful tool of power instead of the family name which made the sick and the old to be treated as being of no importance to the society but money decided the power that an individual had.
Marx condemned the class society when he argued that the entire fate of an individual was determined by the position of his class and all the functions which were assigned to him in the production system. he further claimed that the destiny of an individual was purely determined by the society which was the Middlemarch case where the constraints which were placed on the women made it very difficult for the women to progress and develop in the society which was an exploitation by the Marxist theory of one class by another and the women were also oppressed by the male dominated world where in most cases, the women of that time had dreams and visions but they could not succeed in achieving their goals since they were shut down.
There are also other approaches which closely resemble the Marxist literary criticism where the Marxist literary criticism is similar to the feminist criticism which also tries to fight and challenge the power structures which are in the contemporary society of today where in the feminist, there was the gender marginalization and in the Marxists, there was the issue of economic power which in most cases led to the presence of political power (Williams, 6-15). The Marxist literary criticism could also resembles the cultural criticism because it analyses a discourse in terms of power which makes one of the discourses to be able to determine the historical meaning of a text.
In conclusion, the Marxist literary criticism has remained to be a very rational pragmatic endeavor because according to Raymond Williams, “If ideology were merely some abstract set of notions...society would be very much easier to move and change than in practice it has ever been or is” (William, 3). These critics have been able to express all of their tactics by providing the knowledge that they have on the forces of hegemony which is one of the most dangerous aspects which they believe could be avoided. The main aims of the Marxist literary criticism were the assessment of the political tendencies of a literal work which helped into the determination of the literary form or even the social content and it also included the analyzing of the class constructs which were in most cases demonstrated in the literature.