Philosopher and thinkers in the past centuries have put forward different ideologies of what constitutes an ideal society or political system. Critics of utopianism view the concept as one which has lost grip of reality; however, the world has witnessed the successful application of some utopian ideas such as capitalism and communism. A scholar with interesting utopian ideas is Karl Marx, the originator of the Marxism, an anti-capitalism theory popular in the Soviet Union during the 1930s. Karl Marx grew up hating the political system in his country for denying equal opportunity to the citizens and sought to formulate alternative systems nations that could apply to ensure a fair opportunity for all. “Marxist theory holds that the main feature of the modern industrial era is the emergence of two antagonistic classes—wealthy capitalists, who own the means of production, and impoverished workers, the proletariat, who are paid subsistence wages”.(Magstadt, 2017, p34).
Marx argues that all conflicts stem from the ownership of the means of production in a society. Every other person is fighting to take control of these factors to benefit themselves over the others. Therefore, in his opinion, if the means of production are publicly owned, the conflict would be resolved, and there would be no need for the government (Geoghegan, 2008). The Marxist theory was born from the unfavorable social conditions he lived in during the industrial revolution when capitalism was beginning. The technological advancement created a class divide into; the bourgeoisie (owners of factors of production usually wealthy) and the proletariat (the workers usually peasant). Marx saw it ideal to introduce communal ownership of the means of production to create an economic utopia in the market.
Marx viewed freedom of humankind to have a direct relationship with the conflict of classes. He traced the history of humanity through the way economy operated to establish the role of classes in the economy. By so doing, Marx established that if humankind was given denied freedom and all control put in the hands of the upper class (monarch, governments and the wealthy). The most influential people in the society then would run the economy on their terms (capitalism) and consequently oppress the poor (Geoghegan, 2008). From this argument, Marx concluded that an ideal society ought to allow ultimate freedom of humankind to avoid strife of existence and essence (freedom and necessity) as depicted in communism.
Again, Marx illustrates a political utopia by depicting that; when people( the poor) become aware of their loss, alienation and non-human situations, they pursue a radical transformation through revolution based on communist principles. Marx argues that a reign of liberty (communism) will be established to replace the old capitalism (bourgeoisie society) with its undesirable characteristics of class and class antagonism. The nation will then witness free and fair development of every citizen.
While these arguments could be true, they have not passed the practicability test as communism government has experience failure in the past. Today’s socialist societies reject the orthodox Marxist concept of revolution replacing it with gradualism/ reform (Marx Is Dead; Marxism—Not so Much). Democratic socialism that embraces collectivism but also appreciates democratic means. Democratic socialism agrees that economic equality alone cannot achieve social justice (social utopia). They favor expanded roles of governments, regulated economies and nationalizing some parts of the economy like transport, energy, and communication to achieve social and economic prosperity.
Magstadt, T. (2017). Understanding Politics: Ideas, Institutions, and Issues, 12th Edition. [VitalSource]. Retrieved from https://online.vitalsource.com/#/books/undefined/ (Links to an external site.)
Geoghegan, V. (2008). Utopianism and Marxism. (Vol. 4). (P. Lang, Ed.)
Marx Is Dead; Marxism—Not so Much. (n.d.).
Let’s take this conversation into 2019—are there specific policy proposals out there currently that would level the playing field for working class Americans? Do you think they would be helpful or harmful overall? Why?