The popularity of Marxism has been on the rise within the United States in the past decade. Some of its components, such as socialism, have flourished especially among the younger generations. In a study conducted two years ago, a large number of adults between the ages of 18-34 were polled on whether or not they saw capitalism positively. 58% of those who were polled said that they saw capitalism in a positive light. Flash forward to 2021 during the pandemic, and the same study was conducted. The 58% of people who saw capitalism in a positive light plunged down to 49% (Salmon, 2021). Following this trend, it would be safe to assume that the overall popularity of capitalism in the US will continue to fall. Although there is a lack of data pointing to why capitalism’s appeal is falling, particularly among younger generations, the reasons may have to do with one or more of the common criticisms of capitalism. One such critique, for example, is its social inequality. In light of Marxism’s renewed relevance, one might want to acquaint oneself with its basic tenets.
Marxism is a school of thought birthed from the minds of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. The ideas of Marxism were first publicly displayed in the pamphlet called The Communist Manifesto in 1848. The primary idea that the rest of Marxism is built on, is that in society there is a class divide between the working class or laborers and the rich or bourgeoisie. Its main argument is that as long as there is this divide, the rich will continue to exploit the working class majority. It is through this exploitation that things such as widespread inequality and generational poverty are generated. Marx believed that in this exploitation there was friction that would lead to conflict between the two classes. It would be through this conflict, often referred to as “revolution” in writing (Brock, 2021), that the working class would be able to seize control of the economy. Marx’s solution to capitalism involves a multi-step plan of sorts. In layman’s terms, the plan would involve a societal and economic transition to socialism, and then communism. The end product of this would be the abolition of private ownership and control over the means of production; this would lead to the inevitable destruction of the class divide.
If you are interested in learning more about Marxism, the best place to start is with some readings. The books below are both written by Marx and do an excellent job of explaining Marxist ideas in depth.
Karl Marx – Das Kapital
Das Kapital was written by Karl Marx and published in 1867. The central focus of the book is on the intrinsic issues and contradictions of capitalism. Its goal is to expose these problems through the lens of exploited labor. As I was reading through Das Kapital myself, I was constantly making comparisons to the modern day. A great part of the book is that, although it may be over 150 years old, its themes and ideas are still very current. Coming in at 1337 pages, Das Kapital serves as a good jumping-off point for anyone who wants to take a deep dive into the topic of Marxism and the problems of capitalism.
Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx – The Communist Manifesto
The Communist Manifesto, totaling 23 pages, was written by Karl Marx and Fredrich Engels and published in the year 1848. The book tackles the basics of Marxism and provides a compact analysis of capitalist society’s flaws. If you are looking for something brief to read and want a good overview of the subject, this is the book for you.
Political and economic theory can at times be daunting for those who wish to learn more about them. These texts, although complicated, break down the nitty gritty of the pillars of Marxism into small digestible chunks. Regardless of your beliefs, it may be beneficial to learn more about the topic of Marxism so as to increase your political fluency and deepen your political identity–which will, in turn, prepare you to engage in various political processes, such as voting. If this sounds appealing to you, then these reading recommendations are a great place to start.