Questions on Marx
"Manifesto of the Communist Party"
1. Here, in no particular order, are some terms from the readings for
today. Write for 10 minutes using these terms to reconstruct the story
that Marx is telling about politics and economics. We will use this to
"prime the pump" for our discussion. (N.B. Neither of Marx's texts is a
"story" [fictional narrative]).
alienation bourgeoisie religion family slavery class struggle
revolution base superstructure
centralized production slaves/slavery proletariat
industrial middle class
macroeconomics feudal system
communism oppression world market
2. Now share what you wrote with others in a small group. Working
together, find quotations that back up your understanding. The class should
divide into four groups.
3. Now as a whole class, let us share our understanding of Marx's two
texts and come to a common understanding of WHAT he is saying.
4. Go back and work in your groups; each group should take one of the
following questions. We will then discuss your answers as a whole class.
- Are you aware of class struggle? Are you part of the bourgeoisie or
the proletariat? Are you aware of the disconnection between these two
- Are you aware that working as a waitress or at McDonald's or at a car wash
or at a gas station makes you part of the proletariat? How do you feel
about that? Do you feel alienated?
- What is the role of education in class struggle. Education is
mentioned on page 119, right column, last full par. Is being at WU
about elevating yourself out of the proletariat? Is the fact that you
are here instead of at Harvard a sign of being stuck in the proletariat?
OR is there some other way to approach the issue? What is the role of
your Winthrop education in class struggle?
- "Such bourgeois institutions as the family and religion, which had served
to perpetrate bourgeois dominance, would vanish, and each individual would
find true fulfillment. Thus social and economic utopia would be
achieved, although its exact form could not be predicted" (www.bartleby.com/65/ma/Marxism.html).
"The Alienation of Labor"
5. Here are some key terms: slavery, alienation, wages, laborer,
commodity, objectification, social rank, class antagonism, feudal system,
self-interest, exploitation, capital.
6. Page 131, left column:, full par. 2: How can the laborer become POORER the more s/he produces?
7. Page 131, right column, full par. 1: "The more people place in
God, the less they retain in themselves." "Religious suffering is, at one
and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real
suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a
heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the
people." What does Marx mean, and do you agree?
8. What types of estrangement/alienation does Marx identify?
9. Why does labor alienate? Discuss the following flow chart:
property --> estranged labor --> wages.
10. How can you eliminate estrangement?
11. Have you had an alienating experience with labor? Are you
alienated from the papers in GNED 102?
Here are some other questions from the GNED website (note that the page
numbers are off):
Activities: Small Groups
As a post-Cold War generation, most of today’s students are not familiar
with the rhetoric and ideas of Communism. Moreover, Marx’s 19th
century writing style often repels students initially. Consequently, Marx’s
terminology and dialectic analysis need careful attention. Below is an activity
that allows the class as a whole to thoroughly analyze Marx’s arguments without
requiring that each member of the class painstakingly assess each sentence.
Divide the class into seven groups of approximately three students each.
Have them read the short assigned section and answer the questions
provided. These questions have a specific answer and identifying that answer
will help students follow Marx’s logic. After each small group has answered its
questions thoroughly have each group share its answers with the class in the
assigned order. If each group accurately understands its part, this will
provide a concise summary of Marx’s argument. For maximum effectiveness, the
instructor should check with the groups as they prepare, clarifying confusion
that would likely surface. Once students understand Marx’s argument the
possibilities for discussion are endless!
1. Answer found on pages 80-81: According to Marx the history of all
existing societies is what? What has the “modern bourgeois society” contributed
to this history? What role did Europeans' “discovery” of
America play in the bourgeoisie’s
transformation of society?
2. Answers found on page 81: What has modern industry done? According to
Marx what has the bourgeoisie done when it has gotten the upper hand (this
is a long list)? In one word, what has the bourgeoisie done? What has the
bourgeoisie done to physicians, lawyers, priests, poets, and scientists? What
has the bourgeoisie done to the family? What is essential for the bourgeoisie to
3. Answers found on page 82: What does the bourgeoisie need to survive?
What does this lead the bourgeoisie to do? What are the consequences of this
behavior? What results from the rapid improvement of production? What is the
“heavy artillery” for the bourgeoisie? What does the bourgeoisie do to the
country (rural areas)? What then results from this change?
4. Answers found on page 83: What does Marx compare the “modern bourgeois
society” to? Why? What epidemic soon results? What are the
characteristics of this result? How does bourgeois society respond? According to
Marx, the bourgeoisie “forged the weapons that bring death to itself.” What
are these weapons? List the many things that Marx laments labors must contend
with. List the consequences of “extensive use of
machinery” and the “division of labor.”
5. Answers found on page 84: What has “modern industry” done to the master
craftsman and skilled labor? As the proletariat progresses through “various
stages of development” what happens when the proletariat become “concentrated in
6. Answers found on page 85: What problems plague the “organization of the
proletarians”? According to Marx, what is the only class that can “stand face to
face with the bourgeoisie? Why? Why is the lower middle class not
revolutionary according to Marx? What are the conditions of the proletariat?
7. Answers found on page 86: According to Marx what is the mission of the
proletariat? How is the proletarian movement different from all previous
historical movements? What is essential for the survival of the bourgeoisie?
1. Define the terminology as related to Marx's
work: alienation, estrangement, political economy, capitalism, life activity,
etc. How can the students relate these terms to themselves?
2. What was the political and economic environment of Europe, the U.S., and
Russia in the late 1830s and early 1840s when Marx was influenced by world
events and wrote Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844?
3. Based on Marx's definition and today's
economy, what jobs do you, as a student, consider alienating? Why?
4. You have previously discussed readings on education and discussed its purpose and
meaning for your future. Now, after reading "Alienation of Labor," what criteria
are needed in a job or career to keep you from becoming estranged from your
5. You have also discussed various community structures and your place in the
community. How does Marxism fit with what you consider to be your role in the
6. How does Marx describe a life activity, and why is it so important to the
7. Is elimination of private ownership of property necessary for a true
democracy? Why or why not?