Centre for Continuing Education

Philosophy Course: 200 Years of Marx

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2018 marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx. The last few years have witnessed major resurgences in Marxist studies and the publication of new books on these ideas. This resurgence has been prompted by the contemporary problems facing late capitalism, particularly the growing gap between the very rich and the working poor.

This course will take an in-depth look at Marx’s philosophy and its substantial influence from the 19th century to our contemporary situation. Historically, we will assess his impact on the communist revolutions in Russia, Asia, Africa and South America. In Philosophy, we will study his theories on human nature, work, violence, economics, alienation, religion, and the Jewish question.

Outcomes

By the end of this course, you should be able to:

  • describe the development of Marx’s life, works and the history of the times
  • comprehend Marx’s ideas on: human nature, work, violence, economics, alienation, and religion
  • discuss some of his main concepts on human nature in terms of empirical realism
  • relate Marx’s ideas to contemporary debates in political discussio
  • apply Marx’s theory to the assessment of some current economic debates.

Content

This course covers the following topics:

Introduction

We will begin with a study of the Germany of Marx’s youth. We will also consider the political and philosophical influences which shaped his work, with an analysis of his early essay: On the Jewish Question. In this work Marx makes one of his most enduring arguments by means of introducing the distinction between political and human emancipation.

Intellectual influences

Marx’s ideas are a combination of German philosophy, British political economy and French socialism. We will examine extracts from his 1843 essay Contribution to a Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right. Marx’s notorious remark that religion is the ‘opiate of the people’ is from this work. He also introduces the role of the proletariat in bringing about the emancipation of society as a whole.

Alienated labour: Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts (1844)

This work deals with the issues of alienated labour and private property. He also defines his theory of Communism, based on the assertion that humans have an innate urge to transcend oppression and take control of their own destiny.

The Role of the Philosopher: Theses on Feuerbach (1845)

This is the work in which Marx claims that hitherto: “the philosophers have only interpreted the world, the point is to change it”. Marx’s version of historical materialism is defined in this work.

The Communist Manifesto

In 1845 Marx collaborated with Engels on a short work which changed the world. Scholars do not consider it the best guide to Marx’s philosophy, but its readability and high rhetorical style made it very popular and therefore influential.

Economy, history and society

With the failure of the 1848 revolution, Marx moved to London where he remained for the rest of his life. He now concentrated on the study of economics, producing in 1859 Contribution to a critique of Political Economy and the first volume of Capital in 1894. We will consider extracts from these works.

Historical fallout

We will consider Marx’s influence on the Russian and Chinese Revolutions.

South America and Africa

We will consider Marx’s influence of the anti-imperialist struggles in the third world.

Marx in the age of digital capitalism

New assessments of Marx on global capitalism and forecasts of a crisis of capitalism.

Marx and the Earth

Communism and ecology and other new uses of Marx’s theories.

Delivery Style

Lecture/seminar.

Recommended Reading

To be provided in class.

Materials

To be provided in class.

Features

  • Expert trainers
  • Central locations
  • Small class sizes
  • Free, expert advice
  • Student materials – yours to keep
  • Statement of completion

What others say.

  • The tutor is a brilliant philosopher, teacher and facilitator of a clever, interested people. I just love the interaction and stimulating conversations that occur.
  • Fascinating course prepared and lead by a first rate teacher with a fine mind!