Criticism of Theology: On Marxism and Theology III (Historical Materialism Book Series, Volume 27)
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Want to Read Currently Reading Read. Other editions. Enlarge cover. Error rating book. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Details if other :. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Preview — Criticism of Theology by Roland Boer. This title offers commentary on the engagements with religion and theology by a range of Marxist philosophers and critics.
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The aim is to gather insights in order to develop a comprehensive theory of religion. Following on the heels of the acclaimed Criticism of Religion , this is the third of a five volume series called Criticism of Heaven and Earth. Get A Copy. Paperback , pages. Published September 18th by Historical Materialism first published December 17th More Details Historical Materialism Other Editions 3. Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Criticism of Theology , please sign up.
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Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Rating details. All Languages. More filters. Sort order. Deane rated it liked it May 17, SyphilisVictim rated it really liked it Dec 27, Cbsd library added it Aug 30, Dan Sharber marked it as to-read Nov 26, It is interesting to read Marx here in the light of his third Thesis on Feuerbach where he criticises an alternative theory.
The crude materialism of Robert Owen and others assumes that human beings are fully determined by their material circumstances, and therefore to bring about an emancipated society it is necessary and sufficient to make the right changes to those material circumstances. However, how are those circumstances to be changed? By an enlightened philanthropist like Owen who can miraculously break through the chain of determination which ties down everyone else? Indeed if they do not create the revolution for themselves — in alliance, of course, with the philosopher — they will not be fit to receive it.
However, the manuscripts are best known for their account of alienated labour. Here Marx famously depicts the worker under capitalism as suffering from four types of alienated labour. First, from the product, which as soon as it is created is taken away from its producer.
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Second, in productive activity work which is experienced as a torment. Third, from species-being, for humans produce blindly and not in accordance with their truly human powers. Finally, from other human beings, where the relation of exchange replaces the satisfaction of mutual need. Essentially he attempts to apply a Hegelian deduction of categories to economics, trying to demonstrate that all the categories of bourgeois economics — wages, rent, exchange, profit, etc. Consequently each category of alienated labour is supposed to be deducible from the previous one.
However, Marx gets no further than deducing categories of alienated labour from each other. Quite possibly in the course of writing he came to understand that a different methodology is required for approaching economic issues. Nevertheless we are left with a very rich text on the nature of alienated labour.
Both sides of our species essence are revealed here: our individual human powers and our membership in the human community. It is important to understand that for Marx alienation is not merely a matter of subjective feeling, or confusion. In our daily lives we take decisions that have unintended consequences, which then combine to create large-scale social forces which may have an utterly unpredicted, and highly damaging, effect. For example, for as long as a capitalist intends to stay in business he must exploit his workers to the legal limit. Whether or not wracked by guilt the capitalist must act as a ruthless exploiter.
Similarly the worker must take the best job on offer; there is simply no other sane option. But by doing this we reinforce the very structures that oppress us.
Marxism and Religion
Several of these have been touched on already for example, the discussions of religion in theses 4, 6 and 7, and revolution in thesis 3 so here I will concentrate only on the first, most overtly philosophical, thesis. Materialism is complimented for understanding the physical reality of the world, but is criticised for ignoring the active role of the human subject in creating the world we perceive.
Idealism, at least as developed by Hegel, understands the active nature of the human subject, but confines it to thought or contemplation: the world is created through the categories we impose upon it. Marx combines the insights of both traditions to propose a view in which human beings do indeed create — or at least transform — the world they find themselves in, but this transformation happens not in thought but through actual material activity; not through the imposition of sublime concepts but through the sweat of their brow, with picks and shovels.
Criticism of Theology: On Marxism and Theology III
Capital Volume 1 begins with an analysis of the idea of commodity production. A commodity is defined as a useful external object, produced for exchange on a market. Thus two necessary conditions for commodity production are the existence of a market, in which exchange can take place, and a social division of labour, in which different people produce different products, without which there would be no motivation for exchange. Marx suggests that commodities have both use-value — a use, in other words — and an exchange-value — initially to be understood as their price.
Use value can easily be understood, so Marx says, but he insists that exchange value is a puzzling phenomenon, and relative exchange values need to be explained. Why does a quantity of one commodity exchange for a given quantity of another commodity? His explanation is in terms of the labour input required to produce the commodity, or rather, the socially necessary labour, which is labour exerted at the average level of intensity and productivity for that branch of activity within the economy. Thus the labour theory of value asserts that the value of a commodity is determined by the quantity of socially necessary labour time required to produce it.
Marx provides a two stage argument for the labour theory of value.
As commodities can be exchanged against each other, there must, Marx argues, be a third thing that they have in common. Both steps of the argument are, of course, highly contestable. Capitalism is distinctive, Marx argues, in that it involves not merely the exchange of commodities, but the advancement of capital, in the form of money, with the purpose of generating profit through the purchase of commodities and their transformation into other commodities which can command a higher price, and thus yield a profit.
Marx claims that no previous theorist has been able adequately to explain how capitalism as a whole can make a profit.
Philosophical materialism and science
The cost of this commodity is determined in the same way as the cost of every other; i. Suppose that such commodities take four hours to produce. Thus the first four hours of the working day is spent on producing value equivalent to the value of the wages the worker will be paid. This is known as necessary labour.
Any work the worker does above this is known as surplus labour, producing surplus value for the capitalist. Surplus value, according to Marx, is the source of all profit. Other commodities simply pass their value on to the finished commodities, but do not create any extra value. They are known as constant capital.
Profit, then, is the result of the labour performed by the worker beyond that necessary to create the value of his or her wages. This is the surplus value theory of profit. It appears to follow from this analysis that as industry becomes more mechanised, using more constant capital and less variable capital, the rate of profit ought to fall. For as a proportion less capital will be advanced on labour, and only labour can create value. In Capital Volume 3 Marx does indeed make the prediction that the rate of profit will fall over time, and this is one of the factors which leads to the downfall of capitalism.
A further consequence of this analysis is a difficulty for the theory that Marx did recognise, and tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to meet also in Capital Volume 3. It follows from the analysis so far that labour intensive industries ought to have a higher rate of profit than those which use less labour. Not only is this empirically false, it is theoretically unacceptable.
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