from Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844

What does Marx believe are the chief lessons of political economy (economics)? (the necessary result of competition is the accumulation of capital in a few hands, and thus the restoration of monopoly in a more terrible form, 764)

What does he believe is the essential nature of competition? (avarice and war amongst the avaricious, 764)

What system of exchange undergirds the present system of labor? ("money system," 765)

What does he argue against when he says that it is useless to explain economic behavior by positing a primal economic state? (postulate of an original "state of nature," 765; compare John Locke's Second Treatise on Civil Government) What does he find is a better mode of analysis? (examining what happens in present, i. e., a structural, functional approach)

As more objects of more value are produced, what is the result? (world of men devalued, products become independent of producer, 765)

What does Marx mean by alienation? (the more objects the worker produces the fewer he can possess, 765; his labor confronts him as a hostile force, 765; the better formed his product, the more deformed becomes the worker, 766)

What is Marx's view of religion? (a projection, 765; as one ascribes more to God one's sense of self lessens)

What is objectification? (766, production of the worker, who as s/he appropriates the external world deprives him/herself of the means of subsistence)

To the extent that one can tell from translation, what do you think of Marx as a stylist?

What is the effect of industrial capitalism on the standard of living of nineteenth-century workers? (766)

On what grounds does he criticize the industrial process? (766; the producing activity is alienating) What are some of the evils of labor? (767) What does he mean in saying that under capitalism the human being becomes animal?

Which elements of Marx's critique of industrialism are found in the writings of John Ruskin? How would Ruskin have differed from Marx? (emphasis on aesthetics, the degrading nature of industrial work itself, appeal to paternalism) To what extent was the writer and socialist William Morris a Marxist, and how are his preoccupations somewhat different?

The German Ideology

What are some flaws in earlier views of history? What does Marx think of the Hegelian notion that history is created by a procession of ideas which react upon one another?

What does he advocate instead? (study of development of men under definite conditions, 768)

Where may we find the origins of morality, religion, metaphysics, and so on?

The Communist Manifesto

What are some of tenets of communism, as explained in the Manifesto? (ongoing conflicts between classes)

What changes have occurred in the structure of society since previous times, and what developments have brought these about? (simplified class division into opposed classes of bourgeoisie and proletariat, 770)

What is the purpose and nature of the modern nation state? (committee for managing the affairs of the bourgeoisie, 771)

What are some of the changes--in social relations, the family, and the quality of modern life--which the bourgeoisie has brought about?

--it "has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous 'cash payment'" (771)

--it "has torn away from the family its sentimental veil, and has reduced the family relation to a mere money relation" (771)

--"everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones" (771)

--has created a world-market

Does Marx view these changes with unmixed loathing, or with some qualified respect? How can you tell? (771-72) Against whom is his irony directed?

Are there any good changes which the progression of economic relations have brought about? What are the results of "the universal inter-dependence of nations"? (a world literature, homogenization, 772; centralization and agglomeration, i. e. the "too big to fail" effect; "the bourgeoisie . . . has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all preceding generations together," 772)

Why does he speak of "the idiocy of rural life"? (772)

Are there aspects of historical change which you feel are simplified in Marx's view? What prior assumptions may cause him to overemphasize the unitary nature of historical change? (sees a completed a process which may remain in flux)


What does Marx believe is the relationship between social organization and myth? What examples does he give?

Why is Greek myth not the imaginative form of Victorian Europe? (we no longer imagine control over nature, for it has occurred, 773)

What effect has modern science had on the capacity to create myths? Why are these older literary forms still attractive? (these embody the childhood of humanity; "The Greeks were normal children," 774)

from Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy

What effects are caused by a change in economic forces? In what areas of life do people enact the conflicts created by economic change? (775)

What causes changes from one social and economic stage to another? Are these stages disjoint, or do they overlap? (new conditions "have matured in the womb of the old society itself, 775)

What may we hope will create the conditions for the solution of the antagonisms of bourgeois society? (triumph of productive forces, socialism, 775)

Is Marx's view of history here Hegelian? Evolutionary? (pre-history ends with the bourgeois/proletariat cleavage)

Capital, vol. 1

In Marx's view, how do commodities determine our social relations? (776)

What does it mean to speak of a fetishism of commodities? What does it mean to speak of the value of a product? (777-78)

How has the attitude toward commodities changed since the middle ages, in Marx's view? (780)

Why in Marx's view is Christianity an appropriate religion for a bourgeois society? (782, focuses on reified abstractions) What does he think of the older tribal societies? (782) What will in his view end the need for religion? (clear understanding of social and labor relations, 782)

What is wrong with the view that the modern monetary system is based on the inherent qualities of objects? (783) What were Ruskin's opinions on this topic? (also points out that value is situational) What does he find objectionable in eighteenth-century mercantile economics? (783)

Why is the struggle for a shorter workday so important? Why is capital so resistant to the shortening of workers' hours? (desires all the laborer's time, 784)

Why does Marx use the example of Caribbean slavery as his prime instance of the workings of capitalism? (785) What parallels does he draw between chattel slavery and wage slavery?

--Some have objected to this comparison, on the grounds that chattel slavery was more systematically brutal. What point does he intend to make by his comparison/contrast? What industries does he use to make his point? (bakers, potters and cotton spinners, 785)

What part does emigration from the countryside play in this cycle? (786)

Is an individual capitalist free to opt out of the role of oppressor, and still make profits? (786) If not, how can social change be effected?

Why has the workday been extended since that of earlier times, according to Marx? What recent legislation does he see as a reform? (Massachusetts law prohibiting children under 12 from working more than a 10 hour day, 786)

Can you see contemporary parallels or applications of Marx's ideas to present day debates (e. g., workplace safety protections, medicare funding, minimum wage standards)?

Engels' letter to Joseph Bloch

Does Engels believe that economic forces are the sole causal forces in history? Why, in his view, did he and Marx emphasize these in their analyses? (787-88)

Selections and page numbers are from the Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, 2001 edition.