The Nature Of Marxian Theory

The Nature Of Marxian Theory

Despite all this, or possibly because of it, the modern student of economic systems must attempt to understand Marxian theory. It forms the theo­retical foundations of modern socialism and communism. As has already been hinted, it is by no means an easy task to grasp Marxian theory. To make the confusion created by his interpreters still more confusing, Marx himself was ambiguous and vague in his writings. Some key points in his theories were left undeveloped while he took excursions into pet ramifica­tions of the main stem of his reasoning. In no single work did Marx set forth an organized, consistent, and comprehensive statement of his sys­tem of thought. The "Communist Manifesto," which he and Engels pre­pared as the program of the League of Communists, outlines the broad sweep of his conclusions on the nature and future of the capitalist econ­omy, but it does not reveal the close reasoning a careful student seeks in support of such assertions. Although apparently Marx intended to include such an exposition in his Capital, this work leaves much to be desired. Only one of the proposed three volumes was completed before Marx died, leaving Engels to write two additional volumes from Marx's notes. Abstruse-ness, labyrinthian reasoning, and some inconsistencies characterize Capital. In hybrid fashion, the work combines masses of deductive reasoning with extended surveys of current and historical data that Marx considered em­pirical support for his conclusions.

Although much that is accepted today as orthodox Marxism bears only a stepchild relationship to Marx, there is a certain body of theory that represents the thread of Marxian thought. This will be summarized in succeeding paragraphs. After a preliminary glimpse at the biographi­cal facts of Marx's life, we will note the general nature of his approach by studying the Marxian dialectical method and the economic interpre­tation of history. We will then proceed through Marx's analysis of the origins of the capitalist system to his description of the chief processes and phenomena that characterize capitalist production. We will review his theory of commodity values and his theory of wages, which, taken to­gether, support the theoretical existence of "surplus value." These two theories are extended into explanations of the formation and accumula­tion of capital. We will then examine the numerous consequences that, according to Marx flow from these capitalist processes and will culminate in the destruction of capitalism. There will follow a resume of the steps in social evolution: establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat, socialism, and then full communism. The place of the proletariat and the Communist Party in these developments will be noted. Completing the analysis of Marxian theory, we will consider its strength and weakness.