A Review: Marx’s Anthropology

Karl Marx

The following is a review of an excerpt from Thomas C. Patterson writing entitled Marx Anthropology.Philip C. Salzman book, Understanding Culture: An Introduction to Anthropological Theory was cited. This is more of an opinion piece so nothing personal here all authors cited and critiqued are immensely talented, regardless how I feel about their writing.

There seems to be no overarching argument presented in this reading as the author merely presents facts without offering any personal incite on them. Given the factual manner in which Patterson, the author presents the information this reading is probably the excerpt of a biography written about Karl Marx. This reading focuses heavily on principles of Marx as a materialist.  Words that come to mind when thinking of this passage are tedious, never-ending, lackluster, and in every matter of the sense the driest of dry.   I am unmoved by this reading and admittedly I rejoiced in happiness when I managed the finish the long trek that was this reading.   Anyways, this reading can be best summarized by the following quote,

 [W]hen considering the structure of capitalist production in the 1860’s, Marx suggested that there were several potential routes of  its development in the immediate future given the non-existing property relations and balance of force—the formation of monopolies in certain spheres of production the would provoke both state intervention and the emergence of a new financial aristocracy. An alternative was the development of factories or companies run by workers.”  (Patterson 53)

This quote is more or less is reference to the mode of production of resources as briefly mention by Salzman in maintaining ecology and environment, demography, population, and reproduction of a population in capitalist and socialist societies (57). Clearly Marx favor socialism. This new thought process (socialism) would go one the dominant form of government of many countries today and many scholars alike like Marvin Harris (Salzman 50).

The principles of Marx as presented in the reading will be briefly summarized. He believed the following in terms of human ability: humans actively perceive the world around them (42); human are part of nature they are actively involved in the world around them  (43); humans distinguish themselves from the worlds in which they live through self-objectification, labor, or purposive activity (43); and lastly humans deploy the objects they created or molded as extensions of their corpeal existence (44).  His material principles are as follows: he rejects reductionist principles (51); he maintains multileveled approach consisting of natural and human history with consideration that there are diverse interpretations of history (51); the appreciation of variation of the material world (52); did not view historical change exclusively as either the unfolding of some potential inherent in the totality that revealed a regular procession of developmental stages albeit he acknowledge directionality and chance (53); the histories are not internally immovable because the different subjectivities that emerge are inseparable from the essential thing that makes them possible (53).

  Lastly, Marx distinguished two broad-categories: capitalist and pre-capitalist modes of production.  A capitalist society separates property less workers from the means of production and subsistence and freed up the flow of money within the community, while in pre-capitalist societies the workers retained control over their mean of production, and wealth was integrated amongst the community. Marx further divided precapitalist societies in five categories: primitive communal, ancient, Asiatic, Germanic, Slavonic, and feudal (54-55).   Marx approach is better described as multilineal and not unilineal like the social evolutionist.

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