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Karl Marx and Vladimir Ilich Lenin - look at their very similar views on the state and discuss whether they are applicable to today's societies.

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Introduction

Karl Marx and Vladimir Ilich Lenin had very specific views on the bourgeois society of the 19th and 20th centuries. Both agreed that the upper ruling class dominated the capitalist society, and that this society was against the lower classes. Marx and Lenin believed that private ownership was the cause of all social ills, and that the way to remedy these ills was to establish a communist state. They saw the abolition of the existing class structure and society as necessary. Marx and Lenin wanted to create an economically advanced society with "the capacity to provide all its members with the means to live diverse and fulfilling lives."1 In this essay I am going to look at their very similar views on the state and discuss whether they are applicable to today's societies. While not denying that each individual had unique capabilities, Marx attacked the presumption that the starting point of the analysis of the state was that of the individual and his or her relationship with it. He once said that "man is not an abstract being squatting outside the world. Man is the human world, the state, the society."2 He maintained that any aspect of society could only be properly explained when examined in relation with other social phenomena. When talking of the bourgeois societies of the 19th and 20th centuries Marx implied that there was a dominant class which asserted itself through the state and therefore suppressed other individuals and classes. ...read more.

Middle

The capitalist society divides its citizens into two groups: the land-owning ruling class and the hired working class. The upper class capitalists gain sufficient funds from their hired workers, and the working class have "no realistic alternatives"6, but to accept their employer's terms of employment, thus gaining no self-fulfillment. Another way that the liberal democratic and capitalist states impede the citizens is the mechanics of the 'free' market economy. They are made susceptible to outside forces such as recession and mass unemployment. But there is a great importance of the market economy in today's capitalist societies. What is good for the economy is good for the state, and therefore is good for the population. It is necessary for the good of society as a whole. A bad economy leads to an increase in unemployment and hence reduces the standard of living. In this sense the state machinery is influenced both by the employers and the employees, and is therefore is not just a forum for the interests of the bourgeoisie. In any liberal democracy the primary aim of the government is re-election, and not necessarily the well-being of its population. Hence the state listens carefully to the hints from the economy, as it will benefit the population as a whole (in the short term). Of course, this economy will ultimately benefit the dominant bourgeois class. It does not reflect on the well-being of the working classes. ...read more.

Conclusion

I agree with both Marx and Lenin when they say that a minority elite dominates liberal democratic societies. True equality does not exist, and the influential capitalists dominate other aspects of social life, such as the media. As for the dissolution of the state, I think it is desirable, and maybe even necessary to protect workers rights', but in today's societies it is well nigh impossible to conceive a revolution of the proletariat on a global scale. It is only possible on a global scale, as single communist states would not survive in the international environment. Therefore, although the theories of Marx and Lenin are valid, in my opinion they would not stand up to the tests of today's Western World. 1 David Houghton's essay: Marx and Lenin on Communism. 2 The critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right, p.131, modified translation. 3 Lenin's State and Revolution; p.7. David Houghton's essay: Marx and Lenin on Communism 5 R. Milibrand; Marxism and Politics; p.70. 6 David Houghton's essay: Marx and Lenin on Communism. 7 R. Milibrand; Marxism and Politics; p.72. 8 D. McLellan; The Thought of Karl Marx, and Introduction; p.375 9 David Houghton's essay: Marx and Lenin on Communism. 10 D. McLellan: The Thought of Karl Marx: an Introduction. 11 Lenin; State and Revolution; p.7. 12 Lenin; State and Revolution; p.35. 13 Political Theory and the Modern State; David Held; p.30ff 14 R. Hunt; The Political Ideas of Marx and Hegel. 15 Lenin; State and Revolution ...read more.

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