Eco 357k: Introduction to Marxian Economics

Old First Test

(with answers)

Section I: Primitive Accumulation

Answer one of the following questions

Part VIII of Capital provides, in 8 chapters, an account of the rise of capitalism as a social, i.e., as a new way of organizing society.

1. In this account Marx provides an analysis of the coming into being of both the working class and the capitalist class. A) In what sense might these emergences be seen as spontaneous, in what sense imposed?  B) What evidence does he present to support the thesis that force played a dominant role in the emergence of capitalism? C) What evidence does he present that the rise of capitalism was an international phenomenon?

2. Apply Marx's theory of primitive accumulation to history of the United States. A) What parallels do you see between the process he described in England and American history? What differences? B) In the study guide Cleaver gives material on the anti-vagrancy laws that followed the Civil War. Can this period be considered as one of primitive accumulation considering it dates so long after the formation of the country? Why or why not? C) Which elements of primitive accumulation can you see still in play in contemporary capitalist development in the United States?

Section II: Class

Answer one of the following questions

The concept of "class" which is central to Marx's discourse and analysis has been much debated and attacked in modern social science literature. Marxists have also staunchly defended it in various ways.

3. There is a sociological concept of class that has seen the rise of the "middle class" as ending the relevance of Marx's bipolar class analysis of capitalism. a) Provide an explanation of the reasoning that would lead to such a conclusion and then b) provide a Marxist rebuttal to this argument.

4. In Cleaver's exposition of Marx's concept of class he discussed the notions of class-in-itself and class-for-itself which is a distinction that Marx is famous for having used in discussing the French peasantry in the 19th Century. Discuss these concepts as applied to the two primary classes of capitalist society. He also argued that the working class for-itself not only struggles for more power but also for varieties of self-development, which may transcend its own class status. What might such self-development involve and how might it be recuperated by capital?

5. In discussion of the use of the term "class" today, Cleaver suggested that it is more useful to think in terms of the roles people play vis a vis the system and its rules. For example, in considering someone's "class" status to what degree to do his or her actions reinforce those rules (e.g., imposing work on others) or resist them. This analysis was oriented primarily toward the evaluation of people's actions rather than their consciousness. However, he also provided some discussion of the implications of this duality for understanding individual psychology. Give an account of that discussion and critique it (i.e., describe both its advantages and its limitations.)

Section III: The Marxist Tradition

Answer one of the following questions

The purpose of the sketch of the Marxist tradition provided in the introduction to RCP and in class lectures was to give you a clearer view of how Cleaver's interpretation of Marx is situated in that tradition.

6. Take what you have studied and write a short essay in which you do just that: situate Cleaver's brand of Marxism within the over all Marxist tradition. Explain it as you would to your parents or friends.

7. In the course of sketching how his interpretation of Marx differed from that of many other threads of the Marxist tradition, Cleaver critiqued several of those threads. Take one of those critiques, explain it and then discuss its advantages and limitations.

Section IV: The Labor Theory of Value

Answer one of the following questions

The labor theory of value, whose exposition begins in Chapter One, is the theoretical core of Marxist work. We read this section after Part VIII hoping that the experience of having studied Part VIII would make it easier to see the abstractions of Chapter One in class terms.

8. Discuss the meaning of Marx's concept of "abstract labor" in class terms. A) How did he derive it formally? B) What gives political significance to the concept beyond any formalism? C) Which of the various aspects of work/labor under capitalism can the concept be seen as denoting? D) Which of these does Cleaver argue is most important? E) At what point in the process of primitive accumulation does concrete labor take on the character of "abstract labor"?

9. In laying out his analysis of the "form" of value (exchange value) we discover two kinds of mediation, the first within the simple form the second within the general form. A) & B) Provide an analysis of these two kinds of mediation within the context of the class relationship (which obviously contains the exchanges of the labor market and of consumption markets). C) In expositing this part of the theory Cleaver suggested that similar forms of mediation exist in many kinds of social relationships. Take one of the examples he suggested and critique it, i.e., discuss its advantages and limitations.

Section IV: Mary Barton

10. To what degree and in what ways does Mary Barton give us glimpses of the processes of primitive accumulation which we have studied in part VIII of Capital? Think about this both in terms of the structure of English social relations and in terms of the psychology of the characters.

11. In Marx the self-constituting activity of the working class for-itself sometimes takes the form of the kind of combinations typified by trade unions (or later industrial unions). a)How does Elizabeth Gaskell portray the relations between the self-activity of workers and the unions in Mary Barton? b) Does her portrayal/understanding conflict or overlap with Marx's? To what degree or in what way might they be compatible?