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Introduction to Marxism
In my question to the professors in Moodle chapter 12, I wanted to take the time to ask about how Marxism interprets the silences within a text, because this is something that we've talked about in class recently with nearly every novel we have read. I found it interesting how our reading on Marxism emphasized how ideology can be found in a text’s “silences”, or what a text fails to say because ideology makes it impossible to say it. I asked about how these silences relate to how the lower class is able to willingly, yet unknowingly consent to their own systematic oppression. If silences due to ideology are to blame for the oppression and eventual development of cultural hegemony, is the ruling class or lower class to blame? This inherently also asks the question of which form of silence is more prevalent and detrimental to society, so is it possible that the silence of one group can outweigh the silence of another?
You pose some interesting questions with the concept of silence. The idea of one group's silence outweighing the others can be taken in a few different directions, and I do believe that silences express more than speech in the case of Marxism. If a ruling class is silent about the oppression they're causing, that can automatically be taken to mean that they either don't care, or are willingly choosing to perpetuate a broken system. Silence in the working class can automatically be taken to mean that the people are accepting their abuse. When society is looked at through a Marxist standpoint, we come to the conclusion that any type of silence puts a group at fault. There is no innocence from a group that chooses to remain silent about issues, and things will only change with speech, or in a Marxist case, revolution. Which poses the question, can the ruling class participate in the revolution? Is there any way for them to redeem themselves from their silence?
I have a hard time trying to interpret marxism into text because my brain is programed to only think about how marxism is applied to a society and how it was used in the Soviet Union and in modern cases, China and North Korea. I think of marxism as a socio-economic concept that revolves around the basis of equality between everything and no privacy. I'm confused about how this is applied to literature, or if marxism is used completely different in literature rather than in a society. If someone could do a dummy course on how marxism is relevant to literature, that would be much appreciated. CosisQUITEconfused on this one.
I'm really sorry we had no opportunity to dig into this or dialogics like I wanted to--these two theories are really fascinating.
To Grace's point (@graceirla), the role of the privileged and powerful in the revolution is truly problematic, but not impossible. First, that privilege must truly be investigated and deconstructed. The closest thing I can suggest immediately would be working as an ally in the justice work needed rather than a leader/initiator. This means learning and listening, adopting and speaking, ever cognizant of the ironic and problematic role you serve in that speech. Silence, however, is not acceptable. I remember how much trouble I got in with some parents a few years ago when I posted an article which suggested that the worst thing whites can do around the Ferguson riots is stay silent. Silence perpetuates the status quo power. (But it's so much easier and comfortable--safer--for whites if they stay silent around issues of race!) No, learn and listen, then speak and support. I can only imagine that Americans might do the same globally and Oakland County residents might do the same nationally.
To Cosis (@cosisconfused), one of my favorite class days was lost this year--St. Patrick's Day. I demonstrate the work of Neo-Marxists by looking first at how we celebrate the occasion (wrongly at nearly every step, I might add, from colors to symbols). But also how much money and entertainment we derive from the day. And why? Because of the death of a Catholic saint? Odd. We might protest that no, we are celebrating the Irish and what it is to be Irish and to respect that wonderful culture! But if this were true, how much do we know about it (really), and about Irish Americans and how they came to be here? We are so busy drinking and adding shamrock tattoos to our cheeks that we never learn about Irish history and the potato famine in any kind of accurate way. 1) Our history books--I do a survey of the ones we use in the US--are misleading and brief on the topic, despite its magnitude; and 2) they do not discuss the class warfare that caused the death and emigration of countless Irish. They are silent about the role of England as it purchased plenty of food FROM Ireland during the famine, the land rent under a feudal system that drove the poor out of their homes, and the silence of the Church which might have stood as a moral authority on the matter. Note how none of that story has anything to do with potato crops--the deaths and emigration are human-made. But we do not teach this. It's far more important--in a capitalist narrative--that we consume, drink, eat, and dress like stereotypical characters for a weekend. One might argue that this was all history anyway, and that nothing like that is happening now, so what difference does it make? And I would respond, how certain are we? The potatoes failed because they were a monoculture (just like we are doing with the US corn crops), farmers are being driven out of the business by large corporations (like Monsanto, now Bayer), and our media (our possible moral conscience of public awareness) says nothing of it. Yes, all of the stories that are told or are not told are questions of power and class; and Neo-Marxism is about asking which are told, which are not, and why. There's your crash course! (And the Moodle resources, of course!)
@cosisconfused I completely agree. I am also in the same boat. When I think of marxism I can only think of the soviet union and AP World history. @schisnell Thank you for the crash course. I am sad that we never got to have a class about it together because I was really interested in learning about the upcoming theories such as marxism, but also including the ones we voted on such as feminism. I hope we can still learn the basics of them through our new online curriculum.
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