Some reading questions on “The Communist Manifesto”

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These questions should help to guide you through parts 1 & 2 of the “Manifesto.”

(1) “The Communist Manifesto” is certainly more accessible than the “Jewish Question,” but there remains some basic terminological baggage.  Try to be able to define: bourgeoisie, proletariat, means of production, relations of production, mode of production, capitalism, and feudalism.  To define means of production, relations of production, and mode of production, you might want to look here.

(2) What is the thesis of the “Manifesto” (hint: it is in the opening lines of part 1)?

(3) What is the specific form of class struggle we see in capitalism?  How is it similar and different from other class struggles?

(4) What are the basic processes and dynamics by which capitalism emerged from feudal society?

(5) In what sense is the bourgeoisie “revolutionary”?  What is capitalism like?  (e.g., is it stable?  What dynamics does it tend to produce?  What sorts of exploitation and class struggle do we find in it?)

(6) What dynamics will lead to the end of capitalism?

(7) Now a more general question: what basic forms of power explain the sorts of social changes Marx is describing?  Who or what are the important actors?  What sorts of things are not important in Marx’s explanation?  Finally, compare all of this to Hobbes: if there are dynamic changes in society, how might Hobbes account for these changes?

Also, some questions regarding part 2 of the “Manifesto”

(8) Who are the communists?  What is their relation to the proletariat as a whole?

(9) What is the general goal of the communists?

(10) Now a potentially more critical question: given the theory of society sketched in part 1 (e.g., given Marx’s understanding of the causes of social change/dynamics) do the political goals of the communist party make sense?  What is the purpose or role of communist party political activism in Marx’s general theory of society?

(11) What are some of the “bourgeois” objections to communism that Marx identifies?  How does he respond to these objections?  What is the general message Marx wishes to convey in these responses?

(12) “Political power, properly so called, is merely the organized power of one class for oppressing the other.”  Be prepared to discuss what this means and what it implies for forms of political activism (in particular, the activism of the proletariat).

(4)

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