Is Marx’s View on Culture in Capitalism True? (opinion)



Marx’s main idea expressed in Introducing Cultural Studies by Brian Longhurst et al. is the power struggle in capitalistic societies, dividing them into two classes – proletariat and bourgeoisie. According to Marx ‘The relationship between these classes is asymmetrical: there is an unequal distribution of power between them.’ (Longhurst, Smith and Bagnall, 2008, p. 65) The issue of the extended rule of bourgeoisie is answered through the ruling class’s use of cultural instruments. Apart from holding the reigns over the culture in the society, ‘bourgeoisie, through its economic power, also exercises political power and so shapes and controls the agencies of the state. Effective control of the state apparatus also gives it a monopoly on the use of force.’ (Longhurst, Smith and Bagnall, 2008, p. 65) With the certainty of being backed by the army, the rule of the wealthy minority shows the scary side of capitalistic regime. But how does this small amount of people manage to sustain their power of the working minority? As Marx states, it is exactly through its hold over the culture. Thus the ideas of bourgeoisie spread into minds of proletariat who obeys the concepts of modest life thanks to religious views. Weakness is translated into good will and consideration towards others, promoting obedience towards the class struggles. ‘Thus Marx presents culture as ideology, as a partial, biased prop for the bourgeoisie, which is fashioned by it in its own interests. Culture as ideology blunts the understanding of the proletariat: it is the instrument of its deception, occluding its true interests.‘ (Longhurst, Smith and Bagnall, 2008, p. 67) While this statement can be considered as the truth, to an extent, there are good counter-arguments to present against the culture’s sole position in the society as a tool for bourgeoisie’s manipulation. In the history it has been the culture that served as a medium for uprising, protests and political resistance. Independent newspapers, pamphlets, and other forms of media were informing the masses of the evil doing of the ruling class. A society’s culture is not a reflection of the ruling ideas entirely. It can become the power that carrier the words of the exploited, calling them to action. It is through the instruments of art, theatre, design and journalism that the proletariat is informed of each other’s views on the conditions of their life. And when the disagreement with the current situation boils over, the anger and determination will, through the means of culture, take the reigns away from the bourgeoisie. However, seeing it in the history, the proletariat is still on the leash of the ideas spread over the centuries. Diversity and individualism are not supported, but rather laughed at. Who disobeys the cultural standards is condemned by the society. Freethinking is promoted, but it rather seems that the working class doesn’t truly understand the concept. Free expression of one’s will is still oppressed, yet not openly. Our relative freedom is a well-baked lie. We are presented with this cake daily, and eat it eagerly.


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