Notes on Marxist Theory (based on Tyson etc.) version 1.4

January 30, 2017


Marxist critical theory where "the center" or the core construct is that what we see is ideological, and this blinds us from seeing economic/material circumstances (and that's everything that matters with this theory). With Psychoanalytic theory, the core construct is that what we "see" are reactions to what is "unseen" (repressed), those wounds we experience during our psychosexual development (and the self is everything that matters), or the Lack we experience from losing the object petit a. Both theories are in many ways structuralist theories.

The key to Marxist enlightenment is to show the inherent conflicts/failures in the ideologies we are bombarded with.



ideologies (harmful constructs or theories that act as if they are natural) blind us from seeing our oppression and doing something about it...

create a specific, though false, historical situation (zeitgeist?)





History of Capitalism--it's complex (from Adam Smith's laissez-faire, invisible hand market, to Keynesian philosophies)

Religion (organized)

  • Our reward will be on high (so we don't need to rebel now, say, if you're a slave; or you'll get 70 virgins in heaven if you become a martyr now)...
  • Fighting for God vs. Fighting for Allah ("they" want to take our freedom [to buy stuff] away?)


  • Fighting for Freedom, God, and Guns...
  • Fighting for Pride (the desire to win to save face, or to exact revenge, say, after 9/11)...
  • but war has surprising and dark realities for vets and the countries that we go to war within

Social Darwinism

Manifest Destiny

  • the 19th century idea that white North Americans were destined--by nature? By God, certainly--to settle the west and spread over the Americas and beyond
  • spreading Democracy to other nations is a modern form of this--"nation building"?
  • the old Birth of a Nation


economic conditions are material circumstances

The Real (Lacan says we can't ever access The Real without ideology, but Marxism has to be able to effect change in a "real" world, so Lacan is rejected)?


False Consciousness (58)--denial (Freud); was the Marlboro man in denial about the effects of smoking?

Consumerism--Bush telling Americans to go shopping after 9/11 to help shore up the

Competition--keeping up with the Joneses, crawling over the backs of others to succeed

Commodification--values have shifted from use value to exchange and sign-exchange value (62)

Alienation--from each other, from the products of our labor--Marx was concerned about the ethics etc. of Industrialization


Slavery--some "Christian" quotes about slavery etc.


Subordination (women, queers)

A blog against Patriotism...

...but freedom for who and what? Those who profit from war like Haliburton in Iraq and Afganistan?

payback/revenge/score card (like football, but more deadly)?

and who are the casualties? warriors coming back broken; refugees; the poor often bear the brunt of any war we wage (they're best job is a military job after high school)


Jim Crowe--segregation (institutionalized racism); Jim Crowe objects meant to keep African American's in their placy; THEM

more subordination of all who are not white males


the displacement and annihilation of many Native American tribes

displacement of Mexican land owners, say, in Texas and California

invasion of Iraq?

American Class "system": homeless, poor, middle class (lower and upper), well-to-do, wealthy, aristocracy (the top 10% of the world's population owns 90% of it's wealth; or has that lopsided stat increased? Walmart owners used to be millionairs, but now they are billionairs)

With literature, it's interesting to think about Realism vs. Postmodernism, how a Marxist theorist might see each in a negative or positive light. Ultimately, though, Marxists tend to want material change they can hold on to, and thus experimental forms of literature are ridiculed. Give them Realism! Or better yet, Naturalism! Pull the wool from their eyes like in Bambara's story...

A primer on Socialism from Schultz...