The two sides of Karl Marx

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I wanted to write this post following a conversation I had with my parents. Today, education is a central part of an Indian middle class family. But the primary reason why parents want their children to study is not that they are going to do something productive with that knowledge but use it is a means of livelihood and earn thick salaries and thereby increase their status in the society. This is where Marx comes into picture with whom I completely agree on a few principles.

Marx talks about alienation of work by which he means that the connection between the work which we do and how that work is being used in real world is lost. When we do farming, we know that it will help us to survive. When we are sewing a cloth, we know that it will help us against the extreme weather. But, in modern days when we are analysing the market risks being a hedge fund manager or writing software for a surveillance company, we are unable to plainly see how that end result is interpreting our hard work and time. We are doing it because modern work has become increasingly specialized. The work which we do is to provide comforts and luxuries to the society but not the needs. As machines are replacing the jobs done by humans in every cycle of innovation, we really don’t have any other option.

Marx also talks about enjoying sufficient leisure time to which not only me but all of you reading this post would agree!! Frankly, I never wanted to confine myself to just one sphere of knowledge. I always try to experience new things, learn new domains of skills and build an opinion to myself on every burning issue in this world. But, it is really tough if not impossible to find time to do something like that considering the leisure time which we get. Imagine that we were born in the 19th century prior to industrial revolution. We would have time to farm in the morning, hunt and fish in the afternoon, paint and dance in the evenings or play music some other day, travel new places when the harvesting season ends, meet new people, learn new languages and the list simply goes on and on. But today if we find someone who works little and takes a lot of leisure or someone who doesn’t perform well in a specialized area, we discard them as lazy and unfit. Thus, chances are slim to lead a pre-industrial life in a digitized world.

But how much ever I try to admire Marx, the second side of his ideologies does not allow me to do so. Without privatization there is no competition and without competition there is no innovation. Hence, following Marxism the world would have been much passive than it is now. Perhaps this very blog which allows me to share and gather insights from a wider audience would not have been possible. But, it again comes down to the basic question: “What is our priority? ”  or more broadly “What is more important to us? “. Is it the connection which we find with our work we do and the leisure time which we spend or Is it the quality of life and the technology which makes us more comfortable. Balancing both of them in today’s world would be slightly less than a miracle. One thing is certain, the debate around this question is not going to stop, at least not in the near future and Marxism would continue being a complicated concept with neither complete support nor complete denial.

Today, when parents are forcing their children into specialized education they have to realize that jobs in 21st century are not the same they used to be. Work should be fun and has to be done with a sense of purpose rather than as an obligation for survival as it has become today which is a sad circumstance. Marx would have agreed with me !!

Thanks for reading. Feel free to comment !!