As I completed last night's reading on Marxism and Dependency theory, I couldn't help but pick up on the similarities between Marx's central ideas and the rallying cries of the Occupy Wall Street movement nearly a decade ago. Although I have never studied the movement in depth, I am familiar with its foremost objectives. The movement, of course, was in a nutshell a protest against enormous levels of social and economic inequality, greed, corruption, and unfair corporate influence on policy decisions of the US government. It was, in many ways, a pushback against the overall capitalist system. As a result, I decided that the juxtaposition of last night’s reading with one that relates to the Occupy movement would provide for a fascinating analysis.
Written back in September of 2013, Charles M. Blow of The New York Times examines the legacy of the movement. He argues that that legacy was the instilment into the national conscience the idea that our extreme levels of inequality are politically untenable and morally unacceptable, and that eventually the 99 percent will demand better. In other words, it has awoken Americans to the dichotomy of the rich and the rest. Blow points to a Pew Research Center poll of 1,506 adults that demonstrates how an increasing number of Americans are uneasy with the current system. According to the poll, fewer than 8 percent of respondents thought that, after the 2009 recession, government policies have helped the poor, the middle class or small business a great deal. Conversely, more than five times as many believe they’ve helped the wealthy, large banks and other financial institutions, and large multi-national corporations.
This is precisely where I saw the overlap with Marx’s central ideas, most especially on the exploitation of workers and the capitalist control over the state. Marx believed that capitalists exploit workers with their greater labor market power by expropriating a share of the economic output that should belong to the workers. As a result, workers are put into a lose-lose situation: accept a bad deal of low wages or the alternative of unemployment, which is likely worse. Similarly, Marx believed that the superior financial resources of capitalists provides them with an unmatched ability to control the policies of the state, which they use to advance their own interests, even at the expense of the rest of society. Those interests are predominately about keeping profits up, workers weak, and wages down. Ultimately, Marx’s ideas found echoes in America’s Occupy Wall Street movement. Perhaps it is a testament to the continued relevance of Marx’s works and the need to continuously think about—and in some cases question—the apparent shortcomings of capitalism.