Groups of humans make and use language, but they also make and use that for which language is the vehicle, namely thought — to the extent that it is not purely private and individual. In short, consciousness is a means of production, but a mental or intellectual rather than a material one. There is nothing contrary to materialism in this idea. But the same goes for every product. Every product that can exist as a material object can also exist as an idea.
An idea can also be a means to the production of a material object.
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Once it is agreed that consciousness, though non material, is a tool — that is, something which humans produce in order to produce other things with it — the vicious circle inherent in the materialism of Helvetius, Robert Owen and Feuerbach disappears, because we can see that consciousness can be used to change the world at the same time that it is changed by the world.
However, if consciousness arises from human interaction with the world in this direct way, if it is intrinsically no more mysterious than any other tool, how can it ever be wrong?
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Our thinking can be incomplete, but how can it be at odds with what we do? But in The German Ideology they spell out more of what they mean:. The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it.
So, for them, ruling class thinking does not just reflect the social order but actively intervenes in it, by getting into the minds of other classes and structuring every aspect of life. It presents them with a predigested version of what their experience means, at the same time that they are denied, so far as possible, access to other ways of making sense of it. This, then, is how, in class society, ideas can be at odds with productive activity, such that they reflect it but in a distorted fashion. The individuals composing the ruling class possess among other things consciousness and therefore think.
Insofar, therefore, as they rule as a class and determine the extent and compass of an epoch, it is self-evident that they do this in its whole range, hence among other things rule also as thinkers, as producers of ideas, and regulate the production and distribution of the ideas of their age; thus their ideas are the ruling ideas of the epoch. And the ruling class under capitalism may recruit people from all classes to distribute its ideas. Some of the people who do this ideological distribution work may be recruited from amongst the working class or pushed down into it from the petty bourgeoisie.
Thus, as the Manifesto explains:. The bourgeoisie … has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its paid wage-labourers.
Marx and Engels on education | Workers' Liberty
Since the proletariat is recruited from all classes, and since at the start its educated elements are either formed by or drawn from other classes, these distributors of ideology can easily find routes by which to infiltrate it. However, the working class also has several factors on its side. First, as the Manifesto again explains, capitalism tends to get rid of the divisions which previously stopped those at the bottom getting together. In other words, capitalism weakens the loyalties that tied the poor to the rich under feudalism.
Workers of the world, unite!
Secondly, then, the class instinct that this releases develops to a point where it becomes a basis for positive planning. Workers start to see how they could run things for themselves. Class instinct starts to grow into a distinct form of consciousness:. Necessity is the mother of invention, and what is still more important, of thought and action. The English working-man who can scarcely read and still less write, nevertheless knows very well where his own interest and that of the nation lies.
He knows, too, what the especial interest of the bourgeoisie is, and what he has to expect of the bourgeoisie. If he cannot write, he can speak, and speak in public; if he has no arithmetic, he can, nevertheless, reckon with the Political Economists enough to see through a Corn-Law-repealing bourgeois, and to get the better of him in argument; if celestial matters remain very mixed for him in spite of all the effort of the preachers, he sees all the more clearly into terrestrial, political and social questions.
In short, the working class begins to learn from its own experience, despite the bewilderers who try to prevent this:. But for this learning from experience to develop beyond a certain point, the class must try out its plans on the real life environment.
That is, it must undertake actions aimed at changing that environment, because only through doing that can it change its own consciousness, including its consciousness of itself. In other words, there has to be a revolutionary movement:. Both for the production on a mass scale of this communist consciousness, and for the success of the cause itself, the alteration of men on a mass scale is necessary, an alteration which can only take place in a practical movement, a revolution.
So what looks to the old materialism like a vicious circle looks to the new materialism like a dialectical process. The class instinct of workers starts to turn into class consciousness, which then helps trigger a revolutionary movement, which in turn steps up the development of communist consciousness. In his introduction to the English translation of the Manifesto Engels explained that Marx.
The fact that the working class movement would pass beyond the stage where it needed to be taught by the bourgeoisie did not mean that it could do without thinkers and teachers, but rather that it must produce its own. In particular, it will be the duty of the leaders to gain an ever clearer insight into all theoretical questions, to free themselves more and more from the influence of traditional phrases inherited from the old world outlook, and constantly to keep in mind that socialism, since it has become a science, demands that it be pursued as a science, that is, that it be studied.
The task will be to spread with increased zeal among the masses of workers the ever more lucid understanding thus acquired and to knit together ever more strongly the organisation both of the party and of the trade unions. Marx was also to reiterate it in his critique of the Gotha Programme drafted by Wilhelm Liebknecht at the merger of the two main socialist parties in Germany in , and Engels was to stress it again in his attack on Duhring, written over the period and re-issued by him in the s.
In putting forward this demand, and especially in re-asserting it in the later stages of their activity, Marx and Engels were aligning themselves with a section of industrial employers against a growing body of liberal opinion within the bourgeoisie as well as some socialists and trade unionists. It involved them in arguing for employment-related education and therefore, by implication, against liberal education and for child labour in factories, against efforts by socialists to organise for its abolition.
Rather, it was a plan for mobilising the organised working class to attack the strongest section of the capitalist class — the factory owners — in the area where they must have seemed least vulnerable — that is, in their capacity to break the resistance of any group of workers by replacing them with machines. It was aimed at winning from the state under capitalism a system of vocational education many features of which the bosses themselves wanted but which would both strengthen the working class under present circumstances and prepare it to run production for itself later.
Nature builds no machines, no locomotives, railways, electric telegraphs, self-acting mules etc. These are products of human industry; natural material transformed into organs of the human will over nature, or of human participation in nature. They are organs of the human brain, created by the human hand; the power of knowledge, objectified.
The development of fixed capital indicates to what degree general social knowledge has become a direct force of production, and to what degree, hence, the conditions of the process of social life itself have come under the control of the general intellect and been transformed in accordance with it. He saw it as both desirable and inevitable that machines, and the factory system that went with them, would replace earlier methods of production.
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However, there and then one of the central effects of the growth of production by machines in factories was the tendency for women and children to displace skilled adult male workers. In Capital, Marx uses the printing industry as an example of the effects that follow a change from hand to machine production.
The machines themselves are operated by adults, but boys are employed to spread the paper out under the presses and take it out again after the impression has been produced. Marx explains that previously boys employed in printing were trained in all branches of the trade, enabling them to work as artisans within it for the rest of their lives, but that now they learn only this unskilled work, and are unemployable in any field once they are sacked at The same thing, he thought, was happening across many branches of industry, while the constant invention of new machines meant that section after section of workers were being sacked without warning.
Mechanisation, then, was intensifying competition amongst workers, including competition between women and child workers on the one hand and men on the other, while also putting pressure on adult workers to exploit their own children for example when employers try to cut wages rather than buy machines. At the same time, the design of machines was becoming more and more scientific — based, that is, on underlying abstract principles, for example on the principles of mechanics or the laws of chemistry. Therefore the concrete knowledge of specialised processes that workers had acquired at an earlier stage was becoming less valuable, both for controlling their work under capitalism and for organising it under socialism.
These trends, towards mechanisation and towards the domination of production by science, were bound to continue. They therefore argued against attempts to get child labour banned. For example, in Marx commented on the Gotha programme:. A general prohibition of child labour is incompatible with the existence of large-scale industry and hence an empty, pious wish. Its realisation — if it were possible — would be reactionary, since, with a strict regulation of the working time according to the different age groups and other safety measures for the protection of children, an early combination of productive labour with education is one of the most potent means for the transformation of present-day society.
In the Geneva Resolution, they proposed that the labour of children between 9 and 12 be restricted to 2 hours a day, that of 13 to 15 year olds to 4 hours, and that of 16 and 17 year olds to 6. No parent and no employer should be allowed to use juvenile labour except when combined with education. They then wrote:.
Thirdly: Technological training, which imparts the general principles of all processes of production, and simultaneously initiates the child and young person in the practical use and handling of the elementary instruments of all trades. A gradual and progressive course of mental, gymnastic, and technological training ought to correspond to the classification of the juvenile labourers….