Marx’s analysis of the structural tendency of capitalism

Research Paper: Goals and Objectives: The goal of the research paper is to facilitate the development and refinement of basic research skills through the application of classical concepts and theories to contemporary issues. In your paper, you should make a clear argument or related set of arguments and you should adopt a formal style of writing with full sentences, proper paragraphs that are connected to each other, an introduction and a conclusion. You do not need to have a clear thesis as such, but the paper should be coherently organized. Your research paper should be between 1500 – 2000 words.

Requirements, Procedures and Research Tips: For this paper, you need to read two pieces by Marx and Engels: “The Communist Manifesto” pages 1-21 and “Wage Labour and Capital”, pages 7-23, available online via the links on the course outline above under “Textbooks and other Materials” or below, in the section on Marx.

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Karl Marx, “The Communist Manifesto” pp. 1-21 https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/download/pdf/Manifesto.pdf

Karl Marx, “Wage Labour and Capital”, pp. 7-23 https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/download/pdf/wage-labour-capital.pdf

In the readings listed above, you will be able to find Marx’s analysis of the structural tendency of capitalism to become global as it develops (in The Manifesto of the Communist Party) and the constant struggle between capital and labour (in Wage Labour and Capital) that is the key factor that drives capitalism to become global via the search for cheaper and more compliant labour as well as the search for new markets for manufactured products.

 

You will apply the relevant theoretical concepts and formulations from Marx in the two readings above, to discuss and analyze the contents of the following two documentaries: “The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire” available on youtube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R39n2bzv5RM and The True Cost https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nxhCpLzreCw

 

The paper should have a clear introduction, a substantive discussion of the key issues and conclusion that summarize your sociological understanding of capitalism as discussed in the two documentaries. This assignment is NOT an “essay” in the High School format with a fixed number of paragraphs, a clear “thesis” that you need to defend, reject etc. The paper should represent a cohesive discussion of the connection between some of the key concepts from Marx and Engels on modern capitalism as a global phenomenon driven by search for cheap and compliant labor force to reduce the costs of production and to enhance profits. You will need to pull out and apply some relevant quotes from the writings of Marx and Engels to the issues discussed in the documentaries. Finally, you will have to engage in some research and find two other documentaries on youtube where similar issues – global capitalism, relocation of manufacturing for cheaper and compliant labour, outsourcing etc. – are discussed. You need to refer to these two extra documentaries and the two texts by Marx and Engels in a bibliography at the end of the research paper. The end product should be a paper that demonstrates an understanding of the general theoretical perspective of Marx and Engels on capitalism and substantive engagement with the content of the two documentaries.

 

The expected length of the paper is between 1500-2000 words. When writing the paper, the following issues should be used as general/overarching guidelines. However, these are NOT questions that have to be ANSWERED.
1. What do Marx and Engels have to say about the “structural” tendency of capitalism to be global?
2. How does the conflict between capitalist and workers, capital and labor drive the globalization of capitalism?
3. What are some of the social consequences of global capitalism for workers and capitalists both in the “developed” and the “developing” areas?
4. Using the concepts of “structure”, “agency”, “ideology/culture”, reflect briefly on the possible relevance of the documentaries for your own lives – consumption practices, the culture of fashion and trends, the pleasures of shopping, work experience etc. This is an exercise in “reflexivity” ie. the deployment of the sociological perspective to illuminate and make sense of our own lives.
5. Briefly discuss the common claim that after the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, lessons have been learnt and labour practices and wages have dramatically improved globally.
6. The gender and age (child labour) dimensions of the fast fashion industry.
7. Marks will be deducted for spelling mistakes and typographical errors. Please proof-read your paper very carefully before submission.
8. Please review your paper very carefully before submitting it on Quercus. You will NOT be allowed to re-submit a paper after the formal deadline. After the deadline has passed, you CANNOT email the TA or Instructor with another version of your paper.

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