Daily Archives: October 8, 2011

Midterm Review (HUM415)

Though we began the semester with a few readings devoted to the key terms “culture” and “periodization” these will not be on the midterm. The material to be covered in the exam begins with the Communist Manifesto, which, contrary to the cliches of anti-communism, is most significant for its thumbnail sketch of the rise of global capitalism. The CM offers a number of insights, including a model of historical development which is rooted in the Hegelian dialectic– the so-called clash of opposites or, in an oversimplified formulation, thesis-antithesis-synthesis. The main issue for us, however, lies in a principle of dynamism according to which the development of capitalist relations leads to both the massive growth of productive power and chronic, profound social instability. The relative stasis of the feudalist mode of production, for example, gives way to a social landscape marked by unceasing technological innovation and repeated crises. In the long term, capital’s tendency to consolidate also produces a sharp distinction between the owners of capital– the bourgeoisie– and those whose lives depend on their ability to sell themselves and their capacity for labor– the proletariat. In a contemporary setting, the overwhelming proportion of people are proletarians– whether or not they work with their hands– simply because they do not possess any means of production.

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