1160098315 - Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels Selections from...

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Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels Selections from various works (pp. 764-773) Overview and Discussion Questions Excerpt from Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 The passage selected from this work focuses on Marx and Engels’s argument with political economy, a 19 th century discipline that united what have become separate fields—economics and political science—and sought to formulate the general laws of economic behavior. The excerpt begins by noting how much the assumptions and intellectual tools of political economy can show us; on its own terms, the perspective of political economists can be made to explain how the rich get richer and poor get poorer. But they also take the further step of critiquing political economy, by showing how it assumes what it should be working to explain. Where political economists set out from the assumption that there are workers and capitalists, and that the basic drive of humans is to make money via competition on an open market, Marx and Engels want to question these assumptions. An honest and truly scientific study of economic phenomena would try to explain how the world came to be divided between factory workers and factory owners, how free market competition came to organize how we produce and distribute goods. Marx and Engels argue for a historical perspective on these questions—argue that what the political economists take as aspects of the human condition are really the result of complex historical processes.
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