Marx: Paranoia or Prophesy

David Gilkey, NPR

David Gilkey, NPR

For many social theorists, Marx can be examined with a critical eye. By Marx being second read only to the Bible, his position creates, in true conflict theory form, a shake your fists at the sky response at times. With further examination, however; the basic observations, principles and arguments of commodity fetish, dehumanization, and alienation are still alive and well despite the validity of opposing views. If we allow our heresy of Marx to cloud our analysis, we can view the world through rose colored Google glass, and ignore that which makes us human, our identification as homo sapiens sapiens. Simply put, we should think about our thoughts and reexamine them some more. It is in the reexamination that I can clearly see exactly the horrifying nature of Marx’s observations, and realize the deadliness of his concepts of alienation, dehumanization, and commodity fetish.

The current event that best illustrates the alarm of Marx is the Ebola outbreak of Western Africa. A simple analysis of Marx’s commodity fetish is when the value placed on products produced supersedes the lives of people producing the products. The true power and perils of our capitalist commodity fetish are nearly impossible to truly visualize in 1st world countries.  We must look to the economically deprived worlds to see the effects. We must examine the lives and now deaths of the people who provide surplus labor and inexpensive goods.The Ebola epidemic is the culmination of dehumanization and alienation. Healthcare workers have contracted Ebola due to the lack of personal protective equipment such as gloves, masks, etc.

How is it possible for one country to have plentiful resources in close proximity, yet choose not to provide services, funds, or resources to administer rapid and effective aid? Why are healthcare workers contracting Ebola when Infectious Disease professionals all over the world have equipment that can stop this epidemic?  It is a travesty these resources are not being shared to eradicate the spread of the Ebola virus. From a conflict theory perspective, Marx would argue the bourgeoisie is choosing to not assist more effectively in the Ebola crisis to subsequently expand their reach into the various communities impacted. The lack of efficacious aid from the Marxist perspective can be validated if we examine the Ebola epidemic even from a functionalist perspective. We must look at the question of why is more not being done, and what impact does not sending more aid yield?  When we examine why enough resources have not been sent to prevent a viral epidemic, we can first hypothesize perhaps the countries with the ability to help currently lack the resources; however, foreign aid funds to develop and spread capitalism on the continent of Africa are in place and ready. More likely, the cost benefit relationship is disproportionate. In short, there are not enough sick and dying to justify the expenditure of expenses for private transport, and trained personnel to deliver supplies to help save the lives.

In fact, in a NBC News article, “Business Interest in Africa Still Strong Despite Ebola”, investors are still interested in Africa, and why wouldn’t they continue interest? A viral outbreak will drive down investments costs and deter smaller investors who may be unwilling to risk venturing into a potentially deadly environment. For those infected with Ebola, their suffering is increasing the pockets of their future employers, if they survive the infection. In short to bridge the gap capitalism is causing, we need countries in Africa for economic growth. The political climate of these countries is such that populations of their citizens believe the epidemic to be another means of government corruption; however, preventing the spread of illness is most effective on an individual level. The primary means of preventing disease transmission is washing one’s hands. Other basic precautions and behaviors that can greatly reduce the spread of the virus are being ignored by citizens whom are too accustomed to the corruption of government.

At the root of commodity fetish is the acceptance of the value or lack thereof, assigned to the individual, experience, or object. The citizens of these countries are all too familiar with the corruption of capitalism. Their distrust is leading them to their deathbeds and the investors and 1st world countries are allowing this to happen. The very nature of humanity is that we have the ability to choose our nature. Regardless of whether we agree with everything Marx believed, it is impossible to deny the travesty that is taking place. The epitome of dehumanization is when a population is in suffering, and no one will assist because the financial cost is either too great or the loss of life is to an advantage for financial gain.

Works Cited

Africa News. (n.d.). The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved August 29, 2014, from Africa News. (n.d.). The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved August 29, 2014, from

Business Interest in Africa Still Strong Despite Ebola – NBC News. (n.d.). NBC News. Retrieved August 29, 2014, from Fink, S. (2014, August 26).

W.H.O. Moves Team in Sierra Leone After a Medical Worker Contracts Ebola. The New York Times. Retrieved August 29, 2014, from

The 10-Year-Old Boy Has Died, Probably Of Ebola. (n.d.). » News » OPB. Retrieved August 29, 2014, from World News. (n.d.). The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved August 29, 2014, from     APA formatting by

2 thoughts on “Marx: Paranoia or Prophesy

  1. I spent some time in Africa going social research for the Army. While I agree that much of the continents problems stem from capitalism it is a complex problem rooted in several centuries of history. On the issue of resources many of the worlds most resource rich countries are the poorest. This has been termed the resource curse, which is experience by many countries in Africa.

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