Assess the claim that for Marxists, international relations is all about inequality.

Assess the claim that for Marxists, international relations is all about inequality.

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Assess the claim that for Marxists, international relations is all about inequality.
As an international relations theory, Marxism contrasts sharply with other theories in the field in that
it does not directly look at the roles of states and international organisations. Instead, it focuses on
the importance of economic concerns within the global structure, including how social conditions of
working people spread from country to country through the forces of capitalism. I am first going to
look at the fundamental principles of general Marxism, with emphasis on how they are about
inequality, and then show how these lead into Marxist international relations theory. I will then look
at the values and principles of Marxist IR theory, and how these relate to inequality.
Marxist theory rests on the belief in a `class struggle' between the proletariat (or working class) who
have only their labour to sell, and the bourgeoisie who own the `means of production' i.e. owners of
factories and those with initial wealth. From this, Marx believed that the proletariat suffer alienation,
the "condition in which the human race is at the mercy of the structures and forces which are its own
creation" (Linklater, 1996), and exploitation, the "condition in which particular groups directly control
and profit from the labour-power of others" (Linklater, 1996). According to Marx, this class setup is
an immoral one ­ a system that needs to go. From this, we see social change as a result of the class
struggle that emerges from this society; a depressed working class, with a poor quality of life
compared to what is economically possible. Marx's key prediction is that eventually the proletariat
class will rise up against the bourgeoisie in a revolution where the means of production is seized and
brought into public ownership.
The themes of alienation, exploitation and estrangement are very important when looking at Marxist
IR theory. As already noted, Marxism is a theory that doesn't come `ready-made' - it is "presented as
a scattered collection of various fragments of work" (Kirchberger), and it is our role to piece
together these fragments.
A key strand that connects Marxist International Relations theory and others is by looking at the
nature of nations. Marxism theory focuses on how nations see it as their priority to expand their

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Capitalist economics is driven by the belief that free trade between nations will
always bring benefits to both countries. Importing countries offer a wider choice of goods for lower
prices than those produced `in-house', whilst exporting countries receive a greater price for the
goods than they would do if they sold exclusively inside their own country. This derives from the
capitalist forces of supply and demand, built into nearly every nation's economy.…read more

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Marx believed that a resulting effect of capitalism's never-ending expansion is that it "creates a
world after its own image" (Marx & Engels, The Communist manifesto, 2002). It is the driving force
behind globalisation (and thus the links between states) as it seeks to spread itself from one country
onto another, due to its "need for a constantly expanding overseas market for its production"
(Thorndike, 1978, p. 68).…read more

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Burchill, 1999). Through this socialist society comes a
civilization built upon equality of people, the ultimate aim of Marx's vision.
Marxist analysis of the capitalist system places class inequality as the primary cause of alienation
within the proletariat. The basic theory looks fundamentally at the conflict between the bourgeoisie
and the proletariat.…read more

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In fact, not
only is this quality of measure crucial to the reasoning behind overthrowing capitalism, but with the
ushering of a socialist society comes the vital commitment to "individual freedom and equality of
opportunity" (Ball & Dagger).The degree of success in this aspect depends on the measurement of a
distribution of wealth that serves the interests of the entire society ­ and not just the pockets of the
few.…read more

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In the USSR, the Soviet branch of Marxism conceded that:
"the states-system is in fact an international society... and indeed the Soviet concept of `peaceful
coexistence' is predicted on the understanding that the world is such an international society,
holding the shared value of `peace'... devising various institutions for its achievement" (Kubalkova
& Cruickshank, 1985, p. 21).
The Soviet Union played an important part in the formation of the United Nations, and clearly
appreciated the role that international organisations play in `keeping the peace'.…read more

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Burchill, S. (1999). Marx on Globalisation. Retrieved from
Gingrich, P. (2002). Marx on Alienation. Retrieved 02 24, 2012, from
Gingrich, P. (2002). Marx on Social Class. Retrieved from
Kirchberger, A. (n.d.). Marx, Ideology, and International Relations. Retrieved from
Kubalkova, V., & Cruickshank, A. (1985). Marxism and International Relations. Oxford: Oxford
University Press.
Linklater, A. (1996). Theories of International Relations. Hampshire: Macmillan Press Ltd.
Marx, K. (1875). Critique of the Gotha Program.
Marx, K., & Engels, F. (2002). The Communist manifesto.…read more


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