Part 1--Getting Started:
Read the textbook chapter on Karl Marx, with a special focus on Marx’s theory of alienation (all components of alienation) and his concept “species being.” Make sure that you understand how alienation is related to the organization of labor and systems of exchange under capitalism.
Review course notes and lecture material on the same topics. Part 2– Collecting the “Data”
2.a) Invite one or more friends or family members over to share a meal, which you will prepare “from scratch.”
2.b) Cook the meal from scratch and share it with one or more friends or family members. For
this part of the assignment, don’t use any canned goods, mixes, or otherwise pre-prepared foods. Meats and vegetables should be fresh (not canned or pre-made frozen (e.g., no pre-stuffed chicken breasts), sauces should be made from scratch (not from
a jar or sauce mix), etc. You may use electric mixers but NOT food processors. You may use pasta noodles (spaghetti, macaroni, etc), but NOT pre-made raviolis, pre-stuffed manicotti, etc. In other words, I want you to provide as much of the labor in making your meal as is feasible in a modern, urban society where one cannot be reasonably expected to butcher one’s own meat or grow one’s own fruits and vegetables. Keep notes as you figure out what to serve, shop for the ingredients, prepare the food, and after your guests have left. I want to know your thoughts and emotions throughout the process.
NOTE: If your guests offer to help prepare or serve the meal, it’s OK to allow them to assist, but not to cook it for you.
Part 2.c) Part Invite the same friend(s) or family member(s) over to share a pre-made meal. (E.g, a bucket of chicken, a frozen lasagne, etc) Ideally, the meal will be similar to the one you served
the first time, though variations are allowed. Don’t tell your guests that the meal will not be home made. You may leave out the containers (or better yet, just serve from them) so that it will be obvious that you did not cook this time. A good way to entice people to come over a second time is to say, “We enjoyed the last meal or get-together) so much, I wondered if you could come over again.” Keep notes as you figure out what to serve, pick up the food from a store or restaurant, and after your guests have left. I want to know your thoughts and emotions throughout the process.
Part 3: Writing the assignment.
3A. Explaining the Theory and Concepts: Explain Marx’s theory of alienation (including all aspects of alienation) and concept “species being.” (Remember that people
are alienated from nature and that they lose the profits of their labor. Be sure to discuss these as aspects of alienation, as well as the other parts of it.) Be sure to explain the theory and concepts in your own words, using original examples and the critical thinking tools of
accuracy, completeness, clarity, precision, depth, and breadth. Cite your sources!
3.B) Explain Marx’s purpose in developing these concepts and his theory of alienation. Specifically, why do you think Marx took the time to develop these ideas and formulate them into a theory? What is it he’s telling us about the pitfalls of modern capitalism? Be accurate, complete, and precise in your explanation.
3.C) Explain his goal in developing the theory. Would you say that his goal is to be able to predict and control social problems? To create academic understandings for their own sake? To empower and emancipate the oppressed? Be accurate, complete, and precise in your explanation.
3.D) Explain his assumptions about how the organization of society and labor affect people’s consciousness and the way they relate to one another. In class I said that Marx is a materialist/realist. What does that mean? Where in his work on alienation do you see evidence of his realism? Do you see any place in his work where he contradicts these assumptions? Where? Explain fully, providing accuracy, completeness, and depth in your explanation.
In parts 3A-3D, you should use examples and elaboration, as needed, to provide clarity, depth, and breadth to your explanations.
3.E) Presenting the Data: Provide a “thick” description of the entire “data collection” process–what you served, how you cooked it (or where you picked it up), how you served it, who you invited over, where you sat, what you talked about, etc. Did you set the table? Watch
TV while eating (if so, what was on)? How did your guests react to each meal? How did you feel about each meal at each stage of the process? I want enough detail (elaboration) that your cooking makes me hungry and I feel like I was sitting in a corner of the room watching.
3.F) Analyzing the Data:
Use Marx’s theory of alienation and his concepts species being and reification to analyze your experiences. Specifically: Connect experiences from your experiment to Marx’s concepts (aspects of alienation, species being, and reification). Use examples from your experiment to bring the theory to life, and use the theory to conceptualize your experiment. How did being involved in the process of labor in the preparation of the first meal affect your sense of connection to the product and the process? Did you derive any sense of satisfaction from preparing and serving the meal? How did your involvement in the process of labor (fixing and serving the meal) affect your connections to your guests? How did it affect your species being?
Provide one or more example(s) for each concept and explain accurately, completely, and with depth and clarity, why the examples fit with the concepts.
How did your lack of involvement in the process of labor in the preparation of the second
meal affect your sense of connection to the product and the process? How do you think our fast food system of food distribution affects the person/people who created your meal? (E.g., Do you think the server at the drive through window achieved species being from handing your meal to you? What about the person who cooked the tacos/burgers/fried chicken/baked ziti?) What satisfaction did you derive from picking up and serving the pre-prepared meal? How did your lack of involvement in the process of labor affect your connections to your guests? How did it affect your species being? Provide one or more example(s) for each concept and explain accurately, completely, and with depth and clarity, why the examples fit with the concepts.
3.G) Drawing logical data-based conclusions about the theory and concepts: In your Conclusions section, explain what conclusions can you draw about Marx’s critique of the organization of labor under industrial capitalism based on what you learned in this “experiment”? In other words, if your data support Marx’s theory, what are the implications for the way we distribute, prepare, and consume food? How does a reified social system affect consciousness? How does that consciousness then affect our species being, relations to self and other, and our levels of
alienation from self, process, product, other people, and nature? Are Marx’s assumptions about the way society affects individuals and the way groups of people relate to one another still applicable? Why or why not? What, if any, shortcomings do you see in Marx’s assumptions, his goals, and the overall theory? In this section, your conclusions should follow logically from your data and analysis. If your data support Marx’s theory but you still wish to disagree with him, be sure to provide ample evidence that he is wrong. It is perfectly acceptable to disagree with Marx or to critique elements of his theories, but you must provide data or evidence to support your argument.
This section will be graded on logic and the quality of data you use to support your conclusions, as well as accurate use of the data and clarity of the argument.
IMPORTANT: Cite all your sources, including the textbook and power point slides I provide. I will deduct 10 points for failure to cite your sources. (I don’t care what style you use.)
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