Are the Poor Lazy?
The poor deserve to be poor because they are lazy; it is quite as simple as that. Of course, it is true that there are exceptions, but there is to every rule. However, in the case of the poor, as a group, they are all too often seen as groups deserving of sympathy. In fact, when a street peddler holds out his hand, some people feel too guilty to pass him by without giving him even a little bit of change. After all, he is so much worse off than they. The sociologists Karl Marx looked at life through an economist’s eyes but he had the heart of a philosopher. His ideas about the ordering of society had much to do with economics as well as with morality and much of these may be found in the Marx-Engel’s reader. However, to get to the heart of the matter, Marx’s and Engel’s Communist Manifesto provides the ultimate position on poverty. The reason why there are poor people, to Marx, is capitalism itself. This is true even though capitalism is supposedly part of a grand scheme where eventually communism would reign. In the mean time, with capitalism, business owners live well while workers are much like slaves, living a life of alienation. Marx and Engel said, in The Communist Manifesto: "The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honored and looked up to with reverent awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its paid wage-laborers". Anyone can see this idea is as old as time. Even today, doctors have been reduced to paid wage laborers, particularly with the advent of HMOs. The profession has been made corrupt by money. No longer can physicians practice, as they would like as they are tied into this system of beurocracy that is in today’s world. Here, it is also seen that the essence of man is destroyed by a class war. One can no longer take pride in his or her own work as everything is reduced to a price. And that is what Marx saw as indicative of a system of government that did not value individual contribution. It is almost as if the workers are imprisoned and surely they have no choice. In society today, does the Wal Mart cashier or exotic dancer really have a choice? If they did, would they be participating in demeaning or demoralizing work, day after day, that does not allow them to reach their full human potential? Marx had written so extensively on the unfairness of capitalism that his motivation could only be that he cared a great deal about ethics and morality. What he saw going on around him was immoral and that prompted his writings, which appear largely economic. Underlying the talk about politics and money are very real concerns about the poorer factions. This comes through in much of his writings. While it is true that Marx had a Robin Hood type of philosophy, he would not have tolerated laziness. In fact, the point on which the Manifesto is based is that wage laborers were virtually slave laborers. To Marx, this was wrong. Yet even in Marx’s model, there is no room for laziness. He did not point to a bum on the street and feel sorry for him. Rather, he pointed to the people working long hours for low wages, people who were not lazy at all. To Marx, the lazy poor would deserve what they would get. Sadly his proposal for ultimate happiness is communism, which isn’t like capitalism, though dependent on it for an economic base. But he didn’t say that all poor people are lazy but he did see a class division based on distribution of power, which was something that they didn't control. Maybe Marx made a conscious decision in not going over the issue of laziness specifically, however it is apparent what he thought on the subject, but one can only imagine what he really thought.
Marx, Karl and Engel’s Friedrich. The Communist Manifesto, New York: Bantam books, 1992. Tucker, Robert C. The Marx-Engel’s Reader, New York: W.W. Norton &Co., 1978 Macionis, John. Sociology Eighth Edition, pg96-101, New Jersey: Kenyon College, Prentice Hall Word Count: 671