Karl Marx

The Importance of Studying History

Black Readers

While there are conspicuous benefits to studying history formally at a higher education institution, an individual is not limited to gaining historical knowledge inside a higher education institution.  A person has a few economical options available to learn more about history: (1) checkout and read history books at public libraries, (2) purchase used copies of history books online, especially on Amazon, and (3) read free online historical material, including websites devoted to history, e-books, and scholarly articles available through Google Scholar.  Understanding the past is crucial to comprehending the present and future.  Too often many are flabbergasted about national and international developments.  If they closely follow history, many national and international incidences will not astound them.

Whether one is a Marxist or not, reading the works of Karl Marx, especially Capital, The Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, The German Ideology, and The Communist Manifesto, will enable a person to see connections between economic and social evolutions.  By reading Marx, one gains an apposite understanding of capitalism and knowing the history of capitalism is requisite to a keen awareness of the history of the modern and postmodern world.

It would be wonderful to have a majority of elected leaders who are students of history.  Just imagine how much better our lives would be if they actually had a robust knowledge of history.  Through a firm awareness of history, our elected officials are able to be more informed about the likelihood of their policies experiencing success.  At the local and national level, too many failed policies of the past are being employed.  What’s frustrating is many elected officials believe they’re offering new policies—when, in reality, those policies have been used in the past and have been miserable failures.

A passion for studying history must birth throughout the nation.  American citizens cannot simply rely on their elected representatives to have a commitment to learning from history—they must be the ones who change their representatives’ relationship (or lack thereof) with history.  Although you may be a student of history, the mistakes of those around you who aren’t students of history can have a deleterious impact on you.  Any transformative changes in economic and social policy will necessitate that a firm historical understanding be evinced.  No matter how brilliant an idea may sound, if the idea is detached from the lessons of history, it will prove to not be so “brilliant” after all.  When we don’t demand our leaders to be led by history, we unintentionally encourage their ineptitude.

An excellent example of how many Americans lack serious historical knowledge is reflected in numerous reactions to Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained.  Too many individuals are attempting to make claims about the film’s treatment of slavery when their responses don’t reveal they’re truly competent about slavery.  Before you proceed to compare the film’s depiction of slavery with the realities of American slavery, you actually have to know the history of American slavery.  Is this too much to ask?  Too many would rather just pontificate about the film and slavery than do the work necessary to have a credible appraisal of the film.  Spike Lee was foolish enough to admit that he was negatively criticizing the film without viewing it.  He expressed that he refuses to watch the film but he was unwilling to forego commenting about a film he has not viewed.  Does this make sense?     

You will find that when you engage more with reading history books, you will develop a greater appreciation for history and will have a more enriched understanding of yourself and the world in which you reside.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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Toward a Better Understanding of Relationship and Sexual Desires

The things that we desire can be really complicated sometimes. Many of the things that we desire we know are complicated—it’s not like we are blind about the complexity of many of our longings. Have you ever wanted to hook up with someone and later discovered that the person is really not what you thought? Have you ever longed to be in a relationship with someone, but later found out that there’s no way that you could ever make it in a relationship with the person? Have you ever had a deep sexual desire for someone and then, as time goes by, end up feeling like why in the world did I ever sexually desire this person? Have you ever had sex with someone and experienced just okay sex with the person, but you still want to have sex with the person so bad—even though you know you’re not going to be completely fulfilled after you have worked so hard to get with the person and the sex is again just okay? No, I have not been listening to Brandy’s “Have You Ever” lately, but I have been seriously contemplating how complicated our relationships and sexual desires can be sometimes.

Although desire emerges from natural human emotions, Karl Marx has evinced that desire becomes much more complicated when it comes into contact with capitalism. The economic and social influences of capitalism can cause our desires to become unstable and difficult to comprehend. Your desire to constantly have sex with someone who you know is not going to give you the sexual experience you long for can be a product of you attempting to find a way to satisfy your economic shortcomings that result from capitalism. The societal expectations to be sexually involved with someone can lead you to constantly pursue someone you know is not going to fulfill you sexually, and to make matters even worse, this person can be someone who it’s challenging to get him or her to have sex with you—even though you have had sex together before.

Although I have had the opportunity to read some very good (and a few great) blogs that concentrate on relationships, there is little to no discussion and analysis about the impact of the economic system, namely capitalism, on relationships. Relationships of all types are heavily affected by capitalism. By thinking about the impact that capitalism has on relationships, we can move more toward offering advice, critiques, and discussions about relationships that are informed by something greater than one’s personal experience and background; we can all begin to think about how capitalism is at play in what goes on in relationships and how we conceive relationships.

Envisage how much better Steve Harvey’s relationship advice would be if he solemnly contemplated capitalism’s impact on the relationships in which he analyzes, and imagine how much better constructed his relationship advice would be if he firmly situated it within a theoretical or conceptual framework that offers him the ability to critique capitalism’s effects on relationships. I don’t think this is asking too much of him, but his largely naïve and/or desperate audience may begin to run away from this more substantive and focused relationship advice.

Some people will say that they do include capitalism into how they think about and analyze relationships, but I would just like to see you be more explicit in your critiques of capitalism’s effects on relationships in your discussions and analyses.

When you no longer desire to be with a person who you thought you were interested in, I want you to think about that you may have learned something meaningful about yourself and what you want, as opposed to there being anything substantively wrong and/or disappointing about the person.

When you no longer want to hook up with a person for a one-night stand (or jump off), I want you to think about the possible economic and social factors at play that could be contributing to your discontinued desire to be with the person. You can learn much about yourself by engaging in this critical self-evaluation of your thoughts about relationships and your words and actions within your relationships.

When you continue to have sex with someone you really are not being fulfilled by, I want you to consider the possibility that you really don’t want to be with this person, and that you are only having sex with him or her to mollify larger economic and/or social problems and challenges that plague you.

It is my hope that relationship discourses, advice, and analyses will begin to include thoughts about capitalism’s impact on relationships. I’m not trying to discourage people from using their own personal experiences with relationships in their advice, discussions, and analyses about relationships, but I would certainly like to see a greater effort employed to contextualize and conceptualize your personal experiences within larger factors that will offer wider applicability and relevancy. Your personal relationship experiences can be useful to people, of course. However, don’t ever present your relationship experiences as the standards for all relationships. Just because you have been involved in some or many relationships does not make you a relationship expert, especially when you have not really internalized anything you have learned from your relationships.

Give more thought to your relationship and sexual desires—they can be highly complicated. Make stronger efforts to ameliorate the level of sophistication of your relationship advice, critiques, and discussions.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison