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How to Determine Meaning According to Marxism, Capitalism & Postmodernism

In our post-industrial consumer culture where transition occurs rapidly, the question of what meaning is has become increasingly difficult to define. Meaning is “the message that is intended or expressed or signified” (Wordnet). Initially, human beings understand the world through sign systems, relationships and language that eventually makes them create their own perspective associated with feelings, beliefs and desires or what we call subjective experience. The significance of our existence as well as the objects and subjects surrounding us will be realized through forming relationships.

As social beings, relationship will also enhance our understanding on how we relate to the society at large for the sake of survival. Moreover, the conversion of meaning into value or action happens when relationships evolve to form shared understanding of the world and how people should relate to it. “Meaning can transform an individual while values can transform relationships” which means that it is important to create values that can guide societies in general (Heath). But it is up to us to invent or perceive what that will mean.

In short, a value is something you create with other members of the society while meaning is your own reflection on how you perceive things that will influence your own course of actions. Marxist thought suggests that the value of an object depends on the labor applied in creating the object (Chattopadhyay, 1994). For instance, the value of a laptop or any other material things would have to depend on the amount of human labor done in order to create such things. Capitalism on the other hand derives the value of objects through the combination of reason and labor (Wood, 1997).

For example, a pebble remains a useless and priceless pebble unless a person holds it, understands it as a weapon that can inflict harm unto others, and sharpens the pebble by applying physical labor so that the pebble can inflict more actual harm. The same principle also applies to almost all of the things that are man-made and that are usually sold. Apparently, postmodernism will reject the explanations offered by capitalism and Marxist thought in deriving the value of objects.

Postmodern thought will suggest that, while both theories are nevertheless distinct ways of analyzing the value of objects, they do not essentially tell serve as the authorities in determining the value of objects. They only serve as part of a comprehensive list of ways to derive an object’s value. The derivation of value does on postmodern thought does not depend on any structured method institutionalized by an authority which also means that postmodernism does not recognize the role of authorities in determining the value of anything.

Most importantly, post modern thought suggests that the value of an object does not depend on what the status quo imposes or on the collective valuation of the society towards the object (Bartos, 1996). Rather, the value of an object depends on the person who is trying to derive the object’s value. Or the value of objects would have to depend only on us—subjectively, that is. Interestingly, postmodern thought may even go as far as to suggest that any object does not hold any inherent and derivable value at all.

Reference:

Wordnet Search. (2008). The University of Princeton.Retrieved December 12, 2008, from http://wordnet. princeton. edu/perl/webwn Heath, Ian. (2003). Meaning and Value. A Modern Thinker. Retrieved December 12, 2008, from http://www. modernthinker. co. uk/ Chattopadhyay, P. (1994). Marx’s First Critique of Political Economy, 1844-1994. Economic and Political Weekly, 29(1), 54-59. Wood, E. M. (1997). Modernity, Postmodernity or Capitalism? Review of International Political Economy, 4(3), 539-560. Bartos, O. J. (1996). Postmodernism, Postindustrialism, and the Future. The Sociological Quarterly, 37(2), 307-325

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