What Can Marx Say to Safety?
It’s important to understand that the Social Psychology of Risk (SPoR) emerges from traditions in Marxism, Post-Structuralism, Semiotics and Deconstruction. This is represented graphically (semiotically) as follows:
Marxist and Post-Marxist theory is most observable in Critical and Cultural Theory and plays a significant role in an SPoR approach to Feminism, Ethics and Politics.
However, understanding Marx is not just for those in Social Psychology. It is considered essential for any profession to consider Marx in relation to: service, justice, ethics, helping, social politics or economics. Whether studying Law, Medicine, Education or Nursing professions, a dip in to Marx is considered helpful for understanding the nature of power, ethics and justice. For example, in Education and Teaching professions an understanding of Critical and Cultural Theory is considered essential for understanding pedagogy, schooling, institutions and learning. In studies in Ethics, Justice and Law it is considered foundational to understand Marxist and Post-Marxist Theory. When it comes to ethics, safety, risk and justice Post-Marxist theory doesn’t makes the reading list.
Marxist theory was strongly influenced by a Hegelian view of History and dialectic. A Marxist dialectic is premised on the social relations (forces) between: power, material, capital, labour and production. Marx called the dynamics between these ‘forces’ Dialectical Materialism. In many ways Marx understood these ‘forces’ as having a power unto themselves. That is, they each had an inbuilt power (dynamic) that not only reproduces itself but in the process, alienates persons/humans from themselves. This alienation is the outcome-as-by-product by the desires of the ruling class and the powerful. It is important not to confuse Marxist/Socialist theory with communism.
What we learn from Marx is that power embedded in the forces of: material, capital, labour, power and production ends up driving the oppression of the weak and vulnerable.
When we explore the challenges of risk in the workplace and who is privileged by social arrangements we quickly find that those with the most power sustain systems to their advantage. Once the powerful sett sources of power in place, they take over under their own dynamic, similar to who Jung describes archetypes (https://academyofideas.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/71.-Carl-Jung-What-are-the-Archetypes-Quote-Book.pdf).
The powerful develop myths (embedded in symbols) in work that sustain the dehumanization of the vulnerable, overpower the powerless and brutalise personhood. The power and structures of oppression of the vulnerable are maintained through myths, symbols and ideologies that shape the way work is undertaken. Resistance and questioning of dominant ideologies must be quashed and demonized. (sound familiar?) Zero is one such ideology that turns people into objects and numbers to be measured and controlled. If Marx was alive I can see him smashing the ideology of zero as a mechanism for brutalism, alienating workers and fostering the love of bureaucracy.
Marx called ideology ‘False Consciousness’. Ideology for Marx was defined as ‘the set of ideas and beliefs that are dominant in society and are used to justify the power and privilege of the ruling class’. The dominant rule of this ideology then transforms into a hegemony, where a culturally diverse society is dominated by the ruling/powerful class that manipulates the culture of society.
There are numerous places to read Marx, perhaps this is the place to start: