Date Thesis Awarded
Honors Thesis -- Open Access
Bachelors of Arts (BA)
The goal of this paper is to analyze the history of Marxism and its emergent opponents in American political, religious, and cultural spheres. Examining Karl Marx and his influences reveals that, contrary to popular belief, Marxist thought has deep roots in ancient philosophy and literature. Marx drew upon these influences to highlight industrial and economic problems and propose a dialectically-based prescription for these ailments that sought to eradicate class divides and abolish private property. Marx’s reception in the United States came long after his death and was coupled with the rise of the Soviet Union and the end of World War II. In the 1950s and 60s, politicians and pastors alike dressed “othering” efforts in the clothes of moral virtue and Christian dedication, labeling perceived divergence as anti-American and anti-Christian communist subversion. This effort to define, castigate, and eliminate the perceived threat of Marxism has proliferated to more aspects of American language and culture today, as politicians and Protestants leverage new media and expedient political terminology to further amalgamate definitions of Marxism to include a purportedly ever-expanding demographic of opposition. Efforts by these figures to self-minoritize American Protestantism and therefore rationalize a moral imperative of Christian patriotism has led to a breakdown in the civic sphere, wherein the lines between church and state are evermore blurred and the language leveraged against opposition lacks any communication with the core tenets of Marxism. With Marx now functioning as an ominous, anti-American bogeyman, and actual Marxist theory left widely unaddressed, many public influencers instead turn to moral, religious, and otherwise xenophobic attacks on their perceived enemies as the go-to playbook in pursuit of maintaining a psychology of loyalty and obedience to what has proved to be a vacuous, fruitless enterprise of social and political exclusion.
Smith, Mark, "Communism and the Politics of Cultural Labeling: Patriotism and Piety in American Life" (2022). Undergraduate Honors Theses. William & Mary. Paper 1875.
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