How does Marxism understand "culture"



Culture also has class nature. Marx pointed out that "a class is the dominant material force in society, but also the dominant spiritual force in society", and "the dominant thought is only the conceptual expression of the dominant material relationship, but the dominant material relationship in the form of thought". Culture is produced by people, and people are not an abstract concept. They are always in a certain social relationship and behave as class people. Cultural forms such as legal and political thoughts, morality, literature and art, philosophy and religion created by people directly or indirectly reflect class interests, feelings and thoughts. Even though individuals can transcend class interests to some extent, even transcend time and space restrictions and create cultural works with lasting value, human culture, as a product of society, is always branded with class more or less. Lenin attached great importance to the class attribute of culture. In About Proletarian Culture, he proposed that proletarian culture and bourgeois culture are two different cultures. The proletariat cannot be separated from the foundation of traditional culture, including bourgeois culture, but it is by no means a simple inheritance and total acceptance. It needs to be transformed and innovated by Marxism, and the cultural principles of the proletariat must be implemented in it, so as to establish a real proletarian culture.

From the perspective of cultural form, culture has nationality and diversity. As a historically condensed and stable way of life, culture focuses on people’s values, attitudes towards life, behavior habits and psychological state. At first, human culture was formed by ethnic groups. Because of the different natural environments such as geography, resources and climate, there are obvious differences in people’s attitudes and lifestyles. On this basis, all ethnic groups form their own culture with their own styles and characteristics. When Mao Zedong explained the culture of new democracy in On New Democracy, he pointed out: "It belongs to our nation and has the characteristics of our nation", and "China culture should have its own form, which is the national form". Culture contains different ideological wisdom, value pursuit and aesthetic taste of all ethnic groups, which has become a unique symbol that distinguishes one nation from another.

With the change from history to world history, exchanges and mutual learning between different cultures have become increasingly frequent, and the cosmopolitan characteristics of culture have become more and more distinct. As Marx said in the communist party Declaration, "As a result of opening up the world market, the production and consumption of all countries have become cosmopolitan … The same is true for material production and spiritual production. The spiritual products of all ethnic groups have become public property. One-sidedness and limitations of the nation are becoming increasingly impossible, so many kinds of national and local literature have formed a kind of world literature. " However, the cosmopolitanism of culture does not mean that the whole human being forms a uniform culture, nor does it dispel the nationality, but the unity of diversity based on the nationality. The more national a culture is, the more cosmopolitan it is.

From the perspective of cultural function, culture has independence and reaction. On the one hand, Marx insisted on the materialistic view that "social existence determines social consciousness", on the other hand, he also saw the relative independence of culture and its reaction to the economic base. Marx pointed out in "The 18th Fog Moon in louis bonaparte" that "people create their own history, but they don’t create it at will, not under the conditions of their own choice, but under the conditions of direct encounter, established and inherited from the past. The traditions of all the dead ancestors haunt the minds of the living like nightmares, and cultural traditions are one of the important influencing factors. As a long-term accumulation of history, culture is extremely stable once it is formed. This stability is reflected in people’s beliefs, value pursuits, moral concepts, etc., and they will not change easily with the changes of external environment; As far as groups are concerned, a certain cultural pattern will dominate the development of a nation for hundreds or even thousands of years. Even if dynasties change and times change, the way of thinking and behavior habits formed in a certain cultural pattern will still play a lasting role.

As a superstructure, culture also has a dynamic reaction. Advanced, revolutionary and scientific culture plays a positive role in promoting social development, while backward, reactionary and unscientific culture hinders social development. Marx pointed out in the Economic Manuscripts of 1857-1858 that "the disintegration of a certain ideological form is enough to make the whole era fall", and Engels also wrote in his letter to Joseph Bloch that "the economic situation is the foundation, but it has an impact on the process of historical struggle and in many cases mainly determines the form of this struggle, as well as various factors of the superstructure". In today’s world, culture, as a soft power, plays an increasingly important role in the competition of comprehensive national strength, while cultural self-confidence is a "more basic, deeper and more lasting force". This is the concentrated expression of cultural reaction.

The cultural concept of Marxism is rich in connotation and profound in meaning. Only by deeply understanding Marxist cultural concept can we scientifically grasp the characteristics and laws of cultural development, which will help us to do a good job in combining the basic principles of Marxism with Chinese excellent traditional culture and truly undertake the new cultural mission in the new era.