Summary: This hilarious clip from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, illustrates several key concepts from Marx. After Dennis (a peasant) gets a presumptuous greeting from a visitor, he states "what I object to is you automatically treating me like an inferior." The visitor responds with "well, I am King." Dennis challenges him by arguing: "How'd you get that? By exploiting the workers. By hanging on to outdated imperialist dogma which perpetuates the economic and social differences in our society." Marx's concept of exploitation refers to the value that comes from workers' labor, but which gets taken by the ruling class (whether it be feudal lords, kings, or capitalists) because they own the means of production. The peasant describes this process as an unfair dimension of the class system. This awareness reflects his own class consciousness, or understanding of the class system, how it affects him, and how to act in his own class interest. Another peasant notes they are part of autonomous collective, which Dennis describes as their own self-rule based on equality. When they challenge the King's authority because they didn't vote for him, the king argues he obtains his authority from "the Lady of the Lake" that gave him Excalibur and right to rule by divine providence. Dennis comically responds that "Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is not basis for government; supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony." Their competing interests reflect the class struggle in which the workers' interest (self-rule that allows them collective ownership of the means of production) are inherently in conflict with those of the ruling class (who seek to control the workers and keep the value of their labor for themselves). Finally, the notion of divine right to rule is an example of ideology, or ideas supported by the ruling class, and which legitimate the current order and obscure the oppressive class system.
I would like to thank Camilla Hayes and Andrew Hanko for recommending this clip.
Submitted By: Paul Dean