MIA: Encyclopedia of Marxism: Glossary of Terms




Function means the outward manifestation of the properties of objects insofar as they form part of a given system of relations and interconnected processes, especially in respect to the aspect of stability or self-generation of a system of relations, as opposed to those aspects of a system and its components which constitute its internal contradictions and forces for change.

See also: Functionalism.



Functionalism is the method of investigation which seeks to elucidate what "function" an object plays within a complex system, independent of its outward phenomenal form or its materiality and historical conditioning. Functionalism was popular amongst sociologists and anthropologists in the first half of the century.

Developed one-sidedly, functionalism tends to reproduce the object as static, and misses the internal contradictions, interdependence and life process of the whole and its functional parts. Like structuralism, functionalism has an inherent tendency towards Kantian relegation of the materiality of the object to the status of an unknowable 'beyond'.


Although usually used in reference to a system of religious beliefs, fundamentalism refers to a social movement which aggressively and dogmatically asserts any “old fashioned” system of beliefs in defiance of modernism. The term was first used with reference to Christian preachers in the U.S. in the 1920s.

Social Development: Social relations characteristic of a certain stage of development of the labour process are reflected in systems of belief which allow people to “make sense” of the world they live in, and “rationalise” the status quo, i.e., to demonstrate that the world is the way it is for very good reason, be that the ‘Will of God’ or simply ‘what Pa always said’.

When social relations undergo change, and social strata which were privileged in former times find themselves under threat or even facing extinction, several responses are possible. One response is to dogmatically re-assert the time-honoured truths of former days, and in this way, mobilise the social forces to re-establish their former, relatively privileged way of life. Their resort to fundamentalism is an indication that these once privileged people really have no answer to the threat facing them: the marginalisation of their belief system reflects the fact that their underlying way of life has become obsolete.

Historical Development: Significant strands of fundamentalism in recent times are: (1) Christian Fundamentalism in the US over the past hundred years, (2) Islamic fundamentalism beginning with the Iranian Revolution of 1979, (3) dogmatic, “orthodox” socialism, and (4) “market fundamentalism” .

(1) Christian Fundamentalism: The U.S. was the first country to achieve the separation of Church and State, and the US economy is the most free from the ties of tradition, where the cash nexus has penetrated further than anywhere else. These special historical conditions have given Christianity a special place in U.S. society:

“the perfect Christian state is not the so-called Christian state – which acknowledges Christianity as its basis, as the state religion... the perfect Christian state is the atheistic state, the democratic state, the state which relegates religion to a place among the other elements of civil society.” [On the Jewish Question]

Since the days of the US Civil War, formerly privileged layers of society have sought to bring back the “Good Old Days” when things were governed by traditional patriarchal relations, by appeals to Old Fashioned Religion.

(2) Islamic fundamentalism: Iran, though a sovereign nation under the Shah, was totally dominated and exploited by the West, especially Britain and the U.S. Ayatollah Khomeini and his supporters realised that their enemy was as much the “Holy Dollar” and the attraction of western values and ways of life, as it was American and British military and financial power and the brutal regime of torture they sponsored. Consequently, the strategy they developed to liberate their country was to carry out a revolutionary overthrow of the Shah’s regime and seize power in the name of an “Islamic Republic”. Women were forced to wear veils and abandon their careers and education (Iranian women had the highest levels of education and participation in the professions outside the Soviet Union, US and Europe), and priests were placed in charge of every institution from banks to schools and hospitals, to administer the country according to religious principles. While Iran has to some extent now recovered from this fundamentalist revolution, Islamic fundamentalism remains an extremely powerful social force from Algeria to Turkey to Indonesia.

The fundamentalist reaction, though disastrous in its consequences, is understandable, because the road forward to modern industry and prosperity at their own pace, with their own culture, is blocked by imperialism: only the most dogmatic assertion of their own traditional values can withstand bourgeois modernism in which:

“All fixed, fast frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned ...” [Communist Manifesto].

(3) Socialist fundamentalism is a term used to refer to the dogmatic re-assertion of beliefs which were characteristic of the workers’ movement of an earlier time. Socialist fundamentalism is a common reaction to the continuous erosion of the gains of the past and the ever-present need to turn to new sections of the working class and new tactics and strategies in order to advance the workers’ struggle. “The social revolution ... cannot take its poetry from the past but only from the future.” [Eighteenth Brumaire]

(4) Market fundamentalism is the dogmatic re-assertion of long-discredited theories of Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand, which no capitalist government or central bank would entertain in a fit. This kind of fundamentalism is found especially amongst small businessmen and middle managers of large to medium firms, who feel frustrated by the complexity of modern life, by the constant need to make compromises, take care of legalities, adhere to affirmative action policies, etc., etc..




Russian unit of weight:

1 funt = 409.4 grams
40 funt = 1 pud