“The Poverty of Philosophy” is a song, named after the book by Karl Marx, by Immortal Technique discussing American and European imperialism in Latin American countries like El Salvador and Nicaragua. The song discusses the exploitation of developing countries, and its equivalency to the exploitation of specifically Black and Latino Americans. Additionally, it criticizes the incompetence and cowardice among Latino political leaders, who allow American and European corporations and politicians to exploit their land. This song, much like almost all of Immortal Technique’s work, is deeply inspired by, and possibly based on, Marxian Sociological/Economic theory. As such, it can be examined and explored using economic dependency theory, world-systems theory, and Marxian ideas such as class conflict and bourgeois nationalism.
Dependency theory proposes that poor nations, such as those in Latin America, are exploited by wealthy states and nations for the enrichment of the latter. As Immortal Technique describes, these nations are not inherently poor, but “abundant in resources” and “have the capacity to feed their starving people”. He argues that the countries that most Latino and Black American individuals originate from are being exploited needlessly, and that America and other colonial European countries could be wealthy without the exploitation of developing countries in Africa and Latin America. The economic situation that Technique describes perfectly resembles and emulates the dependency theory.
World-systems theory, similarly to dependency theory, discusses the separation between low (periphery), middle (semi-periphery), and high income (core) countries by their means of production. World-systems theory argues that the high-income capital industrial nations exploit low and middle income nations for their resources and cheap labor in order to maintain dominance. Differently than dependency theory, world-systems theory discusses economic dominance and prevention of social change more than exploitation of the people. Technique talks about imperialism, plutocracy, and economic dominance in “The Poverty of Philosophy”, “[core countries] force [semi-periphery and periphery countries] into buying overpriced, unnecessary goods while exporting huge portions of their natural resources”. This quote describes the economic dominance that developed nations have over lower income nations in which the former export resources, use the people’s labor, and insert their products into the latter. Much like dependency theory, this song accurately details the situation that the world is in, as defined by world-systems theory.
Karl Marx criticized capitalism through what are now known as “class conflict” and “bourgeois nationalism”. Marx claimed that until private property and organizations are communally owned by the working people, rather than the bourgeoisie, or capitalists, there will be inevitable violent and nonviolent class conflict. Marxism also describes bourgeois nationalism, in which people with high social status and class divide the working people by their race, ethnicity, religion, and nationality, in order to prevent class conflict. Immortal Technique discusses these socially-constructed divisions as only post-colonial, and purely constructed to prevent revolution. He argues that, since working class individuals are struggling with one another, they have no role in political decisionmaking, as well as a lower quality of life as a group, “As different as we have been taught to look at each other by colonial society, we are in the same struggle, and until we realize that, we’ll be fighting for scraps from the table of a system that has kept us subservient”. This lyric describes an economic and social system exactly adhering bourgeois nationalism. Additionally, it shows that bourgeois nationalism is effective, as there is, in Technique’s view, a severe lack in class conflict due to working class divisions.
Economic dependency theory, world-systems theory, and class conflict can be used to discuss “The Poverty of Philosophy” by Immortal Technique, like a large majority of his other works. The song exposes exploitation of periphery and semiperiphery nations and criticizes political leaders in Latin America. It also calls for unity among working class people of all races, despite their race. In the song, Technique shows his desire for revolution by the working class against upper class lobbyists and tycoons that exploit the world for personal benefit and monetary wealth. His revolutionary ideas resonant greatly within the Marxist realm of theories, like dependency theory, world-systems theory, and the many theories and ideas regarding nationalism, class warfare, and the exploitation of the third world.