Assess Marxist Theories Essay

1061 words - 5 pages

Marxism is a perspective based around the ideas of Karl Marx. Similarly to Durkheim, Marx believed that it was possible to understand society scientifically and that this knowledge would point the way to a better society. However unlike functionalists, Marx did not see progress as a smooth and gradual evolution. Instead he saw historical change as a contradictory process, in which capitalism would increase human misery before giving way to a classless communist society in which human beings would be free to fulfill their potential. After Marx’s death, his ideas formed the basis of communism, a political movement that was enormously influential in shaping the modern world. Marx believed that, ...view middle of the document...

Marx has however been criticised for having a simple, one-dimensional view of inequality- he sees class as the only important division. Weber argues that status and power difference are more important sources of inequality, independently of class. Feminists argue that gender is a much more important source of inequality. Marx model has also been criticised as being too simplistic, he identifies only two classes, when in fact there is a middle class of doctors and teachers, who he completely ignores. Marx ideas have also been criticised as being too deterministic. He argues that there is a one way relationship between the economic base and societal superstructure. Humanistic Marxists such as Gramsci would argue that there is a two way relationship between the economic base and the societal superstructure. Gramsci argues that of course capitalism controls society and the proletariat are being oppressed because of it, however it's not as black and white as Marx thought. Gramsci argues that people can shape the societal superstructure as well, however the economic base has more power to shape society.
Gramsci introduces the concept of hegemony, or ideological and moral leadership of society, to explain how the ruling class maintain its position. He argues that the proletariat must develop their own ‘counter-hegemony’ to win the leadership of society from the bourgeoisie. Gramsci sees the ruling class maintaining its dominance in two ways, coercion and consent. It uses the army, police, prisons and courts to force other classes to accept its rule, and it uses ideas and values to persuade the subordinate class that its rule is legitimate. This is extending on Marx view that the bourgeoisie owns all means of mental production, forcing their ideas upon the proletariat, so they accept their position within the hierarchy. Gramsci argues that they are able to do this as they control the institutions that produce and spread ideas, for example the education system and the media. There will not be a revolution whilst the proletariat are accepting the capitalist ideas and accepting their place within society. However he argues that the hegemony of the ruling class is never complete as they are a minority and the proletariat have a...

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