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Theory test study sheet

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Sociology 2240E
Christine Lavrence

Theory test study sheet Marx: Materialism vs. Idealism • In philosophical terminology, "materialism" (or "naturalism") refers to a philosophic view that holds that matter in motion is the fundamental constituent of the universe. In this sense the Greek pre-Socratic philosophers were "materialists," although they were by no means materialists in the abovementioned sense of the word as a value judgment or ethical principle. By idealism, on the contrary, a philosophy is understood in which it is not the ever-changing world of the senses that constitutes reality, but incorporeal essences, or ideas. • MARX ridiculed the view that ideas determine reality. "Once upon a time, a valiant fellow had the idea that men were drowned in water only because they were possessed with the idea of gravity," they wrote. "If they wee to get this notion out of their heads...they would be sublimely proof against any danger from water." • But by rejecting "free will," Marx didn't embrace "determinism"--the idea that human beings are slaves to the blind forces of history. "The materialist doctrine," wrote Marx, " that men are products of circumstances and upbringing, and that, therefore, changed men are products of other circumstances and changed upbringing, forgets that it is men who change circumstances." • For Marx, people "make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past." • Human behavior is first shaped by our physical makeup. We must labor cooperatively in order to eat, drink and find shelter.At any given stage in human development, the level of production--and the social relations based on that level of production--shape our limits and possibilities. • "People cannot be liberated," wrote Marx and Engels, "as long as they are unable to obtain food and drink, housing and clothing in adequate quality and quantity. 'Liberation' is a historical and not a mental act and it is brought about by historical conditions." • Ideas can and do shape history--but only if those ideas are embraced by millions and only if the social and material conditions for their realization exist Historical Materialism • It is a theory of socioeconomic development according to which changes in material conditions (technology and productive capacity) are the primary influence on how society and the economy are organised • For Marx, the concept of materialism is “the study of the real economic and social life of man and of the influence of man’s actual way of life on this thinking and feeling” He believes that human beings in history are real and creative, who “enter into definite necessary relations which are independent off their will” Historical materialism is not the way that human beings gain money and have more material comfort neither the material desires to gain satisfaction. It is the way that human beings produce that determines their thinking and desires. Marx further explains his concept of materialism. It means the material base of human living activities; also, it is a way of living, a life process. Human beings’thinking and ideology—politics, law; religion, art, science, etc. are reflected in their life activities. This is why Marx emphasizes “life is not determined by consciousness, but consciousness by life” (p. 198). Furthermore, he points out that human beings are social because they cannot live without interaction with other people; they cannot be isolated from the society. Human beings can develop their potentialities and accomplish their achievements only in the society in which they are living. The Bourgeoisie and the Proletariats • Aclass is defined by the ownership of property. Such ownership vests a person with the power to exclude others from the property and to use it for personal purposes. In relation to property there are three great classes of society: the bourgeoisie (who own the means of production such as machinery and factory buildings, and whose source of income is profit), landowners (whose income is rent), and the proletariat (who own their labor and sell it for a wage). • Class thus is determined by property, not by income or status. These are determined by distribution and consumption, which itself ultimately reflects the production and power relations of classes. The social conditions of bourgeoisie production are defined by bourgeois property. Class is therefore a theoretical and formal relationship among individuals. • The force transforming latent class membership into a struggle of classes is class interest. Out of similar class situations, individuals come to act similarly. They develop a mutual dependence, a community, a shared interest interrelated with a common income of profit or of wages. From this common interest classes are formed, and for Marx, individuals form classes to the extent that their interests engage them in a struggle with the opposite class. • At first, the interests associated with land ownership and rent are different from those of the bourgeoisie. But as society matures, capital (i.e., the property of production) and land ownership merge, as do the interests of landowners and bourgeoisie. Finally the relation of production, the natural opposition between proletariat and bourgeoisie, determines all other activities. • As Marx saw the development of class conflict, the struggle between classes was initially confined to individual factories. Eventually, given the maturing of capitalism, the growing disparity between life conditions of bourgeoisie and proletariat, and the increasing homogenization within each class, individual struggles become generalized to coalitions across factories. Increasingly class conflict is manifested at the societal level. Class consciousness is increased, common interests and policies are organized, and the use of and struggle for political power occurs. Classes become political forces. • The d
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