Chapter 2: Karl Marx & The Theory of Class
- father of modern sociology
- feels that society will see an end to class based inequality
- view was that the capitalist stage of social development would be replaced by the final and highest form
of society: socialism or communism
- “The debate with Marx’s ghost” Theorists questioned why societies change and what their ultimate form
- Capitalism continuous to be the predominant mode of economic and social organization in the world
- Socialism is what the future holds for us
- Believed that we have the potential to produce a nearly perfect society if exploitation and oppression by
those in economic and political control was removed.
- Econimic relationships seen as the key to explaining historical social change
– View adopted from Saint-Simon: social change occurs because each society bears with it and
generates through its own development “germ of its own destruction” which means some forece
or group arises out of the system that currently exists, opposes to the rule regime and changes
society in a fundamental way.
- Marx was disturbed by the fact that so much surplus wealth was being created in England during the
Industrial Revolution, yet little of that wealth was being distributed to individuals upon whose backs this
wealth was created.
– Laborers worked 18 hours a day, bad working conditions, child labour
Marx’s theory: class, class struggle, and historical change
- Marx believed that all societies are organized around economic life: or the mode of production.
- In Ancient Greece and Rome: economic life was based on slavery (Forced to work).
- In Feudalism: serfs worked on land owned by nobles and got to live as a tenant on the land (Forced to
- In Capitalism, workers work for the Bourgeoisie (work by free choice: work or starve).
- Masters vs slaves in ancient times, lords vs serfs in feudalism, bourgepise vs proletariat in capitalism
History is the story of the Struggle between the haves and have nots
- In all these historic periods, or epochs, one thing is common to all: One groups owns property, and the
other does not.
- Properties refer to no possessions, but the resources that can be used to produce things of value to
generate wealth: land, rental housing, machinery, factories
- property ownership lies at the heart of inequality. Two class view
- The division of labour arises from the institution of private property. Two
– In Rome: masters versus slaves
– In Feudalism: Lords versus Serfs
– In Capitalism: Bourgeoisie versus Proletariat
- In all time periods, there is a conflict between these two groups
- Classes have different interests:
- The propertied class has interests that are different from the propertyless class.
- Whenever one group has control over property and production, the other group is
left without control.
- In order to survive the propertyless class has to be placed in a subservient relationship with the
In some eras, force had to be used, but not in capitalism
- In some eras or epochs, coercion and exploitation was the basis of the relationship
- between the propertied and propertyless classes. - Capitalism distorts structure and meaning of the work process with negative consequences for society as
a whole and for workers in particular. Evident through private property , surplus exproration, division of
labour and alienation work
- This was true in Ancient Greece and Rome, and during Feudal times.
- In capitalism coercion and exploitation does not exist in the same way since workers choice by free will
to enter a contract with the employer
- Marx saw the world as a struggle
- between two groups
- workers were alienated, did not talk to each other, and would take the jobs of those fired due to injuries
etc. They did not start unions and received cheap pay
- workers exchange labour power for wages that amount less to the value of the product
- surplus amount goes to capitalists for profit.
- Marx views : capitalists reinvest surplus from dead labour of past workers
- Division of labour: class of owners divided from class of workers
- Tasks of production divided to specific jobs for workers
- (highly efficient and fewer hours to create the goods)
- workers produce more, but wages stay the same so capitalists gain more profit
- division of labour thus creates more profits, rate of exploitation and negative consequences of workers
orientation ( workers do the same repetitive jobs lacking creativity and enjoyment; cannot feel pride in
- Private property, exploitation and division of labour all contribute to alientation
- 1) separation of workers from the products they create
– products from workers given in exchange for wages, wealth made from products is taken away
and turned into profit
- 2) work tasks are not enjoyable or rewarding
– satisfy needs, repetitive tasks, not creativity
- 3) increasing technological complexity that division of labour entails
– machines dominate the own creators of products
- 4) Alienation in capitalism concerns money and power to buy anything even people and relationships
– beauty can be turned into a commodity, marx said I am ugly but I can buy the most beautiful
women for myself therefore im not ugly