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Ryerson University
SOC 203
Sal Guzzo

Chapter TwoKarl Marx and the Theory of ClassMarx is responsible for introducing the concept of class to sociology The concept of class constitutes the study of social inequality Marxs view was that the capitalist stage of social development would eventually be replaced by socialism or communism Capitalism an economic and political system in which a countrys trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit rather than by the stateSocialism in Marxist theory a transitional social state between the replacement of capitalism and the realization of communismCommunism a political theory derived from Karl Marx advocating class war and leading to a society in which all property is publicly owned and each person works and is paid according to their abilities and needsMarx hoped social organization would be transformed to suit the needs of all people Hi special concern was European English Capitalism in the 1800s where overflow of wealth could be produced by the system and be distributed to a small group of people Retained the belief that people are by nature good and rational Human beings have the potential to produce a nearly perfect society if only unnatural obstacles like exploitation and oppression by those in economic and political control are removed from their path Marx became absorbed in the ideas of philosopher Georg Hegel He completely accepted Hegels emphasis on the importance of understanding the past studying history in order to comprehend the present and project the future Marx employed Hegelian notion that change occurs in a dialectical fashion Dialectical fashion To say that change is dialectical indicates that it is by nature a process of struggle btwn opposing incompatible forcesHegels view is applied in the realm of ideas instead Marx takes the dialectical method of thinking about change and applys it to the understanding how real societies and real human groups arise develop and become transformed over timePossibly the strongest influence on Marx is Comte de SaintSimon A French social thinker From SaintSimon Marx came to see economic relationships as the key to explaining historical social change the emphasis on class conflict was also adopted from him This view was that social change occurs bc each society bears within it and generates through its own development the germ of its own destruction pg 15 Marxs Theory Class Class Struggle and Historical ChangeT In all these historic periodsor epochsone thing is common to all One groups owns property and the other does notThus property ownership lies at the heart of inequalityThe division of labour arises from the institution of private propertyIn Rome masters versus slavesIn Feudalism Lords versus SerfsIn Capitalism Bourgeoisie versus ProletariatIn all time periods there is a conflict between these two groupsIn Marx view historical epochsperiod of time marked by notable events are distinguishable from one another primarily by the system of economic organization or mode of production that dominates in each era According to Marx Ancient Greece and Rome feudalism and capitalism are similar historical examples of social and economic systems bc each one is marked by a basic distinction btwn classes In all cases the most important difference is btwn those who have property and those who do not Property in this case does not refer to to its simple personal possession but to resources that can be used to produce things of value and to generate wealth land rental housing machinery factories etcThe basic split btwn the owning propertied class and the nonowning propertyless class is always present though it has taken different forms historically masters vs slaves in ancient times lords vs serfs in feudalism the Bourgeoise vs the proletariat in capitalism Bourgeoisie The bourgeoisie or capitalists are the owners of capital purchasing and exploiting labour power using the surplus value from employment of this labour power to accumulate or expand their capital It is the ownership of capital and its use to exploit labour and expand capital are key here Being wealthy is in itself not sufficient to make one a capitalist eg managers in the state sector or landlords To be a capitalist or member of the bourgeoisie the owner of a sum of money must be actively involved in capital accumulation using this money to organize production employ and exploit labour and make the money selfexpansive by using the surplus value to continue this cycle of capital accumulationProletariat The proletariat are owners of labour power the ability to work and mere owners of labour power with no resources other than the ability to work with their hands bodies and minds Since these workers have no property in order to survive and obtain an income for themselves and their families they must find employment and work for an employer This meansT In some eras force had to be used but not in capitalismIn some eras or epochs coercion and exploitation was the basis of the relationship between the propertied and propertyless classesThis was true in Ancient Greece and Rome and during Feudal timesIn capitalism coercion and exploitation does not exist in the same way since workers choice by free will to enter a contract with the employerT Marx saw the world as a struggle between two groups In the capitalist two class system there areOppressors and OppressedBourgeoisie and ProletariatThe division of the classes is based on ones relationship to the means of productionCapitalists own the means of productionProletariat have no choice but to sell their labour in exchange for wagesT Which class you belong to depends on your control over economic resourcesClass membership is based on the possession of social and economic resourcesCapitalists have power over these resourcesProletariat have limited resourcesCapitalists own the factories the tools and the resources to produce goods and servicesCapitalists buy raw materials labour and transform them into products and services for saleThe difference between the cost of production and the sale price is profitT Marx viewed the system as unfair because its benefits were not equally shared Capitalists use labour to earn a profit Capitalists can increase their wealth bypaying less for wagesForcing workers to make more for the same payDivision of labour mass production Dividing up the job into its component parts Marx saw the profit being earned by capitalists as directly a result of proletariat labour The proletariat however did not share the profit In fact the products they made using their skill and creativity did not even belong to them It belonged to the ownerT Capitalism made working a chore instead of allowing it to be an outlet for creativity For Marx to be human was to workWork brought satisfactionIt brought an outlet for creativity for individual and collective improvementIt allowed humans to shape their worldIn other words making things can be fun and enjoyable and satisfying In capitalism the division of labour strips fun out of work Dividing work up into component parts means one can no longer see their creativity contribution to the thing being made One doesnt feel any ownership of the product madeworking for a capitalistemployer in an exploitative social relationship that is the worker works extra time for a capitalistAccording to marx the twoclass view is the key to understanding society mainly bc all societies are born of struggle of the the underlying tension or open conflict btwn the two major economic classesWhenever there is a situation in which one group controls the property the productive apparatuscomplex structure within an organization of society the remaining population is by definition excluded from such control Nonowners basically enter into an exchange relationship with the
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