His most famous work was The Manifesto of the Communist Party
Marx's main interest was in the historical basis of inequality
His theory is an analysis of inequality under capitalism and how to change it
Dialectical philosophy centrality of contradiction
believes that contradictions exist in reality and that the most appropriate way to understand reality is to
study the development of those contradictions
Marx also accepts the centrality of contradictions to historical change.
Marx did not believe that these contradictions could be worked out in our understanding (in our minds).
Such contradictions are resolved by a life and death struggle that changes the social world
The dialectic leads to an interest in the conflicts and contradictions among various levels of social reality
For example, one of the contradictions within capitalism is the relationship between the workers and the
capitalists who own the factories and other means of production with which the work is done.
The capitalists must exploit the workers in order to make a profit form the workers' labour.
The workers, in contradiction to the capitalists, want to keep at least some of the profit from themselves.
Marx believes that this contradiction was at the heart of capitalism.
This contradiction can not be solved through philosophy, but only through social change.
Fact and Value
Social values are not separable from social facts
The dialectical thinker believe that its not only impossible to keep values out of the study of the social world,
but also undesirable because to do so would produce a dispassionate, inhuman sociology that has little to
offer to people in search of answers to the problems they confront.
Does not see a simple, oneway cause and effect
One factor may have an effect on another, but it is just as likely that the latter will have a simultaneous
effect on the former.
Example: the increasing exploitation of the workers by the capitalist may cause the works to become
increasingly dissatisfied and more militant, but the increasing militancy of the proletariat may well use the
capitalists t react by becoming even more exploitative in order to crush the resistance of the workers.
Past, Present, Future
The dialectical sociologists are concerned with studying the historical roots of the contemporary word as
Many dialectical thinkers are attuned to current social trends in order to understand the possible future
directions of society
Does not imply that the future is determined by the present
The future may be based on some contemporary model, but not inevitably Marx hoped and believed that the future was to be found in communism
Communism would come only through their choices and struggles
Disinclination to think deterministically is what makes the bestknown model of the dialectic thesis,
antithesis, synthesis inadequate for sociological use
Actors and Structures
increasingly in the dynamic relationship between actors and social structures
Marx believed that there was a real contradiction between our human potential and the way that we must
work in capitalist society
To understand human potential, we need to understand social history, because human nature is shaped by
the same dialectical contradictions that Marx believed shapes the history of society
When speaking of our general human potential, Marx used the term species being.
Species Being the potentials and powers that are uniquely human and that distinguish humans from other
For Marx, species being and human potential are intimately related to labour
1. What distinguishes us from other animals our species being is that our labour creates something in
reality that previously existed only in our imagination. Marx calls this processes in which we create external
objects out of our internal thought objectification.
2. This labour is material. It works with the more material aspects of nature in order to satisfy material
3. Marx believed that this labour does not just transform the material aspects of nature, but also transforms
us, including our needs, our consciousness, and our human nature. Labour is thus at the same time a) the
objectification of our purpose, b) the establishment of an essential relation between human need and the
material objects of our need c) the transformation of our human labour
Labour encompasses all productive actions that transform that material aspects of nature in accordance
with our purpose
Labour is in response to a need, and the transformation that labour entails also transforms our needs. The
satisfaction of our needs can lead to the creation of new needs, which leads to new forms of productive
Labour, for Marx, is the development of our truly human powers and potentials. By transforming material
relative to fit our purpose, we also transform ourselves. Labour is a social activity. Labour does not
transform only the individual, but the society as well.
there is an inherent relation between labour and human nature, he thought this relation is perverted by capitalism. He calls this alienation
We no longer see our labour as an expression of our purpose. There is no objectification. Rather than being
an end in itself an expression of human capabilities labour in capitalism is reduced to being a means to an
end: ending money
Because our labour is not our own, it no longer transforms us, instead we are alienated from our labour and
therefore our true human nature.
Four components of alienation
1. Workers in capitalist society are alienated form their productive activity. They do not produce objects
according to their own ideas or to directly satisfy their own needs.
Productive activity in capitalism is reduced, to an often boring means to the fulfilment of the only end that
really matters in capitalism: earning enough money to survive.
2. Workers in capitalism society are alienated not only from productive activities but also from the object of
those activities the product. The produce of their labour belongs not to the workers, but to the capitalists.
3. Workers in the capitalist society are alienated from their fellow workers. Marx's assumption was that
people basically need and want to work cooperatively in order to appropriate from nature what they require
to survive. But in capitalism this cooperation is disrupted, and people, often strangers are forced to work
side by side for the capitalist.
To extract maximum productivity and to prevent the development of cooperative relationships, the capitalists
pits one workers against another to see who can produce more, work more quickly or please the boss
more. The workers who succeed are given a few extra rewards.
4. Workers in capitalist society are alienated form their own human potential. Instead of being a source of
transformation and fulfilment of our human nature, the workplace is where we feel least human.
The Structures of Capitalist Society
Marx's work on human nature and alienation led him to a critique on capitalist society and to a political
program oriented to overcoming the structures of capitalism so that people could express their essential
Capitalism is an economic system in which great numbers of workers who own little produce commodities
for the proift of small number sof capitslists who own all of the following: the commodities, the means of
producing the commodities, and the labour time of the workers, which they purchase through wages.
Captialsits are bale to coerce workers through their power to dismiss workers and close plants. Capitalism,
therefore, is not simply and economic system: it is also a political system, a mode of exercising power, and
a process for exploiting workers.
Commodities, or products of labour, are intended primarily for exchange
These objects are produced for personal use or for use by others in the immediate environmen