Marxist explanations of class inequality

  • Created by: MelMel
  • Created on: 18-10-19 10:26
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  • Marxist explanations of class inequality
    • Capitalist exploitation (Marx)
      • Two classes: the bourgeoisie and the proletariat
      • The bourgeoisie own the means of production= high privilege and powerful economic position
      • The proletariat can survive only by selling their labour
        • They create wealth but the rewards are seized by the bourgeoisie (surplus value)
      • Social inequality is caused when the bourgeoisie oppress and exploit the proletariat
      • Criticisms
        • Max Weber- the two class model oversimplifies the differences: teachers and and students  don't own means of production= proletariat?
        • Marx fails  to take into account the success of Capitalism in some western societies, where the w/c enjoy the rising living standards
    • False class consciousness (Neo-Marxists)
      • The prevalent set of ideas support the illusion that we live in a meritocracy; workers will believe that they are in their position due to role allocation and blame themselves
      • The superstructure (school,media etc) is controlled by the bourgeoisie and they teach the dominant ideology
      • Gramsci- the bourgeoisie use their superior resources (control of mass media) to win the workers over
        • Gramsci calls this hegemony (dominance by political and cultural means)
        • Marcuse- the hypnotic power of the mass media deprives us of capacity for critical thought
      • Criticisms
        • Functionalists- the system is accepted due to value consensus and the media projects and promotes the views of the majority (positive role)
        • Postmodernists- class differences aren't as rigid as they used to be; people are free to construct their own identities and have individual choice
    • Reserve army of labour (Castles and Kosack)
      • Capitalists prefer to have more workers= weakened bargaining position
      • If workers go on strike, bourgeoisie canreplace them with the reserve army of labour
      • Gig economy; Uber- low infrastructure cost for ruling class
      • The bourgeoisie encourage competition between ethnic groups to create divisions and distract the proletariat from the real problems divide and rule strategy)
      • Criticisms
        • Functionalists- low paid jobs and unemploymennt is due to role allocation; working class lack skill and motivation
        • Feminists- women are more likely to be in reserve army of labour; women are exploited as a separate class
    • Cultural capital (Bourdieu)
      • People who have higher levels of cultural capital maintain their privileges
      • M/c have a way of speaking (elaborated code) so they relate to each other more easily (lawyers, teachers, doctors etc)
        • Gillies- m/c parents used their cultural capital to benefit their children by knowing how to communicate with teachers to get their child privileges
      • Cultural reproduction ensures privileges of one generation are passed on to the next
      • Criticisms
        • Marxist Feminists- w/c women face greater inequality than the w/c alone
        • Jenkins and Bennett- Bouridieu's research cannot be generalised to other countries; different countries will have different class cultures
          • Bennett found little evidence of a dominant legitimate culture


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