Compare and contrast marxist and feminist theories in sociology

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Steph Wade
Compare and Contrast Marxist and Feminist theories in Sociology
Marxism is a perspective based on the ideas of Karl Marx (181883). It is a structural
perspective that sees society as based on `capitalist dominated'/controlled. For example,
with jobs. The working (proletariat) class are alienated with no control over their work
hours. He claims that any class that wishes to lead a revolution and become the dominant
class must overthrow the existing ruling class (bourgeoisie). Marx believes eventually there
will be a proletarian revolution that will overthrow capitalism and create a classless
communist society that will be taken on world scale.
Karl Marx is criticised for his view of there being only two social classes, proletariat and the
bourgeoisie. There are in fact three, but Marx puts the middle class under the capitalists
calling them petty bourgeoisie (small capitalists).
So far class polarisation has not yet occurred. In western areas such as U.S and U.K, the
working class is getting fewer whilst in places such as China the proletariat numbers are
growing due to globalisation.
Finally Marxism focuses on class inequality as the only social division. Other sociologists
such as Anne Oakley, a feminist sociologist, she argues that gender is the inequality that
needs more attention. Functionalists see society as a human body needing each function to
survive therefore sees no problems with social equality.
Nowadays after Marx's death, there are spilt Marxist groups. They are trying to decide how
capitalism might be overthrown. The two groups are
Humanistic Marxism (believes that communism will never come about due to the economic
factors), with the key thinker being Antonio Gramsci. But he is often accused of
overemphasising the role of ideas and underemphasising the role of both state coercion and
economic factors. Eg, the proletariat can't rebel as they will lose their jobs.
Structuralist Marxism (their ideas reject economic determinism and humanism), with the key
thinker being Louis Althusser. He criticises humanistic Marxism due his ideas being that, our
sense of freewill, choice and creativity being an illusion. He claims that everything about us is
the product of underlying social structures.
Althusser is criticised for opposing both humanism and determinism, but being harsher on
As mentioned previously Feminism Contrasts with Marxism as they feel Gender Inequality
more than Class. They see society as `male dominated'. They argue that, since both sexes
had the same power of reason, these principles should apply to women as much as to men.
But there are disagreements as to how to overcome this `malestream' society therefore there
are different groups.
Liberal feminism, this is concerned with the human and civil rights and freedom of the
individual. They believe all humans should have equal rights. To do this they distinguish
between sex and gender and have been seen as a critique of the functionalist view of gender

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Steph Wade
However Liberal feminists are criticised for overoptimism. They ignore the possibility that
there are deepseated structures causing women's oppression, such as patriarchy. As Sylvia
Walby argues, `they offer no explanation for the overall structure of gender inequality.
Radical feminism, their key concept is patriarchy and its universality. They focus on ways in
which patriarchal power is exercised for example, through sexual or physical violence.…read more


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