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A2 Sociology 3rd February 2011
Unit 4 ­ Theory
Assess the usefulness of Marxism and other conflict theories of our
understanding of society.
Marxism is a useful conflict theory in helping us to understand why there was obedience,
particularly in the past in society. Marx was seen as an economic determinist, as he
believed that the functioning and running of society was based upon the economy.
Because of this, Marx says that is why there was a divide between the proletariat
(working class who have only their skills to sell) and the bourgeoisie (the ruling class
who own the means of production). The bourgeoisie cannot operate without the
proletariat, as they cannot produce products, and similarly the proletariat cannot
operate without the bourgeoisie, as they need them so they can be paid a wage and
feed their families. Therefore, even though the Bourgeoisie were exploiting the
proletariat and the proletariat could have walked away to stop being exploited, they
never walked away as they needed the money. On the other hand, this can be viewed
from a different perspective. The reason why these people may have not left their jobs is
because they could have been in a state of false consciousness, whereby they were
unaware of their exploitation by the bourgeoisie. This helps us to understand society as
the Marxism theory provides reasoning on how the bourgeoisie were able to exploit the
proletariat, which in turn fuelled capitalism and allowed the ruling elite to maintain their
profits. It is also relevant to today's society, as it helps to explain why many people who
are in a hard laboured, low paid job (e.g. Factory workers) do not leave, despite hating
their job, and this is because they need the money to survive.
On the other hand, the Marxist theory can be seen as not useful in helping us in our
understanding of society. Marx said that Capitalism will enter a period of crisis, whereby
there are less large employers due to the everincreasing competition amongst
industries. He also stated that wages would be reduced to such an extent that the
majority of the population will live in poverty. Because of this, he believed that there
would be a tiny minority of very rich capitalists and a huge majority of relatively poor
people. Consequently, radical social change would be inevitable according to Marx,
and therefore society would enter the final epoch: communism. This can be heavily
criticised. Capitalism hasn't entered a period of crisis. In fact, it has grown stronger and
spread across the world due to globalisation. Only 5 countries in the world are currently
communist (China, Cuba, Laos, North Korea and Vietnam). Capitalism is still the
dominant economic system in the world today, accounting for over 80% of the world's
economies. In addition, further criticising the Marxist theory, the polarisation of few
extremely rich and majority very poor hasn't occurred. The middle class has
experienced a huge growth, which Marx predicted would disappear. However, with
particular reference to the UK, it has to be taken into account that the introduction of
health, pension, housing and welfare benefits came after Marx's analysis and even
death. If these were not implemented, then certainly in the UK, society may be very
different and may have followed Marx's analysis.
Chris Cartwright

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A2 Sociology 3rd February 2011
Unit 4 ­ Theory
Harvey, a neomarxist, helps us in our understanding of the current economic situation
of society, and the reasons why many nations haven't entered Communism as Marx
predicted. He argues that the move to postmodernity is a result of economic changes in
the 1970s, which led away from manufacturing to commerce, media and retail as the
main employers. Coupled with the development of globalisation, these changes have
presented massive challenges to capitalism.…read more

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A2 Sociology 3rd February 2011
Unit 4 ­ Theory
tensions and stress. By men just being there and providing support, it makes the
woman physically dependent on the man. The mere fact also that a woman relies upon
a man's sperm to have a child gives that aspect of dependency upon men. Firestone
argues that equality between the sexes can only occur when this psychological
dominance is destroyed and the physical dependency of women is ended.…read more

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A2 Sociology 3rd February 2011
Unit 4 ­ Theory
Mirza (1992) is a black feminist who helps us to understand why the position of black
women in society is worse than those of white women. She argued that although Black
British women suffer many of the same problems as White British women, they have the
added dimension of racism to contend with and thus their experience of life is harsher.…read more

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