Marxism theory - Detailed notes.

Specifically relevant to students studying AQA A2 Sociology Unit 4 theory, but may well be of use to students studying other exam boards.

Notes include:

  • Private ownership and social class
  • Exploitation
  • Capitalists and workers
  • Class conflict
  • The ruling class
  • Dominant ideology
  • Revolution and Communism
  • Strengths of Marxism
  • Weaknesses of Marxism
  • Neo-Marxism: Gramsci
  • Neo-Marxism: Althusser
  • Neo-Marxism evaluation
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A2 Sociology Theory and Methods
Economic base underpinned and determined everything in society this consisted
o means of production (land, factories, labour)
o the relations of production (shared/private ownership/whether people are
paid to work)
Superstructure includes societies social institutions such as:
o Family
o Religion
o Education
o Media
Private ownership and social class
Labour is the sole source of wealth
In primitive societies when society produced enough for its own essential needs
everyone had to work to survive
All people were producers ­ too much production allowed section of society not
to work and to be supported by others
Marx saw private ownership of the means of production emerging, arguing that
means of production have been privately owned since existence of society
Society is divided into 2 classes, those who own the means of production and
those who don't
Marx argued that as the means of production developed with increased
technology, society will go through revolutionary change with conflicts between
classes eventually leading to communism
Workers produce more than is needed for employers to pay them their wages ­
surplus value gives employers profit
Workers do not get full value of their work and therefore are being exploited
Capitalists and workers
2 basic social classes in capitalist industrial society:
o a small wealthy powerful class of owners (Bourgeoisie)
o a larger class of non owners (Proletariat)
Proletariat have to do labour in exchange for wages
The Capitalists exploit the working class by making profits out of them by
keeping wages low and production high
Chris Cartwright

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A2 Sociology Theory and Methods
Class conflict
The exploitation of the proletariat created differences in interest between 2
classes, which in turn created conflict
Bosses wanted higher profits to expand business and wealth to compete with
one another
This was only achievable with low wages and hard labour
The Ruling class (owning class)
Democratically elected governments could not afford to ignore this power of
ruling class
If the bourgeoisie were to decide to not invest money it could lead to
unemployment or other social problems…read more

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A2 Sociology Theory and Methods
III. It recognises the importance of social structure and links this to ideas,
consciousness and behaviour of individuals and groups
IV. It remains a highly influential theory which has an influence on other theories such
as Weber and Marxist feminists
Weaknesses of Marxism
I. Marx's predictions have not come true almost everyone in Western society
enjoys a far higher standard of life than ever before.…read more

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A2 Sociology Theory and Methods
Althusser and the economic, political and ideological levels
I. The economic level, consisting of the economy and production of material goods
II. The political level, consisting of government, organisations including repressive
state apparatus (army, police, courts)
III. The ideological level, consisting of ideas, beliefs and values including
ideological state apparatus (media, education, religion)
All 3 levels justify power of the dominant class and can affect society independent of the
economy.…read more



Fantastic summary of Marxism !

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