Marxism - Theory and methods

HideShow resource information

The Base Structure

The economy is the driving force in society. This determines the nature of social institutions. Marxist see the structure of society divided into two main parts; The Economic Base and The Superstructure

1. The Economic Base - Determines the means of production and the relations of production

  • - The means of production - Like Land, factories, materials, technology and labour.
  • - The Relations of Production - The relationship between those involved in production and those not involved in production. Eg Owners and non-owners. 

2. The Super Structure - Social institutions which Marx saw as primarily influenced by the economy system. Eg Family, education, media, religion. 

Evaluation: 

+ It recognises how economic changes can effect other social institutions. Eg Recession = Unemployment 

+ It takes into consideration the importace of society's social structure. 

- Criticised for Economic determinism - This is the view that economic factors are the only cause for everything in society. This ignores human free will and how humans can bring about change through their conscious efforts. 

- Weber - It ignores the importance of new sets of ideas that help bring social change. Calvinism brought about modern capitalism.

1 of 9

The Base Structure

The economy is the driving force in society. This determines the nature of social institutions. 

Marxist see the structure of society divided into two main parts; The Economic Base and The Superstructure

1. The Economic Base - Determines the means of production and the relations of production

- The means of production - Like Land, factories, materials, technology and labour.

- The Relations of Production - The relationship between those involved in production and those not involved in production. Eg Owners and non-owners. 

2. The Super Structure - Social institutions which Marx saw as primarily influenced by the economy system. Eg Family, education, media, religion. 

Evaluation: 

+ It recognises how economic changes can affect other social institutions. Eg Recession = Unemployment 

+ It takes into consideration the importance of society's social structure. 

- Criticised for Economic determinism - This is the view that economic factors are the only cause for everything in society. This ignores human free will and how humans can bring about change through their conscious efforts. 

- Weber - It ignores the importance of new sets of ideas that help bring social change. Calvinism brought about modern capitalism.

2 of 9

Private Ownership and Social Class

Labour is the sole source of wealth. 

In Primitive societies people only produced enough for themselves to survive. This meant everybody produced on the same economic level. Some parts of society began to produce more than what was needed, this lead to one section of society not working as they can rely on the working part of society. This lead to primitive ownership of the means of production emerging. 

The most dependant will seek employment which splits society into two social classes. 

Marx predicted that as the means of production developed new relations of production would emerge and society would evolve through revolutionary changes as of conflicts between owners and non-owners. He believed this would soon lead to a communist society. 

Evaluation:

+ It explains how privatised ownership and the means to production can cause extreme social inequalities. It shows how conflict occurs due to the social divide

3 of 9

Exploitation

Workers produce more than what is needed for employers to pay them. (They are underpaid for what they produce.) Marx refers to this is the surplus value.

Eg A days wage for a factory worker may be £30, but throughout that day they may in fact produce up to £60 worth of goods. This means that the employer will get £30 profit. 

4 of 9

Capitalism and workers

Society is split into two social classes. The working class have no means of production; therefore the only way they can survive is to sell their labour in order for money to survive. This means that the upper class can exploit the working class. They do so by paying them as little as possible and selling the produces made for the highest price they can get. This ensures that they get a profit.

5 of 9

The Ruling Class

The ruling class are the ones who own the means to production. They can control where the factories are located and if they should be open or closed. They can also control the working class by hiring and firing them

The government cannot ignore the power of the ruling class as if the upper classes do not invest into the production process it can lead to rising unemployment and other social problems.

Evaluation: 

- Marx has a simplistic, one dimensional view of inequality. He sees class as the only important division. 

Weber argues that status and power differences are important sources of inequality apart from class. 

Eg the 'Power elite' can rule without actually owning the means of production, as it did in the Soviet Union

- Feminists argue that gender is a more important source of inequality than class. 

- Marx's two class model is too simplistic. Weber argues there are sub-divides within the classes. In the working class there are skilled and semi skilled classes. Just as in the middles class there are office workers and petty capitalist. 

- Class polarisation has not occurred. Instead of the middle class shrinking while the working class grew it created the opposite. The working class shrunk and the middle class grew.

6 of 9

Dominant Ideology

The dominant ideology in society is that of the ruling class. Many major institutions reflect the interest of the middle and upper classes. 

Eg Law protects the interest of the upper classes. 

Eg Religion acts as the 'opium of the people' which helps the working class to accept their social position rather than question it. 

Marx describes this as a false consciousness.

7 of 9

Revolution and Communism

Marx believed that one day the working class would become aware of their exploitation. This could lead to power becoming more concentrated and the working class becoming poorer. This could then lead to the working class developing a class consciousness

The working class may then come together and perform strikes, demonstration and protests that would eventually lead to a revolution and a communist state

Evaluation:

- Marx's prediction has not come true. Marx predicted that advanced capitalist countries would face this crisis, but this has not happened. Although communism has occurred in the economically backwards countries such as in Russia in 1917. 

+ Marx does say in his work that 'Men make their own history' and that the working class would free themselves using their own conscious efforts. This shows how Marx also thought that human actions were a role as well as economical factors. 

8 of 9

Revolution and Communism

Marx believed that one day the working class would become aware of their exploitation. This could lead to power becoming more concentrated and the working class becoming poorer. This could then lead to the working class developing a class consciousness

The working class may then come together and perform strikes, demonstration and protests that would eventually lead to a revolution and a communist state

Evaluation:

- Marx's prediction has not come true. Marx predicted that advanced capitalist countries would face this crisis, but this has not happened. Although communism has occurred in the economically backwards countries such as in Russia in 1917. 

+ Marx does say in his work that 'Men make their own history' and that the working class would free themselves using their own conscious efforts. This shows how Marx also thought that human actions were a role as well as economical factors. 

9 of 9

Comments

No comments have yet been made

Similar Sociology resources:

See all Sociology resources »See all Sociological theory resources »