Theory and methods; Marxism



  • What type of perspective is it? : a structutal perspective which sees society more importanat than the induvidual 

- Marx thinks that institutions within the family reflect the ideologies of the dominanat group. Marx believes that aleination is the result of our loss of control over labour. Workers spend all day completing mindless tasks

- Marxism does think that bringing together large groups of the proleteriat the working class can develop an opposition to the exploiters 

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Critcisms of Marxism

1. Marx has a SIMPLISTIC view of inequality; he sees class as the only important division, feminists would argue however that gender is more of a fundamnetal source of inequality

2. Marx's two class model is critcised for being SIMPLISTIC 

3. Economic determinism: Marx is critcicised for assuming that economic factors are the sole cause of everything in society 

Weber argues that it was a new set of ideas Calvanists which helped bring about modern capitalism 

4. Marxist predictions of revelution hasn't even happened in the most advanced countries 

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The two Marxisms

  •  Critical (humanistic) Marxism 
  • Structural (scientific) Marxism 

Neo-Marxism ( Humanistic)

  • Associated with Gramsci- who introduced the idea of the ruling class ideology (hegemony)
  • Hegemony= the state persuading the working class to believe and conform to the rules and the values of the ruling class 
  • Gramsci says that the that the proleteriat must develop its own 'counter hegemony' to win leadship of society.

Critcisms of neo-marxism (humanistic)

  • Gramsci is accused of under-estimating the strength of economic factors 
  • eg Paul Willis' lads recgonised that meritocracy is a myth and saw through the bourgeois ideology
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The two Marxisms

Structural (scientific) Marxism 

  • Associated with Althusser 
  • Structural Marxism looks at 3 economic structures instead of 1. they are 
  • - economic; all activites that satisfy a need 
  • - political
  • -ideological; how people see themselves and their world 


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More on structural Marxism

Structural Marxism argues that the state performs political and ideological functions that are divided into two apparatuses: 

1. The Represssive state apparatuses (RSA's) ; the army, the police, prisons which force the WC into complying with the will of the upper class. This is how Marxists have traditionally saw the state.

2. The ideological state apparatuses (ISA's): institutions such as the family and the education system manipulate the working class into accepting capitalism. This is done in the following ways:

- Religion; an illusion which eases the pain produced by explotation (opium function) encourages the WC to work hard in order to reap the rewards in the afterlife. 

- Family; encourages children to do as their parents say like their capitalist bosses will . the family also acts as a 'safety valve' 

-Education; prepares pupils for work 

- Crime and deviance; the ruling class have the power to define what is acceptable and have the advantage of a law and order system that favours their interests 

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Criticisms of structural Marxism

Criticisms of Marxism 

  • Structural Marxism is critical of humanistic Marxism; Althusser argues that we are not free agents that humanists think we are. eg. the education system creates an illusion of meritocracy.
  • Althusser is critical of Gramsci's view that capitalism will be overthrown. he believes that crisis in capitalism is needed 
  • Other critics see Marx's 2 class model as simplistic. Marxism ignores non class forms of inequality such as gender and ethnicity.
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