Theory and Methods
04 - Assess the contribution of Marxism to our understanding of society [33 marks]
Marxism is a macro/structural approach to society, meaning that it looks at the large-scale societal structure for answers about how society works and operates. They believe that structure is categorised into two kinds of structure; the infrastructure and the superstructure.
They believe the infrastructure is made up of the economic base and is made up of the social relations between the producers and who owns the means of production. The superstructure however is made up of the social institutions of the modern day society. These can include agents of social control such as the family and the education system. Considering this it’s easy to see that they believe the superstructure is imposed around the infrastructure.
Marxism at it’s core, is about the class struggle, however, between the two groups isolated in the Infrastructure. Those whom own the means of production, and those whom use the means of production. The groups are called the Bourgeoisie, or ruling class, and the Proletariat, or working class. Most of the Maxist perspective is based on observations of the fast paced development of the western world, particularly the Capitalist countries however, as that is what they blame most, if not everything on, because they believe in the Capitalist society, the owners of the means of production, the Bourgeoisie, continually seek to exploit their labourers, the Proletariat for profit.
They believe both groups have power, however;
The Bourgeoisie have the power to man and crew the State, and they believe the Proletariat have their labour power, which they sell to the Bourgeoisie in return for a wage. This wage is often considered minimal, in order to maximise profit for the Bourgeoisie. Karl Marx said that this was one of the causes of economic crisis’ in society, and that crisis’ will continue to occur until Capitalism is abandoned, or until the system literally collapses on itself. Markets crash quite often considering the breadth of human history, however we’ve not seen the fall of Capitalism yet. It is the opinion of most traditional, or instrumental Marxists, that we’re nearing the final crash, and that we should abdicacte Capitalism for Communism, however after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the USSR, Communism and Marx’s reputaion, along with the wall, lie in ruins.
However, pursuing their perspective, modern Instrumental Marxists believe that the time will come where the Proletariat massess will gain a class consciousness which will wake up to the exploitation of the Bourgeoisie and rise up against them, forming a new, more Socialist/Communist regime of equality and happiness. However, other forms of Marxism, believe that that might not happen just yet, because of an observation called Hegemony.
Gramsci has constructed this theory of Hegemony, in that the leadership of society acts ideologically in order to control their society and maintain their position. Gramsci looks directly to Weber’s points on Authority, in that authority works in two ways.
Coercion, and consent…