Marxism and Conflict Theory

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Marxism is a structuralist theory in that it argues that the organisation or structure of capitalist society, especially the fact that such societies are based on social class relationships, is the main influence on social behaviour.

Marxism sees capitalist society as organised into two interdependent parts. The infrastructure is the economic system - the way society produces goods. In capitalist societies, goods are manufactured mainly in factories. This production involves a relationship between two economic classes -- the bourgeoisie or capitalist class owns the means of production (land, factories and machines). The proletariat or working class hires out its labour power (its skills and strength) to the capitalist class in return for a wage.

The relationship between these two classes is unequal and is based on conflict because the bourgeoisie aim to extract maximum labour at the lowest cost. As a result, the bourgeoisie exploit the labour of the working class, especially because the value of labour when sold as a product is worth more than the wage paid. This surplus value is pocketed by the capitalist class and is the basis of vast profits made by many employers. These profits are responsible for the great inequalities in wealth and income between the ruling and working classes.

The second part of the capitalist social system - the superstructure…


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