SCLY4 Theory: Marxism Notes

  • Created by: Elannm
  • Created on: 24-05-16 21:13

SCLY 4 Revision – Sociological Theory


Marx’s Ideas


·       Described his theory as ‘scientific socialism’ – as knowledge would point the way to a better society.

·       Saw progress as a contradictory process in which capitalism would increase human misery before giving way to a classless communist society in which human beings would be free to fulfil their potential.

·       He was a revolutionary socialist.

·       His ideas came to form the basis of communism.

·       Marxism became the official doctrine of the Soviet Union and other communist states.

·       His key ideas about human history, and capitalism and its replacement by a future communist society:

Historical materialism:

·       Materialism = the view that humans are beings with material needs and must therefore work to meet them.

·       By working, they use the forces of production / means of production.

·       Earliest stages of human history – these forces are unaided human labour.

·       Over time, people develop tools and machines to assist in production.

·       By working to meet their needs, humans co-operate with one another.

·       They enter into social relations of production – ways of organising production.

·       As the forces of production grow and develop, the social relations of production also change.

·       A division of labour develops.

·       Which eventually gives way to a division between 2 classes:

Ø  Bourgeoisie – who own the means of production

Ø  Proletariat – a class of labourers

·       From then on, production is directed by the class of owners to meet their own needs.

·       Forces of production + relations of production = mode of production.

Ø  E.g. in today’s society, we have a capitalist mode of production.

·       The mode of production forms the economic base of society.

·       This shapes or determines all other features of society.

Ø  E.g. the superstructure of institutions, ideas, beliefs and behaviour.

v  Which shape the nature of religion, the law and education.

Class society & exploitation:

·       Earliest stage of human history – there were no classes, no private ownership and no exploitation.

·       Everyone worked and everything was shared.

·       He calls this ‘primitive communism’.

·       As the forces of production grow, different types of class society come and go.

·       Class societies – one class owns the means of production.

·       They can exploit the labour of others for their own benefit.

·       They can control society’s surplus product – the difference between what the labourers produce and what is needed to keep them alive.

·       Identifies 3 successive class societies:

Ø  Ancient society – based on the exploitation of claves legally tied to their owners.

Ø  Feudal society – based on the exploitation of serfs legally tied to their owners.

Ø  Capitalist society – based on the exploitation of free




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