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Theories of Karl Marx



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    Karl Marx, also a philosopher was popularly known for his theories that best explained society, its social structure, as well as the social relationships. Karl Marx placed so much emphasis on the economic structure and how it influenced the rest of the social structure from a materialistic point of view. Human societies progress through a dialectic of class struggle, this means that the three aspects that make up the dialectic come into play, which are the thesis, antithesis and the synthesis (Avineri, 1980: 66-69).

    As a result of these, Marx suggests that in order for change to come about, a class struggle has to first take place. That is, the struggle between the proletariat and the capitalist class, the class that controls the means of production. Karl Marx also believed that this king of class stratification would be replaced by a more equal society known as communism. Therefore this theory rests on the premise that says, “the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles. CRITICALLY ANALYSE THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN HUMAN ACTION AND SOCIAL STRUCTURE IN MARX’S WORK. As has been mentioned earlier in the introduction, Marx was a materialist. Materialism means believing in the objective realities and not the subjective that idealists believe in (Roodt, 2013: lecture notes). Marx therefore believed that social structures as well as social relationships restricted or enhanced one’s life chances.

    Materialism provides a simple and economic perspective, which appears most compatible with our experience and observations. Moreover, materialism seems, and this may be its most attractive element, the only metaphysics most consistent with scientific knowledge and attitude. Materialists include social structures such as norms, schooling systems, class, physical conditions or ones environment etc. Thus coming to the conclusion that human action is shaped and determined by the social structures available, for example class stratification.

    Because of the division in the society and the accessibility of the means of production, those who work for the owners of these means of production (proletariat) feel controlled and subdued to the capitalist class and this is as a result of the social structure which then leads to the formation of a false state of thinking known as false consciousness that will be further discussed in the body of this essay. The production of the material means of subsistence and the economic development of a people forms he basis for the social and political institutions created as well as for the legal conceptions and ideology that arises. On the other hand we have the notion of idealism that is mostly supported by sociologists such as Durkheim and this claim is the exact opposite to that of Marx. The claim states that, the human brain or consciousness shapes a person (Roodt, 2013: lecture notes). They take a more subjective view as compared to that of materialism.

    A person does not live as an island, and thus the notion of materialism accommodates that there are always environmental, physical factors that will always shape a person, for example religion, the Roman Catholic church in the movie titled Daens (Connix, 1992), they reinforced stratification and oppression thus shaping the social structure and the way the people view things. The idealists do not accommodate for this very important point. DISCUSS MARX’S THEORY OF MATERIALISM/PRODUCTION AS THE FOUNDATION OF THE SOCIETY.

    Materialism is a notion that provides a simple economic perspective and can be adequately be explained by Karl Marx’s base-superstructure model. The economy is the base and therefore all other structures are influenced and organised by the economy and the economy is their foundation of the society. The bourgeoisie are the controlling class that own the means of production and these means of production include capital, entrepreneurship, labour and land.

    Therefore the relations of production which are the ways in which the forces of production are utilized joined together with the forces of production themselves lead to the formation of the society as well as society consciousness etc. (Carver, 1992: 55). During the industrialisation era, the factories were now in desperate need of a minimally educated workforce as a result, mandatory and free educational systems were put into place. This is clear example that shows that the economy was indeed the base for all other structures in the society.

    The relations of production shapes the superstructure as it consists of the bourgeoisie exploiting the proletariat. The base of the superstructure shapes the superstructure (education, family, religion, mass media, politics etc. ) and the superstructure itself legitimizes the base. Law facilitates the need of those who are in power and own the means of production, eg. Apartheid, Group areas act. The society was governed by rules that were made to suit the upper class. The model formulated by Karl Marx may also face a lot of criticism. It puts a lot of weight, oncentration on the economy as a whole and pays so little attention to other very influential structures such as religion, politics, education etc. EVALUATE MARX’S THEORY OF FALSE CONSCIOUSNESS Consciousness refers to the human ideas, views and conceptions. Therefore false consciousness means misunderstood or misinterpreted ideas, views or conceptions. In capitalism, both capitalists and workers have incorrect assessments of how the system works and of their role and interest in it; this in itself is false consciousness. Most importantly a distinction is to be drawn between animal consciousness and emancipated consciousness.

    Animal consciousness is the awareness of danger, the things around us that will enable us to fight or flee whereas emancipated consciousness is the second level of consciousness which humans are acquainted with, it comes as a direct reflection of our direct material experiences (Roodt, 2013: lecture notes). Dual and double consciousness also exist in such a society in the sense that peoples behaviour is influenced by what others think, as a result it becomes distorted and usually have a negative image of themselves, they perceive themselves wrongly (Roodt, 2013: lecture notes).

    False consciousness is fostered by different systems of the social structure such as education systems, the media, newspapers, the church, organisations etc. The bourgeoisie, like the proletariat, is unaware of the consequences of its actions and its idea of a system consists of delusions about its control over the capitalist system. The proletariat believe that the social and class inequalities are functional in a way and that the way they are treated under the capitalist system is just and they deserve it.

    This false consciousness because they think they know yet they are misinformed. This mentality is formed by social structures such as schooling systems, the church, in this era which was the Roman Catholic, the newspapers and most importantly this way of thinking is formulated by the capitalist and because of hegemony or the control, power and influence they have in the society these “beliefs” are passed down to the proletariat and become normal and the natural way/order of things.

    It is therefore not adequate for the proletariat to be “a class in itself”; it must become “a class for itself” (Johnson, 1971: 87). This means that the class struggle must be raised form the level of economic necessity to the level of conscious aim and effective class consciousness. This consciousness can only be obtained by the proletariat as the bourgeoisie can never transform its false consciousness into true class consciousness. Marx suggests that the dialect is the only way change can be brought about in a society and this is as a result of class consciousness.

    The thesis that the bourgeoisie are in power and are meant to be in power and have the right to oppress the proletariat should be firstly recognised by the proletariat to be wrong as a class and this is what has been referred to as class consciousness and secondly, the antithesis, the proletariat engage in a class struggle to overthrow the bourgeoisie and once this has successfully happened the new order of things will be put into place, known as the synthesis. Karl Marx believed that the new order that excluded class stratification that would come into place would be communism (Avineri, 1980: 38).

    Theories of Karl Marx. (2016, Oct 19). Retrieved from

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