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Name- Ojasvi Gulyani

Roll no.- 131

Question- Critically examine the Marxian theory of social


The German theorists, Karl Marx, influenced the field of sociology,

particularly in terms of theories of social class. No theorist stressed the
significance of class for society and for social change more strongly than
Karl Marx. Marx viewed class differentiation as the crucial determinant of
social, economic and political inequality.

Marx defined class as a group of people who have the same relationship
to the means of production—the facilities and resources for producing
goods—such as tools, machines, and factories. According to him, society
is divided into two structures, namely, infrastructure and superstructure.
Any change in the infrastructure i.e. the economic base leads to changes
in the superstructure. Every economic structure he says contains two
classes- a ruling class and a subject class. In other words, one who owns
the means of production and one who doesn’t own the means of
production. Thus, ownership and non- ownership are two important
aspects where the aim of owners is to earn profit and the aim of non-
owners is to change their status.

In Marxian view there are three necessary conditions for classes to

develop: 1. Physical concentration of masses of people. 2. Easy
communication and 3. Growth of class consciousness. Marx points out
that the relationship between these classes has always been exploitative
in all phases of history such as feudal or any types of ancient societies
with an exception of a simple primitive society. Marx believed that
primitive societies were non-class societies. In such societies, there was
simple equality and as such there was no stratification based on class.

Max specified a number of variables for the formation of class and class
consciousness which are- 1. Conflicts over distribution of economic
rewards between classes. 2. Easy communication between the same class
position 3. There has to be a strong understanding of solidarity. 4. Dis-
satisfaction of lower class because of their inability to control social
structure and feel exploited victim. 5. Establishment of a political
organization resulting from political structure.

He primarily focused on capitalist society, a society where everything is

bought and sold, where the capitalist does not buy actual labor but rather
for a specified amount of time with an aim to make continuous profit.
Thus labor or labor capacity becomes a commodity. And this
commodification is explained through the concept of surplus value where
he says that the capitalists in order to earn more and more profit exploits
the workers by making them work in excess of their own labor-cost. There
was, thus, in his perspective, a monopolization of all material sources by
one social group, the bourgeoisie, while the other huge social group
owned nothing in modern society.

Class struggle therefore, is a recurring feature. It is inevitable because the

relationship between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat is one of mutual
dependence and conflict. It is a relationship of exploiter and exploited,
oppressor and oppressed. Since capitalism cannot survive without labor
yet he is alienated and exploited from a system which he develops. And it
is because of this oppression and exploitation of the proletariat that will
inevitably lead to the destruction of the capitalist system.

Therefore, a consciousness develops and class is formed with the aim to

have a new stage of social system where there are no classes and no
private ownerships. In other words, there are no classes to monopolize
political power to have wealth. Thus, only when class consciousness
evolves and class organizes itself towards the pursue of its interests does
the class exists in Marxian sense. Thus, from class in itself emerges class
for itself.

And once a class emerges for itself the inherent contradictions(including

over production, less consumption, extensive polarization,
monopolization)due to which workers felt isolated led to falling rates of
profit and ultimately to a stage where a system lacks from within.

Marx’s analysis of class however, is seen as too simplistic. Critics argue

that even in Marx’s own time the class structure of capitalist societies was
becoming more complex rather than a bio-polar system as envisaged by
Marx. He is also criticized for exaggerating the importance of class and
particularly class conflict. He has also neglected the idea of nationalism.
His prediction about future classless society seems to many unlikely and
unachievable. In modern societies, the consciousness and behavior of the
working class has proved much more ‘moderate’ and open to
compromise than Marx hoped.

In 1870s-80s, we find that the socialist workers combined with capitalists

for production process as a result of which capitalism increased and
trading emerged. Once money came, they started sharing and developing
an idea that could lead to overall increase because of increase in the
competition in the global market. With an increase in capitalism, overall
social conditions of workers changed, they were given benefits and
started feeling security in workplace.

Gradually, as the demand for money increased, capitalists started

borrowing from financial institutions. The capitalists were no more
homogenous and hence, ownership got divided. Working of capitalism
also changed and more and more people were recruited based on skilled,
semi-skilled, unskilled labor as a result of which division of working class
emerged. Thus, instead if two classes there emerged many classes. And as
the workers realize that the harder they work the harder they get there
will be no class consciousness and no class conflict.

Karl Marx’s ideas thus led many nations to change their course of history
as his contribution gave significant attention to other aspects highlighting
that class is important and a base of stratification leading to creation of
elites in society. He pointed out that changes in stratification in human
societies are based on changing nature of production. Classes and
stratification are thus, dynamic aspects and dynamic formations that keep
on changing. Hence, classes are present through interactions, have
relations of conflict, interdependence and cooperation.