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Marxism – the basics
Understand all sociologists and social theorists by knowing a little about the time they lived in
Karl Marx 1818 - 1883
Mid- Late Nineteenth Century Britain Unrest and protest – Chartism Long hours, low pay Periodic unemployment No Welfare State No universal right to vote
Mid-Nineteenth Century Europe Revolution in France - 1848 Revolutions elsewhere in Europe Times of Turmoil
Marxs insight: Its all about money
Some have it…… They are called capitalists (or the bourgeoisie)
Others dont ….. They are called the workers (or the proletariat)
Capitalists and workers are thrown together into relations of production
They dont get on too well
Capitalists want the maximum PROFIT – and the lowest costs
Workers want the highest wage for the least work
These two groups are locked in mortal combat
The Capitalists compete with each other. The successful capitalists get richer and richer
… and the failed capitalists fall down into the working class
The workers meanwhile are more and more exploited by the remaining capitalists – they get poorer and poorer
Marx said that eventually the workers will rise up in revolution against the capitalist class A new communist society will be created
The backstory What is making all this happen?
Marx has a theory its because societies are always made from two parts
The Base The base is like the foundations of a building. Marxists say the economy (the means of production) is the base
And the superstructure The rest of the building which is built on the foundations The superstructure means all the other parts of society – culture, the state, education
The economic base determines (shapes) the superstructure
So this is called The base-superstructure model Superstructure Base
Social Control in capitalist society is achieved through ideology - ruling class ideology
The ruling ideas in any time are always those of the ruling class
The working class may suffer from false consciousness – not understanding their true class position
Not a bad theory – but there are several criticisms which can be made of it
Its not all about money – this is economically reductionist e.g. what about ideas, culture, religion?
Marxism makes people appear to be dominated by structures Puppets or People with the ability to act?
Gender and Race blind - the only social groupings it seems to recognise are classes
Now – over to you – weigh it up. Like any theory it has good points and bad points - but hopefully you will find it can explain some things about your society ?
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