Marx’s Social Theory Place
Whilst social theories vary greatly between different schools of thought they all have the same purpose; to aid scholars in analyzing society through the use of theoretical frameworks. Karl Mar’s social theory Is today known as Marxist historical materialism, though throughout his life Marx referred to It as the materialist conception of history. ‘ Born In 1818, In a small town In the south of the German Rangeland, to a middle class Jewish family, Marx had a comfortable start to his life.
Home schooled until the age of 13, he then enrolled at the Faculty of Law at the university of Bonn at 1 7 before his poor grades lead to his father forcing him to transfer to the Increasingly academic university of Berlin. Hegelianism was prominent in Berlin at this time and thus this is where Mar’s interest in social theory began: the theoretical writings of George Hegel would influence him throughout his life time. This point is reiterated by Ken Morrison, ‘.. Even though he had died in 1831, the legacy of his writings were extremely important to the intellectual and social background in which Marx lived. In fact a great deal of Mar’s early writings can only be understood in relation to Hedge’s early hinging. ‘ It was Mar’s break with Hedge’s theories that led him to first look at the economy and ultimately led to him developing his theory of materialism. Hegel believed that the consciousness had a primary role in determining the world around us; society as we know it is a product of human thought and interaction. This is known as Idealism.
Marx disagreed with Hegel on a number theoretical premises; firstly he disagreed with the emphasis and role Hegel had placed on Philosophy as this led to the view that only philosophic categories were real, whereas the real problems of living Individuals were overlooked and ignored’ (Morrison 2006). Secondly whilst Hegel believed that ideas acted as causes thus leading them to be Important In the history of human development, Marx theorists that material well being was more Important; humans have physical needs that need to be met to sustain life and these take poorly over Intellectual needs.
Furthermore Hegel believed society and state developed out of forces of spirit In history, leading to the view that the state was a theological embodiment of the spills of human beings. Marx rejected this view as he lived that human hardship was derived from social disadvantages and Inequalities rather than being naturally dictated by history.
Mar’s final point of disagreement lay in his belief that class Inequality was due to, the concrete material conditions that made it necessary for one class of persons to be dominant over the others,’ (Morrison 2006), this directly contrasted Hedge’s belief that human hardship and class inequality was self imposed and due to ‘subjective thinking’ on behalf of Despite his rejection of Hedge’s theory of Idealism, Marx accepts Hedge’s dialectical del as an accurate depiction of human progress, both see dialectical processes being driven forward.
However, whilst Hegel believes it is new ideas that change the way we live Marx states that new economic relationships change the way we live and this in turn leads to the development of new ideas. The dialectical model dictates that all thesis are opposed by antithesis, the two are then reconciled becoming a synthesis, which forms the basis of a new thesis, guaranteeing social change. Hegel theorists that this would continue until the formation of the, ‘absolute idea;’ a thesis hat is perfectly formed and does not allow for an antithesis.
Marx on the other hand believed the end result would be communism; the ultimate synthesis. As previously stated historical materialism is based upon the premises that in order for us to survive we must produce materials to meet the physical needs to maintain life. Marx believed the means of production to be the economic base of society, ‘The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure and o which correspond definite forms of consciousness. A contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859) For humans to carry out this production of materials they have to form what are known as, ‘relations of production,’ and divisions of labor must be made which are determined by the means of production at the time. According to Geoff Pilling (1980) for these relations of production take on the form of classes the productive forces must reach a certain level of growth (he further noted that if productive forces continued to increase to a higher level society may return to being class-less).
Marx used today’s capitalist society as an example we can look at how the unequal distribution of the means of production leads to class development and thus class conflict. The bourgeoisie (ruling class) own the means of production, which means that for the proletariat (working class) to gain the materials they need to sustain life they must exchange their labor for a wage. According to Marx, capitalism is driven by an innate greed, especially within the ruling class, so whilst capitalists are trying to find ways to increase workers efficiency and force them to work longer hours.
Copra’s (1992) noted, ‘As a result profit increases, real wage (subsistence) remains the same the worker works harder, and longer whilst his share of the product declines. ‘ This sets the interests of the two classes in opposition as on the other side of the coin the working class are trying to limit the amount of exploitation they suffer. This conflict between the classes ultimately leads to social revolution; where upon the under class overthrow the ruling class. Present day society; the world is undergoing an economic crisis.
In the Communist Manifesto Marx and Angels described Capitalism; a society that has conjured up such gigantic means of production and of exchange, [that it] is like the sorcerer, who is no longer able to control the powers of the nether world whom he has called up by his spells. ” An apt description of present day capitalism with its constant rises and falls in the stock market and ever increasing unemployment levels. The capitalist system is showing every evidence of behaving Just as Marx predicted; is communism on its Marx, is however criticized for claiming that a system without classes is the, ‘ultimate synthesis.
Economic adaptation of Mar’s theory, for example in Russia, has had negative outcomes. Marx is also further criticized for assuming that economic forces are the only thing driving history; an overly simplistic view. By bypassing the individual in belief that the community is more important and seeing them only as, ‘cogs in the machine of society,’ he fails to take into account the fact that the desires of the individual and the need for people to establish their own identity are also a driving force within history To conclude the concepts of class struggles and economic processes were the inundations of Mar’s theory of materialism.
Marx echoes this in the opening line of, ‘The communist manifesto,’ ‘The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles,’ An apt quotation considering the fact that much of Marx work was devoted to studying class conflict.