Sociological Perspective; Marxism
According to Oak (2008), the society constitutes the context within which people interact. Different sociological perspectives have been developed in an effort to explain the nature of interaction in the society. One of the notable sociological perspectives entails the Marxism perspective. Shulman (2012) is of the opinion that the Marxism sociological perspective is founded on the fact that social relations are based on a structure of domination. To understand the Marxism sociological perspective, this paper reviews the fundamental elements of Marxism. The review focuses on identification and explanation of the key characteristics of Marxism, definition and application of the relevant sociological concepts of Marxism. The analysis further evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of Marxism.
Identification and explanation of the key characteristics of Marxism
One of the key characteristics of the Marxism perspective entails social class. Katsiaficas, Kirkpatrick and Emery (1987) affirm that social class leads to stratification of members of the society into superior and subordinate groups. Some of the elements that can be adopted in measuring the differences between the respective members of the society include prestige, power and wealth (Katsiaficas, Kirkpatrick & Emery 1987). According to Shulman (2012), the Marxism perspective holds that ‘social life is founded on conflict of interest, which arises from existence of difference between the bourgeoisie, or those who own and control production in the society and the proletariat or those who simply sell their labour in the market place of capitalism’ (p. 24). Thus, social conflict prevails between two main social groups that include the bourgeoisie and proletariat. Levine (2006) emphasise that class conflict is unavoidable in a differentiated society. The prevalence of conflict between the two social groups is an essential ingredient in stimulating change within the prevailing social structure. Shulman (2012) accentuates that social stratification creates struggle between the social groups, which culminates in social transition or change. Rummel (1977) asserts that the concept of Marxism stipulates that ‘individuals form classes to the extent that their interests engage them in a struggle with opposite class’ (p.47).
The social classes arising from the prevalence of Marxism lead to establishment of authority relationship between the social classes, which are based on property ownership. The ownership of property provides the people who own it substantial power to control. This contributes to increased individualisation of property, which means that the property is used for personal purposes. Moreover, Marxism is based on the element distribution of political power. According to Barker (2013), capital confers individual’s political power. The bourgeoisie class use the political power to develop social relations and to defend their property.
Sociological concept of Marxism
One of the sociological concepts that underlie the Marxism sociological perspective entails the concept of socialisation. Despite the class struggle between the bourgeois and the proletariat, the pursuit for profit leads to creation of interdependence between the different parties within the economic system (Adler 2009). The socialisation concept emphasises that an organisation can only be productive only if it promotes large scale cooperation. Subsequently, the efforts of an individual worker can only be valuable to the large and complex organisation only if the individual worker become a ‘collective worker’. Therefore, collaboration between the productive powers leads to socialization of the productive processes. Cole (2009) posits that ‘socialisation of the productive powers of society is laying the necessary foundation for the socialisation of ownership of means of production, control of political machine and economic classes’ (p.45).
In seeking for their livelihood, proletariat or the wage labourers become confined to the production mechanism incorporated by the bourgeoisie. Consequently, Edgell (2008) supports the view that the Marxism sociological perspective reveals the fact that the bourgeoisie treat the proletariat as commodities. Therefore, the proletariat can be sold or bought from the market at the lowest price possible. The socialisation of the production process is evidenced by incorporation of different management principles such as lean production, scientific management and bureaucracy. Integration of these managerial principles underscores the importance of promoting interdependent operations within an economic system.
In pursuit for profitability, the Marxism concept advocates for incorporation of effective or sophisticated or advance technologies that are capable of improving the society’s living standards. This increases proletarianization of the society, which according to Edgell (2008) entails ‘the tendency for the working class to increase in size, to be concentrated in large factories in urban areas and to experience relative poverty as a result of the development of the capitalist mode of production’ (p.4). Blundell, Griffiths and McNeill (2003) accentuates that the bourgeoisie are not intended at improving the societies living standards, which leads to class polarisation. According to Madeleiner (2006), class polarisation emanates from increase in competition for high profit between the bourgeoisie classes, which increases the need for adoption of more sophisticated technologies and approaches. One of the approaches that the bourgeoisie consider entails reduction in the level of wages, which makes the bourgeoisie richer while the proletariat becomes poorer (Levine 2003). Therefore, the Marxism perspective highlights the fact that the polarised class system makes it difficult for improvement in the society’s living standards.
Application of Marxism
Application of the concept of Marxism is very evident in the contemporary society. One of the areas where the concept of Marxism is extensively applied relates to application of the labour value theory in creation of wealth. The theory proposes that commodities derive their value from the human labour inherent in them (Rubin, 2008). Alternatively, Morton (2013) affirms that ‘the concept of Marxism supposes that the value of a commodity is determined by the amount of labour required for its manufacture’ (p.133). Oak (2008) further asserts that ‘the value of commodities purchasable by the worker’s wages is less than the value of the commodities he produces’ (p.123).Capitalists seek to maximise profitability by focusing on attaining a high surplus value. Therefore, the concept of Marxism reveals the prevalence of imbalance in between the providers of labour and the owners of factor of production. Katsiaficas, Kirkpatrick and Emery (1987) illustrate the concept of Marxism in a relationship involving a landlord and his serfs. The landlord may employ serfs to cultivate land on the basis of sharecropping method in which the landlord keeps 90% of the produce while the serfs only takes 10% of the produce (Katsiaficas, Kirkpatrick & Emery 1987).
Application of the concept of Marxism in the contemporary society is therefore indicated by the prevalence of the modern capitalist society. Cole (2009) asserts that capitalists tend to exploit the employees with reference to provision of equitable wage in an effort to maximise their returns. Considering the fact that the bourgeoisie class own the factors of production, they have substantial power to control the proletariat and tend to exclude them from owning property.
Application of the concept of Marxism is very rife in the banking industry. Firms in the banking industry maximise profit by issuing debts or loans to clients for profit (Sklansky, 2012). Currently, banks have gained extensive ‘money power’ and hence are able to influence other industries such as agriculture. The 2007-2008 financial crises that threatened the global economy was a result of growth in capitalistic approach amongst the financial institutions (Sklansky 2012). In the quest to revive profitability, Sklansky (2012) asserts that some financial institutions may collaborate with employers in repressing wages. Additionally, financial institutions may threaten employers with foreclosure hence stripping employees of their employment benefits such as health benefits and pension (Sklansky 2012). Alternatively, the financial institutions may develop fictitious financial assets aimed at generating high profits. The motive of the bourgeoisie class is to own property solely for personal use.
Levine (2006) argues that the need for change arises from the fact that individuals within the proletariat feel oppressed due to recognition of social inequality arising from social stratification. The owners of factors of production generate high returns by exploiting the input of their subordinates in form of labour. This knowledge drives the proletariats to engage in collective actions aimed at changing or improving their collective fate.
Strengths and weaknesses of Marxism sociological perspective
One of the strengths of Marxism is based on the fact that it provides an explanation of how social change occurs. The sociological perspective has provided extensive insight on the source of capitalistic behaviour. The Marxism perspective provides insight on the fact that social change is stimulated by existence of conflict between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat social classes (Musto 2013). In order to end the control possessed by the bourgeoisie, the proletariat must actively seek the most appropriate approach to achieve such an outcome. Alternatively, some of the approaches used by the bourgeoisie in an effort to maintain control over the proletariat entail disseminating and justifying certain ideas and beliefs.
The Marxism sociological perspective underlines the prevalence of social stratification in the society. Nevertheless, one of the major weaknesses of Marxism emanates from the fact that it does not recommend the most appropriate approach that proletariat can use in changing the dominance of the bourgeoisie. Boucher (2014) is of the view that class struggle might be realised through violent means. The violence might arise from the bourgeoisie class reluctance to relinquish their economic dominance and hence their political dominance. The bourgeoisie might consider resist any effort by the proletariat to change their social status. For example, the bourgeoisie might resist any trade union effort by the proletariat. The bourgeoisie might use force in restraining or quashing any civil disobedience. (Sernau 2010). The Marxism concept proposes that the bourgeoisie class seek high profit by incorporating effective technology such as use of machinery (Gregory 2012). Additionally, Marxism stipulates on the importance of entrenching specialised division of labour. Irrespective of the importance of division of labour in stimulating productivity, the labour providers or proletariat lose a substantial autonomy and individuality, which increases alienation of the proletariat social class.
The Marxism sociological perspective has played a fundamental role in explaining the nature of interaction and organisation of the society. One of the notable characteristics of the Marxism sociological perspective is that it is based on social conflicts that arise from social stratification, which is evidenced by the presence of two main social groups that include the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. The bourgeoisie posses a substantial amount of power, which gives them control over the proletariat. The social stratification creates conflict between the two classes, which is triggered by the proletariats’ pursuit to change their social status. However, the bourgeoisie implement measures that make the change efforts by the bourgeoisie difficult.
Application of the Marxism sociological perspective in the contemporary society is evidenced by the growth of capitalism in the society. The Marxism sociological perspective provides critical insight by exposing the prevailing economic and political contradictions that arise because of a high level of conflicts. The bourgeoisie class possesses substantial economic and political power that gives them substantial capacity to control the factors of production. Thus, the Marxism sociological perspective provides critical insight on the source of dominance between the property owners and the providers of labour. The concept of Marxism provides important insight on the source of exploitation experienced by the proletariat social class.
One of the notable strengths of the Marxism sociological perspective is underlined by its effectiveness in explaining the source of change in the society. Marxism postulates that the prevalence of conflict of interest between the two classes triggers need for change. Individuals in the proletariat group protest in opposition of the dominance possessed by the bourgeoisie in an effort to ensure that their collective interests are met. One of the approaches that depict collective effort by the proletariat to minimise the bourgeoisie control entails the formation of trade unions, whose core purpose of formation is to champion the interests of workers, for example by engaging in labour negotiations such as establishment of collective bargaining agreement. Despite the integration of such efforts in eliminating conflict of interest and hence establishing a balance between the two classes, the Marxism sociological perspective is limited in that its application might lead to use of force or unethical means by the bourgeoisie in order to maintain control.
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