Struggle and Conflict
Marx and Engels viewed the structure of society in relation to its major classes, and the struggle between them as the engine of change in this structure. Conflict was not deviational within society’s structure, nor were class’s functional elements maintaining the system. The structure itself was a derivative of and an ingredient in the struggle of classes. Their conflict view was of modern nineteenth century society.
Marx and Engels defined class by the ownership of property. Such ownership grants a person with the power to exclude others from the property and to use it for personal purposes. In relation to property there are three great classes of society: the bourgeoisie, who own the means of production such as machinery and factory buildings, the landowners whose income is rent, and the proletariat who own their labor and sell it for a wage. “Freeman and slave, patrician and plebian, lord and serf, guild-masters and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of contending classes” (Manifesto). Class is determined by property, not by income or status. Class is therefore a theoretical and formal relationship among individuals. As Marx and Engels saw the development of class conflict, the struggle between classes was initially confined to individual factories. Eventually, given the maturing of capitalism, the growing disparity between life conditions of bourgeoisie and proletariat, and the increasing homogenization within each class, individual struggles become generalized to coalitions across factories. “Of all the classes that stand face to face with the bourgeoisie today, the proletariat alone is genuinely revolutionary class. The other classes decay and finally disappear in the face of Modern Industry; the proletariat...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document