Social Thought and Social Change

Topics: Marxism, Social class, Karl Marx Pages: 5 (1856 words) Published: April 17, 2013
Are the ideas of Marx, Weber and Durkheim useful for understanding social change today? Illustrate your answer using the ideas of one of these theorists This essay will discuss Karl Marx’s theory to understand social change in contemporary society. This will be explored through the relevance of Marx’s theory on class divisions and Globalisation in today’s society. Additionally, it will also incorporate arguments on the restrictions on Marx’s theory of social change. Globalisation is described as a significant economic domination which demands that other nations assimilate to bourgeois practice or be committed to the economics of the remote place. In this way, the bourgeoisie create the world after their own image (Jones, 2003). Karl Marx (1844) theory of social change derives from the views on class conflict, the theory emphasized on class connecting to the means of production due to the differences between members of society. This difference according to Marx causes the population to be divided into two groups, the ruling class and the working class. This however, makes conflict possible because the subjected class performs the productive labour and the wealth produced goes to the ruling class. The working class therefore, is powerless due to their lack of ownership of means of production (Ray, 1999). Marx argued that the significance of human existence was to ensure physical survival through creating the means of production in order to control nature. Subsequently, the inadequacy of individual’s necessities such as property and wealth could alter their progression in society. Marx emphasised that the way society organises its production was the most fundamental and important aspect of human existence and this is the initiator that develops other aspects of human activities (Bilton et al, 2002).

To demonstrate this Marx identified series of stages which modern society had developed through. According to Marx each of these stages of history created a new classes or development which comes with conflict. Therefore every passing stage would raise the standard of living of the people while at the same time be designed to its own defeat because of internal oppositions and class conflicts (Joseph, 2006). The first stage was the primitive and tribal society where material scarcity created conflict. Secondly, the slavery stage where conflict existed between the master and the slave, thirdly, the feudalism stage where conflict existed between owners of the land and the peasants, and fourthly, capitalism where conflict existed between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat which was used to explain the theory of social change in modern society (Ray, 1999).

However, one example used by Marx to describe and explain modern society is the transition from feudalism to capitalism. This was made possible because people discover new ways of mastering nature and generating wealth. As a result of this discovery, the feudal society had to change mainly because continuing on the same level would therefore hold back a society’s full potential. An example, of this is the discovery of the steam engine, which allowed society in controlling nature effectively (Bilton et al, 2002). Therefore, for this potential to be realised the peasants were set free in order to work for those who owned the new sources of production. From this the new middle classes overthrew the feudal relations of production and developed what is now called capitalist society in which the bourgeoisie owns the labour forces and proletariats work but are paid for their labour (Bilton et al, 2002). Marx (1844) interpreted modern society as a capitalist society, where profit is made for capitalists or bourgeoisie, who have means of production (factories, land, money), by exploitation of cheap labour from the working class or proletariat. Marx maintained that economic production underlies and shapes the entire society, it was believed that technological and social process of...

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Hall, S. David, H. and McGrew, T. (1988) ‘New Times’, Marxism today, Cambridge. Polity Cited in Jones, P. (2003) Introducing Social Theory Polity Press P. 159
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Tonnies, F. (1971) On Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft, in M. Truzzi ed. Sociology: The Classic Statements. New York: Oxford University Press. Cited in Ray, L. (1999) Theorizing Classical Sociology, (Pp. 143-145) Open University Press
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