Topics: Marxism, Social class, Sociology Pages: 23 (7979 words) Published: September 2, 2014
Marxism is an economic and social system based upon the political and economic theories of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. While it would take veritably volumes to explain the full implications and ramifications of the Marxist social and economic ideology, Marxism is summed up in the Encarta Reference Library as “a theory in which class struggle is a central element in the analysis of social change in Western societies.” Marxism is the antithesis of capitalism which is defined by Encarta as “an economic system based on the private ownership of the means of production and distribution of goods, characterized by a free competitive market and motivation by profit.” Marxism is the system of socialism of which the dominant feature is public ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange. Marxists tend to divide Capitalist society into two related "spheres of influence": a. The economic base (or infrastructure) and

b. The political and ideological superstructure.
Those whose own and control the means of production (the economic infrastructure) are powerful in that society (because they are able to use wealth to enhance and expand their power). However, this economically powerful class has to translate this power into political power (control over the State, machinery of government and so forth) and ideological power (control over how people think about the nature of the social world, capitalist society and so forth).

Under capitalism, the proletariat, the working class or “the people,” own only their capacity to work; they have the ability only to sell their own labor. According to Marx a class is defined by the relations of its members to the means of production. He proclaimed that history is the chronology of class struggles, wars, and uprisings. Under capitalism, Marx continues, the workers, in order to support their families are paid a bare minimum wage or salary. The worker is alienated because he has no control over the labor or product which he produces. The capitalists sell the products produced by the workers at a proportional value as related to the labor involved. In order for the bourgeoisie to make money and keep control of their wealth, they must extract more exchange value out of an item than it cost to produce. Therefore, all workers must be paid less than the value of the goods they produce. Capitalism as a system is only possible through this exploitation of the working classes. Individualism is a direct product of capitalism. Capitalism argues that it is free, individual choice which guides our actions in life, and those choices determine our success and happiness. Society, therefore, reflects the choices made by individuals and its structures are generated by the choices people make. In other words, people are rich because they behave in a way that makes them rich, and they are poor because their choices keep them poor. Marx took the opposite view. He argued that:

“It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness.” In other words, the way we experience reality is determined by the society we live in. Therefore, free choice is never possible: our choices are limited and even predetermined for us by our social conditions. Marxist theorists argued that it is through ideology that people’s thought processes are shaped. Ideology was traditionally taken to mean a set of beliefs to which an individual ascribed, such as Christianity or environmentalism. However, Marxist theorists argue that Capitalism is also an ideological system which interpolates its subjects silently, hiding the means by which it dictates the way we think. Hence, ideas such as individualism can be seen to be constructs of capitalist ideology: We believe we can act freely and have freedom of choice, but in reality our behaviour is circumscribed by...
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