• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

An analysis of the Marxist perspective on religion

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

An analysis of the Marxist perspective on religion Karl Marx was a 19th century German philosopher who came up with the socio-economic theory of Communism. Communism focuses on the equality of the classes in society through the use of the economy as a medium. You may ask how this relates to religion; Marx viewed religion as a tool used by the bourgeoisie to control the proletariats. Marxism began as a philosophy of dialectical materialism to come up with the theory of scientific socialism. Marx believed that this was the only method that should be used to analyse any social problem and thus looked at the material and economic realities of the world rather than the spiritual. Firstly it is important to note that Marx starts from the standpoint that religion is an ideology. He considers religion in terms of its status as an ideological framework, or a belief system, that plays a part in the way in which people see the social world and their position within that world. However, unlike most non-Marxist sociologists, Marx takes the stand that there is a set way in how we should analyse religion. For Marx, religious beliefs represented a significant way in which people were oppressed and exploited within a non-communist society, namely Capitalism. Marx saw religion not just as an ideology, but as an ideology that is plainly false. Marx argues two points about religion as an ideology. First is that religious ideologies provide people with a sense of well-being and contentment that is an illusion. Religions may make people feel happy in the short-term, but this is not real contentment. Religion serves as a kind of "false consciousness." This is because it directs our understanding away from the world and towards a false, illusory existence. It is a form of social control that attempts to prevent people from understanding their true social condition and true social self. ...read more.

Middle

This helps to affirm the social bonds between them as human beings. Production of commodities on a co-operative basis therefore has two main benefits. It binds people together on the basis of mutual economic need. Society needs to work together to ensure the survival of the species. Also, it binds people on the basis of mutual political need. By co-operating in this way we get satisfaction from knowing that the work we do benefits others. We consider ourselves a valued and necessary member of society. Thus, the economic and political systems are seen to be mutually related and dependent. The economic system produces political relationships. This Marx felt was perfectly expressed in Communism. A problem arises, however, when economy and politics are separated, as in a Capitalist society. In Capitalist societies commodity fetishism is prevalent. People within a capitalist society find that their lives are organised through the medium of commodities. They trade their labour-power for another commodity, money. This then in turn is traded for another commodity. The co-operative social nature of society is destroyed by the abstraction of commodities as "use-value" (the usefulness of a commodity) is separated from "exchange-value" (the marketplace value of a commodity). This is what Marx defines as "fetishism". As a result of this "fetishism" producers and consumers have no conscious agreement to provide for each other, or even direct human contact. People no longer produce things for the benefits they bring to themselves and others; rather, a specific social class reaps the major benefit from the production process. Furthermore, by breaking this natural relationship between the economic and political systems, a severe social problem is created. The main mechanism for the integration of individuals into society is destroyed. As a result of this commodity fetishism, people begin to feel alienated. Within a Capitalist society people still need to feel that they are a valued and useful member of society. ...read more.

Conclusion

Even if Weber's theory can be proved wrong, the evidence still shows that there is apparent contradiction between Marx's theory and the realities of life. In conclusion, Marx's theory rests on a series of assumptions, the main being that the only influences on religion are material and economic realities. Perhaps Marx's beliefs can be best summed up in the following quote: "Religion is the impotence of the human mind to deal with occurrences it cannot understand."7 As I have explained, religion is far to complex an ideological framework to be caused by such few reasons. While it may be used to provide us with an illusory happiness to life to prevent us from having to deal with the realities of life, there is no way that we can see this is simply because we are alienated from society. If we remove the assumptions from Marx's theory then the theory comes apart. If religion is not only influenced by these realities then is Capitalism really the enemy? We cannot know the disease if we do not know all the symptoms. Furthermore, while it might be said that alienation leads to religious belief how can we know that this is alienation from the social belonging that accompanies working together to produce commodities or from lack of religious belief in the first place. Marx underestimates the hold that religion has on people's lives. While it may be logical to link religious belief to alienation from society, we must first determine what the true cause of this alienation is before blaming a particular economic system as he has done. 1 Karl Marx, Introduction to A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right, Deutsch-Franz�sische Jahrb�cher (1844) 2 Http://www.sociology.org.uk/relmarx.doc 3 Karl Marx, Introduction to A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right, Deutsch-Franz�sische Jahrb�cher (1844) 4 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberation_theology 5 Karl Marx, Economic & Philosophical Manuscripts (1844) 6 Karl Marx, Introduction to A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right, Deutsch-Franz�sische Jahrb�cher (1844) 7 Karl Marx, Unknown ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Political Philosophy section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Political Philosophy essays

  1. Compare and contrast the pluralist, elitist and Marxist theories of the state.

    political systems prevent demands from becoming political issues or even from being made".15 The view of

  2. Why does Marx believe that capitalism will inevitably give way to socialism?

    Being stripped from their means of production, having to adapt to an urban lifestyle and seeing their skills, which had once earned them a livelihood, become defunct due to the rise of the machines meant a whole plethora of problems for the new class of proletariat.

  1. Is the Liberal perspective on world politics too idealistic?

    and the domination of society by the monarchy and a hereditary aristocracy (Britain). Adams and Sydie state that these "thinkers put society and social relations under intense scrutiny". (Enlightenment and Liberalism. Jan 13 2003) Enlightenment was closely linked with scientific revolution.

  2. So, whats wrong with Anarchism?

    The anarchists were strongest in Barcelona and Andalusia in the South. In Barcelona all the large industries passed through the anarchist organisation, Confedacion National del Trajbajo (CNT), people who didn't support it were killed and churches and buildings of faiths were destroyed and money was replaced with coupons in some

  1. Karl Marx was the greatest thinker and philosopher of his time. His views on ...

    Karl's school life other than his marks is unknown. He never spoke of his friends as a youth, and no one has ever came to speak of him through his life. He left high school in August of 1835 to go on to the University of Bonn in the fall of the same year to study law.

  2. Discuss the conflicts between Employee and Employer by Marxist

    (Watson, 1995). 3. Conflict between Employer and Employees 3.1 In Management Studies In management, they say conflict is between employees or between employees and employers. In other words, conflict is a disagreement between two or more individual, groups or organisations.

  1. "What are the main strengths and weaknesses of Marxist histories"?

    in general" This Historical Materialism is key to the focus of Marxist interpretations of History, although argued is a vital weakness also. By concerntrating on the importance of the economic factors with disregard for the political it may be argued Marx's interpretations are flawed.

  2. From a Marxist perspective, assess the claim that work in Capitalist society is both ...

    the pleasure, say; someone would get from drinking a couple of pints of beer. Exchange value would be what that beer would be exchanged for via the media of money. The definition of a commodity is that the producer produces it for the purpose of exchange rather than use.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work