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Evaluate Marxist and Neo-Marxist beliefs about society

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Introduction

Marxism and Neo- Marxism both consider capitalist society to be divided by class; however Marxists claim that the bourgeoisie supress the poor by using religion as a tool, but Neo-Marxists instead believe it can be a force for social change. Evidence supporting the Marxist view comes from the fact that throughout history and in current time, religions have promoted the fatalistic beliefs in poverty such as the Hindu caste system, and have used religion to suppress rebellion ? such as slavery. This supports Marx?s theory of the ?opium of the masses?. However, Marxist views can be criticised as outdated, so Neo-Marxism may be more relevant to the functions of religion in society today. Other theories such as Feminists and Functionalists criticise the perspective as it ignores many functions of religion, such as the oppression of women and the unifying quality of religion. Firstly the ?role and function? of religion must be defined as the part that religion plays in society, and the effects it has on people according to Marxist theories. ...read more.

Middle

Marxists would therefore say this is a sign of religion controlling people, feminists would say that this particular parable sheds light on the gender inequality of Christianity. There is evidence for this use of religion, for example, Protestant religious beliefs provide discipline and a hope of salvation in after life to some of the poorest in America, discouraging them from supporting radical beliefs and supporting US capitalist values. However Neo-Marxist combats this view that religion always keeps the poor oppressed by providing them the means to change their life. Engels believes that because people use religion to cope like Marxists claim, they have a united set of beliefs. When Christian sects opposed Roman rule, he compared them to political movements campaigning for freedom like religious groups today oppose capitalist oppression. Marx saw religion as causing alienation which mirrors the alienation working class feel in the workplace. Because humans invent a God, who has control over them, they deny themselves the right to make their own decisions; this is reflected in life. ...read more.

Conclusion

The Neo-Marxist perspective may be more relevant than Marxism, because it acknowledges the class divide however doesn?t see it as ?black and white?, and there are many examples of religion being radical e.g. in Poland the Catholic Church opposed the ruling Communist party. Instead of being a ?materialist? like Marx, believing that material forces like the economy shaped society, Weber was an ?idealist? believing beliefs shaped society. His ideas include Calvinism (a Protestant form) shaping society to become Capitalist after workers had to behave virtuously and hard working. This idea compliments Marx?s theory that religion can encourage passivity, however Weber highlights beliefs influencing society rather than the opposite. The Marxist perspective is useful for showing the underpinning values that religion teaches, and how these beliefs can benefit the rich in a capitalist society. Because of the decline in religion and the reduction in class divide however, although more relevant in some countries where the class divide is strong, this view is probably more outdated in today?s society than the Neo-Marxist thesis, because due to Marxist theories being formed in the industrial period when capitalism was emerging and the class divide was extreme. ...read more.

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