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Outline and discuss the contribution made by Marxism to our understanding of society

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Introduction

´╗┐Outline and discuss the contribution made by Marxism to our understanding of society Within sociology there are many varieties of conflict perspectives. Marxism is one of these. It is both a structural and a conflict theory. From a conflict perspective, it views society as being comprised of separate groups each with different interests. From a structural perspective, Marxists analyse the way society as a whole fits together. Marxism embraces an economic theory, a sociological theory, and a revolutionary view of social change which has influenced multiple political ideologies and social movements throughout history including the socialist parties of Italy, Russia (USSR) and Cuba. Marxism was named after the German philosopher Karl Marx 1818 -1883. It is a theory that is based on materialism within society, and the struggle and conflict for control over material things. In his analysis of Capitalism, Marx distinguished between the main social classes which he called the Bourgeoisie (capitalist class who own the means of production), and the Proletariat (working class who only own labour power). One of his arguments is that capitalist society is based on work and the production of goods. Engels and Zaretsky have used the Marxist theory to highlight the relationship between capitalism and the family. Engels (1884) took an evolutionary view of the family and attempted to trace its origin through time. He argued that the role of the family changed with the mode of production. ...read more.

Middle

This view of society?s consciousness has influenced sociologists such as Neo-Marxists and Antonio Gramsci. Gramsci (1891-1937), as an Italian sociologist and political activist, is renowned for his theory of cultural hegemony, which describes how the state uses cultural institutions to maintain power in a capitalist society. He suggested that the Bourgeoisie could not rely on the false class consciousness referred to by Marx, and argued that all members of the Proletariat had some awareness of their exploitation. Gramsci stated that for the Bourgeoisie to be able to maintain its leadership or hegemony, that they would need support from other members of society. This perspective influenced Gramsci to propose a ?War of Position? (McGuire & McQuarie, 1994). He proposed that an anti-capitalist revolutionary could create a proletarian culture whose native value system counters the cultural hegemony of the bourgeoisie. This new proletarian culture would therefore increase class consciousness and result in a revolution among the social classes (Haralambos et al, 2008). This view, influenced by Marxism, led to Gramsci becoming one of the most important Marxist thinkers of the twentieth century. He became a founding member and leader of the Communist Party of Italy, and his ideas greatly influenced Italian communism. After his party was outlawed by Benito Mussolini?s fascists, Gramsci was arrested and imprisoned (1926). In prison he continued writing, and his prison notebooks have greatly influenced how power and Ideology have been theorised by later Marxists such as Althusser, Laclau, and Hall. ...read more.

Conclusion

Marxism has inspired sociologists to take a more critical view of the capitalist society in which we live. Althusser (1971) argued that education is an ideological state apparatus which helps pass on the ruling class, and aids in the reproduction of an efficient and obedient work force. Schools achieve this through transmitting the capitalist ideology, and by training future workers to become submissive to authority. Bowles and Gintis (1976) supported Althusser?s ideas and argue that parts of the curriculum within the education system correspond greatly to the needs of capitalism. They have also highlighted the importance of class and achievement within the educational system (Haralambos et al, 2008). Conflict perspectives such as feminists and Neo Marxists; share the fundamental view that groups in society have different interests and most agree that improvements within the educational system will only take place if it is accompanied by wider social changes. From a conflict perspective, Marxism provides a basis for study with a clear starting point, and from there, it has been possible to develop arguments about the development of society. Many of Marx arguments have been developed and applied to modern society, including his critical views of the structure of society as a whole, and the functions of the individuals within it. Much of his original arguments or suggestions may be viewed as dated or redundant, however modern sociologists including Neo-Marxists, Feminists, and Radical Feminists, have developed both criticisms and responses to Marx theory and applied them to modern developments within society. ...read more.

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