Karl Marx's (1818 - 1883) theory of capitalism.

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Marxism like functionalism is concerned with the overall picture of society. Marxism is seen as a conflict theory, Mainly because they see the primary interests of society as a whole as being made up of conflicting groups with conflicting interests or beliefs.

We are a very materialistic society. A society made up of those who have, and those who have not. Marxists sociologists say that there will never be true social harmony because there are too many inequalities within our cultural society.

Marx gave names to the haves and have nots, they are known as the Bourgeoise and the Proletariats. One way of assessing the power of the upper class is through the study of elites (people who fill the top positions in each of the major institutions of society); most of the sociological debates have centered on economic elites and political elites. (Sociology in focus 5th Edition, 2000, page 53)

The main question asked by Marxist sociologists is how we all can benefit equally and how can we get rid of the social inequalities present in our society.

They differ form functionalists in the way that they see the difference. Marxist sociologists see them as being persistent and not just as a temporary state of affairs to be overcome. Their theories state that for the superstructure to be effective, the infrastructure must function effectively, therefore any changes no matter how small, within the infrastructure will reflect in the superstructure causing severe change and possible disturbances. If production costs rise



There are a variety of interpretations of Karl Marx's (1818 - 1883) theory of capitalism. This arises from both its unfinished nature and Marx's shifting points of emphasis across his lifetime. The focus of Marx's work, however, was undoubtedly on the historical basis of inequality, and specifically inequality under capitalism. Marx's critiques of the capitalist system - its tendency towards crises, the necessity of inequality - are still relevant today.

The Dialectic

Marx's powerful critique has as it basis a unique approach to reality - the dialectic. Taking from G.W.F. Hegel (1770 - 1831), Marx believed that any study of reality must be attuned to the contradictions within society and, indeed, he sees contradiction as the motor of historical change. Unlike Hegel, Marx believed that these contradictions existed not simply in our minds (i.e., in the way we understand the world), but that they had a concrete material existence. At the heart of capitalism was the contradiction between the demands of the capitalist to earn a profit and the demands of the worker, who wants to retain some profit to subsist. Over time, the workings of the capitalist system would exacerbate this contradiction, and its resolution can be had only through social change.

The Dialectical Method

The dialectical approach does not recognize the division between social values and social facts. To do so leads away from any real understanding of the problems people face. Additionally, the dialectical method does not envision the social world as being dominated by a cause-and-effect relationship; instead, it looks at the reciprocal relations among social factors within the totality of social life. These relations include not only contemporary phenomena but also the effects of history, as dialecticians are concerned with how the past shapes the present and how the present lays the seeds for the future. Because of this complex set of relations, which often fold back in on themselves, the future is both indeterminate and contingent on individual action. Indeed, this relationship between actors and structures is at the heart of Marx's theory. Structures both constrain and enable individuals, having the potential of both helping them to fulfill themselves and contributing to their exploitation.
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Human Nature

Marx's insights into actors and structures must be understood in the context of his views on human nature, which is the basis for his critical analysis of the contradictions of capitalism. Marx viewed human nature as historically contingent, shaped by many of the same relations that affect society. In his view, a contradiction exists between our human nature and work in the capitalist system. Though we have powers that identify us as unique animals, our species being, the possibilities for realizing human potential within the capitalist system are frustrated by the structures of capitalism itself. ...

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