A2 Sociology 18th October 2010
Past Paper # 3
(3) Assess the extent to which Marxist and Feminist theories help our understanding of religion in society today (33 marks)
Marxist theories of religion mainly relate to how religion helps the domination of society by the Bourgeoisie. They believe that society is always based on conflict between two classes, the Proletariat and the Bourgeoisie. Feminist theories of religion explain overall how religion identifies gender differences and inequalities, and in particular how religion helps men to maintain their dominance over women in society.
One Marxist view on religion is that religion is an ideological apparatus. Ideological apparatus is a form of social control, and the primary function of religion is to reproduce, maintain and justify class inequality – the controlling of the Proletariat by the Bourgeoisie. This helps our understanding of religion in society as it is relevant to today’s society. Evidence to support this view is from Leach, where he found that 80% of higher Church of England positions were still recruited from Bourgeoisie (Oxbridge and private schools). However, this view of religion maintaining class inequality and controlling the Proletariat can be criticised. Religion doesn’t always control the Proletariat. There are some examples of religious movements that have brought about radical social change and have helped remove ruling elites. This is called liberation theology. An example of this is Fr Rogelio Cruz, a catholic priest who led 200 families in a mighty protest at a temporary camp in Santo Domingo, after being left homeless in December 2000, following the bulldozing of a squatters village by the police. This example shows that despite the priest being a catholic and well aware of the ‘afterlife’, he was fed up of the oppression of the Proletariat and as a result rebelled to help improve their positions.