Critically examine the Marxist perspective on today's society
Critically examine Marxist perspective on today’s society (33 marks)
The Marxist perspective is based on the works of Karl Marx and argues that society is divided into two classes; the upper class, referred to as the bourgeoisie, and the working class, referred to as the proletariat. According to Marxism, the bourgeoisie exploit the proletariat by making them work long hours with little rewards, whilst they receive all the benefits – this is what Marx referred to as capitalism. In this capitalist system, the working class experience a false class consciousness; this is where they are not aware of the fact that they are being exploited by the ruling class. Marx claimed that the only way to resolve this conflict between the two classes is by evolving from a capitalist society into a communist society, where everyone is equal. However, many sociologists disagree with Marxism and Marx’s ideas of the capitalist system, this is due to the fact that in today’s society, there has been a massive growth in a third class – the middle class. This was growth of the middle class was not predicted by Marx, therefore leaving many sociologists to question whether other ideas suggested by Marx and elaborated by Marxism are valid and true to today’s society. Therefore the Marxist perspective cannot be applied to today’s society.
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Marx claimed that the working class within society would realise that they are being exploited by the ruling class and break free from their false class consciousness which they are experiencing; this would result in a revolution taking place which would then result in the society becoming a communist one where everyone has the same status, pay and status. However, many sociologists argue that this idea created by Marx cannot be applied to today’s society due to the fact that a revolution has not occurred. Although there have been some revolutions in the past within some societies, such as in Russia, they have not occurred in all societies. Also, Marx’s idea of communism being better than capitalism has been questioned by many sociologists, especially within today’s society; some societies which are communist, such as China, are seen to be ‘oppressing’ to its members. This due to the fact that the members of communist societies do not have a say in their government’s actions and are monitored on a daily basis when they use certain forms of media, such as the internet. Therefore Marx’s idea that communism would result in a better society cannot be applied to today’s society.
However, some sociologist argue that Marxism can be applied to today’s society as it claims that the capitalist system is maintained by a superstructure, all the institutions and a base, this is the production of relations and means. The base consists of a relations of production (this is the unequal relationship between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat) and the means of production (these are the material resources needed to produce things which are owned by the bourgeoisie). The base and superstructure maintain each other. This idea of the base and superstructure can still be applied to today’s society as the base which shapes the superstructure has changed from manual work to service work and therefore can still be applied to today’s society even though the form of work has changed. Therefore the Marxist perspective is still valid in today’s society.
However, Neo-Marxists, such as Althusser reject Marx’s idea of the superstructure and base as they believe that a more complex model, which included the economic level, the political level and the ideological level, better sums ups society and sees it in a much more sophisticated way than Marx did. This model can be applied to today’s society as it acknowledges aspects of society which play a huge role in contempory society, unlike Marx’s model of the superstructure and base. Therefore, the Marxist perspective cannot be applied to today’s society as it is seen as outdated. Marcuse, a neo-Marxist sociologist, argued that Marx failed to acknowledge the role that the media plays within capitalist societies. Therefore, according to neo-Marxists, Marxism cannot be applied to today’s society, where the media plays a huge role in the socialisation of many people.
Overall, in conclusion, the Marxist approach is a valid approach which has helped people within society to see that they are living in a capitalist society which exploits the working class; however, some of its idea are outdated and cannot be applied to today’s society.