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

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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 , a , and a  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  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.  He also suggested that during the primitive communism era, the means of production were commonly owned and the family structure which existed was in the form of society itself.  Engels also stated that the monogamous nuclear family was constructed with the introduction of capitalism.  The aim of this institution was to solve the problem of inheritance such as the ownership of private property and the means of production.  Zaretsky (1976), agrees with this theory and sees the family as an essential tool of capitalism.  However, he elaborates this argument and suggests that the family is also a vital unit for the consumption of the products of capitalism.   These Marxist views have contributed to various sociological perspectives, and has also influenced other conflict theories including the Feminist view of the role of women in the family.  It also contrasts sharply with other sociologists, including the Functionalist views of Emile Durkheim, who argued that the family benefits both society as a whole, and the individual members of the family.  It has sparked debates concerning the role and function of the family structure and its origins, with anthropologists arguing the reliability of Engels discovery.  

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Marxism has therefore also contributed to society on the subject of gender inequality with the foundation of Marxist feminists being laid by Engels.  He analysed gender oppression, in The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State (1884) and argued that the subordination of women was not biological but rather a social construct.  He stated that men's efforts to control women's labour had gradually become institutionalised through the nuclear family.  This theory has influenced sociologists such as Coontz and Henderson (1986), to explain the subordination of women (Haralambos & Holborn, 2008).  Other sociologists such as Radical Feminist Kate Millett, have used this ...

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