The social class theories of Marx and Weber.

Authors Avatar
The social class theories of Marx and Weber both recognise the importance of private property in the differences between classes, but differ over the causes for the creation of different classes.  This essay discusses and compares these theories, then uses them to analyse the role and nature of the Australian middle class.  Areas such as the relationship of the middle class to the working and capitalist classes, the supplementary role of the middle class to capitalism and whether the middle class is really a class or a status group are analysed.    Marx's view of social class was based  primarily on one group oppressing and taking advantage of another. He believed that in industrial societies different classes were created due to the economic conditions at the time.  Particularly, the relation of the various classes to the means of production: such as who owns or controls the means of production, and which group extracts the surplus value from this production.  Therefore the class that owns or controls the means of production is the class that extracts the surplus value at the expense of the other class (Suchting , 1983 : 114).  It is this difference in the ownership and control of the productive processes that creates class conflict (Suchting , 1983 : 114).  By this, Marx's theory sees that in any society based on class there will basically be two main classes, the class that produces the surplus value, and the class that appropriates that surplus value.  Marx believed that classes were separated by their "economic conditions of existence" and that it was this difference of conditions that put the classes " in hostile opposition " (Suchting , 1983 : 114).      But Marx did not believe that classes were automatically created by differences in wealth alone.  Classes were only created by separate individuals with common interests in order to wage a common struggle against, or resistance to, other antagonistic classes, and that the classes themselves were created by this struggle (Suchting , 1983 : 114).  Classes of this sort can be said to be self-concious classes.  Yet once a class is created it assumes an independent and separate existence over the individual
Join now!
members of that class, to the extent that the individuals discover that their lives and life chances are pre-determined by their membership of a particular class (Fisher, 1973 : 63-64).     To Marx, the two main classes in industrialised capitalist societies were the Bourgeoisie or capitalists, and the Proletariat or landless wage workers.  The bourgeoisie exploit the proletariat by appropriating the surplus value produced by the proletariat.  They do this by their ownership of the means of production, and it is by this ownership, not by the wealth it creates, that makes the bourgeoisie a separate class (Bilton, et al, 1996 ...

This is a preview of the whole essay