In this paper, the general description of Marx’s sociology is given. A review of literature that focuses on different aspects of Marx’s theory about society is provided. A comprehensive analysis of the literature sources is conducted, and the main purposes of these sources are identified. A general overview of Marx’s sociology is provided in the second section of the paper. The main points of Marx’s theory are identified, and their detailed description is provided. Marx’s opinion concerning the division of the society into two social classes, namely, the bourgeois and the proletariat, where the former dominates the latter in the Capitalist society is analyzed. Also, his opinion regarding Capitalism, where he claims that the proletariat is exploited by the bourgeois, and the necessity to get rid of this form of society and create Communism, where everybody would give what they can and would take what they need.
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In this paper, Karl Marx’s sociology will be analyzed. First, the review of literature will be provided where different scholarly sources will be used to describe different aspects and spheres of application of Marx’s theory of society. Second, the main points of Marx’s sociology will be analyzed in detail. In this section, Marx’s opinion about society and capital in general and their various aspects, in particular, will be provided. Also, Marx’s opinion regarding the future of capitalism is described.
Review of Literature
In his article “Karl Marx’s Sociological Theory of Democracy: Civil Society and Political Rights” (2011), William L. Niemi describes Karl Marx’s attitude towards liberalism and democracy using analyzing his early works that were concentrated on the problems of understanding democracy as a type of society. The author claims that only through a comprehensive analysis of the principles of civil society, namely, a historical, sociological, economic, and political understanding, the real nature of citizenship can be revealed.
As distinct from liberal political theory, Marx claimed that the theory of politics would not be solid if it focused only on the state. Marx understood the conflict between the civil society and liberal state and called it sophistry, as it diminished the chance of the creation of the workers’ democratic agency. Moreover, he called it sophistry not because he was against democracy but because the progression of capitalism made the establishment of a democratic agency almost impossible. Citizenship would serve as a “cloak” of politics covering the real nature of civil society under it (Niemi 2011). Niemi states that this conflict made Marx move from the thoughts about liberalism to the ones about democratic socialism and improved his understanding of the principles of capitalism.
Additionally, the author identifies two closely connected statements concerning Marx’s opinion as to democracy and liberalism. He discusses Marx’s engagement in a democratic criticism of liberalism and, as a response to this criticism, Marx introduced an understanding of democracy from the sociological perspective (Niemi 2011). Hence, he thought that political democracy was an indispensable condition of liberty, despite being an insufficient one.
Thus, being quite a good theory of the democratic state, Marx’s liberal political theory cannot provide the solution to sociological problems resulted from the theory’s practices including domination and class inequality, economic exploitation, and human emancipation, thereby undermining the possibility of creating the society of equal citizens (Niemi 2011). The result of Marx’s coming to this conclusion was his abandonment of liberal political theory purely because of democratic reasons and his democratic criticism of liberalism.
In his article “Outline of a Marxist Commodity Theory of the Public Sphere” (2017), J. M. Roberts provides an overview of Marl Marx’s commodity theory and its relevance today. He states that for the past several years, the public sphere has become one of the main areas of focus for researchers in social sciences and humanities. In general, he defines the public sphere as an area in civil society in which people can discuss various issues and debate about their resolution. The author theoretically applies Marx’s social theory to a particular public sphere in the Capitalist society and describes the behavior of several commodity owners who desire to own more commodities (Roberts 2017). At the end of the article, the author explains how the social form in this public sphere changes using different elements of these commodity relations.
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Roberts demonstrates that the public sphere being in capitalist social relations is characterized not by inclusion but by the necessary opposition between two kinds of personalities, namely, the speaker and the hearer. He introduces his terms (Roberts 2017). For example, the “form” of the public sphere in a society which produces commodity is a mediator between the two personalities; the “content” of the public sphere is a mediator between the ability of the speaker to percept what is right using monologic utterances and the ability of the hearer to do the same through heteroglossia utterances.
Additionally, Roberts emphasizes that in this society which produces a commodity, labor and the means of production are separated. According to Marx, the generalization of the exchange of commodities in the society “as a whole” implies that the laborer becomes simply a seller of commodities, namely a wage-laborer working for free, which transforms labor into wage-labor. However, this also requires that the production means the owner finds free workers on the market. Thus, free wage-labor is created using separation from the production means, which is the result of the production of generalized commodities (Roberts 2017). Therefore, certain owners of commodities who privately possess things that they use to exchange with others are the representation of the separation between means of production and labor.
In her article “The Concept of Equality and Well-being in Marx” (2013), Potyara A. P. Pereira describes the conceptualization of Marx regarding substantive well-being and equality about freedom, labor, and human needs. She states that even though Marx did not specifically point out the problem of social protection, most of his works contained the type of sociology that focuses on well-being.
In general, the author attempts to identify in Marx’s sociology concepts that focus on well-being, which allows accepting his works as a reference to the critical analysis of the Capitalist society (Pereira 2013). Thus, she addresses the Marx’s implicit concept of well-being connected to his explicit political and theoretical interest in liberty and people being enslaved by capital, and his desire to find real equality in the society, which contradicts the nature of capitalism.
Marx did not believe in the transformative power of the legislation of factories, and he was certain that the proletariat should perceive this power simply as a component of the strategy of a much bigger struggle for well-being, which he connected with the human emancipation under the power of capital notwithstanding the profits prescribed by law (Pereira 2013). The reason for such an opinion is that, under capitalism, the principles of political coercion and economic competitive ability, which is based on such strategies as the reserve army of labor and its negative impact on salaries, resulted in growing destitution of the labor force notwithstanding the utopian liberal measures aimed at social protection.
In conclusion, Pereira claims that according to Marx, complete well-being is a phenomenon that is founded on the principles of collaboration and solidarity, which places a great focus on human needs historically and morally based on the collectivized process of distribution and production of social products (Pereira 2013). The author also highlights that for Marx, well-being is not a phenomenon that is based on the principles of coercion and competition, which are associated with the process of increasing private profits that is the result of manipulation and exploitation of the labor force as a certain commodity, as it is implicitly identified in the bourgeois-liberal concept of the rights of citizens and that of the social protection provided by the capitalist government.
In his book “Karl Marx” (2016), Karl Korsch describes all major works of Karl Marx in such spheres as sociology, politics, and economy. The first part of his book is devoted to Marx’s sociology and called “Society” (Korsch 2016). In this part, he analyzes the basic principles of society and how it works, the principles of a historical specification, change, and criticism, a new type of generalization, and practical implications for the Marx’s sociology theory.
In the chapter about sociology, Korsch described the development of Marx’s thought concerning society and the conclusion that he came to. Thus, he states that Karl Marx treated bourgeois society from the first phase of its development and opposed it to the feudal society of the medieval period. He describes bourgeois society as a historical phenomenon and focused not only on its static laws. He analyzed the entire process of its development and its tendencies that will eventually lead to a revolution against it (Korsch 2016). Marx divides these tendencies into “objective”, namely, the economic foundation of bourgeois society, and subjective, namely, the division between social classes incurring from this economic foundation and not from the law, politics, ethics, and so on.
Thus, the “civil society”, which earlier had opposed only feudalism became the “bourgeois society”, which is characterized by the division between social classes, where the bourgeois class dominates all other classes in every sphere including political, economic, and cultural ones. Marx also recognized the war between the classes initiated by the exploited workers as a way to change the form of society (Korsch 2016). Additionally, Marx’s social theory, regarded as a materialistic science focusing on the bourgeois society, serves as guidance for the working class in its fight against the bourgeois and its attempts to create the proletarian society.
Presentation of Theory
Marxist sociology is a method of practicing sociology that provides analytic and methodological insights from the works of Karl Marx. Sociology describes the main problems that concerned Marx regarding the society, namely, the relationships between capital and labor, and those between economy, social life, and culture; politics and principles of economic class; human emancipation; inequality and exploitation; connections between power and wealth, and those between social changes and critical consciousness.
Marx’s sociology focuses on class struggle. According to Marx, classes are particular groups of people that play a certain role in the relations of production. These relations of production are those between the capital and the labor that appear in the process of production. Capital is the profit derived from the investment into a particular instrument. Thus, laborers are the labor power owners, whereas those who own capital are capital owners. Labor receives wages, while capital receives profit. Hence, classes are groups of people who differ from each other purely because of their relationships to the economic means of production. These economic means of production represent the economic infrastructure where the minority is capitalists, and the majority are laborers.
The Main Points of Marx’s Sociology
The basic point of Marx’s sociology is that in the Capitalist society, there are two main social classes, namely, the proletariat and the bourgeois. The relation between these classes is purely exploitative, as the worker receives much less money from their employer than the total value of products or services that they produce (Menand 2016).”Surplus value” is how Marx named the difference between the two. In this respect, Marx claims that capitalists derive this “surplus value” from workers, and that profit is the money received from the exploitation of workers.
According to Marx, the control over the Economic Base is the control over the superstructure. Those who possess economic power can control every other sphere of society. Bourgeois uses their power of controlling all institutions to make proletariat ignorant and unaware of their exploitation. This strategy is known as ideological control. Marx claimed that this was accomplished using religion and mass media (Menand 2016). The result of the ideological control is the so-called false consciousness that makes the working class live in an illusion.
In Marx’s opinion, Capitalism results in alienation, as workers in the Capitalist society are alienated from the production process, from the products or services they produce, and from the people they work with (Crossman 2017). The reason for this is that workers lose control over their work and become “robots”, and their work becomes “alien” to them.
Concerning Marx’s opinion about social changes in capitalism, he claims that competition results in even more intense exploitation. He thought that capitalism would inevitably create such social conditions that would result in its destruction. He explained that to retain competitiveness, capitalists had to sell products at a lower price, which would lead to reduced profits. In its turn, this process would force capitalists to increase efficiency and reduce wages, thereby making even less favorable conditions for workers (Crossman 2017). Therefore, Marx had a theory that at some point, the number of exploited workers would be big enough to start a violent revolution where the proletariat would manage to overthrow the bourgeois.
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Marx stated that after overthrowing the bourgeois, the proletariat would organize a Communist society where there is no private property, the means of production are owned collectively, and everyone is equally wealthy (Korsch 2016). Marx did not specify the details of this Communist society, but he stated that in it, everybody would give what they can and take what they need.
Thus, Marx’s dialectal, materialist, economic, and political thought continues to develop various sociological research programs. Nowadays, the Capitalist society is thriving, and a source of social power in it is the control over productive resources that shapes work conditions, state policies, and mass media discourse all over the world. These relationships have undergone significant changes in growth, and now Capitalism dominates the world society (Niemi 2011). However, Marx’s works remain a valuable source of information for the sociologists who are interested in the change, structure, and origins of the capitalist system.
In the paper, Marx’s sociology was analyzed. Additional scholarly literature regarding the principles of Marx’s theory of society was provided and described. A comprehensive analysis of the main points of Marx’s division of society was conducted. Also, a description of Marx’s opinion about the Capitalist society and his endeavor to provide arguments for people to change the Capitalist society they live in, where the proletariat is exploited by the bourgeois into the Communist society where everybody would be equal, free, and happy is provided. Thus, it can be stated that the analyzed literature comprehensively reflects the assumptions of Marx’s theory and demonstrates the impact that it has on sociology and the development of human societies.
Crossman, Ashley. 2017. “All about Marxist Sociology.” Thoughtso, Web.
Korsch, Karl. 2016. Karl Marx. Boston, MA: Brill Academic Pub.
Menand, Louis. 2016. “Karl Marx, Yesterday and Today.” The New Yorker, Web.
Niemi, William L. 2011. “Karl Marx’s Sociological Theory of Democracy: Civil Society and Political Rights.” The Social Science Journal 48(1):39-51.
Pereira, Potyara A. P. 2013. “The Concept of Equality and Well-Being in Marx.” Revista Katálysis 16(1):47-56.
Roberts, John Michael. 2017. “Outline of a Marxist Commodity Theory of the Public Sphere.” Historical Materialism 25(1):3-35.