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23 Cards in this Set

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Class society and exploitation

In early stages of society, it was classless and no private ownership - everyone works, and everything shared. - Primitive Communism

Exploit the labour of others in class society for the bourgeoisie benefits.

Marx identifies three different succesive class societies:

1. Ancient society: Based on the exploitation of slaves legally tied to their owners.

2. Feudal society: Based on the exploitation of serfs legally tied to the land

3. Capitalist Society: Based on exploitation of free wage labourers.

Capitalism three distinctive features from previous class societies

The proletariat are legally free and separate from the means of production. Because they do not own means of production, they sell their labour power in order to survive.

However, not an equal exchange as the proletariat do not receive the value of the good they make but only that to keep them alive.

Through competition between capitalist owners become concentrated in fewer and fewer hands TNCs. This competitions drives small independent producers into the ranks of proletariat. Competition also forces capitalists to pay the lowest wages possible thus causing the immiseration of proletariat.

Capitalism continually expands the forces of production in pursuit of profit. Production becomes concentrated in ever larger units while technological advances de skill the work force.

Causes class polarisation.

Class Consciousness

BY polarising the classes, bringing the proletariat together in ever larger numbers, drive their wages down creates the conditions of working class to develop their own consciousness of its own political and economic interests. As a result, the proletariat become aware of the need to overthrow capitalism.


The bourgeoisie also own the means of production of ideas. The dominant ideas in society are therefore the ideas of the economically dominant class. The institutions that spread ideas all serve the dominant class by producing ideologies to justify the social order.

False conciousness in the subordinate class help to maintain class inequality. However, as capitalism impoverishes the workers, they develop class consciousness. See through capitalism.


Marx believes that our true nature is based on our capacity to make things to meet our needs. Alienation is the result of losing our ability to control our own labour and the produced products and therefore separation of our true nature.

Workers are completely separated from their product and have no control over production.

The division of labour is intense as the labourers are reduced to meaningless tasks and unskilled labour.

The state, revolution and communism

Marx defines the state as armed bodies of men- army, prisons, courts and so on. The state exists to protect the interests of the class of owners who control it. They use the state as a weapon in class struggle to protect property, suppress opposition and prevent revolution.

The revolution will:

1. Abolish the state and create a classless society

2. Abolish exploitation, replace private ownership with social ownership and replace production for profit with production to satisfy human needs.

3. End alienation as humans regain control of their labour and its products.

It would create a communist society and expects the revolution to occur in the most developed countries first.

How does Weber criticise marx?

Argues that the status and power differences can also be important source of inequalities without actually owning the means of production. For example, the power elite can rule as it did in the former soviet union.

How do feminists criticise Marx?

Gender is a more fundamental source of inequality than class.

Criticisms of Marx class system?

Class system is too simplistic. Many more classes now than before, middle class, unskilled and skilled working class. (Weber)

Class polarisation has not occurred. Instead of the middle class being swallowed up by the working class, it has grown and the working class has shrunk - western societies. However, The proletariat in other countries like China, and India is growing as a result of globalisation.

Criticisms of Marx - Economic Determinism

Marx base superstructure is criticised for economic determinism. The view that economic factors are the sole cause of everything in society which is not necessarily true.

Critics argue it fails to recognise that humans have free will and can bring about change through there conscious actions.

The superstructure model neglects the role of ideas. For example, Weber argues that the emergence of new ideas such as the Calvinists Protestantism helped to bring change - capitalism.

Marx prediction of revolution has not come true. Only the economically backwards countries such as Russia in 1917 had seen Marxists led revolution.

However, there are some instances in Marx works where he gave a role or functions to human where they make their own history and the working class free themselves from their own consciousness efforts shows he gave a role to humans as well as economic forces.

Gramsci beiefs of economic determinism?

Humanistic marxism.

The transition from capitalism to communism would never come about as a result of simply economic factors but also ideas play a central role.

How does Gramsci explain the continue dominance of a capitalist society?

Coercion - It uses the army and police of the capitalists state to force others to its accept its rules.

Consent (Hegemony): It uses ideas and values to persuade the subordinate classes that its rule is legitimate.

Why is the hegemony of the rulling class never complete?

The ruling class are the minority and so to rule, they need to create a power bloc by creating alliances with other group such as middle class. They therefore must make ideological compromises for their allies.

The proletariat have dual consciousnesses where their ideology is influenced by both bourgeoisie and also by their material condition in life. This means they can see through the dominant ideology to a certain degree.

How can capitalism be overthrown according to Gramsci?

There is always a possibility of the rulling class hegemony to be overthrown particularly at times of crisis.

This will only lead to revolution if the proletariat are able to construct a counter hegemonic block - offer moral and ideological leadership to society.

Society needs to create their own organic intellects - a body of workers organised into a revolutionary political party who are able to formulate an alternative vision of society.

Evaluation of Gramsci?

Accused for over emphasising the role of ideas and under emphasising the role of both coercion and economic factors.

For example, worker may wish to overthrow capitalism but fear to due to repression from state or unemployment. They may tolerate capitalism because they have no choice.

Sociologists working with Gramsci's frameowkr adopt a similar approach stressing the role of ideas and consciousness as the basis for resisting domination and changing society.

For example, Paul Wills describes the working class boys as partially penetrating bourgeoisie ideology - seeing through school ideology to recognise meritocracy is a myth.

Paul Willis

Althussers model?

Structuralist marxist

Rejects the model of the original superstructure and replaces it with structural determinism. Three levels:

1. The economic level: Comprising all the activities that producte something to satisfy needs.

2. Political level, comprising all forms of organisations

3. The ideological levels, involving the ways that people see the world.

In the basic model, there is one way casualty where economic level determines all other levels. Althussers model, all levels can effect each other.

How is capitalism maintained according to Althusser?

The repressive state apparatus which is the control of the army, police, courts to coerce the working class in order to comply with bourgeoisie.

The ideological state apparatuses which include media, education, family which manipulates the working class into accepting capitalism as legitimate.

What does Lan Craib argue?

For strutural marxism, our sense of free will and creativity is illusion and the truth about is everything underlying the social structures. Society is a puppet theatre which is controlled by unseen structures (hidden puppet master) which determines all our thoughts and actions.

Althussers critcisms of humanism

Althussers critcisms of humanism

Althusser is dismissive of humanism as they believe we have free will and choice which he says is a result of a false consciousness from ISA. For example, education is not meritocratic as everyone has a fair chance to achieve.

How does Althusser think communism will arise?

Socialism will not come as a result of change in consciousness but as a result of crisis of the 3 structures leading to a collapse of the system as a whole.

Evaluation of Althusser?

Althusser claims to oppose both humanism and determinism but he is harsher on humanism.

Gouldner and Thompson criticism of Althusser?

This scientific approach discourages political activism because it stresses the role of structural factors that individuals can do little about to change.

Thompson criticises Althusser for ignoring the fact that it is an active working class that can change society