Why Does Marx’s Social Theory Place so Much Emphasis on Class Conflict and Economic Processes

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It wasn’t until shortly after his death that Karl Marx’s ideology began to significantly influence socialist movements. Although relatively unknown during his lifetime he has become one of the fundamental economic and sociological figures of the modern era. Many of his theories and insights into the way society functions are still relevant in the expanding capitalist society that exists today. Marx was very critical of capitalism and the division in society between the bourgeoisie and proletariat classes, attempting to highlight the injustice and exploitation of the working class by the wealthy upper and middle class. Marx predicted that capitalism within a socioeconomic system would inevitably create internal tensions between social classes leading to its demise and replacement by a new system, communism. For Marx, the concept of class has always existed in society. Historically, a society has always been arranged into various orders of social rank. A defining characteristic of capitalism however, is that “it has simplified the class antagonisms. Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other: Bourgeoisie and Proletariat” (Marx and Engels 1848). Social class, therefore, is based upon economic criteria and conflict occurs between those who own the means of production (bourgeoisie) and the wage-labourers (proletariat). As well as having economic control over the proletariat, the bourgeoisie also have the power to determine the superstructure; the ruling class can distort perceptions of the world and hide the true nature of social relationships and the exploitation of the proletariat and, above all, promote bourgeoisie interests. Marx defines production as workers selling their labour for wages in order to exchange money for commodities that will meet their most basic needs. As Marx
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