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Marxism & capitalism


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Marxism & capitalism

  1. 1. Karl Marx was a hugely influential revolutionary thinker, political economist and philosopher. 1818 - 1883 Published The Communist Manifesto with Friedrich Engels in 1848. His ideas deal with social and economic power relationships and have been influential in economics, politics & sociology.
  2. 2.  Marx basically argues that since industrialisation, society is in a state of conflict between the rich and the poor because these social groups have unequal power.  Industrialisation led to the creation of a capitalist society…  Methods of production moved from being agricultural to factory and industry based.
  3. 3.  Industrialisation meant that power in society fell into the hands of the wealthy, because they were the ones who owned most of the land, could afford machinery, build factories & own big businesses & they also employed the people to work for them.
  4. 4.  In a capitalist society, the economy is based on business, trade & consumption with an aim of making big profits.  The problem is that this doesn’t benefit all – the rich get richer & the poor get poorer under capitalism.
  5. 5.  Those who are poorer (Proletariat / working class) & have limited access to owning the means of production (factories, mills & businesses) are forced into working for those who own the means of production (Bourgeoisie), who have the wealth and are businessmen or members of the government.  Although the workers receive a wage for producing the goods that consumers need & want, the goods are sold at a profit, for more than they cost to make, and this surplus value goes straight back into the pockets of the ‘fat cats’ (Bourgeoisie).
  6. 6.  As such, capitalism leads to social inequality…  Marx sees a capitalist society as a split society.  Those who control or have power are called the bourgeoisie.  Those who don’t and who have to sell their labour for minimal pay (and often no share of the profit) are called the proletariat.
  7. 7.  Under capitalism, the means for producing & distributing goods are owned by a relatively small group.  The majority of people sell their labour in return for a wage or salary.  Marx famously said: “The proletariat have nothing to lose but their chains. Workingmen of all countries, unite!”
  8. 8.  Power was held by a minority (the elite / bourgeoisie) who had access to capital and could use their money and power to generate more wealth.  The majority of the population (the mass / proletariat) had only their labour (strength & time) to help them make a living.  Industrialisation had meant that the elite were the only ones who had access to the means of production.  Without the ability to produce for themselves, the mass were dependent on the elite for survival.  To maximise profits, the elite needed to get as much labour from (exploit) the mass for as little cost as possible.  The elite needed the mass to accept their position as powerless workers.
  9. 9. Why do we let this social inequality happen?  Firstly, industrialisation meant families no longer worked on their own land or produced their own goods. Because they couldn’t compete with the means of mass production they didn’t have enough income coming in and so had to seek employment elsewhere in towns, working for the bourgeoisie.  People had no choice but to work for the capitalist bourgeoisie & therefore had to accept their new place & role in life.
  10. 10. How do the capitalists / ruling class make sure everyone conforms to this new status as subservient or unequal?  The bourgeoisie in any society are outnumbered by the proletariat, so why don’t they simply rise up & overthrow their masters?
  11. 11. How do the capitalists / ruling class make sure everyone conforms to this new status as subservient or unequal?  From a Marxist perspective, social institutions like the mass media play a key role in shaping our beliefs & limiting our behaviours, i.e. brainwashing the proletariat into seeing their situation as natural & right, ensuring that the working class remain happy despite the inherent unfairness of the system.
  12. 12.  Marx described the situation in which members of the subordinate classes cannot see that they are being duped as ‘false consciousness’ - the belief in ideas & values as truths when in fact they are constructed ideologies which support the ruling class.  The dominant ideology of a society is the ideology of the dominant or ruling class.