Karl Marx And Class Conflict

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Karl Marx (1818-1883) considered himself not to be a sociologist but a political activist. However, many would disagree and in the view of Hughes (1986), he was ‘both – and a philosopher, historian, economist, and a political scientist as well.’ Much of the work of Marx was political and economic but his main focus was on class conflict and how this led to the rise of capitalism. While nowadays, when people hear the word “communism”, they think of the dictatorial rule of Stalin and the horrific stories of life in a communist state such as the Soviet Union, it is important not to accuse Marx of the deeds carried out in his name. A Marxist sociologist is a materialist and a sociologist that follows the ideas of Marx. Marx’s main concern was that of capitalism and class conflict. In the words of Giddens and Sutton (2013), capitalism is ‘a system of production that contrasts radically with all previous economic systems.’ It was Marx’s belief that all societies, including capitalist societies, are divided into classes, with one being the dominant class. In the case of capitalism, there are two main classes, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. Class conflict, Marx believed, was what encouraged the evolution of society. To quote Marx himself, The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles. Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one
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