Social Theory Midterm Essays

Submitted By Ross-Adler
Words: 3280
Pages: 14

Ross Adler
Social Theory
Jose Tomas Atria
17 July 2015
Marxist Theory of Class In his works, Karl Marx theorized and wrote extensively about class and class struggles. He formulated a compelling theory on class through an analysis of the historical modes of production and tied it to concrete historical reality. He was particularly interested in the role of property and how ownership manifests itself in different ways across history and its relationship with the advancement of the division of labor. In his theoretical analyses, he developed the idea that classes interact with each other differently across different historical modes of production yet they have always had a conflict of interest and an antagonistic relationship with each other. This antagonism stems from the role of property in creating and perpetuating inequalities and how ruling classes across history have exploited classes that do not own property and the means of production. These lower classes, who are deprived of a means of production, only have their labor to sell to the ruling classes in order for them to subsist. Looking at concrete historical examples through this lens, Marx postulated that historical development isn’t a series of accidents but that throughout history, all struggles are class struggles. Marx begins this application of his analysis of the historical mode of production by viewing religion in its historical development. Marx argues that religion is tied to the mode of production because forms of religion have been present ever since the onset of the division of labor. He then systematically theorizes that religion was born out of a dissatisfaction among the masses and as a means to imagine a world without alienation. First, Marx asserts that man is inherently communal--that from prehistory, men have always turned to each other and formed relationships. He then argues that religion is a man-made institution that serves as a vehicle of this communal existence. Moreover, it is through this religion that man seeks to compensate for the lacking material conditions of society that inequality perpetuates. According to Marx, “Religious suffering is at the same time an expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the sentiment of the heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people” (54). Marx views religion as an inverted world consciousness—men have been tricked into believing that religion created man instead of man creating religion, therefore abstracting the inherently contradictory nature of religion and removing it from its historical development. According to Marx, this contradiction, or this sense of contentment as well as an unhappiness in the world, is instilled by religion. Marx then follows this theory by saying that religion persists because the material conditions in society call for this institution to compensate for man’s alienation. As man is alienated, religion becomes a self-alienating institution in itself in which men are able to imagine and idealize freedom in a world that is unfree and dictated by necessity. Therefore according to Marx, religion, a man-made social organization, will only cease to exist once the material conditions that make it attractive change. In an effort to tie religion to historical development He then proceeds to extend Feuerbach’s philosophical ideas of man’s self-alienation in “Theses on Feuerbach.” He criticizes Feuerbach for abstracting potentially revolutionary ideas and devolving into idealism. According to Marx, in order for Feuerbach’s revolutionary ideas to have value, they have to be brought back to the real world. Marx writes, “Feuerbach starts out from the fact of religious self-alienation, of the duplication of the world into a religious, imaginary world and a real one. His work consists in resolving the religious world into its secular basis. He overlooks the fact that after