Abortion According to Marx, Weber, Simmel, and Bourdieu

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The issue of a woman’s right to her own body, within the last few decades, has become a progressively intriguing social dilemma in American society. More specifically the topic of abortion is not as taboo as it was thirty years ago although the debate has continued as to whether or not the decision should rest solely on the woman. Merriam Webster defines abortion as the termination of a pregnancy after, accompanied by, resulting in, or closely followed by the death of the embryo or fetus as induced expulsion of the human fetus. This is a controversial subject that can be argued quite effectively for or against a woman’s right to choose. The three major sociological perspectives of conflict theory, symbolic interactionism, and functionalism all take a different stance on abortion. These theoretical viewpoints are shared, in no particular order, to sociologists Karl Marx, Georg Simmel, Max Weber, and Emile Durkheim. The following will attempt to explain these sociologists’ viewpoint on the issue of abortion and how the woman might arrive at the decision to either continue or terminate her pregnancy.

Karl Marx was a conflict theorist and is also known as the father of the conflict theory perspective in the field of sociology. In modern American society Marx would be pro-choice, but inversely he would not be supportive of all abortions. According to his views specific stages in history happen for a reason and are followed by more historical events, which will ultimately lead to the perfect society. In his “Communist Manifesto,” he writes about the struggles between the bourgeois and proletariats and that without this struggle there would be a classless society. Marx would believe that abortion, in American society, provides a the bourgeois or upper class an advantage against class uprising such as the one’s he wrote about in his Manifesto. His negative views towards capitalistic society would not change, but he would agree that for America’s economy, to be productive and sustain, abortions would have to be limited. Without enough workers to produce goods and without enough consumers to purchase these goods the economy will begin to fail (C.Manifesto). Marx would place a portion of the blame for the decline of America’s capitalistic economy on the high rates of abortions, but would not want to abolish the human free will of choice. Marx would argue in favor of allowing the woman to have the right to choose what to do about her pregnancy. It is our human nature, or as he calls it Gattungswesen, in which we as humans have the ability to create our own nature to some degree (Marx 1867). Men, a more generalized term for all individuals, conceptualize their ideals through their own consciousness and also through their external environment. This means that the unborn child in the mother’s womb is only considered human if she actually perceives it to be human. If the pregnant woman thinks about the baby then it is likely she would view it as an actual human being and therefore want to keep the child. On the other hand, she might be reluctant of the pregnancy all together and in her mind the baby is not really a person. The woman may also have aspirations for her future such as advanced schooling or a job promotion which otherwise would not be likely with the birth of a child. Marx would be a supporter of abortion in this case as well because this act is benefitting her rather than someone else which is a major component of the conflict theorist perspective. Marx’s understanding of commodity fetishism can also be applied to this issue of abortion. In American culture, the medical field has been exploited for profit by many corporations. The obsession or way of thinking that has incorporated itself into this society is now making a profit from taking potential human life from an expecting mother. He argues that the major ideas in modern society are controlled by the mindset of commodity fetishism. This is simply when goods are sold...
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