Karl Marx

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Marx’s work was devoted to explaining how capitalism
shaped society. He argued that capitalism is
an economic system based on the pursuit of profi t
and the sanctity of private property. Marx used a
class analysis to explain capitalism, describing capitalism
as a system of relationships among different
classes, including capitalists (also known as the bourgeois
class), the proletariat (or working class), the
petty bourgeoisie (small business owners and managers),
and the lumpenproletariat (those “discarded”
by the capitalist system, such as the homeless). In
Marx’s view, profi t, the goal of capitalist endeavors,
is produced through the exploitation of the working
class. Workers sell their labor in exchange for wages,
and capitalists make certain that wages are worth less
than the goods the workers produce. The difference
in value is the profi t of the capitalist. In the Marxist
view, the capitalist class system is inherently unfair
because the entire system rests on workers getting
less than they give.
Marx thought that the economic organization of
society was the most important infl uence on what
humans think and how they behave. He found that
the beliefs of the common people tended to support the
interests of the capitalist system, not the interests of
the workers themselves. Why? Because the capitalist
class controls not only the production of goods but
also the production of ideas. It owns the publishing
companies, endows the universities where knowledge
is produced, and controls information industries.
Marx considered all of society to be shaped by economic
forces. Laws, family structures, schools, and
other institutions all develop, according to Marx, to
suit economic needs under capitalism. Like other early
sociologists, Marx took social structure as his subject
rather than the actions of individuals. It was the system
of capitalism that dictated people’s behavior. Marx
saw social change as arising from tensions...
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