This essay explores Marx’s influence on community development, within the parameters of social justice. I felt it was necessary to narrow down the focus of this topic as Marx has been translated, philosophized, reiterated, rewritten and rethought by a plethora of philosophers, sociologists, economists etc. I am also concentrating on Marx’s written ideas with regard to Western civilization. This essay does not enter into debate or description of contemporary Marxist or neo-Marxists approaches. Also, included in the discussion is conflict theory within which Marx’s ideas are formulated. Five of Marx’s major contributions to sociology and economics are described to inform the essay. These entail alienation, economic life and other social institutions, social classes, conflict as a theory of social change and capitalism. The general concepts of Marx’s theories are analyzed in relation to community development, its definition and the notion of social justice.
Community Development – definition and theory
Bell and Newby (cited in Popple & Quinney 2002) found 98 definitions of the term community alone by 1971. There have been many well-documented sociological debates over the concept of community as well (Popple and Quinney 2002). For the purpose of this essay it is important to present a working definition of community development that is ‘both distinctive and universal and can be applied to all types of societies from the post-industrial to the pre-industrial’ (Hustedde & Ganowics 2002) as the topic is both historical and contemporary. I agree with Hustedde and Ganowics (2002) in that the definition of community development given by Bhattacharyya is one that encompasses such criteria. Bhattacharrya’s (2004) simple definition is the process of promoting solidarity and agency. Solidarity is understood as ‘shared identity and norms’ (Bhattacharyya 2004, p. 12). Agency is defined as the ‘capacity to create, reproduce, change, and live according to’ one’s own ‘meaning system, to have the powers to define themselves as opposed to being defined by others (de Certeau cited in Bhattacharyya 2004, p. 12). Community development to date has not been linked to or developed into one descriptive and or cohesive theory since it draws on a variety of disciplines such as sociology, psychology, economics and political science (Kenny 1996; Tesoriero 2010). In examining various theories it can help us to understand people’s behaviour, develop a framework in order to better comprehend events and develop tools and methods for more efficient practice (Hustedde & Ganowics 2002). So why study theory? ‘Theory is our major guide to understanding the complexity of community life and social and economic change’ (Collins, 1988; Ritzer 1996 cited in Hustedde & Ganowics 2002).
Social Justice and Conflict theory
‘Marxism has been a key influence on community development’ (Kenny 1996, p.82). Pivotal to community development is the concept of social justice (Kenny 1996; Tesoriero 2010). According to Chenowith & McAuliffe (2008, p. 35-38) the issues of social justice are concerned with people, groups of people and countries who are experiencing inequalities as a result of ‘oppression, violence, exploitation and the denial of basic needs’. The United Nations has targeted various ways in which disadvantaged individuals may be able to participate in the self-promotion of social justice such as organizational, informational, developmental, constitutional, legal and political (Craig 2002). However, Craig and Mayo (cited in Craig 2002) state ‘my own additional emphasis would be on the role of community development as the means by which the excluded and the marginalized can act on their own behalves in this search’ (Craig 2002, p.671).
Marxism, which has its roots in conflict theory, (Giddens 1993a; Ritzner & Goldman 2004) is linked to the basic issues of social justice. During the mid nineteenth century, Marx...