The Contribution of the Elite Theory to the Origins, Nature and Distribution of Power in Democratic Societies.

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Marxism is a movement, or series of movements, which owe their existence and take their beliefs from Karl Marx. It is a conflict theory as it stresses that the powerful have different interests and that these may lead to conflict in society. There are three main branches of Marxism; Classic, Modern and Neo.

Power originates from class division and relations of productions/control of means of production. Society is divided according to the mode of production. These modes produce relations of production which are based on private ownership and control. There are two classes which are determined in terms of a group’s relationship to the means of production, the bourgeoisie and proletariat. The Ruling class, the bourgeoisie ‘steal’ labour from the proletariat. They “invest” this ‘surplus value’ back into the capitalist system. For example, India’s largest ready-made garment exporter Gokaldas Exports, which supply several established fashion brands in Britain and the US including Marks and Spencer and H&M, have confirmed that wages paid to workers are as low as £1.13 for a nine hour day.

Capitalists own the means of production which is reflected in and shaped by the superstructure, meaning that values and beliefs within the superstructure ensure the maintenance and survival of capitalism; i.e. those with economic power and dominance over all elements of the superstructure – education, media etc. For example, research carried out last year by the News of the World recorded 19 millionaires in the Shadow Cabinet, giving some indication of the level of wealth at the top of the Conservative Party. This can be criticised by the importance of the internet. This free information which is available worldwide enables the proletariat to become aware that they are at a disadvantage compared to other countries.

`Use of the Superstructure to ensure power is retained in the hands of the bourgeoisie. This is enforced by two different ways, either; illegitimate/coercive power or manipulation. Examples of coercive power where the bourgeoisie can make the working class do what they want through force. For example, Christian Bale assaulted by Chinese Government guards as he tried to visit a lawyer who was confined to his home. The lawyer in question acted on behalf of 1000’s of local women who were victims of aggressive family planning campaign. An example of manipulation is evident through their ability to shape the people’s decisions which also leads to false class consciousness. `In their analysis of the State, Marxists focus on the role of the State in maintaining the power of the ruling class. As Pilkington et al stated the ‘State gives the appearance of representing the interest of society as a whole, but; in reality it serves the interests of the capitalist class.’ Marx argued that the state is the ‘management committee of the ruling class.’ Its role is to underpin the dominant position of the ruling class, to oppress all those who might challenge the existing order and to control the dominant ideology which disguises the true nature of productive relations and distorts consciousness.

Evidence to support the idea of the state as a management committee of the ruling class can be seen in Britain’s support for its banks in the wake of the global financial crisis. While the Government has bailed out the banks it has not intervened in the job losses in the Steel industry in Teesside where the Corus cut 1,700 jobs. This shows that there is a link between Capitalist and National Interests; links what is best for capitalism is best for the country.

Marxists highlight that the Nature of Power is not always going to be the same. They stress that the State contains the seeds of its own destruction; meaning that the proletariat will eventually see through the false class consciousness and become class aware. They will revolt and the state will wither away. Communism will then be established. An example of this is Russia’s Revolution in...
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