Relevance of Marxist Theory in Understanding Modern Societies

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Assess the clam that Marxist theory no longer has any relevance for understanding modern societies. [25]

Marxism was developed by the German philosopher Karl Marx and is a radical alternative to functionalism. Functionalism, developed by Emile Durkheim, was very influential in the 1940’s and 50’s but started to decline in the 1960’s. Marxism had the answers functionalism failed to give.

Marxism is based on the idea that we need food, shelter and products in order to survive. We enter in to social relationships (socialisation) because of the need for these things. Marxists believe that society is in conflict due to the different social classes. The labourers produce the materials and owners of means of production earn the wealth. This is where conflict occurs in that there is an unequal balance of status and power. The bourgeoisie controls the proletariat. The workers earn much less than they produce.

Ideology is a distortion of reality. Society is brainwashed by ideology which makes them believe what they are doing is right. Society knows nothing different to the way worked are controlled and underpaid by the owners and they accept it as OK.

In modern societies, there are a number of people who break/bend the norms and values accepted by society. Norms are unwritten rules which guide our behaviours, for example saying hello to greet someone or wearing black as a mark of respect at a funeral, etc. Values are beliefs or attitudes of what is considered right & wrong. People who go against the acceptance are called “deviants”. These deviants usually join together to form their own group so as to separate themselves from the rest of society and only be with people who share the same attitudes and beliefs. These groups are called subcultures. Eisenstaedt says that subcultures are formed in order to smooth the transition between childhood and adulthood. Adolescents feel a loss of status or have powerlessness in the family and so turn to their peers for support.

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