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The Sociological Contributions of Karl Marx and Marxism

Apr 12, 2023 | 0 comments

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Apr 12, 2023 | Essays | 0 comments

Karl Marx is renowned for his foundations and principles of communism. Among the founders of sociological thought Marx is the most popular. Surprisingly Marx did not consider himself a sociologist but was rather given the title by scholars of the latter centuries. As a communist Marx thought and titled himself as a political critic. However, it can be agreed that majority of the sociological thoughts were based in some sought of criticism or support of aspects of Marxism.

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Marx’s theory about society is based on the belief that all societies operate in a system of capitalism. In this system, there is a production and distribution channel. The first class known as the bourgeoisie own the system of production. This class is made up of very few citizens who in turn control the legislature, executive and judiciary branches of the government. The Mass, majority of the citizens are in the proletariat class that is the workers for the bourgeoisie. Ritzier (1992) states that the capitalist system is unsatisfactory, with the working class facing the worst living conditions, earning far much less than they need to survive. According to Marx, this despicable cycle of production and life, will in turn lead to unrest and mass revolution by the working class according to Marx, this is the only way to establish the more satisfying communist system. In this system, the production is owned by the government made up of the working class.
The main contribution of Marxism to sociology is in the area if conflict and conflict resolution.  There are several schools of thought defining the causes of violence and conflict, however, Marx’s theory continues to be the most prominent.  According to Marx the seeds of conflict are borne from the system of governance. Capitalism, in itself is a system which takes advantage of the weaker masses and often leaves them feeling restless. As stated in Adams and Sydie (2001) such restlessness can only be calmed through a violent revolution hence the conflicts currently in the world. To avoid such conflict, systems of communism where all resources are governed nationally would work best.
Marxism has also been vital in understanding, the value of labor. In a capitalist system according to Marx, value is placed on the finished product. The bourgeoisie are more concerned with the profits coming from sale of goods. The prices of goods are therefore exorbitant but the value of labor is diminished. The workers are paid less to produce high quality and expensive goods. Marxists argue that when all production systems are owned by the government, workers receive value for their own labor.  This is what Marx termed as the theory of surplus value; where the surplus is the profits generated by labor but not paid to the laborers. Surplus profits go back to the bourgeoisie class for purchase of luxury goods, meanwhile the working class cannot afford basic necessities such as food and housing.
Marx’s political thought was the first in sociology to introduce the concept of winners and losers. For a long time, people had assumed that with capitalism, everyone was a winner. The government benefited in terms of high taxes, the workers benefitted from provision of work and therefore income. With Marx however, came the first insight into the weaknesses that could arise with a system of profit.  He was the first to point out that only one class benefitted, and that such benesits were not fair and ideal.
Marx promoted and is often quoted in promoting free trade. In free trade, every individual is able to sell and distribute their own goods. Laborers are free to negotiate the value of their own labor, (Turner 20010. The negotiation promotes higher earning which in turn allows the workers to afford better standards of living.  Many scholars have misconceived Marx imagining that he proposed a classless society would develop automatically. However, the truth is that the classless society would develop with time. As the living standard of the working class improves the margin between the two classes will reduce. The margins between two countries, such as the first and third world are also reduced through free trade. Through this idea, several forms of free trade have been introduced in an attempt to foster development in the third world countries.
Calhoun (2002), Gill (2012), argue that Crime and deviance can be easily explained and understood through Marxism.  Inequalities in wealth and income, with the mass population suffering most generate a wave of crime especially on properties. Capitalism encourages greed and the desire for material goods and property.  Surprisingly according to Marx, crime is not just in the working class as maybe expected. Non-material crimes such as fraud and child abuse become more prominent in the bourgeoisie. Frustration by both classes can extend the wave of crime especially in periods of recession.
For a long time, Marxism has played a major role in defining the societal principles. Though some changes have been made to the theory, Marxism remains a prominent form of sociological thought.


Adams, B. N., & Sydie, R. A. (2001). Sociological theory. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Pine Forge Press.
Calhoun, C. J. (2002). Classical sociological theory. Malden, Mass: Blackwell.
Gill, R. (2012). Sociological theory. Farnham England: Ashgate.
Ritzer, G. (1992). Sociological theory. New York: McGraw-Hill
Turner, J. H. (2001). Handbook of sociological theory. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers.

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