Introduction to Sociology Research Essay

Define this perspective and outline in detail its goals, methods, fundamental concepts, and principle contributors.

Evaluate the usefulness of this perspective in understanding social life and social interaction.

Issues to consider could include: famous and controversial theories; the problem of social order; class, gender, ethnicity, media or religion

Word count: 1,216

Due: Tuesday, 16th March 2004

No thinker in the 19th Century has had such a direct, deliberate and powerful influence upon mankind as Karl Marx, and now his concept of Marxism is a major perspective in modern sociology. Karl Marx’s revolutionary philosophies lead to the practice of socialism and communism, then ultimately the overthrow of an entire capitalist society and the state institutions that had brought it into being, through the Communist Revolutions in Eastern Europe and China during the last century. The main concepts that create the theory of Marxism are: a criticism of capitalism, a classless society and classical political economics. Karl Marx’s famous theories to help define Marxism include: dialectical materialism, the law of development and the mode of production. Within his lifetime, a new revolutionary practice was formed, and Marx\'s name would be forever associated with that practice (Kreis, 2003).

The German-born Karl Marx was a philosopher, social scientist, historian and revolutionary, and possibly the most influential socialist thinker to emerge from the nineteenth century (Kreis, 2003). He completed the greater part of his work between 1844 and 1883, during periods of democratic nationalism, trade unionism and revolution. He had an acute sense of injustice and was repelled by the rhetoric of the intellectuals, who were remote from reality, and the self-righteous contentment of the bourgeoisie, as he found they were hypocritical and blinded by their wealth and status (Kreis, 2003).

Fredrich Engels was essentially a social philosopher, and was the co-founder of the modern communist theory with Karl Marx. In 1847 Engels and Marx began writing a pamphlet based on Engels\' The Principles of Communism. The 12,000-word pamphlet was finished in six weeks, written in such a manner as to make communist theory understandable to a wide audience. It was named The Communist Manifesto and was published in February 1848. After Marx\'s death in 1883 Engels devoted the rest of his life to editing and translating Marx\'s writings.

Marxism can sometimes be defined as the theory of dialectical materialism based on communist practice. Dialectical Materialism is a way of understanding reality; whether thoughts, emotions, or the material world. The materialist dialectic is the theoretical foundation of Marxism, while being communist is the practice of Marxism (, 2003), where communists actively support the interests of the working class and live to unite workers regardless of gender, nationality, race or ideology (Perry, 2002). Dialectics in Marx referred to opposing forces in reality: internal and inherent forces whose mutual conflicts produce metamorphoses. Men are products of their environment in general and their economic environment in particular (Sowell, 1985). This dialectical idea of self-destruction through self-fulfillment is predominantly stating that the culture destroys itself by perfecting itself (Wolton, 1996).

Marx distinguished five broad stages in the formation of a bourgeois society. He named these Modes of Production. In Marx’s writings the five major historical modes of production are: primitive communism, the ancient mode of production, Asiatic mode of production, feudism and capitalism (Evans, 1993; Perry, 2002). Social development from the lowest stage to the highest was marked by increases in human powers of production, the elaboration of the division of labour, and the rise of the institution of private property. The contradictions within the highest existing stage (i.e.: a bourgeois society) would lead to its replacement by a still higher stage: communism (Evans, 1993). Socialism and communism were conceived as future modes of production that would liberate humanity from exploitation and oppression, using the general increase in the productive forces for the general good. Marx and Engel maintained that this mode of production opened a new possibility of a classless society: socialism. They devoted their life’s work to the achievement of this goal (Perry, 2002).

In modern capitalism, large capitalist employers exploit workers by not paying them the full worth of their labour. Marx considered that the progression of capitalism, each technical advance and each accretion of productivity, was bought at the price of the exploitation and suffering of workers (Evans, 1993). In his