The society is ranged into diverse classes due to the differences seen among the populations. A social class is a cluster of individuals who possess similar social-economic status. Different people have developed theories explaining the different classes appearing in the world. The theorists have been explaining various social phenomena of the modern world for centuries. One of these theorists could be considered Karl Marx who developed a classification of people called Marxist theory. Generally, Marx offered a theory that explained the manner in which society works and develops. This theory could serve as an explanation of the global issues and understanding of the problems and directions of modern society. The doctrine focuses on capitalism as a tremendously unsatisfactory system and gives reasons for its abandonment through violent revolution and following the creation of a communist society. Capitalism is a political and economic system where the industries and trade are under control of sole proprietors. Therefore, the theory also has a political facet. Many researches agree that Marxist theory can still be used in the analysis of modern society, as there are numerous global conditions and opportunities for this system to be utilised. However, one can only make a conclusion after analysing and understanding the concepts of the theory. Thus, the purpose of the current paper is to understand the notion of social classes, analyse the concepts of Marxist theory on social class, and make a conclusion on its applicability in analysing the society.
The sociological approach to classes is a concept within the general subject relating to social groups. These groups emanate based on diverse social processes and matching theoretical criteria. Such criteria include state apparatus, economic differences, ethnic characteristics, age, and religion among others. The social designations which divide people into several groups are considered as given empirical entities that do not need further theoretical interpretation. Congruently, it is hypothesised that individuals are integrated into these groups according to their intrinsic characteristics. The term ‘social class’ became extensive in 19 century and replaced other classifications, such as rank. Its use reflected changes in the structure of the societies in Western Europe after the political and industrial revolutions of the 18 century. The importance of the feudal distinctions of rank was declining and social groups mainly defined in economic terms gradually developed. There were the industrial and commercial capitalists, as well as the urban working class who worked in the new factories. The definitions in a fiscal perspective focused mainly on possession of capital or on the dependence on the remunerations. The name ‘class’ is mostly used in social divisions of modern societies. In addition, there is a distinction between the social classes and the status groups. The latter focuses on the evaluation of the prestige and honour of occupation, family descent, or position in a culture, while the former is based on economic interests.
Karl Marx recognised society’s mode of production as its main distinction from other societies. It relates to the technological nature and division of labour applied in society. Each of the modes of production creates a distinct class system where one class controls and directs the production process while another class provides or produces the services for the dominant class. According to Marx, the dominant class controls both the production of materials and ideas. Thus, it generates a specific style of culture and the dominant political doctrine. Variations in the means of production lead to the rise of other classes which gains strength and becomes influential. Karl Marx observes that there has been the division in the world amongst the classes which clash in search of diverse objectives. The aspect of means of production also focuses on the individuals with access to the assets needed in the production, and they are considered the dominant class. Marx notes that inequality in access to power and resources does not result in the active class struggle.
Marx adopted the approach of the classical political economy relating to classes as the initial theoretical precondition for the formulation of his class theory. Marx identified, isolated, and developed a component of the relation which contained the position of the classical economists. He formulated a new social relations theory and classes as the main element in the relations. He advanced the classical political economists’ perspective in two ways.
First, he made a demonstration of the elements of the class antipathy of the contradictory benefits between a capitalist society’s main classes. It was particularly between the wage labourers and the capitalists. He also concentrated on the harmony amongst the conflicting classes. Power does not involve the ‘right of the sovereign’ or the state‘s power regarding the rest of the citizens. It is a precise form of class domination. Therefore, power refers to the power of one class or a coalition of classes. The connecting factor between persons and social clusters is not an advanced mutual interest or legal directive, but a clash in the incessant development. It means that the perception of classes is principally on societal affairs, as opposed to clusters. The practices of a class develop within the structure of a system of dominance and class supremacy, and it has an impartial facet, regardless of whether or not capable to acquire consciousness of the common social interest of the oppressed exists. A vital component of class power is its capacity to prevent the apprehension of mutual class interest of the dominated or exploited class.
Second, analogous to the growth of the class power theory inside the frame of the class conflicts, Marx recognises that specific societies are made up of a mosaic of social class affairs. They constitute the specific historic result of the civilisation’s progression. Marx sought and isolated the elements of social relations which comprised the unique character of capitalism of each class and society and discerned this from the analogous components of other types of class supremacy. The elements also constituted of the permanent and inviolate core of the capitalist system of class supremacy. He eliminates the effects of class struggle which are attributed to specific types throughout the history of capitalism. Consequently, Marxist theory establishes the base for class tussle theory. In addition, the social relations of power according to Marx are organised in a chronological manner in diverse countries, ways, and times. Consequently, at each time in a given country, there is a class dominating over the others.
Marxist Theory and Modern World
It is possible to explicate most of what is ailing the modern world using Marxist theory. It can be explained as a result of allowing motivation via profits to be the determiner of production and distribution. It is the case that is experienced when a few capitalists have ownership of all the capital. As a result, only the most profitable things are produced as opposed to the things that are most needed. In a world where there is colossal inequality, it means that most of the investments go into the production of consumer goods and luxuries for individuals in the rich countries, while the needs of the poor are ignored. Thus, the rich collect the resources which are usually scarce, since they can afford to pay for them. Therefore, most of the productive capacity in developing countries is channelled towards the production of commodities to satisfy the rich countries.
For instance, in most developing countries, agriculture focuses on cash crops which are exported to the developed countries as opposed to the production of food crops needed by the hungry populations in these developed countries. It shows that in a capitalist system, breach of justice also occurs. The consequences of the activities in developed countries trickle down to the poor nations. Instead of improving the standards of living, the poorest people in the world continue getting poorer, and their standards of living become deplorable. Other than the aid that is channelled to the poor, the rest of the resources are applied to the production of commodities for the rich. For instance, there is the building of high standard and expensive apartments for the rich and the middle-income earners throughout the world, instead of cheap and quality housing. The main reason is the maximisation of profits by the luxury and trifling items.
The modern world economy is characterised by massive waste, particularly through the production of items which are not essential or those that cannot last. Such production should be reduced, and the main reason is the problems experienced throughout the world in relation to the resources and environment. However, this is not possible in capitalist economies, as it would lead to bankruptcy and unemployment. The capitalist economy, which most nations have adopted, puts continuous pressure to escalate the production and consumption all the time since the capitalists always want their industries, revenues, and profits to increase. The mechanisation of most activities and unemployment are the difficulties experienced as the capital is owned privately. Therefore, when the machine that can work better than the people at a less cost in the long-run is invented, the capital owner receives all the benefits and the workers suffer and lose their jobs. If it were a socialist economy, such automation could occur without adverse consequences. The population would get free time and cheap commodities and, consequently, it will add to the current production which is more than needed.
Marxist term ‘contradictions’ describes the phenomena. The capitalist society inexorably involves massive contradictions as the production forces clash with the production relations. For instance, it is evident that the world can feed all the people, but millions are still facing hunger and starvation. Simultaneously, about a third of the world’s grain production is used as animal feed in developed countries. The world has all the needed forces of production to alleviate the problem, but the actions are not taken as it does not serve the interest of the people controlling the capital. Their revenue increases as they sell the grain to the producers of beef. Therefore, as Marxist theory explains, the dominant class owns the capital and as long as they control it, only the production of profitable commodities will occur. A solution to the problem can entail overseeing the actions of the private enterprises to ensure that most of the investment is directed towards the necessary actions.
The world development in the last two decades indicates the value of Marxist theory in the analysis of society. In the 1970s, capitalists experienced hardships identifying profitable investment outlets for the capital that they were accumulating. It led to the pressuring for globalisation where there would be increased autonomy for the market forces. It offered them more opportunities for profitable investments. This situation can be seen in the large corporations operating throughout the world. Globalisation is a representation of the success of the capitalists by eliminating most of the restrictions and regulations that were previously experienced. Therefore, the capitalists continue offering their services and producing the commodities that they need in developing countries where labour is cheap, and they export the products to developed countries. It is a case evident in most western corporations that have their factories in Asia where labour is cheap, but the labourers cannot even afford the products that they produce.
Marxist theory is still relevant in the analysis of society. Changes in the world over time have not changed the impact of capitalism on the entire population. In fact, changes such as globalisation have fuelled the impact of capitalisation. The underprivileged people are controlled by wealthy individuals who control the capital. The Marxist theory offers an elucidation of the way in which the world functions. It explains the unfolding of society over time, especially on the effects of capitalism. It offers an understanding of the current situation in the world. However, some capitalist enthusiasts may fail to accept Marxist theory’s idea of eradicating capitalism and adopting communism. However, it is possible to elucidate the situations in the modern world using the Marxist theory of social class. The wealthy people who are in control of the investments dictate the actions of poor persons. Consequently, only profitable commodities are produced at the expense of the commodities that the world needs.