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Karl Marx is highly regarded as one of the foremost authorities in economics and social structure. It is through his beliefs that the thought process of Marxism was created. Although very controversial in this thoughts and beliefs, Marx outlined, what he believed to be, a social framework for society. According to Marx, society often begins a series of transformations directly related to the primary flow of labor and production (Singer, 200). Through division of labor each organizational structure has a central conflict. According to Marx, each organizational structure is characterized with conflict among different parts of society with particular emphasis on economic status. Marx focused a disproportionate amount of his research on the social relationships between the economic classes prevailing in society (Marx, 1990). Marx tended to focus on the relationships between entry level workers and those of their immediate supervisor. Marx identified historical epochs from the beginning of human existence. These "stages" where characterized into four distinct categories consisting of tribal, industrial, feudal, and capitalist. Marx believed that it was neither technology nor the overall factory that defined capitalism. Instead he believed that the emergence of social relations defined capitalism. Marx often defined capitalism by utilizing the ruling class and the subordinate class (David, 1973). Consequently, all stages have an oppressor and an oppressed group, who is often those who provide the labor. He defined his structure using the following quote, "The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships, the dominant material relationships grasped as ideas; hence of the relationships which make the one class the ruling one, therefore, the ideas of their dominance." Marx predicted that his stages had a sequential order and once the working class realized their plight, they would revolt, opting to form as more socialist society. This concept of capitalism as detailed later in the document, I disagree with. However, Marx believed that society goes through a natural progression ultimately manifesting itself with the ruling class taking over both authority and power over the production of labor. These stages are detailed below.
To begin, the tribal form of society has no social classes but is structured around kinship relations. These relationships are fostered through a separation of roles and responsibilities with the overall framework of society. For instance, men primarily did the hunting and manual labor. Likewise the women performed much of the domestic work. The tribal form, according to Marx, was very elementary. The nature of the tribal form of society is very simplistic and emphasized strengths of each component of the social class. However, as the tribal society progresses, the tendency to use other for production increases exponentially. Those within the tribal society will elect to enslave others in order to produce more goods and services for their desire. Initially, this tendency is abated by the necessities of life, according to Marx. The need for basic amounts of food, clothing, shelter and more create a society in which all are the producing goods and servicers. The production of labor is relatively equal as the society is based on kinship relationship. However, through societal progression, it is likely to see a slave culture established, particularly as the population increases. This cycle begins to feed on itself, causing a self-fulfilling prophecy as "the growth of wants" steadily erodes kinship relations. Subsequently, the growth of relations with outside civilizations through war and barter establishes an imbalance between the production of labor and those who control the labor. As Marx indicated, with slave culture, we see the beginning of class society (Curtis, 1976).
The second stage is that of feudal communism. Marx explains this concept as "the ancient communal and state ownership which proceeds especially from the union of several tribes into a city by agreement or by conquest (Marx, 2001)." During this stage, the concept of private property begins to develop: "With the development of private property, we find here for the first time the same conditions which we shall find again, only on a more extensive scale, with modern private property. On the one hand, the concentration of private property...; on the other hand, coupled with this, the transformation of the plebeian small peasantry into a proletariat (Marx, 2001)." This stage is very interesting as it begins the underlying notion of capitalism as it relates to assets. Society progress from a civilization based on kinship to one based on property ownership. Civilization under this stage also becomes more fragmented. Instead of societal kinship, this stage is characterized with kinship to immediate family. In some instances, the benefit of the family trumps that of the city, state, or country the individual is in. As such protectionism immerges. As is the case in the above example, individuals will start to own their own property in order to provide for their own needs. They do this with little regard to society overall. Instead a sense of individualism manifests itself as individuals tend to look out for ones own needs, irrespective of the needs of others. This concept also begins to create the concept of classes, as more individuals own more property, irrespective of how much property they are taking away from others (Engels, 1976).
The next stage is called the industrial stage. Much like the tribal and communal ownership, it is based again on a community, albeit to a less extent. However, those directly producing labor are now emerging as their own distinct class called the peasantry. In society, the feudal structure manifested itself in what were called trade guilds. During this stage, production and labor were both very limited. There was very little division of labor. Exploitation functioned differently during this stage than during the height of capitalism because each feudal peasant knew exactly what proportion of his labor had to be handed over to the aristocracy and the church. The rest the labors wages were his to use as he saw fit. This is, to some extent, similar to capitalism. In large part, all those who labor must pay taxes to the government, with the remainder being uses as the individual wishes. In American society, this concept is termed, discretionary income (Enrique, 2001).
The final stage of social change is that of capitalism. Due primarily to the inevitable growth of commerce and of human populations, feudal society will begin to accumulate capital. Unfortunately, Marx believed that the higher class of society would also accumulate large amounts of debt for fund a lavish and oppressing lifestyle. This concept, as Marx believed, eventually led to the English Revolution of 1640 and the French Revolution of 1789. Both wars for a society structured around commodities and profit, the justification being that are men are free. Marx disagreed with the capitalistic version of free. He argued that in such a society, the laboring class is fooled into believing that they are free because they are paid for labor. Marx argued that in fact, the transformation of labor into an abstract quantity that can be bought and sold on the market leads to the exploitation of that labor. This he believed benefited only a small percentage of the population who had the financial strength and wherewithal to control of the flow of labor capital in society. The working class, Marx believed would thus experiences alienation since the members of this class feel they are not in control of the forces driving them into a given job. The reason for this situation is that someone else owns the means of production, which are treated like private property in similar concept to that of the feudal and industrial stage (Felluga, 2002).
Now to begin, I disagree, to a certain extent, with Marx's distinction of class warfare as it relates to social change. Class warfare, to a limited degree, is a necessary aspect of societal evolution. The lower class will always aspire to reach the higher class. It is through this distinction that civilization as a whole can flourish. The desire to reach the upper class encourages innovation, new processes, new goods and new services which ultimately benefit society. The profit motive that encourages both the lower and middle class is a benefit to society. As such there will undoubtedly be class warfare as individuals become upset at their personal circumstances. This in isolation, I believe to be justifiable. The net good done to society in the form of new goods and services, far outweighs the negatives of a few individuals engaging an attack on the upper class. However, class warfare when taken to extremes can be extremely detrimental to both society at large and the individuals who are initiating the attack. To this extent, I agree with Marx. The 2008 financial crisis was a timely example of Marx's principles as it relates to real world implications. During 2010 through 2012, in response to the economic crisis, the "Occupy Wall Street" movement was created. This was a direct assault on class distinctions and the rising gap between the wealthy and the poor. In…[continue]
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