Marxism and Social Class

Gap-fill exercise

Fill in all the gaps, then press "Check" to check your answers. Use the "Hint" button to get a free letter if an answer is giving you trouble. You can also click on the "[?]" button to get a clue. Note
that you will lose points if you ask for hints or clues!

The traditional Marxist position is that there are classes in capitalist society. Those who the means of production, distribution and exchange - the , and those who own nothing apart from their ability to - the . The proletariat therefore constitutes a massive in society. Anyone who has to his or her labour in order to survive is classified as a , and anyone who is able to live of rents, , dividends etc. by virtue of what they own, and therefore does not have to work to survive, is a member of the bourgeoisie.
Marx claimed the of the bourgeoisie and the proletariat are diametrically opposed. Thus it is in the interests of the bourgeoisie to profits - they do this by making work harder for less money. Marx suggested that the profit motive would ultimately lead to the of the working class (proletariat). In other words all of them would get more and more . Eventually Marx claimed the proletariat would become (aware) of what was happening to them (and why) and would develop a consciousness - they would rise up against the bourgeoisie and enact a better and more equitable society - .

What role does money play?

The Marxist theory of class is opposed by those sociologists who explain class not in terms of or non ownership of the means of wealth production, but in terms of prestige, and style of life. Society is said to consist of a hierarchy of non-conflicting classes, with names such as upper, middle, working and under. Classifications which emphasise lifestyle and status such as The Generals and NS-SEC are more influenced by Max Weber's writings. However Marxists would argue that theory tends to gloss over the fact that only about 2 percent of the population own enough capital to live comfortably on the income it provides; the other 98 percent have to find an employer or live off state benefit. Marxists claim that class position is an economic position whether people are conscious of it or not.

Early Marxists suggested that the social and economic conditions of life under would eventually force workers to become aware of their class location and develop a desire to it.
It has become apparent to later Marxist theorists that such processes are a good deal more complex. The working class are not equally downtrodden and exploited by the capitalist system - instead some workers do rather out of capitalism than others. This has led to -Marxists such as E.O. Wright developing a new model.
E.O. Wright suggests that in modern capitalist economies there are now a range of " class locations" - a person placed thus (say a business manager rather than an owner) can be exploited by the business for whom he works, but is also an exploiter of the shop floor who also work for the business. The manager's class is therefore contradictory and he doesn't develop class consciousness.
The existence of contradictory class locations or a "new middle class" in mature capitalist economies has been used as an explanation by Neo Marxists as to why a revolutionary and proletarian class consciousness is yet to occur.