Marxism is a movement, or series of movements, which owe their existence and take their beliefs from Karl Marx. It is a conflict theory as it stresses that the powerful have different interests and that these may lead to conflict in society. There are three main branches of Marxism; Classic, Modern and Neo. Power originates from class division and relations of productions/control of means of production.
Society is divided according to the mode of production. These modes produce relations of production which are based on private ownership and control.There are two classes which are determined in terms of a group’s relationship to the means of production, the bourgeoisie and proletariat. The Ruling class, the bourgeoisie ‘steal’ labour from the proletariat. They “invest” this ‘surplus value’ back into the capitalist system.
For example, India’s largest ready-made garment exporter Gokaldas Exports, which supply several established fashion brands in Britain and the US including Marks and Spencer and H&M, have confirmed that wages paid to workers are as low as ? 1. 13 for a nine hour day.Capitalists own the means of production which is reflected in and shaped by the superstructure, meaning that values and beliefs within the superstructure ensure the maintenance and survival of capitalism; i. e.
those with economic power and dominance over all elements of the superstructure – education, media etc. For example, research carried out last year by the News of the World recorded 19 millionaires in the Shadow Cabinet, giving some indication of the level of wealth at the top of the Conservative Party. This can be criticised by the importance of the internet.This free information which is available worldwide enables the proletariat to become aware that they are at a disadvantage compared to other countries. `Use of the Superstructure to ensure power is retained in the hands of the bourgeoisie.
This is enforced by two different ways, either; illegitimate/coercive power or manipulation. Examples of coercive power where the bourgeoisie can make the working class do what they want through force. For example, Christian Bale assaulted by Chinese Government guards as he tried to visit a lawyer who was confined to his home.The lawyer in question acted on behalf of 1000’s of local women who were victims of aggressive family planning campaign. An example of manipulation is evident through their ability to shape the people’s decisions which also leads to false class consciousness.
`In their analysis of the State, Marxists focus on the role of the State in maintaining the power of the ruling class. As Pilkington et al stated the ‘State gives the appearance of representing the interest of society as a whole, but; in reality it serves the interests of the capitalist class. Marx argued that the state is the ‘management committee of the ruling class. ’ Its role is to underpin the dominant position of the ruling class, to oppress all those who might challenge the existing order and to control the dominant ideology which disguises the true nature of productive relations and distorts consciousness.
Evidence to support the idea of the state as a management committee of the ruling class can be seen in Britain’s support for its banks in the wake of the global financial crisis.While the Government has bailed out the banks it has not intervened in the job losses in the Steel industry in Teesside where the Corus cut 1,700 jobs. This shows that there is a link between Capitalist and National Interests; links what is best for capitalism is best for the country. Marxists highlight that the Nature of Power is not always going to be the same. They stress that the State contains the seeds of its own destruction; meaning that the proletariat will eventually see through the false class consciousness and become class aware. They will revolt and the state will wither away.
Communism will then be established. An example of this is Russia’s Revolution in 1917. However this Revolution hasn’t happened in most capitalist societies. Miliband states that the state was run by a number of elites who ran the central institutions and share the same basis interests of preserving capitalism.
Equality is the greatest myth of the epoch. Many members of the elite are part of the bourgeoisification. An example of this would be when Gordon Brown claimed that the Tory inheritance policy was ‘dreamed up on the playing fields of Eton’.Miliband also advanced an explanation as to why the majority of the population accept a state which acts against their interest – legitimisation. This refers to the third face of power which calls peoples ability to get them to accept capitalism. He called this ‘legitimisation’.
This can be seen in advertising campaigns by companies such as McDonalds which spend over two billion dollars a year on advertising and promotion, appearing to cultivate an image of caring and green company, but whose real concern is money and making profit.Moore eta al supported the idea that the media propagates a false class consciousness. He envisaged “Media promotes the view that the national interest is best served by the capitalist interests”. Many are concerned that fewer and fewer cooperation’s are controlling vast amounts of media. For example FOX News can be picked up in 96% of US homes.
Concerning the distribution of power, Poulantzas claimed that it is not necessary for the bourgeoisie to occupy elite positions; the existence of a capitalist system was itself sufficient to ensure that the state functioned to benefit the ruling class.He described the state as the ‘factor of cohesion of a social formation. ’ In other words, the state was vital for maintaining the stability of the capitalist system. Poulantzas also purported that the state was ‘relatively autonomous’ which was essential for it to represent capitalism effectively. The bourgeoisie is internally divided; in addition they have to make concessions to the subject class.
Neo Marxists are concerned in particular with culture and ideology, and with the role of the capitalist states’ welfare institution, rather than advancing socialism.They have moved away from saying there was going to be a political revolution. Gramsci, one of the most influential Neo-Marxists, sees reciprocity between the superstructure and infrastructure. Gramsci asserts that the ruling class maintains its control by gaining the approval and consent of members of society. He terms this Hegemony – ‘intellectual and moral leadership’.
He argued that this was largely achieved by persuading the population to accept the political and moral values of the ruling class.However, Gramsci did not believe that capitalism contained the seeds of its own destruction that would inevitably end in revolution. Also, he did not fully accept Marx’s similar belief of false class consciousness. He did not see the ruling class as ever being about to impose entirely false beliefs and values on the population, nor did he see the state as ever being able to act as a simple instrument or tool of the ruling class dominance. Like Marx, Gramsci looked forward to a proletarian revolution but he envisaged that it would happen in a different way.Marxism therefore forwarded important elements of thought regarding the origins, nature and distribution of power in capitalist society.
Classic Marxism has been heavily criticised for economic determination and the lack of the capitalist state ‘withering away’ in revolution has been taken by many political theorists to undermine the entire assertions of Marxism. Nevertheless, Modern and Neo-Marxists theorists have made a significant contribution to the understanding of power in contemporary society by focusing on structural analysis and ideological control as pivotal for the self-perpetuating nature of capitalism.