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Assumptions of Marxism : Contradiction and Conflict Essay

The theory of Marxism is a fundamental alternative to functionalism. It was largely used and appreciated during the 1970s, due to the decline of functionalism and the assurance that it could offer answers which functionalism could not provide. Also, Marxism was more in sync with that era. It takes its name from the German philosopher who created its assumptions, Karl Marx (1818-1883). Marx derived his main assumptions with the help of his close ally and compatriot, Friedrich Engels. The following report is a simplified story of one of the assumptions of the Marxist perspective: Contradiction and Conflict.


The main premise of Marxism is Economics. This theory begins with the observation that, in order to continue to exist, humans must produce food and material possessions. In order to carry out production, social beings enter into relationships with each other. The size, modernization or state of a society does not matter. Whether it is a large industrialized society or a small hunting village, every civilization needs successful production in order to survive; it is a social enterprise. In order for production to be successful, it must involve a methodological factor known as forces of production, which consists of the technology, scientific knowledge and raw materials employed in the course of production.

Each major phase in the progress of the forces of production will keep up a correspondence with a particular type of the social relationships of production. For instance, the forces of production in a hunting / gathering society will correspond with a certain set of social relationships. When placed together, the forces of production and the social relationships of production form the economic foundation or infrastructure of society. The other portion of society, which is the superstructure, is produced by the infrastructure. In a nutshell, the political, didactic and legal institutions and the ethical and belief systems are chiefly determined by economic factors. Hence, when a major change occurs in the infrastructure, one will also occur in the superstructure.

Another assumption of Karl Marx is that, with the feasible exclusion of the societies of prehistory, all historical societies include fundamental contradictions. This simply means that they cannot survive eternally in their existing form. These contradictions consist of the exploitation of one group by another. In this case, the owners of production (bourgeoisie) exploit the working class (proletariat). In feudal societies, lords exploit their serfs; in capitalist society, employers exploit their employees. As a result, a type of fundamental conflict of interest is created between social groups since one benefits at the expense of the other. A solution for this conflict of interest must be found since a society consisting of such contradictions cannot survive unchanged.


Michael Haralambos, Martin Holborn and Robin Heald “Sociology Themes and Perspectives” Collins Educational, 2000.

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