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Neo-Marxist Contribution to Theories O Social Class Inequality Essay

How far would you say that Neo-Marxist have contributed to the continuing relevance of theories of social class inequality today? Social class inequality can be defined as the existence of socially created inequalities among and within classes. They can be attributed to various factors such as race, colour, ethnicity, gender, income, etc.

It is arguable that inequalities that exist in post-independence societies as well as the inequalities which exist between nations can be directly traced back to the exploitative capitalism which accompanied European colonialism. Neo-Marxism has indeed contributed to the continuing relevance of theories of social class inequality in contemporary times. Therefore, the aim of this essay is to identify the nature of Neo-Marxism, its emergence as a school of thought, the main views of Neo-Marxism and its application to today as it regards to Social Class Inequality.

Neo-Marxism for the purpose of this research paper can be defined as : a term loosely applied to any social theory or sociological analysis which draws on the ideas of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, but amends or extends these, usually by incorporating elements from other intellectual traditions—such as, for example, psychoanalysis (as in the case of critical theory), Weberian sociology (as in Erik Olin Wright’s theory of contradictory class locations), or anarchism (as in the example of critical criminology). Site ref) This social theory emerged during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s through the Frankfurt School, in Germany.

This institution was referred to as the Institute of Social Research at the University of Frankfurt, Germany. The early Neo-Marxists from that school were Max Horkheimer, Herbert Marcuse, Theodor Adorno and Leo Lowenthal among others. Max Horkheimer referred to this new strain of Marxism as Critical Theory in 1937; it is a social theory oriented towards critiquing and changing society as a whole, in contrast to the traditional Marxist theory that just sought to explain it .

The fundamental principles of critical social theory is that it should be directed at the totality of the society; that is how it has been organised at differentiating historical times. And in addition it should improve on the understanding of our society through integrating the major social sciences. Neo-Marxism therefore held views that were synonymous with Marxism however they were amended and extended on his principles to keep up with modern times. Neo-Marxism, according to neo-marxist Nicos Poulantzas sought to answer three basic questions that traditional Marxist was unable to deliver a rationale for.

These questions were firstly, why did the socialist and social democratic political parties not band together against WWI? (Instead of support for their own countries). Secondly, why although the timing seemed right for a workers revolution in the west it did not take place? And lastly how did fascism take place in Europe at this time? Neo-Marxism is based on the total political-economic-cultural systems that exist in contemporary societies. Neo-Marxists were concerned with the growth of the middle class, which changed the traditional Marxist class view of there being only two classes; to the introduction of a new class -the middle class.

They studied the composition of the labour force; that is the fragmentation of the working class and the decomposition of capital; that is the growth in the middle class. They needed to discover whether or not social mobility was beneficial to the lower class or whether or not it leads to the maintenance of the status quo. It is believed that ‘Mobility acts as a political safety valves’. (Parkin) It maintains the ideals of ruling class by providing hope to the working class so they would not want to form a revolution against the capitalist system.

Neo-Marxists also found that there was a heterogeneous nature among classes; this was evident there were classes within classes. The main Marxist views that were retained by neo-Marxist are that the theory of dialectical materialism remains. This theory of change implies that the world including human beings is “Matter in motion” and progress occurs through struggle. They also shared the belief that capitalism is an alienating, exploitative system, subordinating human to the interest of hegemonic elites.

The society then becomes one that upholds the values as the ruling class and these values inherently become the values of the people within the society. This was posited by Antonio Gramsci, an Italian journalist and politician who suffered at the hand of the fascist dictator that ruled Italy in 1937. He also writes that inequality exists as people are led to believe that it is inevitable. He also credits religion as the most important forms of metal control; as it teaches people to seek reward in heaven and not equality on earth.

They were inclined to bear the inequality on earth as they believed that one day they would be rewarded in heaven. Another principle of Marxism that remained is the idea that only socialism had to be treated as the only form of human organisation worth thriving for. This is imperative as it returns to the workers all the profits of their labour, as opposed to the capitalist system. In which the Bourgeoisie retains their profits for themselves; instead of allowing the proletariat to enjoy the fruits of their labour.


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