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KARL MARX

ON

POLITICAL SOCIOLOGY

Karl Heinrich Marx (May 5, 1818 – March 14, 1883) was a German philosopher,
political economist, historian, political theorist, sociologist, and communist
revolutionary, whose ideas played a significant role in the development of modern
communism and socialism. Marx summarized his approach in the first line of chapter
one of The Communist Manifesto, published in 1848: "The history of all hitherto
existing society is the history of class struggles." Marx argued that capitalism, like
previous socioeconomic systems, would inevitably produce internal tensions which
would lead to its destruction. Just as capitalism replaced feudalism, he believed
socialism would, in its turn, replace capitalism, and lead to a stateless, classless society
called pure communism. This would emerge after a transitional period called the
"dictatorship of the proletariat": a period sometimes referred to as the "workers state" or
"workers' democracy".

Political sociology is the study of the relations between political organization and
society. A typical research question in this area might be: "Why do so few American
citizens choose to vote?" Questions of political opinion formation brought about some
of the pioneering uses of statistical survey research by Paul Lazarsfeld. A major subfield
of political sociolgy draws on comparative history to analyze socio-political trends. The
field developed from the work of Max Weber and Moisey Ostrogorsky, whilst
contemporary theorists include Robert A. Dahl, Seymour Martin Lipset, Theda Skocpol,
Luc Boltanski and Nicos Poulantzas.

Some of the main areas of research focus in contemporary political sociology are :

1. The socio-political formation of the modern state;

2. "Who rules"? How social inequality between groups (class, race, gender, etc.)
influences politics.

3. How public personalities, social movements and trends outside of the formal
institutions of political power affect politics, and

4. Power relationships within and between social groups (e.g. families, workplaces,
bureaucracy, media, etc).

Karl Marx is a philosopher, sociologist, socialist, and economist. His ideas help us to
understand politics and society together. He believes that mankind is the only living
being who interacts with the nature, and through interaction with the nature produces the
means of living hood. This is the specialty of human being.

Karl Marx became one of the founders of social science and political sociology when his
studies of the effects of capitalism on the worker lead to his work The Communist
Manifesto. Marx investigated the relationships between capitalism and society and
found, among other problems, what he believed to be an unfair balance of power. He
saw the ruling class (those who own the means of production such as factories) could
cruelly and endlessly exploit the working class (those who work in the factories). His
answer to this imbalance was Communism. In short, he hoped that by transferring means
of production, transportation, and communication and banks to the government, a
Communist government would create a classless society where nobody could take
advantage of someone else in the ways he saw happening around him.

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels strove to put into practical effect the humanitarian
concept of Feuerbach. In so doing, they founded a new economic movement called
Socialism. According to Marx, the supreme end of man is an immanent and material
one, and consists in happiness. This material happiness must be obtained through
organized collectivism. In fact, according to Marx, reality is governed by economic
needs (historical materialism). Economic reality develops according to Hegel's
dialectical principles; that is, reality must deny itself in order to reach a higher degree of
being.

In application, this principle means that the present organization of society must be
destroyed (even through violent revolution, if necessary, because only through such
destruction can a better political, economic, and social organization be achieved. To
establish this new format of society, working men (the proletariat) must be organized
and take up the struggle against the capitalists who defraud them. Thus the actors in this
drama are the social classes -- the proletariat is arrayed against capitalism. This struggle,
according to Marx and Engels, will end in victory for the proletariat, that is, in the
triumph of universal Socialism.

The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles. Freeman and
slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word,
oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an
uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a
revolutionary re-constitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending
classes.

Although the merits of communism are hotly debated, there is a persistent truth to his
thoughts about the imbalance of political and economic power between the classes.
Therefore, Marx’s work is and will continue to be important in political sociology for
the foreseeable future.

Karl Marx's methodology borrowed from Hegel dialecticism but also a rejection of
positivism in favour of critical analysis, seeking to supplement the empirical acquisition
of "facts" with the elimination of illusions. He maintained that appearances need to be
critiqued rather than simply documented.

About ‘materialistic conception of history’ it should be added that materialism in fact


was not invented by Marx, because materialism was already there in the philosophy of
Europe. What Marx wanted to do was that to distance himself from materialism. He
developed a critic of materialism on one hand, and developed a critic of idealism on the
other hand.

He says that when forces change, relations remain the same. So, what happens --- a
contradiction between forces and relations takes place. Thus, relations have to adjust
themselves to forces. This may take a long time, then, relations would also change.
When relations change, superstructure would also change, but it takes its own time to
change. That is to say, new classes cannot come up without changes in forces, and
politics would not change without changes in relations. So, when forces change, new
class emerges. This class so wants to have control on politics. Every economic
dominated class would be a politically dominated class.

In his “Asiatic mode of production,” Marx says in Asian countries mode of production
has never changed for thousands of years, that is why, they are not developed.

In original writings of Marx, there is no materialism. The only thing that Marx said was
that “changes in society take place because of contradictions between forces and
relations, and between relations and superstructure.” For example, before 1880s, there
was no labor party in England and in 1880s, labor party was formed --- why --- because
of factories and working class that emerged in England and this class wanted to be
involved in politics --- so, changes take place in politics.

The central idea of historical materialisms is “the key to change in society is to be found
in the way men produced their life and income.”

Marx on class, class a group of people having common relations to the means of
production: capital, resources, machinery. Class is determined by ownership of means of
production.

We have primitive communism in pre-ancient period. We have slave owners in ancient


period. In feudalism, means of production is land, and in capitalism, means of
production is factory. Marx says that when there are no classes and means of production
is owned by all, then, there can be called a communist society. He says that class cannot
exist in isolation and in each state there are two classes: one who is dominated, and one
who is under domination. Class becomes a class only when a contradictory class exists.
Class becomes a class only when that class is organized politically.

Capitalism comes when feudalism is over. From capitalism we go to socialism --- why
--- capitalism and working class are in conflict. There is an antagonism relationship ---
one class benefits at the loss of other class. Thus, society is divided in two: capitalist
class who owns means of production, and working class who does not own means of
production.

In fact, Marx was influenced by Hegel and Marxism has borrowed so much from Hegel.
Like Hegel, he believes that “thesis and antithesis contradicts and bring synthesis,
syntheses again become thesis.”

Marx says that struggle begins between capitalist class and working class. Working class
is a revolutionary class, because it is one that makes revolution, because it has no control
and ownership over the means of production, and capitalism, on the other hand,
generates inequalities of wealth and welfare. Capitalism is the modern form of
exploitation --- so struggle takes place between these two classes and that would lead to
the victory of working class.

Marx on state, state as an institution does not have autonomy. State is part of the
superstructure. Thus, state is fully dependent on economy and on capitalist class. There
is a possibility that state can exercise limited autonomy. State is a social agency with
power to force compliance with the law and ultimately to settle economic disputes;
instrument of dominate class.

State is nothing but to regulate relations within the society. It is machinery that works in
favor of one class. State is created to protect the interest of the bourgeoisie. Marx
believes that there must be an end to exploitation. A just society is actually a stateless
society. When classes are abolished then means of production are owned by all. There
would be no repression. State will disappear as a repressive agency but continues to
exist as an administrative agency. In his theory of ultimate of justice Marx says that
“from each according to his capacity and to each according to his needs.”

Marx on Revolution, in each stage of history we have one class which is revolutionary
class. Revolution takes place when there is a struggle between old class and new class.
Therefore, if bourgeoisie is the revolutionary class, what is their idea? ‘Liberalism…’

One class makes revolution by the help of its idea, and this class and its idea will go to
that extent which will exploit its people --- from truth to falsehood.

Well, revolution is to take the control of state. Working class makes social revolution; it
is because to bring about a classless society --- how --- by abolishing classes --- how ---
by abolishing private property --- why --- because, Marx believes that it is private
property that creates classes.

If so, then, what would happen to the different sections of the society such as, small and
big bankers, factory holders, teachers, doctors, etc?

In the struggle some of these groups join the ruling class, these groups may be big
factory holders, big bankers, etc. some others such as, workers may join the oppressed
class, and some others like small factory holders may stand neutral, to see what would
happen, but usually they would join the working class, because they might be afraid of
big factory holders, because big fish eats small fish.

Marx led the foundation of political sociology through his writings and theory of class,
state, and revolution. Marx’s concept continues to stimulate new research in determining
various kinds of political behavior in various societies. Social – psychological
conceptualization which is clearly derived from Marx even though it is theoretically
quite different has proven to be of considerable analytic utility.

Socialist and Communist Literature, distinguishes communism from other socialist


doctrines prevalent at the time the Manifesto was written. While the degree of reproach
of Marx and Engels toward rival perspectives varies, all are eventually dismissed for
advocating reformism and failing to recognize the preeminent role of the working class.
Partly because of Marx's critique, most of the specific ideologies described in this
section became politically negligible by the end of the nineteenth century.

He says that ideas are weapons in the battle for maintenance and change of the social
order and thus have a role to play in political life. Dominate ideas change as social –
political orders change, but never vice versa. Marx says politics does not take place in
vacuum. It takes place in society. He says that the social is primary and political is
secondary --- social relations dominate politics.

The writing of Marx forms an important part of the intellectual heritage of political
sociology. They contain formulations of many questions, concepts, and claims which
constitute the very core of the field… Many of his claims proved to be valid.