KARL MARX: SOCIETY AND CONFLICT
Marx's thinking focused on a fundamental contradiction of industrial society. How could vast social inequality exist given the new industrial technology with its phenomenal productive capability? The central focus of Marx's work was on the idea of social conflict, which means struggle between segments of society over valued resources. For Marx, the most significant type of social conflict results from the manner in which society produces material goods.
Society and Production
Marx designated a very small part of the population as capitalists, or those who owned factories and other productive enterprises. Their goal was profit. The vast majority of people, however, were termed the proletariat, meaning those who provided the labour necessary for the operation of factories and other productive enterprises. Labour is exchanged by these people for wages. Fundamental conflict exists between the competing needs of these two groups who draw wages and profits from the same pool of funds.
Marx's analysis of society followed the philosophical doctrine of materialism in asserting that the system of producing material goods can shape all of society. He labelled the economic system the infrastructure and all other social institutions as the super structures. Figure 4-2 (p. 93) illustrates this philosophical viewpoint.
Marx believed capitalism promoted false consciousness, or the belief that the shortcomings of individuals, rather than society, are responsible for many of the personal problems people have.
Conflict in History
Marx understood historical change in society as operating in both gradual evolutionary and rapid revolutionary processes. He believed early hunting and gathering societies to be represented by communism, or the equal production of food and other material as a common...