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Karl Marx was a hugely
1818 - 1883
Published The Communist
Manifesto with Friedrich
Engels in 1848.
His ideas deal with social and
economic power relationships and have
been influential in economics, politics &
Marx basically argues that since industrialisation,
society is in a state of conflict between the rich and
the poor because these social groups have unequal
Industrialisation led to the creation of a capitalist
Methods of production
moved from being
agricultural to factory
and industry based.
Industrialisation meant that
power in society fell into
the hands of the wealthy,
because they were the
ones who owned most of
the land, could afford
machinery, build factories
& own big businesses &
they also employed the
people to work for them.
In a capitalist society, the
economy is based on business,
trade & consumption with an
aim of making big profits.
The problem is that this doesn’t
benefit all – the rich get richer
& the poor get poorer under
Those who are poorer (Proletariat / working class) &
have limited access to owning the means of production
(factories, mills & businesses) are forced into working for
those who own the means of production (Bourgeoisie),
who have the wealth and are businessmen or members
of the government.
Although the workers receive a wage for
producing the goods that consumers need &
want, the goods are sold at a profit, for more
than they cost to make, and this surplus value
goes straight back into the pockets of the
‘fat cats’ (Bourgeoisie).
As such, capitalism leads to
Marx sees a capitalist society
as a split society.
Those who control or have
power are called the
Those who don’t and who
have to sell their labour for
minimal pay (and often no
share of the profit) are called
Under capitalism, the means for
producing & distributing goods are
owned by a relatively small group.
The majority of people sell
their labour in return for a
wage or salary.
Marx famously said:
“The proletariat have nothing
to lose but their chains.
Workingmen of all countries,
Power was held by a minority (the elite / bourgeoisie) who had
access to capital and could use their money and power to
generate more wealth.
The majority of the population (the mass / proletariat) had only
their labour (strength & time) to help them make a living.
Industrialisation had meant that the elite were the only ones
who had access to the means of production.
Without the ability to produce for themselves, the mass were
dependent on the elite for survival.
To maximise profits, the elite needed to get as
much labour from (exploit) the mass for as little
cost as possible.
The elite needed the mass to accept their
position as powerless workers.
Why do we let this social inequality happen?
Firstly, industrialisation meant families no longer
worked on their own land or produced their own
goods. Because they couldn’t compete with the
means of mass production they didn’t have enough
income coming in and so had to
seek employment elsewhere in
towns, working for the bourgeoisie.
People had no choice but to work
for the capitalist bourgeoisie &
therefore had to accept their new
place & role in life.
How do the capitalists /
ruling class make sure
everyone conforms to
this new status as
subservient or unequal?
The bourgeoisie in
any society are
outnumbered by the
proletariat, so why
don’t they simply
rise up & overthrow
How do the capitalists / ruling class make sure everyone
conforms to this new status as subservient or unequal?
From a Marxist perspective,
social institutions like the
mass media play a key role
in shaping our beliefs &
limiting our behaviours, i.e.
brainwashing the proletariat
into seeing their situation as
natural & right, ensuring that
the working class remain
happy despite the inherent
unfairness of the system.
Marx described the situation in which members of the
subordinate classes cannot see that they are being
duped as ‘false consciousness’ - the belief in ideas &
values as truths when in fact they are constructed
ideologies which support the ruling class.
The dominant ideology of a society is the ideology of
the dominant or ruling class.