According to Karl Marx in all stratified societies there are two major social groups: a ruling class and a subject class. The ruling class derives its power from its ownership and control of the forces of production. The ruling class exploits and oppresses the subject class. As a result there is a basic conflict of interest between the two classes. The various institutions of society such as the legal and political system are instruments of ruling class domination and serve to further its interests. Marx believed that western society developed through four main epochs-primitive communism, ancient society, feudal society and capitalist society. Primitive communism is represented by the societies of pre-history and provides the only example of the classless society. From then all societies are divided into two major classes – master and slaves in ancient society, lords and serfs in feudal society and capitalist and wage labourers in capitalist society. Weber sees class in economic terms. He argues that classes develop in market economies in which individuals compete for economic gain. He defines a class as a group of individuals who share a similar position in market economy and by virtue of that fact receive similar economic rewards. Thus a person’s class situation is basically his market situation. Those who share a similar class situation also share similar life chances. Their economic position will directly affect their chances of obtaining those things defined as desirable in their society. Weber argues that the major class division is between those who own the forces of production and those who do not. He distinguished the following class grouping in capitalist society:
The propertied upper class
The property less white collar workers
The petty bourgeoisie
The manual working class.
Talcott Parsons believe that order, stability and cooperation in society are based on value consensus that is a general agreement by members of society concerning what is good and worthwhile. Stratification system derives from common values it follows from the existence of values that individuals will be evaluated and therefore placed in some form of rank order. Stratification is the ranking of units in a social system in accordance with the common value system. Those who perform successfully in terms of society’s values will be ranked highly and they will be likely to receive a variety of rewards and will be accorded high prestige since they exemplify and personify common values. According to Kingsley Davis and Moore stratification exists in every known human society. All social system shares certain functional prerequisites which must be met if the system is to survive and operate efficiently. One such prerequisite is role allocation and performance. This means that all roles must be filled. They will be filled by those best able to perform them. The necessary training for them is undertaken and that the roles are performed conscientiously. Davis and Moore argue that all societies need some mechanism for insuring effective role allocation and performance. This mechanism is social stratification which they see as a system which attaches unequal rewards and privileges to the positions in society. They concluded that social stratification is a device by which societies insure that the most important positions are conscientiously filled by the most qualified persons.
Caste is closely connected with the Hindu philosophy and religion, custom and tradition .It is believed to have had a divine origin and sanction. It is deeply rooted social institution in India. There are more than 2800 castes and sub-castes with all their peculiarities. The term caste is derived from the Spanish word caste meaning breed or lineage. The word caste also signifies race or kind. The Sanskrit word for caste is varna which means colour.The caste stratification of the Indian society had its origin in the chaturvarna system. According to this doctrine the Hindu society was divided into four main varnas – Brahmins, Kashtriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras.The Varna system prevalent during the Vedic period was mainly based on division of labour and occupation. The caste system owns its origin to the Varna system. Ghurye says any attempt to define caste is bound to fail because of the complexity of the phenomenon. According to Risely caste is a collection of families bearing a common name claiming a common descent from a mythical ancestor professing to follow the same hereditary calling and regarded by those who are competent to give an opinion as forming a single homogeneous community. According to Maclver and Page when status is wholly predetermined so that men are born to their lot without any hope of changing it, then the class takes the extreme form of caste. Cooley says that when a class is somewhat strictly hereditary we may call it caste.M.N Srinivas sees caste as a segmentary system. Every caste for him divided into sub castes which are the units of endogamy whose members follow a common occupation, social and ritual life and common culture and whose members are governed by the same authoritative body viz the panchayat.According to Bailey caste groups are united into a system through two principles of segregation and hierarchy. For Dumont caste is not a form of stratification but as a special form of inequality. The major attributes of caste are the hierarchy, the separation and the division of labour.Weber sees caste as the enhancement and transformation of social distance into religious or strictly a magical principle. For Adrian Mayer caste hierarchy is not just determined by economic and political factors although these are important.
Main features of caste system
- Caste system hierarchically divides the society. A sense of highness and lowness or superiority and inferiority is associated with this gradation or ranking. The Brahmins are placed at the top of the hierarchy and are regarded as pure or supreme. The degraded caste or the untouchables have occupied the other end of the hierarchy. The status of an individual is determined by his birth and not by selection nor by accomplishments. Each caste has its own customs, traditions practices and rituals.It has its own informal rules, regulations and procedures. The caste panchayats or the caste councils regulate the conduct of members. The caste system has imposed certain restrictions on the food habitats of the members these differ from caste to caste. In North India Brahmin would accept pakka food only from some castes lower than his own. But he would not accept kachcha food prepared with the use of water at the hands of no other caste except his own. As a matter of rule and practice no individual would accept kachcha food prepared by an inferior casteman.The caste system put restriction on the range of social relations also. The idea of pollution means a touch of lower caste man would pollute or defile a man of higher caste. Even his shadow is considered enough to pollute a higher caste man. The lower caste people suffered from certain socio-religious disabilities. The impure castes are made to live on the outskirts of the city and they are not allowed to draw water from the public wells. In earlier times entrance to temples and other places of religious importance were forbidden to them. Educational facilities, legal rights and political representation were denied to them for a very long time. If the lower castes suffer from certain disabilities some higher caste like the Brahmins enjoy certain privileges like conducting prayers in the temples etc.There is gradation of occupations also. Some occupations are considered superior and sacred while certain others degrading and inferior. For a long time occupations were very much associated with the caste system. Each caste had its own specific occupations which were almost hereditary. There was no scope for individual talent, aptitude, enterprise or abilities. The caste system imposes restrictions on marriage also. Caste is an endogamous group. Each caste is subdivided into certain sub castes which are again endogamous.Intercaste marriages are still looked down upon in the traditional Indian society.
Functions of the caste system
The caste system is credited to ensure the continuity of the traditional social organization of India. It has accommodated multiple communities including invading tribes in the Indian society. The knowledge and skills of the occupations have passed down from one generation to the next. Through subsystems like Jajmani system the caste system promoted interdependent interaction between various castes and communities with in a village. The rituals and traditions promoted cooperation and unity between members of the different castes.
Caste system promoted untouchability and discrimination against certain members of the society. It hindered both horizontal and vertical social mobility forcing an individual to carry on the traditional occupation against his or her will and capacity. The status of women was affected and they were relegated to the background. The caste system divided the society into mutually hostile and conflicting groups and subgroups.
This concept given by M.N Srinivas holds that a caste is dominant when it is numerically higher than the other castes. In the Mysore village he described the peasant Okkalinga composed of nearly half of the population made up of nineteenth jati group. The Okkalinga were the biggest land owner. The chief criteria of domination of a caste are
The dominant caste also wields economic and political power over the other caste groups. It also enjoys a high ritual status in the local caste hierarchy. The dominant caste may not be ritually high but enjoy high status because of wealth, political power and numerical strength. The presence of educated persons and high occupation rate also play an important role in deciding its dominance over other caste groupings. Sometimes a single clan of dominant caste controls a number of villages in areas. The dominant caste settle dispute between persons belonging to their own and other jati.The power of the dominant caste is supported by a norm discouraging village from seeking justice from area,govt official, court or police located outside the village. The members of the dominant caste particularly those from the wealthy and powerful families are representative of this village in dealing with the officials.
Purity and Pollution
The notions of purity and pollution are critical for defining and understanding caste hierarchy. According to these concepts, Brahmins hold the highest rank and Shudras the lowest in the caste hierarchy. The Varna System represents a social stratification which includes four varnas namely- Brahmans, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas and Shudras.The Shudras were allocated the lowest rank of social ladder and their responsibilities included service of the three Varnas. The superior castes tried to maintain their ceremonial purity
Dumont holds the notion of purity and pollution interlinked with the caste system and untouchability.The hierarchy of caste is decided according to the degree of purity and pollution. It plays a very crucial role in maintaining the required distance between different castes. But the pollution distance varies from caste to caste and from place to place.
Dipankar Gupta observes that the notion of purity and pollution as Dumont observed is integrally linked with the institution of untouchability .But unlike untouchability the notion of purity and pollution is also a historical accretion. Over time this notion freed itself from its specific and original task of separating untouchables from the others and began to be operative at different planes of the caste system.
The concept of purity and pollution plays a very crucial role in maintaining the required distance between different castes. But the pollution distance varies from caste to caste and from place to place.
Prof M.N Srinivas introduced the term sanskritization to Indian Sociology. The term refers to a process whereby people of lower castes collectively try to adopt upper caste practices and beliefs to acquire higher status. It indicates a process of cultural mobility that is taking place in the traditional social system of India.M.N Srinivas in his study of the Coorg in Karnataka found that lower castes in order to raise their position in the caste hierarchy adopted some customs and practices of the Brahmins and gave up some of their own which were considered to be impure by the higher castes. For example they gave up meat eating, drinking liquor and animal sacrifice to their deities. They imitiated Brahmins in matters of dress, food and rituals. By this they could claim higher positions in the hierarchy of castes within a generation. The reference group in this process is not always Brahmins but may be the dominant caste of the locality.Sanskritization has occurred usually in groups who have enjoyed political and economic power but were not ranked high in ritual ranking. According to Yogendra Singh the process of sanskritization is an endogenous source of social change .Mackim Marriot observes that sanskritic rites are often added on to non-sanskritic rites without replacing them. Harold Gould writes, often the motive force behind sanskritisation is not of cultural imitation per se but an expression of challenge and revolt against the socioeconomic deprivations.
The class system is universal phenomenon denoting a category or group of persons having a definite status in society which permanently determines their relation to other groups. The social classes are de facto groups (not legally or religiously defined and sanctioned) they are relatively open not closed. Their basis is indisputably economic but they are more than economic groups. They are characteristic groups of the industrial societies which have developed since 17th century. The relative importance and definition of membership in a particular class differs greatly over time and between societies, particularly in societies that have a legal differentiation of groups of people by birth or occupation. In the well-known example of socioeconomic class, many scholars view societies as stratifying into a hierarchical system based on occupation,economic status, wealth, or income.According to Ogburn and Nimkoff a social class is the aggregate of persons having essentially the same social status in a given society. Marx defined class in terms of the extent to which an individual or social group has control over the means of production.In Marxist terms a class is a group of people defined by their relationship to the means of production.Classes are seen to have their origin in the division of the social product into a necessary product and a surplus product. Marxists explain history in terms of a war of classes between those who control production and those who actually produce the goods or services in society (and also developments in technology and the like). In the Marxist view of capitalism this is a conflict between capitalists (bourgeoisie) and wage workers (proletariat). Class antagonism is rooted in the situation that control over social production necessarily entails control over the class which produces goods — in capitalism this is the exploitation of workers by the bourgeoisie. Marx saw class categories as defined by continuing historical processes. Classes, in Marxism, are not static entities, but are regenerated daily through the productive process. Marxism views classes as human social relationships which change over time, with historical commonality created through shared productive processes. A 17th-century farm labourer who worked for day wages shares a similar relationship to production as an average office worker of the 21st century. In this example it is the shared structure of wage labour that makes both of these individuals “working class.”Maclver and Page defines social class as any portion of the community marked off from the rest by social status.Max Weber suggest that social classes are aggregates of individuals who have the same opportunities of acquiring goods, the same exhibited standard of living. He formulated a three component theory of stratification with social, status and party classes (or politics) as conceptually distinct elements.
Social class is based on economic relationship to the market (owner, renter, employee, etc.)
Status class has to do with non-economic qualities such as education, honour and prestige
Party class refers to factors having to do with affiliations in the political domain
According to Weber a more complex division of labour made the class more heterogeneous.In contrast to simple income–property hierarchies, and to structural class schemes like Weber’s or Marx’s, there are theories of class based on other distinctions, such as culture or educational attainment. At times, social class can be related to elitism and those in the higher class are usually known as the “social elite”.For example, Bourdieu seems to have a notion of high and low classes comparable to that of Marxism, insofar as their conditions are defined by different habitus, which is in turn defined by different objectively classifiable conditions of existence. In fact, one of the principal distinctions Bourdieu makes is a distinction between bourgeoisie taste and the working class taste.Social class is a segment of society with all the members of all ages and both the sexes who share the same general status.Maclver says whenever social intercourse is limited by the consideration of social status by distinctions between higher and lower there exists a social class.
Characteristics of Social Class
A social class is essentially a status group. Class is related to status. Different statuses arise in a society as people do different things, engage in different activities and pursue different vocations. Status in the case of class system is achieved and not ascribed. Birth is not the criterion of status. Achievements of an individual mostly decide his status. Class is almost universal phenomenon. It occurs in all the modern complex societies of the world. Each social class has its own status in the society. Status is associated with prestige. The relative position of the class in the social set up arises from the degree of prestige attached to the status. A social class is relatively a stable group. A social class is distinguished from other classes by its customary modes of behaviour.This is often referred to as the life-styles of a particular class. It includes mode of dress, kind of living the means of recreation and cultural products one is able to enjoy, the relationship between parent and children. Life-styles reflect the specialty in preferences, tastes and values of a class. Social classes are open- groups. They represent an open social system. An open class system is one in which vertical social mobility is possible. The basis of social classes is mostly economic but they are not mere economic groups or divisions. Subjective criteria such as class- consciousness, class solidarity and class identification on the on hand and the objective criteria such as wealth, property, income, education and occupation on the other hand are equally important in the class system. Class system is associated with class consciousness. It is a sentiment that characterizes the relations of men towards the members of their own and other classes. It consists in the realization of a similarity of attitude and behavior with members of other classes.
Sociologists have given three-fold classification of classes which consists of – upper class, middle class and lower class.Sorokin has spoken of three major types of class stratification -they are economic, political and occupational classes. Lloyd Warner shows how class distinctions contribute to social stability.Veblen analyzed the consumption pattern of the rich class by the concept of conspicuous consumption. Warner has classified classes into six types- upper-upper class, upper-middle class, upper-lower class, lower-upper class, the lower middle class and lower class. Anthony Giddens’s three class model is the upper, middle and lower (working) class.
William H Wiser introduced the term Jajmani system in the vocabulary of Indian sociology through his book The Hindu Jajmani system where he described in detail how different caste group interact with each other in the production and exchange of goods and services. In different parts of India different terms are used to describe this economic interaction among the castes for example in Maharashtra the term Balutadar is used. However in sociological literature jajmani system has come to be accepted as a general term to describe the economic interaction between the castes at the village level. This system is also a ritual system concerned with the aspects of purity and pollution as with economic aspects. It functions so that the highest caste remains pure while the lowest castes absorb pollution from them. Villages are composed of number of jatis each having its occupational speciality.Jajmani system is essentially an agriculture based system of production and distribution of goods and services. Through jajmani relations these occupational jatis get linked with the land owning dominant caste. The jajmani system operates around the families belonging to the land owning dominant caste the numbers of which are called jajmans.The land owning caste occupy a privileged position in the jajmani relations. The interaction between occupational castes and the land owning castes take place within the framework of non-reciprocal and asymmetrical type of relations. The land owning castes maintain a paternalistic attitude of superiority towards their occupational castes that are called Kamins in North India. The term Kamin means one who works for somebody or serves him.
In terms of Karl Polanyi’s classification of exchange system -Jajmani exchange can be termed as redistributive system of exchange. The Functionalist view of jajmani system regards it as the basis of self-sufficiency, unity, harmony and stability in the village community. However the Marxist scholars hold a very different opinion. They regard the jajmani system as essentially exploitative, characterized by a latent conflict of interest which could not crystallize due to the prevalent social setup. Thus if in future the conditions of the lower caste improve an open conflict between the lower and upper caste is inevitable. Oscar Lewis who studied Rampur village near Delhi and Biedelmn has been critical of the Jajmani system which they regard as exploitative. According to them the members of occupational jatis are largely landless labourers and have no resources to wage a struggle against the dominant caste out of the compulsion of the need for survival. They succumb to all injustice perpetuated by the landowning dominant caste who enjoy both economic and political power. Scholars like Berreman, Harold Gould and Pauline Kolenda etc accept that there is an element of truth in both the functionalist and Marxist views of the jajmani system. They believe that consensus and harmony as well as conflict and exploitation are prevalent in the village society. According to Dumont jajmani system makes use of hereditary personal relationships to express the division of labour.This system is a ritual expression rather than just an economic arrangement.S.C Dube refers to the system as corresponding to the presentation and counter presentation by which castes as a whole are bound together in a village which is more or less universal in nature. Leach believes that the system maintains and regulates the division of labour and economic interdependence of castes.
Karl Marx’s (1818- 1883) thought was strongly influenced by:
The dialectical method and historical orientation of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel;
The classical political economy of Adam Smith and David Ricardo;
French socialist and sociological thought, in particular the thought of Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
The most important concepts of Karl Marx
The following concepts of Marx have aided sociological thought significantly;
Materialistic Interpretation of History i.e Historical Materialism
Class and Class conflict
Marx believed that he could study history and society scientifically and discern tendencies of history and the resulting outcome of social conflicts. Some followers of Marx concluded, therefore, that a communist revolution is inevitable. However, Marx famously asserted in the eleventh of his Theses on Feuerbach that “philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point however is to change it”, and he clearly dedicated himself to trying to alter the world. Consequently, most followers of Marx are not fatalists, but activists who believe that revolutionaries must organize social change.
Marx’s view of history, which came to be called the materialist conception of history (and which was developed further as the philosophy of dialectical materialism) is certainly influenced by Hegel’s claim that reality (and history) should be viewed dialectically. Hegel believed that the direction of human history is characterized in the movement from the fragmentary toward the complete and the real (which was also a movement towards greater and greater rationality). Sometimes, Hegel explained, this progressive unfolding of the Absolute involves gradual, evolutionary accretion but at other times requires discontinuous, revolutionary leaps – episodal upheavals against the existing status quo. For example, Hegel strongly opposed the ancient institution of legal slavery that was practiced in the United States during his lifetime, and he envisioned a time when Christian nations would radically eliminate it from their civilization. While Marx accepted this broad conception of history, Hegel was an idealist, and Marx sought to rewrite dialectics in materialist terms. He wrote that Hegelianism stood the movement of reality on its head, and that it was necessary to set it upon its feet. (Hegel’s philosophy remained and remains in direct opposition to Marxism on this key point.)
Marx’s acceptance of this notion of materialist dialectics which rejected Hegel’s idealism was greatly influenced by Ludwig Feuerbach. In The Essence of Christianity, Feuerbach argued that God is really a creation of man and that the qualities people attribute to God are really qualities of humanity. Accordingly, Marx argued that it is the material world that is real and that our ideas of it are consequences, not causes, of the world. Thus, like Hegel and other philosophers, Marx distinguished between appearances and reality. But he did not believe that the material world hides from us the “real” world of the ideal; on the contrary, he thought that historically and socially specific ideologies prevented people from seeing the material conditions of their lives clearly.
The other important contribution to Marx’s revision of Hegelianism was Engels’ book, The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844, which led Marx to conceive of the historical dialectic in terms of class conflict and to see the modern working class as the most progressive force for revolution.The notion of labour is fundamental in Marx’s thought. Basically, Marx argued that it is human nature to transform nature, and he calls this process of transformation “labour” and the capacity to transform nature labour power. For Marx, this is a natural capacity for a physical activity, but it is intimately tied to the human mind and human imagination:A spider conducts operations that resemble those of a weaver, and a bee puts to shame many an architect in the construction of her cells. But what distinguishes the worst architect from the best of bees is this, that the architect raises his structure in imagination before he erects it in reality. (Capital, Vol. I, Chap. 7, Pt. 1) Karl Marx inherits that Hegelian dialectic and, with it, a disdain for the notion of an underlying invariant human nature. Sometimes Marxists express their views by contrasting “nature” with “history”. Sometimes they use the phrase “existence precedes consciousness”. The point, in either case, is that who a person is, is determined by where and when he is – social context takes precedence over innate behavior; or, in other words, one of the main features of human nature is adaptability. Marx did not believe that all people worked the same way, or that how one works is entirely personal and individual. Instead, he argued that work is a social activity and that the conditions and forms under and through which people work are socially determined and change over time.Marx’s analysis of history is based on his distinction between the means / forces of production, literally those things, such as land, natural resources, and technology, that are necessary for the production of material goods, and the relations of production, in other words, the social and technical relationships people enter into as they acquire and use the means of production. Together these comprise the mode of production; Marx observed that within any given society the mode of production changes, and that European societies had progressed from a feudal mode of production to a capitalist mode of production. In general, Marx believed that the means of production change more rapidly than the relations of production (for example, we develop a new technology, such as the Internet, and only later do we develop laws to regulate that technology). For Marx this mismatch between (economic) base and (social) superstructure is a major source of social disruption and conflict. Marx understood the “social relations of production” to comprise not only relations among individuals, but between or among groups of people, or classes. As a scientist and materialist, Marx did not understand classes as purely subjective (in other words, groups of people who consciously identified with one another). He sought to define classes in terms of objective criteria, such as their access to resources. For Marx, different classes have divergent interests, which is another source of social disruption and conflict. Conflict between social classes being something which is inherent in all human history:The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles. (The Communist Manifesto, Chap. 1)
Marx was especially concerned with how people relate to that most fundamental resource of all, their own labour-power. Marx wrote extensively about this in terms of the problem of alienation. As with the dialectic, Marx began with a Hegelian notion of alienation but developed a more materialist conception. For Marx, the possibility that one may give up ownership of one’s own labour – one’s capacity to transform the world – is tantamount to being alienated from one’s own nature; it is a spiritual loss. Marx described this loss in terms of commodity fetishism, in which the things that people produce, commodities, appear to have a life and movement of their own to which humans and their behavior merely adapt. This disguises the fact that the exchange and circulation of commodities really are the product and reflection of social relationships among people. Under capitalism, social relationships of production, such as among workers or between workers and capitalists, are mediated through commodities, including labor, that are bought and sold on the market.
Commodity fetishism is an example of what Engels called false consciousness, which is closely related to the understanding of ideology. By ideology they meant ideas that reflect the interests of a particular class at a particular time in history, but which are presented as universal and eternal. Marx and Engels’ point was not only that such beliefs are at best half-truths; they serve an important political function. Put another way, the control that one class exercises over the means of production includes not only the production of food or manufactured goods; it includes the production of ideas as well (this provides one possible explanation for why members of a subordinate class may hold ideas contrary to their own interests). Thus, while such ideas may be false, they also reveal in coded form some truth about political relations. For example, although the belief that the things people produce are actually more productive than the people who produce them is literally absurd, it does reflect the fact (according to Marx and Engels) that people under capitalism are alienated from their own labour-power. Another example of this sort of analysis is Marx’s understanding of religion, summed up in a passage from the preface to his 1843 Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right: Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people. Whereas his Gymnasium senior thesis argued that the primary social function of religion was to promote solidarity, here Marx sees the social function as a way of expressing and coping with social inequality, thereby maintaining the status quo. Marx argued that this alienation of human work (and resulting commodity fetishism) is precisely the defining feature of capitalism. Prior to capitalism, markets existed in Europe where producers and merchants bought and sold commodities. According to Marx, a capitalist mode of production developed in Europe when labor itself became a commodity – when peasants became free to sell their own labor-power, and needed to do so because they no longer possessed their own land or tools necessary to produce. People sell their labor-power when they accept compensation in return for whatever work they do in a given period of time (in other words, they are not selling the product of their labor, but their capacity to work). In return for selling their labor power they receive money, which allows them to survive. Those who must sell their labor power to live are “proletarians.” The person who buys the labor power, generally someone who does own the land and technology to produce, is a “capitalist” or “bourgeois.” (Marx considered this an objective description of capitalism, distinct from any one of a variety of ideological claims of or about capitalism). The proletarians inevitably outnumber the capitalists.
Marx distinguished industrial capitalists from merchant capitalists. Merchants buy goods in one place and sell them in another; more precisely, they buy things in one market and sell them in another. Since the laws of supply and demand operate within given markets, there is often a difference between the price of a commodity in one market and another. Merchants, then, practice arbitrage, and hope to capture the difference between these two markets. According to Marx, capitalists, on the other hand, take advantage of the difference between the labor market and the market for whatever commodity is produced by the capitalist. Marx observed that in practically every successful industry input unit-costs are lower than output unit-prices. Marx called the difference “surplus value” and argued that this surplus value had its source in surplus labour.
The capitalist mode of production is capable of tremendous growth because the capitalist can, and has an incentive to, reinvest profits in new technologies. Marx considered the capitalist class to be the most revolutionary in history, because it constantly revolutionized the means of production. But Marx argued that capitalism was prone to periodic crises. He suggested that over time, capitalists would invest more and more in new technologies, and less and less in labor. Since Marx believed that surplus value appropriated from labor is the source of profits, he concluded that the rate of profit would fall even as the economy grew. When the rate of profit falls below a certain point, the result would be a recession or depression in which certain sectors of the economy would collapse. Marx understood that during such a crisis the price of labor would also fall, and eventually make possible the investment in new technologies and the growth of new sectors of the economy.
Marx believed that this cycle of growth, collapse, and growth would be punctuated by increasingly severe crises. Moreover, he believed that the long-term consequence of this process was necessarily the enrichment and empowerment of the capitalist class and the impoverishment of the proletariat. He believed that were the proletariat to seize the means of production, they would encourage social relations that would benefit everyone equally, and a system of production less vulnerable to periodic crises. In general, Marx thought that peaceful negotiation of this problem was impracticable, and that a massive, well-organized and violent revolution would in general be required, because the ruling class would not give up power without violence. He theorized that to establish the socialist system, a dictatorship of the proletariat – a period where the needs of the working-class, not of capital, will be the common deciding factor – must be created on a temporary basis. As he wrote in his “Critique of the Gotha Program”, “between capitalist and communist society there lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. Corresponding to this is also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.”
In the 1920s and ’30s, a group of dissident Marxists founded the Institute for Social Research in Germany, among them Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, Erich Fromm, and Herbert Marcuse. As a group, these authors are often called the Frankfurt School. Their work is known as Critical Theory, a type of Marxist philosophy and cultural criticism heavily influenced by Hegel, Freud, Nietzsche, and Max Weber.The Frankfurt School broke with earlier Marxists, including Lenin and Bolshevism in several key ways. First, writing at the time of the ascendance of Stalinism and Fascism, they had grave doubts as to the traditional Marxist concept of proletarian class consciousness. Second, unlike earlier Marxists, especially Lenin, they rejected economic determinism. While highly influential, their work has been criticized by both orthodox Marxists and some Marxists involved in political practice for divorcing Marxist theory from practical struggle and turning Marxism into a purely academic enterprise.Other influential non-Bolshevik Marxists at that time include Georg Lukacs, Walter Benjamin and Antonio Gramsci, who along with the Frankfurt School are often known by the term Western Marxism. Henryk Grossman, who elaborated the mathematical basis of Marx’s ‘law of capitalist breakdown’, was another affiliate of the Frankfurt School. Also prominent during this period was the Polish revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg.In 1949 Paul Sweezy and Leo Huberman founded Monthly Review, a journal and press, to provide an outlet for Marxist thought in the United States independent of the Communist Party.In 1978, G. A. Cohen attempted to defend Marx’s thought as a coherent and scientific theory of history by reconstructing it through the lens of analytic philosophy. This gave birth to Analytical Marxism, an academic movement which also included Jon Elster, Adam Przeworski and John Roemer. Bertell Ollman is another Anglophone champion of Marx within the academy