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Marxism

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Marxism

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  1. Marxism www.educationforum.co.uk

  2. Essential Ideas • Society is ruled by those who control the means of production – the economic base • Power is therefore held by the owning class (bourgeoisie) who dominate and exploit the working class (proletariat). These are the only 2 classes in society – you are either one or the other! • Proletarian obedience in an unfair system is achieved both through force and through ideological power with the creation of ‘false consciousness’ by the superstructure.

  3. Base and Superstructure

  4. Early Marxists • Karl Marx and Frederick Engels wrote on the mid 19th century – a time of industrialisation – poor working conditions, low pay, exploitation, shot miserable lives for workers • In his Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts (1844) Marx wrote about how labour is ‘alienated’ from its true purpose of better the world better by capitalism. Instead of being creative and put to positive tasks labour is made to undertake boring, repetitive tasks for the profit of the capitalists • Labour makes profits which are reinvested in new ways to exploit and degrade workers and their labour. ‘money is the alienated essence of man’s labour and life and that alienated essence dominates him as he worships it’

  5. Capitalism • Marxists define capitalism as ‘commodity production’. A commodity being an item produced for sale in a market place. • Marxists oppose capitalism because they see it as anti social – workers get exploited via the wages system, and goods and services are only produced if they can be sold for profits • The motivation for production is therefore ‘greed’ rather than ‘need’ • There is an essential conflict in capitalist society between owners and workers • Political Marxists suggest that eventually this conflict will lead to proletarian consciousness leading to communist revolution. • Power in capitalist society (both force and ideological power) is therefore deployed by the bourgeoisie to make sure such revolution does NOT happen and that existing capitalist system is reproduced and perpetuated. • Capitalism is seen by Marxists as the latest economic system in history – earlier systems such as feudalism were brought down by class conflict as will capitalism eventually. The struggle between classes is seen as the motor which drives history forwards.

  6. Criticisms of Marxism • Determinism – Marxism sees economics as the determinant of everything in society and everything in history • Capitalism has not developed in the ways Marx predicted – the class structure is more complex than the two class model offered – the distribution of power in society could therefore also be more complex • Contradictory? Revolutionary consciousness and false consciousness – early Marxists suggested that the experience of capitalism (low wages, long hours and exploitation) would result in the working class becoming conscious and revolutionary. Later Marxists have emphasised the role of the superstructure creating ‘false consciousness’ amongst the workers leading to the working class accepting and consenting to the capitalist system as natural and desirable.

  7. Education • Education is seen as part of the apparatus that legitimises and reproduces societies inequalities and divisions – the Superstructure • In “Schooling in Capitalist society” Bowles and Gintis claim that schools reward conformity over intelligence and achievement • In their study of American high school students they found that the best grades were achieved by hard working obedient children rather than the creative, aggressive and independent ones • They also noted that schooling “corresponds” with boring factory line production to prepare future workers for their lot in society

  8. Education • Louis Althusser sees the role of education as ideological. • Capitalist values are promoted via the hidden curriculum (informal learning) • Althusser argue working class children never come into contact with ways of thinking that challenge the status quo. Capitalism is thus portrayed as the only possible system • Through rules, routines streaming and selection working class children learn their “place” in society and are conditioned to accept failure

  9. Family • Frederick Engels - The monogamous bourgeois nuclear family developed to help solve the problem of the inheritance of private property – men needed to know who their children were in order to pass on their property to their heirs • The family is therefore designed to control women and protect property

  10. Family • The bourgeois nuclear family emerged with capitalism • It is patriachical – it is designed to guarantee and perpetuate male power through the inheritance of property • It socialises the next generation of workers to be obedient and compliant • It serves as a ‘safety valve’ for male aggression which is never directed at the system itself • It therefore serves the interests of capitalism Modern studies – Zaretsky (1976) emphasises the importance to capitalism of the unpaid labour of housewives Ansley (1972) – safety valve – family stabilises angry and frustrated male behaviour

  11. Culture • Culture is little more than Ruling class ideology – working class culture is seen as ‘false consciousness’ • Althusser – ideological power of education • Gramsci – ‘bourgeois hegemony’ – complete ideological domination of society via the Superstructure – however elements of opposition to bourgeois culture still remain in working class culture – e.g. Paul Willis – ‘the lads’

  12. The State and Power “The State is but a committee for managing the affairs of the whole bourgeoisie” (Communist Manifesto 1848) State means of oppression – police, courts, army protect bourgeois property and power State always acts in the interests of the bourgeoisie Examples – Miliband (instrumentalist), Poulantzas (struturalist), Gramsci (hegemonic) Power – there is a fixed amount of Power in society and the bourgeoisie have it all (zero sum model)