5.5 Class Struggle



so far I have not yet spoken about that one word with which Marx became an inescapable presence in the science of sociology now I do not mean the word capitalism or the word alienation not even the word revolution for us sociologists Marx is the man who gave us the word Klaus he must have picked it up again in left-wing intellectual circles in Paris when he was living there in the 40s of the 19th century with his wife Jenny one of the big themes in sociology is social inequality especially social stratification the formation of a social ladder a classification from low to high it is interesting to observe that everywhere in the world people associate poverty bed education like of power poor living conditions with standing low on an imaginary leather and high salary excellent education a life of luxury with being on the highest rungs of that ladder maybe that high-low metaphor is universally convincing because everybody experiences in their childhood that adults who are taller than children have more money to spend they know more they are more powerful anyway in theories of social stratification we use terms like cost or a state or social layer but Marx introduced the term that has become a household world in social sciences and also in the political arena and in everyday life language class most people are not reminded of Karl Marx anymore when for example they read in the newspapers that a new class of very poor people seems to be growing in the urban ghettos of the modern metropolitan cities but it is interesting that the problem is framed in the Marxian terminology using that word class in his more journalistic articles Marx sometimes discerned many different classes but in his theoretical texts he reduced all those different classes to two basic classes and those two classes are not only the two most important classes they are also the two classes that remain intact when capitalism reaches its final phase the middle class will disappear some of the members of the middle class will be able to move into the dominant class most people in the middle classes will tumble down into the class of the oppressed and the dominated two classes on the one hand there is a class of people who do not own the means of production factories the machinery in the factories so they are forced to sell the only thing that they own and that is their ability to work their labor power on the other hand we see a class of people who do own the means of production who are the captains of industry controlling the new enormous industrial plants that have come to dominate the outskirts of the modern cities those entrepreneurs do not have to sell their labor power they can hire the labor power of those other property less men and women and again marks used French words that he may have heard during his years in Paris to give names to those two opposing classes the factory workers are called Lolita the proletariat the capitalists are called the bourgeoisie the bourgeoisie it is a relatively simple to class model rooted in the economic position of its members one class receives wages the other class lives off the surplus value that they extract from the working class you may be surprised by the praise that marks heaps upon the heads of the members of the bourgeoisie in the first pages of the communist manifesto in early capitalism marx says they were the ones to blow away all traditional institutions that hindered progress they are adventurous they take risk they brought us modernity they created the possibility of enormous wealth but under conditions of high capitalism this bourgeoisie class now makes its profits mainly by exploiting the members of the working class if those proletarians do not accept the long working days or the low wages they are told and maybe in a very friendly way well maybe you should look out for a better job elsewhere there are no slaves there are no serves they can look out for a better job they can negotiate about their remuneration well marx says that is all a big lie in actual fact the modern proletarian has less freedom than a slave in antiquity and that is because there is never enough work so in front of the gates of the factory we see this large group of unemployed and hungry people who are willing to do anything to get a job Marx calls it the reserve army of workers for every discontented worker that leaves the plant there are 10 men or women or children who are willing to work for very long days and for very low wages so the workers have no bargaining power and that is the reason why they can be exploited which means that the value that they create for the entrepreneurs is superior to the value of the wages that they receive they have no alternative but to give this surplus value away with nothing in return




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