Karl Marx Theories on Class System

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Karl Marx was one of the most influential social thinkers and scholars of the 19th century in Germany. He was a revolutionist, a historian, and an economist also. The world knows him as the architect of socialism and the champion of communism.

Early Life of Karl Marx

Karl Marx was born on May 5, 1815, in the Rhenish city of Trier in Germany. He was the eldest son of his parents. His father was a lawyer.

Early Education

Karl Marx got his early education at his birthplace, Trier. He took the degree of law from Berlin University in 1836. In 1841, he did Ph.D. from the University of Jena. He started his career as a journalist.

Karl Marx as Theoretician

Karl Marx proposed his “Theory of Scientific Communism” with the help of his friend, Engels. He also discovered “Theory of Surplus Value” and “The theory of Alienation”. These theories enjoyed great economic and sociopolitical significance.

Theories of Karl Marx

The theories of Karl Marx about the class system are the following

  • Social Class Theory
  • Theory of Class Conflict or Class Struggle
  • Theory of Classless society

1. Theory of Social Class

What does social class mean?

In the views of Karl Marx, Social class means the presence of economic differentiation among the members of society. It must be noted that social class is not determined by the occupation or income of someone but is determined by the position, an individual enjoys in a particular society. 

For example, suppose there are two persons in a factory of whom one is the owner of the factory while the other is a paid worker, they belong to two different classes.

Types of social class

According to Karl Marx, there are two classes that exist in society. 

1. Dominant Class

The class that owns and controls the means of production in factories is called Dominant Class. For example, Feudal Landowners.

2. Sub-Ordinate Class

The class that works for themselves to earn their living is called Sub-Ordinate Class. For example, slaves and laborers.

Relationship between the two classes

There is a close relationship between these two classes. There is a relationship of exploitation also along with dominance and subordination.

The workers (subordinate class) work for the Owners (dominant class) and produce wealth in the form of food, products, and services for them. But they are unable to enjoy their own work.

On the other hand, the dominant class exploits this situation and uses it for their benefit.

2. Theory of Class Conflict

Conflict theory was first proposed by Karl Marx. According to this theory, society is in a continuous state of perpetual conflict because of competition for limited resources.

Origin of class conflict theory

The concept of class conflict came from his famous book “The Communist Manifesto” in 1848. The first sentence of the book is as follows:

“The history of the hitherto existing society is the history of the class struggles. A free man and a slave, patrician and plebin, lord and self-guided master, the oppressor and the oppressed always stood to one another.”

It is evident from the above passage that there existed a war between the classes at every stage in history.

The war between the two classes

Marx says that the High Profile class in society exploits the lower class and it is the tradition everywhere in the world. 

  • The capitalist class uses the state as an instrument of oppression and exploitation.
  • The owners exploit the workers

And thus every exploiting class gives rise to an opposite class.

3. Theory of classless society

What is a classless society?

A classless society means a society in which the classes with opposing interests are not found. It means that the classes like land-owners and the landless, Freemen and laves, the rich and the poor, capitalists and the laborers, and the exploiters and the exploited are not present in a classless society. 

Views of Karl Marx about a classless society

Karl Marx says that such a society has never existed in the past. He further said that these classes had been in existence since the very beginning of history.

He wanted to establish a society possessing the values of equality and social coherence. His aim was to develop a classless society in which there will be no concept of exploitation.

Read More: Theories of Emile Durkheim

Final Note

It is concluded that there exist two classes in every society in the world. One is the Dominant class and the other is the Working class. The dominant class exploits the other class using different techniques. Karl Marx has explained the nature of these two classes and revealed the fact that the class system is present in every society.