Karl Marx and His Marxist Theory

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The correct method, technique or procedure of acquiring knowledge and knowing if certain knowledge in a specific field or interest is in fact exactly what it is said to be has always and will always be a difficult aspect to confirm. What we know plays a huge part in the way we view the world, react to certain situation and events and very importantly how we as humans behave in general.

There have been many research’s done to try and determine what the correct way of acquiring knowledge is. Many philosophers have indeed tried to come up with different types of methods to conquer this so-called puzzle in life, but none have been one hundred percent accurate and correct. Many paradigms and theories have come, been tested, falsified and some even rejected over the many centuries that men seem to have been existing.

So, because of this uncertainty, humans have had to adapt to changes as the world evolves through technology. However how does one trust what is said to be? Do we trust the natural or social science side of acquiring knowledge? The following essay will look at just some of the many paradigms and perspectives that have been in the history as part of how one can be educated. After all, the acquiring of knowledge is education.

In the world we live in there are many reasons that one can find to explain certain behaviours, Karl Marx (1818- 1883), who studied philosophy and considered himself a political activist but also developed many ideas important to sociology thought that human nature is basically harmonious, but it is corrupted by the advance of civilization, which led to human competition and conflict, (Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, 1948).

This basically means that as humans, we all have a great desire to have economic stability so that we may have a civilised and respectable life. It is basically everyone for himself and everyone wants to make sure that they are well looked after. This is probably what led Marx and Engels to discover the issue of inequality especially in the human economic environment. Karl Marx together with Frederick Engels were the core engineers behind the Marxism theory, which is the name for a set of political and economic ideas.

The core ideas are that the world is divided into classes, there are workers and the richer capitalists who exploit the workers, there is a class conflict that should ultimately result in socialism (workers own means of production), and then communism (stateless, classless society), ( “Marxism”, n.d). Marx developed what he called the “Base and Superstructure model” where he basically points out that the economy was the foundation of society and is then followed by the superstructure which included education, family, and religion society etc.

He believed that this is where people behaviour is formed. Marx believed that capitalists have a huge impact on the behaviour of the workers as they are the ones that determine the reward for their own work, even though capitalist did not work physically but owned the means of production, Marx realised that the bourgeois (owners) had complete control on how workers lived they lives as they were dependant on them.

According to Engels (1884), the first division of labour is that between man and woman for child breeding… by thus he meant everything started off with family needs, men needing to feed their families therefore had no choice but to find employment. The women would then need to take care of their husbands by cooking. ironing and most importantly breeding children for them who would at a later stage become part of the working class.

The kids would go to school to get education and this is where Marxists believed the working class was programmed to be workers in society. The kids were basically taught to become servants of the capitalists at school through the curriculum. The bourgeois made it a point to put emphasis of the importance of education in working class family’s so that they may end up being taught exactly what they need to know in order to produce and reproduce the working class. They called this the clap trap because it sorts of instilled a certain ideology and belief in family’s and worked perfectly for the capitalists.

Once these ideologies were instilled in the workers, they had to be maintained so that the working class can continue reproducing capitalism. Antonio Gramsci came up with what he called the “spheres of society” which basically pointed out two societies that were responsible to reproduce capitalism. The first sphere he called the “Political Society “which was to maintain the ideological control of the society through force eg police force, army and hedgimony, which is when people participate through ideology (moral, culture, values). They make decisions through what they see and are surrounded by.

An example of hegemony would be where in different cultures people are told to perform certain rituals otherwise, they would be punished by the “gods” or “ancestors”. The problem came when there would be a counter hegemonic struggle, which is when the oppressed become aware that they are being exploited and struggle to accept the conditions of their own consented exploitation.

As a result, this would create two types of wars in society. Namely the “war of attack” which involved physical fighting through guns and use of military equipment. The second war was the “war of position” where people struggled in accepting certain ideas and beliefs and therefore there would be a need to create new hegemony’s. The second sphere was the civil society, where control of the society was done through consent e.g education.

Bowls and Gintus identified the education sector as a key to ideological practices in schools. Straight forward lessons on how to behave at schools through the rules of the school, the daily timetable that were given to kids and many other aspects were set up purposely to reproduce future workers for the economic workplace. However, as stated these were straight forward, obvious lessons which are very different to what “ Bowls and Gintus called the “hidden curriculum.” This was the way the school curricular was set up and delivered at school, which contributed a lot in preparing learners for the work force. They were not directly visible unless one had a clear understanding of hegemony.

When the working class realised that they were under oppression through domination of ruling party or even through ideology and political domination, when they became aware that they were being exploited from their own work, the struggle of exploitation and struggle of oppression became the results according to another Marxists terminology called “the dialectics of class struggle”. Many theorists became part of the Marxist theory including Loiue Althusser who also had terms of his own when it came to means of reproduction of the labour power of worker.

At the end of the day, the Marxists all believed that the ontology was the economy, that everything started with the economy and that is how the epistemology was obtained, Marxists believed that knowledge was created through the economy and that is what shaped the world.

The issue with most theories comes in when one reduces the point of thought to just one direction of reasoning. That is why the Frankfurt school of thoughts partly agreed to Marxism. They critiqued Marxism as it only reduced the acquiring of knowledge to the economic side. The Frankfurt school of thought did agree with Marxism that culture and ideology formed part of the exchange of commodities and society but they got particularly interested in the “ the alienation and diminution of humanity produced by capitalists” (brookfield, p8). Did those not play roles in knowledge, education, and human behaviour?

Basically, what the Frankfurt school of thought tried to put emphasis on was the fact that human mind was not only influenced by money and the economy. People were individuals of their own and had a mind of their own, I’d like to believe that they critiqued the fact that Marxism reduced human capability of autonomous thinking. The workers came from different backgrounds and yes survival was a concern, but workers also had their own values, morals and beliefs and that is what critical thinking was focusing on.

Critical theory highlights that there are many viewpoints in social interests and not just the economic view as per Marxism. Ontologically, reality in the critical research paradigm is described within a political, cultural, historical, and economic context. Mertens (2008: 74-75) states that the “transformative emancipatory ontology assumption holds that there are diversities of viewpoints with regard to many social realities but that these viewpoints need to be placed within political, cultural, historical, and economic value system to understand the basis for the differences.”

Epistemologically, the critical theory researchers emphasize the importance of the interactive relation between the researcher and the participants and the impact of social and historical factors that influence them. Mertens (Ibid; 99) holds that the “interaction between the researchers and the participants is essential and requires a level of trust and understanding to accurately represent viewpoints of all groups fairly.


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Karl Marx and His Marxist Theory. (2021, Jun 28). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/karl-marx-and-his-marxist-theory/

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