Wednesday, June 27, 2007
To be able to understand capitalism among other modes of production and social systems, it is important to analyze social class, class structures and the struggles therein through which Karl Marx defined history. Classes are engendered by relations regarding work and labor, and property ownership and the means of production. In capitalism, the main classes compose of the bourgeoisie, or the capitalists who buy and exploit labor power, the surplus from whose employment is used to expand their capital, and the proletariat, the owner of the labor power without resources or property and, therefore, the exploited employee. These classes' relationship is oppressive by nature because the capitalists keep the wages low in order to amass more capital while they use the workers' force in acquiring surpluses that the proletariat themselves produced. This labor process hinders workers from owning property and repeats the exploitative conditions. The conflict of class interest creates proletariat oppression which begs for emancipation and a renewal of social systems.
Meanwhile, the Marxist definition of class differs from that of Max Weber's. Whereas Marx classifies social groups as mainly the owner of the means of production and the seller of labor power whose antagonistic relationship begs for a change in capitalism, Weber defines social groups as being in the sphere of power and linked to the distribution of power. Since power may be practiced in various ways, these classes' organization may not be limited to a single determinant like ownership (or the lack thereof) of the means of production. Weber asserts that the class structure characterizes pluralism through the people's struggle to attain their goals with different means, which generate a grouping like class, status or party. The stratification of the society is characterized by multiple and overlapping layers and groups associated with a complex from of social relationships.
In my assessment of the different ways by which Marx and Weber define class, both definitions involve power struggles among the classes. For Marx, the owner of the means of production wields the power while the proletariat are denied of this power because their wages are low such that they cannot have ownership and are left with no choice but sell their labor power to the capitalists. On the other hand, the sphere of power according to Weber creates social inequality when the communal action of men struggling to fulfill their goal clashes but miserably gets defeated by that of others against whose struggle theirs is in direct resistance. As a result, the society gets stratified and empowered classes rule over the powerless ones.