Assess the contribution of Marxism to our understanding of society. (33 marks) 15 marks – A01 – Knowledge and understanding 9 marks – AO2 – Interpretation and Application 9 marks – A02 – Analysis and Evaluation – unpick and discuss issues. Introduction Acknowledge that there are a number of different sociological theories which attempt to help us to understand society. These range from functionalism and Marxism through to Postmodernism. Briefly explain what the essay will be focusing on – use wording in the title. Very briefly say something broad about Marxist theory. For example it stems from the work of Karl Marx and is a conflict theory, viewing society as being made up of two main social classes who have a conflictual relationship. Section 1 Outline Marxist views on how society works, eg society being made up of 2 main social classes both with inherent conflict of interests. Society organised into 2 interdependent parts. Working class do not challenge because they are socialised into ruling class ideology. Eventual revolution and class consciousness due to polarisation of the classes. Outline the problems with Marxist theory and any good points Problems include – Marx’s predictions have not come true, polarization of the classes has not happened, the living standards of almost everyone in Western societies has improved. Also in communist societies such as China the continuing extreme inequalities casts doubt on Marx’s ideas. Classical Marxism over emphasizes the level of conflict in society, functionalists argue society is basically stable. Neo- Marxists argue that institutions do not always transmit ruling class ideology. Good points It recognizes the importance of society’s social structure and how this can shape social behaviour. Its focus on private ownership of the means of production provides an explanation for extreme social inequalities in wealth, income and power that persist in contemporary society. Section 2 Explain that although Marxism has made a positive contribution to helping us understand society, there are other important theories which challenge Marxist ideas such as Functionalism Say how Functionalism challenges Marxism. Give a couple of criticisms, overdeterministic and assumes that people internalise societies norms and values when in fact they may well reject them. Section 3 Introduce Social Action theory/interactionism and explain how it challenges Marxism, ie does not see behaviour as being determined by the structure or organization of society. Give a few criticisms. Section 4 Introduce Postmodernism and say how it challenges Marxism. Presupposes that there is one set of truths, eg that people’s behaviour is determined by social class and that there is a single way in which people achieve their potential, eg free engagement with the world around them. They see truth as relative and old social structures having little influence on people’s identities. Conclusion Marxism has contributed to our understanding of society to an extent, but there are a number of problems associated with Marxist theory as highlighted above and other theories provide valid counterarguments about how society is structured and organized, thus it has to be acknowledged that Marxism is simply one theory among many which is committed to a particular ideological view on society. Other theories are equally important and cannot be ignored in any analysis of society.