Marxism, Stability, Society
Is the distinction of social classes essential to a society’s stability?
How can Marxist theory be used to justify so?
Marxism generally “seeks to reduce political phenomena to their ‘real’ class significance” (Thompson, 1978:48). Such a claim is supported by the Communist Manifesto which frequently references two defined and distinct social classes: the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. This distinction is essential for Marxists, and the notion of societal stability, due to the Marxist belief in the inevitability of socialist revolution, in which the proletariat overthrow the bourgeoisie and the result is a stable society characterised by equality.
Beyond the theory of Marxism, the extent to which social class is essential to societal stability is dependent upon a variety of factors including how social class is defined. For example, Marxism defines class in terms of one’s relation to the means of production however, in some societies, class can often be linked to non-monetary factors including education, values, and geography. This can be thought of as social capital and is increasingly blurring the lines between the traditional classes (O’ Brien, 2013). However, although there has been evidence of a shift in the complexity of social classes, it must be noted that there are still distinctions being made, potentially indicating their necessity for a stable society.
This idea is broadly articulated by Francis Fukuyama who asserts that the West have accepted liberal democracy and by extension, capitalist economics as the ideological structure of society. This is significant because capitalism ultimately creates discrepancies and differences in people’s access to both social and economic capital thus, creating inequality and social classes. Relating this back to stability, it would appear that social classes are not only essential to society’s stability (assuming we accept Fukuyama’s assertion) but created and reproduced by society as a means of safeguarding stability.
Fukuyama, F. (1992) The End of History and the Last Man, London:Penguin
O’Brien, L. (2013) ‘Britain now has 7 social classes- and the working class is a dwindling breed’, The Independent Online. Published 3RD April 2013, Accessed via http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/britain-now-has-7-social-classes-and-working-class-is-a-dwindling-breed-8557894.html on 21.07.16
Thompson, E.P (1978) The Poverty of Theory and Other Essays, London: Merlin Press