Explain Karl Marx Theory on class system in society.

(1) Introduction

Karl Marx is one of founders of sociology and social science. He was the most influential person of his era. He changed the way people looked at societies. His writings, theories and way of thought changed the world.

(2) Karl Marx (work and contributions) 

Life, work and contributions of Karl Marx can be explained in the following words:

  • (i) German political philosopher & economist
  • (ii) Books
  • (iii) Marxism
  • (iv) Karl Marx’s thoughts & concepts

(i) German political Philosopher & Economist

He was German political philosopher and economist. He is also considered as social scientist, sociologist, historian, journalist and revolutionary socialist.

(ii) Books

He wrote and published two books: The Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital.

(iii) Marxism

He presented his theories about society, politics and economics. His all these theories are collectively known as Marxism. Marxism is a Karl Marx’s social, political, and economic theory that focuses on the struggle between capitalists and the working class.

(iv) Karl Marx’s Thoughts & Concepts

Karl Marx thoughts and concepts can be explained in the following words:

  • (a) Political & social thoughts & concepts
  • (b) Economic thoughts & concepts

(a) Political & Social Thoughts & Concepts

Followings are his main political and social thoughts and concepts:

  • (a-i) Social interdependence & stability
  • (a-ii) Class conflict, struggle & competition
  • (a-iii) Revolution
  • (a-iv) Economic system
  • (a-v) Change of society

(a-i) Social Interdependence & Stability

Social interdependence and stability is an illusion.

(a-ii) Class Conflict, Struggle & Competition

Class conflict, struggle and competition are the main features of all the societies.

(a-iii) Revolution

Revolution would result in a class-free society where all the people would work according to their capabilities and would get resources according to their needs.

(a-iv) Economic System

Economic system determines the norms, values, culture, family, education and political system in a society.

(a-v) Change Of Society

People must not leave the society to evolve naturally on its own. Rather they must take measures to change the society positively.

(b) Economic Thoughts & Concepts

Followings are his main economic thoughts and concepts:

  • (b-i) Labour theory of value
  • (b-ii) Surplus value
  • (b-iii) Surplus product
  • (b-iv) Exploitation

(b-i) Labour Theory Of Value

The economic value of a good or service is determined by the total amount of labour that is required to produce it.

(b-ii) Surplus Value

Surplus value is equal to the new value that labourers create in excess of their labour-cost.

(b-iii) Surplus Product

Surplus product is that part of product, which the labourers produced and had to give to the chief, landowner, lord or state in the form of tax, rent or tribute.

(b-iv) Exploitation

Exploitation means act of using another person as a means to one’s own profit without providing him any fair compensation.

(3) Karl Marx Theory On Class System In Society Or Marxian Theory Of Social Class

Karl Marx theory on class system in society or Marxian theory of social class can be explained in the following words:

  • (i) Class
  • (ii) Division of class.
  • (iii) Class polarization
  • (iv) Class in itself
  • (vi) Class for itself
  • (vii) Class struggle

(i) Class

(a) Group Of People

Class is a group of people, who share the same position the process of production.

(b) Person’s Position

Class means a person’s position in the process of production.

(ii) Division Of Class

There are two classes in the society due to capitalism:

  • (a) Bourgeoisie
  • (b) Proletariat

(a) Bourgeoisie

Bourgeoisie is the capital class that owns the means of production. This class possesses dominant position in the society.

(b) Proletariat

Proletariat is the labourer class that is exploited by bourgeoisie and does not own the means of production. This class is a subordinate class to bourgeoisie.

(iii) Class Polarization

There are eight intermediate classes between bourgeoisie and proletariat. All these intermediate classes will eventually get absorbed into two poles through the process of class polarization: these two poles are bourgeoisie and proletariat. Due to this class polarization, the less rich will become richer and the less poor will become poorer. And ultimately there will remain only two classes i.e. bourgeoisie and proletariat.

(iv) Class In Itself

(a) Meaning

Class in itself means a person’s position in the process of production.

(b) Explanation

People are born in classes. A person cannot choose his class. As a person cannot choose who is to be his father, he also does not have any choice with respect to his class. If a person is born in rich family, he belongs to upper class. And if a person is born in poor family, he belongs to lower class.

(v) Class For Itself

Class in itself becomes class for itself when there is consciousness:

  • (a) Consciousness
  • (b) Kinds of consciousness
  • (c) Work & changes for group
  • (d) Social class

(a) Consciousness

Class in itself is not the end. With the passage of time, Members of class in itself develop a kind of consciousness of belonging to that particular class: they develop consciousness in respect of their exploitation, less salary, bad working conditions, and more working hours.

(b) Kinds Of Consciousness

There are two kinds of consciousness:

  • (b-i) False consciousness
  • (b-ii) True consciousness

(b-i) False Consciousness

It means that workers are aware about their common problems, interests, benefits, demands etc.

(b-ii) True Consciousness

True consciousness emerges when economic conditions are ripe and when workers are united by solidarity and are energized by an appropriate system of ideas that aims at transformation of the system for benefits of all.

(c) Work & Changes For Group

With the development of this consciousness, the members start working for the entire group and become ready to make some changes for the entire group. Here, class in itself ceases to exist as new class emerges. And this new class is called class for itself.

(d) Social Class

This class for itself is known as social class.

(vi) Class Struggle

Class struggle means tension between bourgeoisie and proletariat:

  • (a) Classes in struggle
  • (b) Reasons
  • (c) Mechanism

(a) Classes In Struggle

Classes are always in struggle.

(b) Reasons

Followings are reasons for class struggle:

  • (b-i) Forces of production
  • (b-ii) Conflicting interests
  • (b-iii) Alienation

(b-i) Forces Of Production

Forces of production keep on changing: tools and techniques, which are used to produce things, are changed and improved. The change in the forces of production causes change in the relation between bourgeoisie and proletariat. The old relation and the new relation come into conflict, and this conflict Causes class struggle.


A farmer was using a labourer for cultivation on his lands Here, force of production was labour. Later on, tractor is invented. and the farmer stops using the labourer as he starts using tractor for cultivation. Now the force of production changes: tractor becomes the force of production. This change in force of production causes change in the relation between the farmer and the labourer. The old relation of labour and the new relation of tractor will come into conflict, and this conflict will cause class struggle.

(b-ii) Conflicting Interests

There exist conflicting interests between bourgeoisie and proletariat, and these conflicting interests cause class struggle between them.


Factory owner wants the workers to work for more hours while the worker wants to work for fewer hours. These conflicting interests cause tension between factory owner and worker, and this tension leads towards class struggle.

(b-iii) Alienation

Capitalism causes alienation among the working class. Demand of more and more work, economic exploitation and inhuman working conditions make the working class alienated from their nature and from their fellow human beings. Their alienation develops a mode of conflict, and such conflict leads towards class struggle..

(c) Mechanism

Throughout history, in different modes of production, the mechanism of class struggle differs:

  • (c-i) Ancient mode of production
  • (c-ii) Feudal mode of production
  • (c-iii) Capital mode of production

(c-i) Ancient Mode Of Production

Slaves launched a struggle against masters during ancient mode of production:

  • (x) Support of emerging class
  • (y) False consciousness

(x) Support Of Emerging Class

The slaves’ struggle was supported by a new emerging class that was from the masters and represented new force of production.

(y) False Consciousness

The slaves’ struggle was based on false consciousness.

(c-ii) Feudal Mode Of Production

There was serf revolution during feudal mode of production:

  • (x) Free labour
  • (y) Support of emerging class
  • (z) False consciousness

(x) Free Labour

Serf revolution happened against feudalism because factories required free labour, and free labour provided an opportunity for the working class to get rid of feudal.

(y) Support Of Emerging Class

The serf revolution was supported by an emerging class that emerged from factory system.

(z) False Consciousness

Serf revolution was also based on false consciousness.

(c-iii) Capital Mode Of Production

In capital mode of production, there will be workers revolution:

  • (x) Socialist mode of production
  • (y)  True consciousness

(x) Socialist Mode Of Production

Workers revolution will result in the establishment of socialist mode of production:

  • (x-i) Control of power
  • (x-ii) One class
  • (x-iii) Class struggle

(x-1) Control Of Power

In socialist mode of production, workers will control the power.

(x-ii) One Class

In socialist mode of production, there will be only one class.

(x-iii) Class Struggle

In socialist mode of production, there will be no class struggle.

(y) True Consciousness

Workers revolution will be based on true consciousness

(4) Conclusion

It can be finally stated that class struggle keeps on increasing within a particular mode of production. Karl Marx has considered that struggle between classes is the fundamental condition of change, and the class struggle aims at resolving the contradiction that is present in the society.

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