Marxian Theory of ‘Class Conflict’




Class: Class in society simply means, ‘economic class’ which is based on the process of production and distribution of economic growth in Society.

Capitalism: Capitalism is an economic system based on private property, private ownership of resources and means of production, wage labour, and competitive markets driven by profit.



The Theory of ‘class conflict’ is central to Marxian thought. In his ‘Communist Manifesto’ Karl Marx has said that, at every stage in history, there is a war between the classes. There are antagonism and hatred between two classes, for example, capitalists and workers.

According to Marx, ‘it is the economic factor that forms the basis of class’. In his philosophy, he has given the highest importance to class stratification. He has interpreted history in the light of class struggle.

Class in society simply means, ‘economic class’ which is based on the process of production and distribution of economic growth in Society.

Marx’s analysis of class conflict in the capitalist society is summarised below:

  1. The importance of property: For Marx, the most important characteristics of any society is its form of property. Classes are determined on the basis of the individual’s relations to means of production.
    Example: Working class is the labour force which is considered as the poorest or the lowest class in the hierarchy of production.

  1. Polarization of classes: The whole society breaks up more and more into two great hostile camps; two directly antagonistic classes. The tendency towards the radical polarization of classes is inherent in capitalist society.
    Example: the capitalists make the minority class yet oppress the majority class i.e. the working class only because they possess wealth. This results in the formation of two classes in the society who have great unity within the class but equal hatred against each other.

  1. Surplus value: Capitalists accumulate profit through the exploitation of labour.

  1. Pauperization: The poverty of the workers’ class grows with increasing exploitation of labour. According to Marx, poverty is the result of exploitation and not of scarcity.
    Example: water is a resource that isn’t scarce yet, at least in some regions. Still, people living in the slums have to stand in a long queue, store water for the day owing to the reason of water scarcity whereas there is 24 hours supply in apartments. This is the economical difference and not completely the fact that water is scarce. They pay higher water tax compared to the people living in the slums and thus, they are benefitted.

  1. Alienation: Economic exploitation and inhuman conditions lead to the increasing alienation of workers. Work is no longer an expression of the worker but only a degraded instrument of livelihood. The worker becomes alienated from oneself, from the process, as well as the product.
    Example: people doing menial jobs are often disrespected or looked down in society. The only reason for this is their profession and their income being less compared to other professions. This is called Alienation of workers.

  1. Class solidarity and antagonism: With the growth of class consciousness, the crystallization of social relations into two groups become streamlined. The classes tend to become internally homogeneous and class struggle, more intensified.

Divided into society, united within one’s own community.

  1. Revolution: At the peak of class war a violent revolution breaks out. This destroys the structure of capitalist society.
    Example: The French Revolution.

  1. The dictatorship of the proletariat: The revolution brings about the social dictatorship of the proletariat (workers). The revolution destroys the capitalist class. According to Marx, it is a transitional phase.
    Example: post-French Revolution, the monarchs, capitalists and feudal lords were overthrown and the revolution resulted in the rise of a new leader - Napolean Bonaparte.

  2. The emergence of the communist society: Abolition of effective private property will eliminate class and class conflict. As Marx says, the State will eventually wither away in a classless society. In this society, nobody will own anything but each individual will contribute according to one’s ability and receive according to one’s need.

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