Marxist sociology

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Marxist sociology is the study of sociology from a Marxist perspective.[1] Marxism itself can be recognized as both a political philosophy and a sociology, particularly to the extent it attempts to remain scientific, systematic and objective rather than purely normative and prescriptive. Marxist sociology is "a form of conflict theory associated with ... Marxism's objective of developing a positive (empirical) science of capitalist society as part of the mobilization of a revolutionary working class."[2] The American Sociological Association has a section dedicated to the issues of Marxist sociology; the section is "interested in examining how insights from Marxist methodology and Marxist analysis can help explain the complex dynamics of modern society".[3] Marxist sociology would come to facilitate the developments of critical theory and cultural studies as loosely-distinct disciplines.

Concepts and issues[edit]

Key concepts of Marxist sociology include: historical materialism, mode of production, the relation between capital and labour.[2] Marxist sociology is significantly concerned, but not limited to, the relations between society and economics.[3] Key questions asked by Marxist sociology include:[1]

  • how does the capital control the workers?
  • how does the mode of production influence the social class?
  • what is the relation between workers, capital, the state and our culture?
  • how do economic factors influence inequalities, including those related to gender and race?

Within the field of sociological theory, Marxist sociology, recognized as one of the major sociological paradigms, is associated with conflict and critical theories.[1]

Compared to Marxism, Marxist sociology has proven to put relatively little weight on making class revolution.[1]

Compared with Marxist philosophy, Marxist sociology aims to develop an objective, political economic science of society instead of a critical philosophy of praxis.[2]

Compared with economic sociology, Marxist sociology can be seen as a subset of that field, influenced by Marxism.

Historical development[edit]

Marxist sociology emerged around late 19th/early 20th century, influenced by the thought of Karl Marx.[1][2][4] Marx is seen as one of the most influential thinkers in early sociology, alongside thinkers such as Max Weber and Émile Durkheim.[4] The first Marxist school of sociology was known as the Austro-Marxism and notable Marxist thinkers of that period included Carl Grünberg and Antonio Labriola.[4] Much of the development in the field of Marxist sociology occurred on the outskirts of academia, and some pitted Marxist sociology against the "bourgeois sociology".[4]

For a while, this division was reinforced by the Marxism-inspired Russian Revolution, which led to the creation of the Soviet Union; soon, however, sociology found itself a victim of the suppression of "bourgeois" science in the communist states.[4] While after several decades sociology was reestablished under communist states, two separate currents of thought evolved within Marxist sociology: the Soviet Marxism, developed in the 20th century communist states (primarily in the Soviet Union), serving the state's interests, and significantly crippled by forced adherence to the dogma of historical materialism, and the more independent school centered around the studies of Marxism in the West.[1][2] The Western Marxist school (around the 1940s) became accepted within Western academia, and over time fractured into several different perspectives, such as the Frankfurt School or the school of critical theory.[1]

In post-communist states there has been a backlash against the Marxist thought due to its former state-supported favored position (see for example sociology in Poland), but the Marxist thought is still dominant in the sociological research in the remaining communist countries (see for example sociology in China).


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Allan G. Johnson, The Blackwell dictionary of sociology: a user's guide to sociological language, Wiley-Blackwell, 2000, ISBN 0-631-21681-2, Google Print, p.183-184
  2. ^ a b c d e Marxist Sociology, Encyclopedia of Sociology, Macmillan Reference, 2006
  3. ^ a b About the Section on Marxist Sociology
  4. ^ a b c d e Tom B. Bottomore, A Dictionary of Marxist thought, Wiley-Blackwell, 1991 (2nd ed.), ISBN 0-631-18082-6, Google Print, 505-508

Further reading[edit]

  • Tom B. Bottomore, Marxist sociology, Macmillan, 1975
  • Martin Shaw, Marxist sociology revisited: critical assessments, Macmillan, 1985

External links[edit]