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Marxist sociology is the study of sociology from a Marxist perspective. Marxism itself can be recognized as both a political philosophy and a sociology, particularly so far as 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." The American Sociological Association has a section dedicated to the issues of Marxist sociology that is "interested in examining how insights from Marxist methodology and Marxist analysis can help explain the complex dynamics of modern society". Marxist sociology would come to facilitate the developments of critical theory and cultural studies as loosely distinct disciplines.
Concepts and issues
Key concepts of Marxist sociology include historical materialism, modes of production and the relation between capital and labour. Marxist sociology is primarily concerned with, but not limited to, the relations between society and economics. Key questions asked by Marxist sociology include:
- How does capital control workers?
- How does a mode of production influence the social class?
- What is the relation between workers, capital, the state and culture?
- How do economic factors influence inequalities such as those relating to gender and race?
Within the field of sociological theory, Marxist sociology is recognized as one of the major sociological paradigms and is associated with conflict theory and critical theory. Unlike Marxism and Marxist philosophy, Marxist sociology has put relatively little weight on creating class revolution, pursuing instead the development of an objective, politico-economic study of society rather than a critical philosophy of praxis. It may be seen as a field of economic sociology.
Influenced by the thought of Karl Marx, Marxist sociology emerged during the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. As well as Marx, Max Weber and Émile Durkheim are considered seminal influences in early sociology. The first Marxist school of sociology was known as Austro-Marxism, of which Carl Grünberg and Antonio Labriola were among its most notable members. Much of the development in the field of Marxist sociology occurred on the outskirts of academia, pitting Marxist against "bourgeois" sociology.
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. While, after several decades, sociology was reestablished in communist states, two separate currents of thought evolved within Marxist sociology: Soviet Marxism, developed in the communist states (primarily the Soviet Union) of the 20th century, serving the state's interests and significantly crippled by forced adherence to the dogma of historical materialism; and the more independent school centered on the studies of Marxism in the West. During the 1940s, the Western Marxist school became accepted within Western academia, subsequently fracturing into several different perspectives such as the Frankfurt School or critical theory.
Due to its former state-supported position, there has been a backlash against Marxist thought in post-communist states (see, for example, Sociology in Poland) but it remains dominant in the sociological research sanctioned and supported by those communist states that remain (see, for example, Sociology in China).
- Allan G. Johnson, The Blackwell dictionary of sociology: a user's guide to sociological language, Wiley-Blackwell, 2000, ISBN 0-631-21681-2, p. 183-84 (Google Books).
- Marxist Sociology, Encyclopedia of Sociology, Macmillan Reference, 2006.
- About the Section on Marxist Sociology Archived 2009-01-09 at the Wayback Machine.
- Tom B. Bottomore, A Dictionary of Marxist thought, Wiley-Blackwell, 1991 (2nd ed.), ISBN 0-631-18082-6, p. 505-08 (Google Books).
- Tom B. Bottomore, Marxist sociology, Macmillan, 1975
- Martin Shaw, Marxist sociology revisited: critical assessments, Macmillan, 1985