CSS Solved Political Science 2022 Past Paper | Describe in detail Karl Marx’s views on class, state, and religion.
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The examiner has questioned Marx’s ideas on class, state, and religion in this question. The examiner has asked how Marx saw class conflict in the natural world and contemporary society. Additionally, it has been interrogated how the capitalist state came into existence from the natural state, which ultimately, via an economic trigger, led the capitalist state to the End of History. Furthermore, the examiner has requested evidence supporting Marx’s views on religion and how the three factors impact proletariat life and work as a means of exploiting the labor class.
2- Karl Marx’s concept of Class
- ✓ Class Struggle in the 21st Century
3- Karl Marx’s concept of the State
- ✓ Origin of the State
- ✓ Stages of the Social Transition
- ✓ Critical views of Marx on Society
4- Karl Marx’s concept of Religion
- ✓ Religion: a tool of Exploitation
- ✓ Marx’s critical views on Religion
5- Application of Karl Marx’s views in the contemporary world
6- Critical Analysis
Answer to the question
Karl Marx, the father of Communism, was the German philosopher of the 19th century. He specialized in political philosophy and was a renowned communist supporter. Marx co-wrote two magnum opuses, “The Communist Manifesto” and “Das Kapital,” both of which served as the cornerstones of Marxism. He was not only a political philosopher but also a socialist and an economist. Marx’s in-depth study provided a deep insight into class, state, and religion. Religion, according to Marx, is a tool of exploitation. The same is the case with the state, where the bourgeoisie used capitalism to exploit the proletariat. Because of this, a class struggle will remain among the haves and have-nots. Because the capitalist class never wants the labor class to take a firm hold on the means of production. Through this, Marx gave in-depth insights into how class, state, and religion are exploitation tools.
Karl Marx’s views on Class
“The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle.”-Karl Marx: The Communist Manifesto
In Marxist theory, the stage of capitalist production consists of two main classes: the Bourgeoisie and the Proletariat.
- ✓ Bourgeoisie: Capitalist owners who own the means of production
- ✓ Proletariat: The working class sells their labor to buy the means of production.
Marx advanced the idea that there has been a class struggle between two factions of society ever since the establishment of the state. Every community has a Dominant Class—those who own the means of production—and a subclass known as the Dominated Class—those who do not own any means of production but work for the dominant class. The dominant class is constantly being exploited by the dominant class, primarily through the alienation of their area of interest. People in the earliest forms of communism worked for themselves and their satisfaction. They produce things following their needs, whereas members of the capitalist class produce things for the benefit of the capitalist owner.
Additionally, capitalists exploit them by acquiring the surplus value they create through their profits. These business owners had one goal: to enrich themselves at the expense of the working class. Consequently, they continued to have class struggles.
- ✓ Class Struggle in the 21st Century
Marx’s idea of class struggle can be visibly seen in the United States, where the members of the Conservative Party want to maintain a certain status quo. At the same time, liberals are more open to progressive change. However, the Great Depression, the Civil Rights Movement, and other shifts in public thinking have demonstrated a clear divide within the United States.
The current political divide within the major parties can be seen as a conflict between the haves and the have-nots. Karl Marx saw this kind of conflict, “disenfranchised versus establishment,” as a class struggle.
Karl Marx’s concept of the State
Karl Marx had a materialistic perspective on society. He contends that materialism is the foundation upon which the state emerges. The Marxist theory emphasizes that in order to achieve its objectives, the liberal state enslaves the majority of men in society and that it must be abolished or destroyed to free the common man. The state served as a tool for class dominance.
His theory of the state is known as the Materialist conception of history or Historical Materialism because he presented a materialistic view of history.
“Political power, properly so called, is merely the organized power of one class oppressing another. The executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie.”-Karl Marx and Fredrick Engels: Communist Manifesto
- ✓ Origin of the state
“It is a tool for exploitation since the bourgeoisie employs it to take advantage of the common people.”-Karl Marx
Marx examined the origin of the state from a materialistic perspective, emphasizing that while man created the state, it was under the influence of material conditions, which they called economic conditions, rather than any emotion or idea.
- ✓ Stages of the Social Transition
Marx categorized the six stages of the evolution of society, which are as follows
- Primitive Communism (Stateless society, absence of Private Property)
- The Slave Society (Master & Slave)
- The Feudal society (Feudal & Serf)
- The Industrial Society (Capitalist owner and Worker)
- The Socialist Class (State holds on all resources)
- The Modern Communism (Classless and Stateless Society)
There was no state in the primitive communist society due to the absence of private property. The concept of private property played a vital role in the development of the state. A system of barter was followed. Later, society transformed into a “Slave Society,” where a concept of a king and servants (people) existed. King was regarded as superior, and people labored for him. After that, society changed and transitioned from a slave society to a “feudal society,” where land was the primary motivating factor. People work on land and earn their livelihood. Another change occurred, and society evolved from a feudal to an “industrial society,” with man replacing the land as the primary source of production. The industrial revolution caused society to split into industrial owners and laborers.
The society changed into a capitalist society where wealthy individuals controlled the economy and exploited workers and the general populace to further their interests. Marx, however, disagreed with them because it was in this region where the idea of private property first emerged. According to him, the inequalities in the capitalist system pushed people to start revolutions. After that, a socialist class would appear, educating society about its rights and paving the way for “modern communism.” It will be just like primitive communism, where there is a classless society, but this communism is more sophisticated and technologically oriented. When there is no state and no government, history will come to an end. This period will be called the “End of History.” There is only administration, and it is responsible for managing the entire state process. The people in that state are free to do anything.
Stage 1: Economic Crisis (Capitalist Society)
Stage 2: Miseries of Proletariat class
Stage 3: Class Consciousness
Stage 4: Revolution begins
Stage 5: Proletarians capture the state
Stage 6: Withering away of the state
Stage 7: End of History (Establishment of Modern Communism)
This is how a financial crisis could lead to the demise of the capitalist state and the emergence of a state without borders.
- ✓ Critical views of Marx on Society
Marx’s idea of the end of history is a political and philosophical phenomenon that postulates the possibility of the emergence of a specific political, economic, or social system that would mark the culmination of humanity’s sociocultural evolution and its last incarnation. It happened because of the bourgeoisie’s appropriations.
Marx’s views on Religion
Marx held a materialistic view of religion. According to Marx, religion obscures the true relationships between people and inanimate objects. Similarly, nature is an impersonal force that restricts man’s ability to act, but it can also be rationally comprehended and controlled by technology, potentially to the advantage of humankind. Moreover, religion is a conservative force that contains social transformation by fostering false consciousness.
“In religion, people make their empirical world into an entity that is only conceived, imagined, that confronts them as something foreign.”-Karl Marx
- ✓ Religion-A tool of Exploitation
According to Marx, through various functions, religion exploits the masses (the working class) in many ways, which are as follows:
Marx asserts that one of religion’s primary “functions” is to dissuade/prevent people from demanding social reform by numbing the agony of oppression.
It offers people to look forward to knowing there is a hereafter. Thus, if one has hope for an afterlife filled with “everlasting happiness,” it is simpler to endure today’s sufferings.
Apart from that, religion elevates pain, giving the impression that the destitute are more virtuous than the wealthy.
“It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven” is one of the clearest examples of this.”-Biblical statement
It is meaningless for people to attempt to take any meaningful action to improve their existing circumstances when religion can provide the expectation of supernatural intervention to resolve earthly difficulties.
Moreover, Religion not only lessens life’s hardships but also efficiently fosters false awareness.
In the same manner, Religion can legitimize the social order and people’s place within it. As stated in the following phrase
The rich man in his castle-Victorian hymn “All Things Bright and Beautiful,
The poor man at his gate
God made them high and lowly
And ordered their estate.
Such lines make social inequalities seem like ‘God’s will and thus unchangeable.
- ✓ Marx’s Critical view on Religion
Marx believed that the proletariat (working class) suffers from deprivations due to the Bourgeois (capitalist class) exploiting them mainly through the surplus value. Thus the minority Bourgeois class left the majority of the proletariat with insufficient money to lead a decent quality of life. Still, people are blind to this because religion instructs them that all life’s suffering is God’s will.
“Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the sentiment of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people”.-Karl Marx
Hence, Marx provides a pessimistic and materialistic view of religion as the Bourgeois class used it to exploit the proletariat class to maintain control over them. In the name of religion, rich people alleviate the poor, and this poor class finds solace in the promise that they will get a happy life after death. So, religion is used as a tool to distract the gullible masses. So, Marx favoured a socialist system in which people get liberation, and the capitalist system is removed. According to him, religion is the source of exploitation rather than happiness. By saying this, he justified his statement:
“Religion is the opium of the masses.”-Karl Marx
Application of Karl Marx’s views in the contemporary world
Marx’s class, state, and religion theories are still relevant in the contemporary era. There are a few examples below:
Marx’s theory of the state is still applicable in the modern era. As an illustration, neoliberal policies that forbid governments from interfering in free markets have become the norm worldwide under the banner of “globalization.” These policies have indirectly increased inequality and led to the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a small number of people (the ruling elite).
Even though Marx viewed religion as a false consciousness, his concept of religion is still relevant today. It has been claimed that religion is used as a tool of oppression, especially in states where religious leaders rule with authority and do so in support of the ruling class. For instance, in some nations, progressive social movements like LGBT and women’s rights were opposed by religious leaders. It clearly shows that Marx’s conception of religion is still applicable.
In the contemporary world, Marx’s concept of class struggle can be seen as poverty, inequality, and the distribution of resources. Because of the current economic climate, the gap between the rich and the poor is growing. Wealth is only concentrated in the hands of a select few, with the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. The Middle Class has been declining as a result of the aforementioned factors. It is evidence of a class struggle. The 2008 financial crisis, protracted protests against political instability, and widespread corruption are stark examples of class conflict.
In a critical diagnosis, Marx’s beliefs on class, state, and religion were criticized by various critics. The criticisms of Marx’s concept are as follows For instance, according to Marx, the capitalist system is overthrown by the proletariat class as a result of their economic crisis because class conflict causes people to become revolutionary, which leads to revolution. However, to date, there has not been any sign of a revolution. Despite this, capitalist owners gained a stronger foothold, and a new class emerged: the Middle Class. Critics disagree with Marx’s assessment of the state’s deterioration, stating that no End of History has yet been observed, and there is no hope of one shortly. Marx’s understanding of religion came under fire because he only considered a religion in terms of economic determinism, failing to comprehend religion’s many facets. Thus, according to them, Marx’s understanding of religion was incomplete.
In conclusion, Karl Marx’s beliefs mainly revolved around perception. It has nothing to do with reality. According to Karl Marx, society is divided based on the means of production, the state only serves the interests of the powerful bourgeoisie class, and religion is used as a tool of exploitation of the working class to appease them for their material tribulations. All these concepts caused him to become a critic of capitalism, which eventually resulted in the development of socialism.
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