Political Sociology (Using Marx in a Good Way)

I have a hard time writing in certain disciplines of academics. Namely; philosophy, psychology, and I figured sociology would be the same way. It’s hard in my view because everything is so involved with theory’s and your own opinion (which I never have a hard time giving) and while there is evidence in the essay it’s not the central aspect. So with some negativity on my part I began my extra-credit essay and with a little help from my friend who is currently majoring in Sociology, I was able to complete the assignment. I’ll admit, I enjoyed it, once I figured out where I was going and figured out the sociological aspects and theory’s it was a whole lot easier…Enjoy!!



In a diverse country such as the U.S. there are many social groups; however, they can be divided into two separate distinct groups: fringe and mainstream. In my essay I will be comparing the two opposite groups using Karl Marx’s conflict theory, discussing how the mainstream group uses the conflict, specifically war and the use of fear to stay in power. I will be illustrating these using quotes from famous, and learned individuals.

The definition that Merriam-Webster gives for fringe is, “a group with marginal or extremist views” examples for fringe can be any group that holds strong views that the mainstream view as extreme. This will differ and change from decade to decade, even year to year and month to month. In the U.S., Communism and Socialism are viewed as fringe groups both because they are marginal as well as held to be extreme by most ‘democracy’ loving American citizens. While in other countries where those are a popular political philosophy, Democracy is viewed as marginal and extreme. The definition held by Merriam-Webster for mainstream is, “a prevailing current or direction of activity or influence” as indicated for fringe, examples can vary and change almost day to day, it can include any topic or physical thing that is directing activity or holding influence over the masses, both of these definitions will be the ones used in my paper.

Karl Marx’s’ conflict theory includes two major social groups: a ruling class and a subject class. The ruling class gains all of it’s power from the subject class which it owns, exploits and controls by way of capitalism and the “forces of production” Analyzing at their relationship one can see that there will be a natural conflict arising between the two classes. Marx also shows that the political and social systems are put in place, ruled, and manipulated by the ruling class, leaving no options for the working class to use in order to prosecute or to overthrow the ruling class. Marx then believed the only option left was for revolution.

“The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles. Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary re-constitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.” (Marx, Communist Manifesto)

Looking at modern day situations how do we observe and apply the conflict theory, fringe groups, and mainstream groups? Do mainstream groups, use the fringe group to stay in power? Do they use fear of the fringe to manipulate and retain power? If we look at modern-day politics this gives a very clear example of the mainstream using the conflict between them and the fringe as well as fear of the fringe to hold and retain power, this will be illustrated by a series of quotes. The most clear example of this in the political realm is war, when war comes it does not come suddenly as many citizens think. All at once, rushing towards them at a frightening speed, fear clutches the middle working class. There is something overseas, or sometimes here at home, that is trying desperately to take their freedoms, and democracy away. War instead comes slowly engineered by the elite class, the ones who hold high and far away positions on the Council of Foreign Relations or perhaps a member of the Bilderberg Conferences.

In the culture of war, the mainstream can be considered the pro-war individuals. They see war as a necessary evil, but necessary nonetheless. War is pushed by the elite onto the citizens, it is on the news, it is in magazines, articles, and popular culture. It may even appear that an open discussion is taking place, but in fact all that is happening is that the ruling class is grooming the middle class for war. In this aspect the anti-war movements would be the fringe groups, they would be marginal and recognized as extreme by the mainstream. They would be spit on and ridiculed for not protecting “freedom” and “democracy” two words that the mainstream hold secret. That does not discount that some of the anti-war individuals may in fact be great lovers of democracy and freedom, in fact I believe it would insinuate just that. The individuals that try to protect foreign individuals from foreign interventionism, death, war crimes, colonization, and a degradation of their culture is the epitome of freedom and democracy.  Turning back to war we see that it can only be explained as the elite class trying to acquire money, land, or power out of a population either their own or a foreign one. The most popular mechanism that the political elite use to convince the middle working class, and the canon fodder, into thinking that this a noble war for freedom and democracy is fear. Writers, generals, and founding fathers have all seen fear as a popular device for the elite to use on the citizens, George Orwell stated, “Every war when it comes, or before it comes, is represented not as a war but as an act of self-defense against a homicidal maniac.” In this quote Orwell shows that one of the top aides that the warmongers use is fear, he uses the words “every war” which may seem extreme to some. Looking at history, even just of the U.S., it is clear that he is correct, every war was started to promote democracy and freedom from a long list of horrific ills: communism, socialism, terrorism, puppet-dictators. All on that list the United States elite either directly, or indirectly put into power themselves. We engage in wars on “terrorism” which is an idea, impossible to predict, and crosses ideological boundaries, David Cross illustrates this, “You cannot win a War on Terrorism. It’s like having a war on jealousy.” General Douglas MacArthur also illustrated that fear is the most used instrument in coercing the public into war, “Always there has been some terrible evil at home or some monstrous foreign power that was going to gobble us up if we did not blindly rally behind it.”

Two more quotes show a different aspect of Karl Marx’s theory, “Fear is the passion of slaves.” Is a statement attributed to Patrick Henry. We can apply this to his theory by looking at two key words, “fear” and “slaves”. By using fear to further coerce the lower classes they are reinstituting the mind set and mind imprisonment of slavery, further repressing the poor. By using the word “passion” Henry shows how the fear gripes the “slaves”, it shows the utter insanity and terror that the masses go into when the politicians talk about the current boogeyman that threatens our shores, freedoms, and democracy. Another aspect is shown again by George Orwell, “War against a foreign country only happens when the moneyed classes think they are going to profit from it.” This shows Marx’s view of evils that he blamed on “forces of production” and “capitalism”, instead of seeing aspects of human character as the problem, Marx saw production and capitalism as the problem. In the quote Orwell shows that most if not all wars are for profit only, and for the elite to profit not the “slaves”.

While many years have passed since Karl Marx forged his social conflict theory, it still has applications in our current and modern world. It can be used to dismantle the fear that the political “moneyed-classes” force on us, it can be used to put a veil of transparency on their speeches and to search for truth. It can be used to forge a new freedom, for all citizens.

About Judith Ayers

Currently a double major in Political Science and Mass Communications with a minor in Sociology at York College of Pennsylvania, Judith is involved locally in many "liberty minded" organizations. This includes holding the position of President for the York College Libertarian Club.
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