Based on the socialist and dialectical theories of Karl Marx, Marxist criticism views literary works as reflections of the social institutions out of which they are born. According to Marxists, even literature itself is a social institution and has a specific ideological function, based on the background and ideology of the author.
Sociology However, there are differences between Marxists especially over the way which social change can come about. For example, humanistic Marxists like Gramsci give a greater role to the conscious decisions and actions of human beings than do structural Marxists like Althusser, for whom social change comes as the product of changes within the structures of society.
One of the key ideas of Marx was historical materialism. In so doing, they use the forces or means of production.
In the earliest stages of human history, these forces were just unaided human labour, but over time people develop tools, machines and so on to assist in production i. In working to meet their needs, humans also cooperate with one another: Over time, as the forces of production grow and develop, so do the social relations of production change.
In particular, a division of labour develops, and this eventually gives rise to a division between two social classes: From then on, production is directed by the ruling class to meet their own needs.
Marx argued that in any class-based society — be it ancient, feudal or capitalist — one group gained at the expense of the other. According to Marx, capitalist society — such as the one we live in — is based on the division between two main classes — the Bourgeoisie ruling class and the Proletariat subject class.
The ruling class or capitalist class own and control the means of production, whereas the subject class or wage-labourers own nothing but their capacity to produce goods and services. These wage-labourers sometimes crudely referred to as working class are employed by the ruling class in return for a wage in order to produce goods and services that the ruling class can make a profit from.
It works like this: The excess or surplus is appropriated taken away by the ruling class through the process of exploitation.
|Functionalism and Marxism | Essay Example||Hans Robert Jaussthe German theorist, inspired by the phenomenological method of Husserl and Heideggeris Hermeneutics, gave a historical dimension to reader-oriented criticism by developing a version of Reader Response Criticism known as Reception Theory in his book, New Literary History.|
Basically, the workers are paid less than the true value of the good that they produce. Following on from this, capitalism continually expands the forces of production in its pursuit of increasing profit. Production becomes concentrated in ever-larger units e. Such technological advances de-skill the workforce.
Together with increasing concentration of ownership, class polarisation is the result i. Marx argues that under capitalism, workers experience alienation because they have no control and the increasing division of labour means that work becomes a futile, meaningless activity.
This is because the capitalist mode of production which forms the economic base of society shapes or determines all other features of society — the superstructure of institutions, ideas, beliefs and behaviour that arise from this base.
For example, it shapes the nature of religion, law, education, the state and so on. According to Marx, capitalism sows the seeds of its own destruction. For example, by polarising the classes, bringing the proletariat together in ever-increasing numbers, and driving down their wages, capitalism creates the conditions under which the working class can develop a consciousness or awareness of its own economic and political interests in opposition to those of its exploiters.
As a result, the proletariat moves from merely being a class-in-itself whose members share the same economic position to becoming a class-foritself, whose members are class conscious — aware of the need to overthrow capitalism.
The means of production would then be put in the hands of the state and run in the interests of everyone, not just of the bourgeoisie. A new type of society — socialism developing into communism — would be created, which would be without exploitation, without classes and without class conflict.
Far from society becoming polarised and the working class becoming poorer, almost everyone in western societies enjoys a far higher standard of living than ever before. Furthermore, conflict seems over-emphasised and there has not been any revolution in western societies.
In defence, Giddens argues that the twoclass model should be viewed more as a theoretical construct around which to build an analysis of society. Nevertheless, the focus on social class obscures other sources of inequality such as those based on gender and ethnicity.
Classical Marxism has been further criticised as being too deterministic. First, too much importance is given to the economy in the economic base-superstructure distinction.
Second, it sees individuals as simply passive products of the social system, which socialises them into conformity and controls their behaviour. It does not allow for individual choice as social action theorists do.
From a postmodern perspective, Marxism — as a grand theory or metanarrative — is no longer relevant for explaining contemporary societies, where social life is essentially chaotic, values are diverse, social structures have become increasingly fragmented; indeed, rather than class being the main social division, more differences arise around individual choices in consumption patterns and lifestyle.
Its focus on private ownership of the means of production provides an explanation for the extreme social inequalities in wealth, income and power that persist in contemporary societies, and for the conflicts and upheavals that periodically surface, many of which are rooted in social class inequalities.
In order to counteract some of these criticisms, more recent neo- Marxists have further developed and modified the ideas of classical Marxism.
They tend to reject the economic determinism of the base-superstructure model and have tried to explain why capitalism has persisted and how it might be overthrown. More recent Marxists can be divided into two broad camps: The most important example of humanistic Marxism is Gramsci who introduced the concept of hegemony — the ideological or moral leadership of society — to explain how the ruling class maintains its position.
This counterhegemony would win ideological leadership from the ruling class by offering a new vision of how society should be organised, based on socialist rather than capitalist ideas.
In a significant departure from classical Marxism, Gramsci argues that ideology has a relative autonomy from the economic base. This is the idea that the superstructure of society has a degree of independence from the economy rather than being directly determined by it.Neo – Marxist Neo-Marxist is a political system or thought that differ from each to some extent in terms of ideologies.
Neo-Marxist is a theory that formed based on humanism and idealism of Marxist theory. Reader Response Criticism: An Essay By Nasrullah Mambrol on October 23, • (1) Reader Response, primarily a German and American offshoot of literary theory, emerged (prominent since s) in the West mainly as a reaction to the textual emphasis of New Criticism of the s.
Postmodernists Lyotard and Baudrillard believe that theories such as Marxism and Functionalism are ‘meta-narratives’ or ‘grand-narratives,’ meaning they both elaborate that society is under control, and it can be seen in some places that this is not the case (lyotard & Baudrillard, n.d cited in Anon, timberdesignmag.com).
While these theories are useful at explaining certain types of crime (such as burglary and fraud) the Marxist theories focus too much on social class’s effect on crime, but fail to explain gender and ethnic factors which could influence crime.
- Marxist Criticism Introduction Marxist literary criticism is based upon the political and economic theories of the German philosopher Karl Marx. In works like The German Ideology and The Communist Manifesto, written with Frederick Engels, Marx proposes a model of history in which economic and political conditions determine social conditions.
He has defined his Marxist theories of literature and criticism in such works as Die Eigenart des Asthetischen (), and remains central to the study of Marxist criticism today.