Karl Marx Theory of Social change

Marx theory of social change is an important theory in Sociology. Although the explanation of social changes has been demonstrated by theories given by some scholars. They believe that social change occurs according to these rules and theories. The  theory of social change by Marx is discussed below:

Theory of Social Change by Karl Marx

Karl Marx has assumed that social change is generated by technological and economical factors. Hence his principle is called Economic Determinism or Technological Theory of Social Change. In the present time theory of social change by Marx is believed to be the most significant and revolutionary theory. He physically explained the history and said that what ever changes had happened, it is only due to the changes in the mode of  production.

In his view, the causes of population, geographical situations and other causes which influence human life are not the decisive factors of change. He considers economic factor, that is the “mode of production” as deciding factor. According to the Marx theory of social change, man needs some materialistic valuesbsuch as food, shelter, clothing etc for his living. For the collection of these values or requirements, he has to manufacture them. The means by which an individual makes production is called technology, in which small tools and large machines are included .

Social change: What is Social change and its Forms?

Three levels of Social organisation

Marx views social organisation at three levels.

  • The first level of organisation is material forces of production
  • Second level of social organisation is production forces. These forces has relation with man’s nature. Infact what Marx calls production forces, we call them technical and scientific awareness.
  • Third level of social organisation is production relations. It is infact man’s relation to man.

Marx says that for the the production of anything, there is requirement of tools, labour, experience and skill. Also there is some economic relations between the people involved in production. For example farmer in agricultural sector develops relations with labour. Similarily blacksmith and silversmith develops relations with the products made by them during production. So whenever there is change in the mode of production, there is change in society also. It is the characteristic of mode of production that it is not stable in any state and keeps on changing.

According to Marx, the mode of production is standard of the society.  And on this the society’s social, cultural, regional and political creations, faith, art, literature, traditions, science and philosophy are based. In other words, social changes occur due to economic causes. And superstructure depends on basic structure of economy.

Examples given by Marx

For illustration Marx says, when production process was done with the use of manual grinders, the society was different. Similarily when electrical grinders are used, the society is of different type. In the same way, when the farming was done with plough and bullocks and small tools were used for production process. Then, the society, culture, politics and religion was of particularly different type as of today. There is lot of difference in these stages. Hence it is clear that change in society leads to change in mode of production. This change also occurs in mutual relations of the people involved in production.

According to Marx, the economic structure of society is formed with the complete combination of the relations of production. In brief, the mode of production is only responsible for social change. If change comes in technology( means of production), expertise, knowledge, relations of production etc, which helps in formation of economic structure. Then the change also comes in the entire social-cultural superstructure, which we call as Social Change.

In the view of Marx, in every era of the history, there have been two categories. One category is that which has the ownership of means of production. Second is the one which lives through physical work. The history of human society is the history of struggle of these two categories. In both these categories struggle happen for each other’s profits. Every category competition has ended with the dawn of new society and new categories. Marx says that the creation and nature of the categories determines the social system. As the consequence of category competition, new categories are formed which give rise to new social system.

Criticism of Marx Theory

  1. Marx has only accepted economic factor responsible for social change and has neglected all the other factors. The social , religional, geographical and population factor also have significant role in social change. As such economic factor are themselves influenced by other factors.
  2. Marx says social change occurs due to change in technology, economic relation and economic structure. But they are not able to specify that why the change occurs in technology or what are the factors that cause the change?
  3. Marx has stressed more on category competition, but base of society is not based on competition. It is based on support.

So we can see that although Marx tried his best to provide the theory of social change scientifically, but still he gave more stress on economic factors. According to Max Weber, Man is not an effigy to satisfy his economic requirements rather he considers the religion as the base of economic factors of social change.

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