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Essay: Karl Marx and social inequality

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  • Published: 15 October 2019*
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  • Tags: Marxism essays

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Karl Marx and social inequality.
Marx was born in Prussia in May 1818 and was one of nine other children born to his mother and father, Heinrich and Henriette. Marx eventually was baptized as a Lutheran, as he believed Protestantism came with an equal intellectual freedom (Biography.com eds, 2015). The work and ideas of Karl Marx have greatly influenced my understanding of the ‘widening gap between rich and poor’ in our society today. His writings in the Communist Manifesto, for me, helped to explain the economic and social divides we see throughout our societies, “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles” (Marx.K, Engels.F et al, 1992).
Bourgeois and Proletarians
Throughout the Communist Manifesto, Marx refers to the divide in society between the wealthy businessman and the worker, the oppressor and the oppressed (Cohen, 2013 pp125-127). In Marx’s eyes he believed that one could state their class by the association they held to the means of production and distribution. If they owned land, property or capital they would be considered high up in social status as they had the means to produce and distribute goods. This could be starkly contrasted with the ‘proletarians’ who only had their time to sell and distribute. These observations and questions raised by Marx greatly helped my understanding in the continuously widening gap between rich and poor in my society. Even in this day it is evident that business owners and wealthier people have all the power in our societies while the working class are left with the majority of the population and a minority of the power. An example of this exploitive relationship that we see today is zero hour contracts in industry, this is not an equal power agreement as the employer decides how many hours  the employee(proletarian) must work, whether its full-time or zero hours (Gorrey, 2015). Marx also wrote that to enact a social change the working class must recognise each other’s oppression and work together to resolve the problems. In my opinion this social change can be seen in today’s society with the likes of trade unions in the public sector. This significantly influenced my understanding of the other side of the widening gap of rich and poor in my society, which is in my belief the social change which Marx referred to in this writing. We can also look at why the worker must obey the boss, and the answer is because they have nothing else to sell but their own labour and time while their boss owns a significant amount of capital and therefore has significant power (Marx, Engels, 1970). This is once again seen in contemporary society as in the workplace the boss owns the majority of the capital and the work must give their time to earn wages.
Contradictions of Capitalism
The contradictions of capitalism Marx refers to also helped my understanding on the widening gap between rich and poor in contemporary society. The inevitability of monopolies in our economy ensures that only a select few have large amounts of capital which would increase the divide between rich and poor even to this day. Also due to the lack of centralised planning, over-production of goods can take place. Which could cause high inflation which would once again further the gap between rich and poor in our society, as the poorer majority of people would suffer a bigger loss from inflation as the have less capital to start with. The constant introduction of lower wages for workers ensures their pauperisation and definitely widens the gap between rich and poor. And finally the biggest factor in widening the gap between rich and poor even in contemporary society is the fact that the state is controlled by the Bourgeoisie. This effects the poorer classes of society greatly as in some circumstances laws can be passed in favour of and to only help the wealthier classes to stay wealthy (Molyneux, 2007). This in turn causes the Proletariat to band together in objection against this, examples of this can be seen in contemporary society in the likes of industrial action and protests.
In conclusion, Marx writings and theories on the Bourgeoisie and Proletariat and the four contradictions of capitalism have greatly influenced my understanding on the widening gap between rich and poor in contemporary society. My understanding now of the widening gap between rich and poor is, as long as one group in society (Bourgeoisie) hold all the power and capital it is impossible to have a fair and equal society without any gap between rich and poor.


Biography.com eds, (May 2015) Karl Marx Biography. Available at: http://www.biography.com/people/karl-marx-9401219 (Accessed: 09 October 2015)
Marx, K., Engels, F., Moore, S., & McLellan, D. (1992). The Communist manifesto. 18edn.Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Cohen.Robin, Kennedy.Paul (2013) Global Sociology. Washington square: New York.
Gorrey.Terry, (2015) Working Time and Minimum Rest Periods in Irish Employment-What You Need to Know. Available at:  http://employmentrightsireland.com/tag/zero-hours-contracts/   (Accessed: 09 October 2015)
Marx.Karl, Engels.Friedrich (1970) The German Ideology, edn-reprint, Ed.Arthur,Christopher
Molyneux.John (2007) the Contradictions of Capitalism. Available at: http://johnmolyneux.blogspot.ie/2007/03/contradictions-of-capitalism_14.html (Accessed: 11 October 2015)

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