Based on the ideas of Karl Marx (1818-83).
To Marxists we live in a Capitalist society - two basic classes: the ruling class (bourgeoisie) and the working class (proletariat).
The ruling class benefit from society as the working class get less than what they deserve. (As the rich get richer the poor gets poorer)
Marxism is a structuralist theory - meaning human behavior is influenced by the organisation of society or a top down approach.
Conflict theory - There is a conflict between rich and poor.
Bourgeoisie and Proletariat
The bourgeoisie is the ruling class who own the means of production (machinery, factories, land etc.)
The proletariat is the working class, on the other hand they only own their means to work: their skills.
They sell this to the bourgeoisie in return for a wage.
However this is conflict theory - the rich want to remain rich or become richer whilst the poor want to become richer which means the rich become poorer.
This does not work in favor of the rich so, as they have more power, they become richer, and the poor become poorer.
Industrial revolution 1800's
Factory owners employed children because they were cheaper to employ
They worked in factories doing jobs that adults could not do because they were too physically big.
Very dangerous conditions
Could not escape as they had to feed themselves and possibly their families
Ideology is a set of ideas or beliefs that serve the interests of capitalism
Marxists believe that the proletariat don't challenge capitalism because those who control the economy also control the family, education, media , religion and every cultural institution responsible for socializing people.
These institutions are there to maintain and legitimate class inequality
These institutions e.g. education pass off capitalist norms as 'normal' and 'natural'.
Marxists refer to these ruling class ideas as ideology
Socialisation is an ideological process as its main aim is to transmit the ruling class idea that capitalist society is meritocratic - based on the fact that if you work hard enough then you will get on in life.
Evidence rarely reflects this view
This ideology is very successful and the proletariat generally accept where they are in society as if they deserve where they are.
And they may even think that the capitalist society has provided them with a decent standard of living.
Marxists argue that Capitalist ideology shapes the way of life of a society.
An example of this is through media (newspapers, magazines and t.v.) that our priority should be to buy more and more material goods (e.g. the newest iPhone).
This making us want to be rich so we can afford these things to make us happy.
And due to all the distraction of technology we are being given e.g. television shows, we are blind to the fact we are being exploited.
False Class consciousness
This is the idea that us as workers (the proletariat) are being exploited but we are completely unaware of it.
We believe we deserve the position we have been given in society because it is 'God's plan' or because we haven't gained the high grades in school, when actually the system is failing us on purpose to keep us believing that we are not worth as much, and so we continue being wage slaves.
Marxism has been accused of ignoring the freedom of choice enjoyed by individuals
May present an 'over-socialized' picture of humans
People choose what to do and think, they are not brainwashed by ideology
We have our own views and opinions of things
There are oppositional subcultures who question the capitalist system
They go against the norms by using opposing behaviour and dress code.
E.g. Skinheads, punks, emos, goths
Rebel against capitalist society
However, this behaviour is generally only temporary, these people will eventually become passive adults.
Marxism also puts too much emphasis on conflict
There are inequalities in society, but many people are happy with their standard of living.
Many employers also wish to pay their workers more but can only do so if their profit increases.
The Marxist approach could be argued to put too much emphasis on conflict
It also suggests people are oblivious to being exploited which could also be argued against - people have their own views and opinions on things and they may not be being exploited
And it is a very simplistic and naive view that suggests people are extremely over-socialized.
The idea is also may not apply to nowadays as there is not just 2 distinct classes.