Article

Marxist Sociology

Michael McCarthy and Jeff Manza

in Sociology

ISBN: 9780199756384
Published online July 2011 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199756384-0032
Marxist Sociology

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Karl Marx (b. 1818–d. 1883) and his lifelong collaborator Friedrich Engels (b. 1820–d. 1895) developed a body of thought that would inspire major social movements, initiate revolutionary social change across the globe, and provide the foundation for many socialist or communist governments. More recently, Marxism’s political influence has waned, with most of the formerly communist regimes undergoing significant change. It is important, however, to separate out Marxism as a system of ideas in the social sciences from Marxism as a political ideology and the foundation for revolutionary social movements and as a governing philosophy. Marxist ideas have influenced many fields of thought and indeed have played a particularly important role in the development of the discipline of sociology. Classical sociological theorists such as Émile Durkheim (b. 1858–d. 1917) and Max Weber (b. 1864–d. 1920), for example, developed their theories of society in conversation with the works of Karl Marx. However, as it evolved in the United States and western Europe in the middle parts of the 20th century, sociology’s dialogue with Marxian propositions declined. For example, the widely influential norm-oriented functionalist sociology of Talcott Parsons (b. 1902–d. 1979) had little engagement with Marxist thought. In the aftermath of the large-scale social struggles of the 1960s and 1970s, however, sociologists around the world increasingly embraced a historically oriented approach to knowledge and in many cases found in the classics of Marxism a source of inspiration. Debates and controversies over Marxism continue to shape the development of sociology up to the present time, although “neo-Marxism” is less influential today than it was twenty-five years ago. Nonetheless, serious students of sociology have to have some familiarity with some of the classical ideas and theorists of Marxism, and Marxist theories continue to influence some parts of the discipline today.

Article.  12284 words. 

Subjects: Sociology ; Comparative and Historical Sociology ; Economic Sociology ; Gender and Sexuality ; Health, Illness, and Medicine ; Population and Demography ; Race and Ethnicity ; Social Movements and Social Change ; Social Stratification, Inequality, and Mobility ; Social Theory

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