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Collective Consciousness

Proletariat, Bourgeoisie, Exploitation

The term proletariat is the concept utilized in reference to a category of people in the society who do not own the means of production. This term was coined by Marx and frequently used by the Marxists in reference to the workers who suffered the repressive and oppressive rule of the capitalists in the run up to the industrial revolution. The proletariat suffered from heightened alienation from the means of production, the products and time. They only served to provide cheap labor, which the capitalists exploited in order to maximize their profits and gain from the surplus of production. Proletariats survive by selling their labor to the capitalist owners of the means of production. Their incapacity to have more wealth denied them voting rights like in Early Rome, where voting was established on the property value.

Bourgeoisie refers to a social category that was characterized by the ownership of production elements. It was invented by Karl Marx in his discussion on the stratified capitalist society that preceded the industrial revolution in Russia. An instance is traders and businessmen in England and France who created major political and economic decisions in the 17th century. On the other hand, exploitation refers to the use of something in an unjust way for private benefits. The bourgeoisie who owned factors of production, formed the high and middle class and became decision makers in the economic and political spheres. Since the proletariats formed the lowest class and had no voting rights, they were mercilessly exploited and forced to work for a lesser fee or without a pay. The bourgeois, in the run up to the industrial revolution, dominated the society and owned the capital and the industries. They suppressed any potential imminent revolution from the proletariat, which was considered as a threat to the capitalist establishment.

Mode and Means of Production, Power Esteem

Mode of production is used to define the means of producing, whereas means of production refers to the physical inputs used in the output such as labor, capital and machineries. Power defines a person’s ability to control the behavior of people, as well as mobilize resources. On the other hand, esteem refers to respect value and honor to a person. Thus, power esteem refers to the ability of a person to manipulate the conduct of individuals and mobilize resources and gain respect, appreciation and honor of others.

With the power, one is able to control peoples’ behavior and mobilize the required available resources and factors of production needed for the production process. With the elements of production, the path of creating them can be made. Power esteem, therefore, helps in acquiring the factors of production, as well as, generating efficient modes of production and maintaining the respect, appreciation, honor and recognition from those you influence.

Social Class, Class and Life chances

A social class is a category of people with shared socioeconomic and academic status in society. It may likewise apply to people with similar levels of wealth, influence and status in society. For example, societies may be grouped into social classes such as the upper, middle, working and lower classes. On the other hand, a class refers to a group of people who exhibit and share similar traits and attributes and have a familiar relation to the methods of production.

Life chances refer to the opportunities at one’s disposal that enable one to provide himself with material goods, positive living conditions, and favorable life experiences. This is invariably reflected in measures such as housing, security, health and education. Classes form social classes, and the higher the social class one is in, the higher the life chances the individual possesses. For example, individuals in higher classes have greater life chances than those in lower classes since they have access to better health care, education, security and housing services.

Karl Marx’s Social Conflict

Marx argues that in each and every society, there are two classes – the ruling and the subjects’ class – and that the social categories in the society possess different quantities of agents of production and the dominant groups use their position in the society to exploit the less dominant in the same society. He posits that the subject class is oppressed to the ruling class, which leads to a conflict of interest. Marx argued that the exploitation is mainly conveyed through the use of economics as money creates disorder through the use of brutal violence by the constabulary and the army. However, Marxism proposes a resolution to this problem and states that workers should unify and raise up a revolution to bring down the oppressive capitalist economic and political domination and adopt socialism.

Vilfredo Paretos’ Social Conflict

Vilfredo Pareto states that the class conflict is real and that it is not confined to two classes alone but to a number of groups with different interests among elites who fight for control. He says that the characteristics of these groups are nationality, faith, race, sex. For example, the war between the Czechs and Germans in 1902 was based on nationality.

Differences between Marx and Pareto’s Social Conflict

Marx asserts that the class struggle is a consequence of the exploitation among the two groups, the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. However, Pareto maintains that the class struggle is confined not to the two classes but to a number of groups. Secondly, whereas Karl Marx posits that the groups involved in the class struggle are formed as a consequence of shared values and perceptions, Vilfredo differs and argues that these groups are forged as a result of nationality, sex, religion and language.

Similarities in Marx and Pareto’s Social Conflict

Both Vilfredo Pareto and Karl Marx agree with the fact that class struggle exists. The latter argues that class struggle exists between capitalists and the proletariats whereas the former contends that the social conflict exists among the different groups. Both sociologists agree with the fact that the factors of production are held by few people, and this leads to social conflict. Vilfredo Pareto carried out a survey and found that 80% of the wealth in Italy was owned by 20% of the population, and he moved further to develop this rule by noting that 20% of the pea pods in his garden contained 80% of the peas. Likewise, Karl Marx argued that the factors of production are owned by a small percentage of the population who also make determinations, and this contributes to a societal antagonism between the dominant minority and the poor majority.

Both Vilfredo Pareto and Karl Marx accept that there are similar characteristics that lead to the formation of the classes and the social groups. Vilfredo states that the groups are formed as a result of nationality, religion, language and sex. Karl Marx asserted that social classes are determined by people’s access to the means of production and utilization of the means to achieve personal goals in a competitive society.

The thoughts expressed by Pareto and Marx on a social contract exist today in a number of configurations. The arguments are relevant to a highly stratified society where few dominant groups exploit and suppress the weaker members of the society. To date, groups are formed as a result of nationality (like the West Africa States, North America states), sex (women and men based groups), language (French speaking groups, Spanish groups), as well as religion (Christians and Muslim based groups). Similarly, the existence of both classes and groups has led to social conflicts in the 21st century (like the Islamic insurgency in Nigeria).

Marx and Pareto’s views influenced the social relations and social life in a way. People align themselves to national, language and sex groupings, and this may often lead to a social conflict. The ideas have also seen people create social classes, and the proletariats have always believed that they have to unify and overthrow the capitalists thus leading to a social conflict similar to the Russian revolution that led to the change in the social order.

Class Consciousness

Class consciousness is a term used by Marxists to refer to the perceptions a person holds regarding his or her social class in society, the class structure and the class interests. Karl Marx explained and defended his belief that the workers (proletariat) who were being exploited in industries by the capitalists (bourgeoisie) would finally become aware of the shared experience of their exploitation with their fellow workers of exploitation and get up and wage war over their oppressors. By this, they would effectively change the society’s oppressive capitalistic system with socialism. The repressive structures are erected to falsely persuade different classes to understand that they are naturally belonging to the class where the system has placed them.

Marx argued that it is class consciousness that would enable the proletariat to wake up and discover the actual state of relationships in society. This would enable the proletariat to realize and understand their place inside the social class system in relation to the bourgeoisie and finally bring down the capitalistic system and build socialism. This he termed as the subjective dimension of the class and argued that the working class would develop from class “in itself” that he referred to as a no mutual collective cognizance of the class positioning into a class ‘for itself’ that is the consciousness of the vernacular nature of exploitation by the capitalists.

Marx believed that workers would group up together and jointly develop a revolutionary class consciousness from their experience of exploitation by the capitalists in relation to production, as well as decision making and wealth ownership. An instance of a shared class consciousness is the formation of craft unions, which championed the interests of the workers to advocate for their liberation from the suppressive exploitation of the capitalists. Marx argued that class consciousness does not determine people’s being. On the contrary, it is one’s social being that influences his consciousness. In this, Marx defends his belief that in order for the proletariat to overcome their crises, they have to identify their position in the social system. It is their sense of shared experience of their exploitation and position in a capitalist system that would rally them together to confront and dismantle the capitalistic system. This would then be replaced with socialism. This would be possible if they discovered that they were victims of false class consciousness.

Collective Consciousness

Collective consciousness refers to beliefs, attitudes, values and perceptions that hold a group in the society together. Durkheim argued that traditional societies that were systemized in clan and villages alongside religion played a significant role in incorporating people into a universal collective consciousness. This is because members of these traditional societies shared a similar language and culture, and this, therefore, brought them together. On the other hand, religion unified people as they came together to worship together. On the other hand, class consciousness refers to the perceptions a person holds in regards to his or her social class, structure and interest.

Similarities of Class and Collective Consciousness

Both collective consciousness and class consciousness advocate for people in a social group to become intimate with their shared characteristics and values and, as a result, achieving solidarity rather than living separately in isolation. Besides, in both collective consciousness and class consciousness, there is an aspect of solidarity; the societal groups are seen as being able to come together for a particular purpose and to transmit out a fussy task. Marx, in his class consciousness, states that the working class should add up together and overthrow the capitalist and similarly Durkheim’s collective consciousness is founded on the need for people to cling together under shared beliefs, perceptions and interests within an interactive radius. Besides both class consciousness as presented by Marx and collective consciousness as presented by Durkheim, there is an aspect of mutual likeness in which the people who come together to form these societal groups have some common characteristics that they all posses.

Differences between Class and Collective Consciousness

Whereas both the class consciousness and collective consciousness advocate for solidarity, the latter states that the solidarity should be in order to share resources and knowledgewhile the former claims that the solidarity is in order for the proletariats who are the oppressed to gang up and overcome their oppressors. Durkheim argues that collective consciousness was a consequence of religious belief and the existing social structures like clans and families that existed in the traditional primitive societies. On the other hand, Karl Marx claims that the class consciousness was a consequence of the perceptual experiences that a person has with respect to his or her social class, social structure and category involvement.

While collective consciousness is all about a sense of commonly held beliefs, perceptions, attitudes and moral values that hold members of the society, class consciousness is about identifying and realizing your position in the social class in relation to the capitalists and forming an uprising to overthrow the capitalistic system while replacing it with socialism.

Interchangeable Use of Class and Collective Consciousness

The two concepts, class consciousness and collective consciousness, could be employed interchangeably. These two concepts are interchangeable because they highlight the facial expression of oneness and solidarity that is geared towards a certain cause. The ideas agree with the fact that there is a reason to unify for a universal drive, and that the multitude coming together have a similar characteristic and traits. The two concepts also advocate for people in a social group to come together, become intimate with their shared characteristics and values and acquire a sense of achieving solidarity rather than living separately in isolation.

Class-consciousness as a useful tool for Understanding Social Relations among Groups

Social relations refer to whatever association or relationship between two or more individuals. An example is the relationship between five members of a class discussion group. Thus, it is critical to understand and appreciate the interests and class background of the person(s) you associate with in the groups in order to understand them. This understanding is critical in designing appropriate structures of engagement informed by the interests and priorities of people in one’s interactive radius.

Class consciousness is an efficient instrument for understanding social relations among groups. From the definition, class consciousness is a person’s opinion about the social class, its structures and interest. For one to get to know better and realize the societal relations in a group, it is important to be mindful of the social organization and the interest of the group. In order to understand the social relations among groups, one has to be part of these groups, identify with them and associate with them. This will help get to learn the relationships in these groups. This is effectively achieved when one has the correct perceptions about these groups, their interest and structures, and this is what class consciousness is. For instance, in order to see the relationship between two communities, you have to be part of them, persist among them and tie in with both of them.

To infer the societal relations in the groups, one must begin with identification of its class consciousness. In most examples, groups are forged by people from the same class. Therefore, realization of societal relations in these groups must begin with clear understanding and appreciation of the interests and structure. Most groups always consist of people with similar tasks or professions. For instance, the upper class form groups among themselves and not with the low class, that is, engineers form groups among themselves and not with teachers, and thus, to understand the social relations in these groups, one must begin with appreciate notion of the class.

Groups are always formed by people with common interests, and, therefore, to understand the kinship of the masses within the group, there is a need for class consciousness. This is because class consciousness entails the perceptions of the involution of the group, as well as the structure. Similarly, social relations in the groups entails unity towards a common destination, and this is accomplished through the formation of groups by members of a similar social category, social structure and who share similar values. Since class consciousness entails the solidarity among members and for a common goal, then it is a useful tool of understanding social relations.

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