The theory of Karl Marx as regards society and how it should move and organize itself is contrary to the view that all the members of the community must collaborate and contribute to the greater and common good. For Karl Marx, conflict is necessary in order to effectuate changes within the society. In fact, he considers conflict the most fundamental ingredient in making change possible in a given society.
The foundation of this theory is Karl Marx’s theory that the society is composed of different classes. The class to which a particular person belongs will largely depend on the role or part played by that individual within the bounds of society. Where classes exist, people are continuously segregated, and hence it cannot be said that there is presence of absolute equality. Hence, for Karl Marx, this is where conflict begins.
His belief in the formation of classes is traced in his notion that men has been in constant contrast with nature or his environment. There is the belief that due to man’s active participation or connection with his environment, he finds more and more ways to contrast with it in order for him to survive. As correctly pointed out,
Marx insisted that men make their own history. Human history is the process through which men change themselves even as they pit themselves against nature to dominate it. In the course of their history men increasingly transform nature to make it better serve their own purposes. And, in the process of transforming nature, they transform themselves.
In contrast to all animals who can only passively adjust to nature’s requirements by finding a niche in the ecological order that allows them to subsist and develop, man is active in relation to his surroundings. He fashions tools with which to transform his natural habitat (“Dynamics Of Social Change”).
Hence, men found it imperative to formulate measures and processes in order for him to survive. This is the same need that moved and provoked men to associate with other individuals that are more like them. This is the start of the formation of classes where men of the same roles in the society grouped and formed their own class for purposes of survival.
Due to the creation of different classes or groups within the society with the same purpose, said groups found themselves in conflict with one another. This is due to the fact that for purposes of subsistence, one class must necessarily dominate all the other classes in the society. In a scenario where different classes exist with one purpose, the presence of conflict, for Karl Marx, is inevitable. “Classes are conflict groups involved in extremely intense and violent conflicts directed toward equally extremely sudden and radical changes”(Dahrendorf, 1959). Due to their struggle to survival, it becomes imperative that the classes be in conflict with one another. The subjective class deemed it necessary to rise above the dominating class.
In order for the subjective class to rise above the dominating class, it becomes crucial for conflict to exist. As mentioned above, it was the view of Marx that men as beings do not merely adapt to his nature. In order to survive, men find means and process to fight back and struggle with nature. This is precisely what happens in the society, the people do not merely assent to what constantly occurs within the society, and hence conflict must be created for change to materialize. Marx believed that if the lower class simply cooperated with the higher class, exploitation will continue and worsen until change is no longer possible.
For Marx, society cannot change nor move forward if people simply assented to the appeals and desires of the dominant class; that society cannot be changed if men simply adhered or responded to nature. Marx put too much premium in the concept of conflict as a tool for transforming the society people live in. Truthfully, in the world we live in today, conflict is not difficult to find. As correctly pointed out by Dahrendorf, “we can maintain at the very least that in many societies there are associations and classes, and in all known societies social conflicts”(1959). And within each society, conflict is not a simple element, but rather a necessary one. For Karl Marx, In order that change to the systems running the society and arrangements within the society to be effected, conflict, albeit a negative term, is a necessary tool which must be considered and utilized.
Ralf Dahrendorf. Class and Class Conflict in Industrial Society. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1959
“Dynamics of Social Change”.
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