For well over 150 years, the theories of Karl Marx have significantly influenced the thinking and ideas of many sociologists, especially those concerned with the relationship between the economy and politics (Kimmel, 1990). The interaction between the economy and politics in a class society defines social change. In point of fact, change is an inevitable force that is responsible for societal transformation. Contemporary American society is in a continuous flux of change, thanks to such forces and factors as t3echnology, social awareness and the dynamics of a class society. If Marxism and its early predictions were anything to go by, the United States of America, which is no doubt the most notable capitalistic society, will not be existent in the foreseeable future. While this may be an ambiguous prediction, it is clear that Marxism is based on the endless struggle between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat – the former being the owners and controllers of the means of production, and the latter being the working class (Beehler, 2006). This paper focuses on the topic of social change in the United States of America, through the theories of Karl Marx and C Wright Mills.
In Marx’s predictions, the class society is not sustainable because, at some point in time, the proletariat will not be willing to take the oppression anymore. They will rise in what he calls revolution and take over power. This way, wealth and power, will be redistributed in such a manner that there will be a classless society. According to the explanations given by Phillips (2004) the ideal of a state, in the lens of Marxism, is a classless and stateless society. There will be no need for a state because the classes will be dissolved and there will be nothing like one class oppressing another. Neo-Marxist thinkers argue that the state is like a machine, in which one class, usually the wealthy class, oppresses another class. In the USA, today, capitalism is the dominant and most widely accepted social and economic order. If Marx would predict social change in the United States today, he would use so many metrics to explain the phenomenon. According to Kimmel (1990) the Marxist views of social change are based on the presumption that the, supposedly, oppressed class will at one point bring change through organized revolutionary action.
Today, communism or socialism, the foundational ideology of Karl Marx’s theories is creeping into the US, bringing about social changes. In point of fact, race and class are slowly fading away in the United States, thanks to organized revolutionary action. In contrast with the US society of the 18th and 19th centuries, racial relationships are not any strained in contemporary American society. The United States has a black president for the first time in the history of what is referred to as the most notable superpower. What this explains is that race is no longer a determining factor as far as power and politics are concerned. Justifiably, the theories of Karl Marx effectively predicted this phenomenon. Karl Marx speaks of class antagonism as one of the factors that will always push a society to revolutionary action. Class antagonism is something clearly practiced in the United States, especially considering that it is a class society.
While capitalism defines the economy of the United States, the working class, especially the white collar class, is unjustifiably exploited. Looking at the status quo from a sociological point of view, racial considerations still exist in the United States, however, silent. Today, for instance, research indicates that mass incarceration of the people of color is one of the biggest social problems in the USA. The whites, who are deemed sociologically and politically superior, are not seriously affected by the mass incarceration. However, things will change with time because, according to Phillips (2004), class antagonism is a transitory phenomenon. It facilitates the need for social change. The modern sociologists that hold Marx’s ideas argue that class antagonism, which is evident in the United States, is a result of the contradiction between the ideal human nature and capitalism.
C Wright Mills, variously described as the most intelligible modern sociologist, adopts a theory that explains the dynamics of society, especially through the working class. Mills wrote quite a number of papers and pamphlets explaining how the society views and adopts change. Borrowing heavily from Marx and Max Weber, Mills explains that the white collar workers constitute a group through which social change can best be explained (Mills and summers, 2008). Mills warns other sociologists against a trend referred to as sociological rationalization. Sociological rationalization is described variously as the justification of a class society. Born and schooled in Texas, Mills has tasted the dynamics and politics of American politics, and his explanations are more of a firsthand experience (Phillips, 2004). Impliedly, Mills’ ideas are opposition to the way things are in the United States. Doing most of the writings during classicism, other sociologists did not receive the views well. However, the views of Mills held a lot of truth as they considered real factors in existence, such as technology and industrialization.
Today, Mills’ ideas are the most practicable interpretation of social change. In his book, White Collar, Mills explains the troubles of middle class and explains that it is through organized revolutionary processes that the world will sufficiently change. In another book, The Power Elite, Mills explains ideas that are rooted in Marxism. Most notably, Mills agrees with Marx that the state is a mechanism for class antagonism. He, much like other Marxist sociologists, argues that challenging the status quo is the only way through which all the inequalities can be eliminated. In another instance of agreement between Mills and Marx, he argues that looking at, and learning from the trends of history is the most sustainable way of attaining positive change (Mills and summers, 2008). In his book, Causes of World War II, Mills explains that the class struggles explained by Marx will see the oppressed classes rise in revolution and take over power. Essentially, therefore, there is a significant agreement between Marx and Mills with regard to social change.
Looking at the history of the United States, it is clear that Marxist ideas are quite practical as they have seen social change take place. Perhaps the most notable of the Marxist ideas that have played a primary role in the US history is Organized Revolutionary Action. Mills explains that teachers and instructors use such recordings as movies and literature to explain social change. To this end, it is clear that history sets the trend. In the United States, during the Harlem renaissance, the blacks rose up against racist ideology. They went against the white dominance and resisted the oppressive measures put in place by the dominant white ruling class. Such revolutionary action saw such people as Martin Luther King lead blacks and other lesser races to an ideological war that saw racist measures flexed (Kimmel, 1990). The civil rights movement is no doubt the biggest example of sociological revolution.
The primary strength of Marx’s theories is the actuality that it is supported by historical evidence. The civil rights movement, for instance, explains the Marxist ideas of social change. Secondly, the Marxist approach is one that is based on the interaction between social and political aspects of society. It touches on various factors defining society such as race, gender and class. The key weakness of the theory is that some of its most significant presumptions are not practicable at all. For instance, it is not practical to divide a society into two extreme classes – the wealthy and the poor, the powerful and the oppressed (Beehler, 2006). Additionally, it is not practical to argue that the working class will overthrow the government, at least not in the current era. Another primary weakness is the presumption that the ideal society is a classless and stateless society. This cannot be practicable in current times.
Considering historical evidence, Mills’ theories are both strong and flawed, when viewed from different perspectives. Foremost, the strength of the theory is rooted in the fact that it considers real factors such as technology and the dynamics of the working class, essentially because Mils coined his sociological perspectives at a time when the industrial revolution and classism were emerging as the strongest forces. Secondly, the views of mills not only consider the sociologists’ perspectives only, but also the problems and experiences of the individuals in a society (Phillips, 2004). Looking at the weak side of the Mills theories, it is clear to note that such perspectives rely on historical trends, which may not be compatible with the current situations. Summarily, there is a significant similarity between Mills’ and Marx’s views, especially when applied to the circumstances of the United States.
Beehler, R. (2006). The theory, not the theorist: The case of Karl Marx. Lanham, Md. [u.a.: Univ. Press of America.
Kimmel, M. S. (1990). Revolution, a sociological interpretation. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
Mills, C. W., & Summers, J. (2008). The politics of truth: Selected writings of C. Wright Mills. New York: Oxford University Press.
Phillips, B. (2004). Dictionary of Modern American Philosophers. Bristol, UK: Thoemmes Press.