Neo-marxism and Stratification

Erik Wright (1978) used the term ‘petty bourgeoisie’ – a corruption of Marx’s ‘petit bourgeoisie’ – to mean a class with some limited influence over the means of production.

Middle classes share things in common with ruling and working classes and may experience a sense of contradiction or dissonance (lack of harmony) because of the complexity of their position in society. Wright concluded that although modern society is more complex than Marx’s society.

Althusser, a neo-Marxist, argued that people happily accept capitalism because workers very rarely see themselves as exploited- ‘duped’ by an ideological apparatus into believing that capitalism is fair and natural.> ‘suffering’ from false class consciousness.

Marcuse (1964), for example, noted that capitalism has been very successful in bedazzling the working-class with what he saw as ‘false needs’ to buy the latest consumer goods

Lawrence Friedman (1999) argues the lifestyle of the rich and famous is now the modern opium of the masses.

Consequently, the mass of society is now less knowledgeable about how society is politically and economically organised. The result of this ideological barrage is that the working class is less united than ever as people compete against each other for the latest goods.

Saunders (1990) argues that such writers suffer from the same two problems:

Smacks of arrogance, he points out rather sarcastically that ‘Marxists know the true situation because Marxist theory is true’.

Habit of dismissing what working-class people say and think Parkin (1972) notes, there is a haughty assumption in Marxist ideology theory that the working class cannot ever appreciate the reality of their situation because they are experiencing a kind of collective brain damage