Looming Ideologies: The Indispensable Role of Class within Capitalism
Marx’s evaluation of history within the framework of capitalism provides a unique analysis of human interaction. He uses revolutionary language to display to the populace the value of class within human history. Not only does he emphasize class’s significance but also goes further to claim that all other variables that influence human relations are dependent on class. Marx’s monocausal approach to class is not only justified but also necessary to evaluating dependent factors such as race. Critics in the past have scorned Marx’s reduction of the individual but in reality, Marx is revealing the ultimate influence of class in human society.
Dependent factors—such as race, gender and religion—that influence social exchanges within capitalism are dependent on class. Moreover, they have developed into ideologies established from the substructure of capitalism in order for the bourgeois to guard their capitalist power. Ideology is a technique in which the bourgeois can legitimatize or justify its power by creating a set of ideas that justify inequality. Furthermore, it’s a method in which the bourgeois can create a false consciousness—in which the proletariat is taken by an ideology—in order to stop the proletariat from revolting.
Within Marx’s materialist conception of history, race would be a dependent variable of class that determines social interaction. Moreover, it can be proven that race has been developed into an ideology by the bourgeois to divide the proletariat. The ideology of racism is at the base of capitalism to divide and justify bourgeois power. Although Marx never directly mentions race as an ideology or references race in a specific list of dependent factors, it is crucial to extend Marx’s argument to other factors to test his argument’s accuracy. If it is possible to prove race as dependent of class, then that would be an indicator of how important and influential class is in relation to social interactions within capitalism . Marx does make reference to “law, morality, religion” as dependent factors because they are to the proletariat “ so many so many bourgeois prejudices, behind which lurk in ambush just as many bourgeois interests” (Marx 482). This “bourgeois prejudice” is the installation of ideology in the proletariat in order to fulfill their interests. Since there are an infinite number of possible dependent variables, it is logical to extend Marx’s argument to race.
In order to understand how race is a dependent variable of class that the bourgeois turned into an ideology against the proletariat, the beginning stages of capitalism must first be understood. The founding capitalists were western Europeans and Americans who utilized other races and imported African slaves as part of the “naked self-interest” of the “cash nexus” in order to gain a bigger profit more efficiently (Marx 475). It was this system of slavery and exploiting a whole race that led to a successful capitalist system. Furthermore, a Eurocentric model has been engrained into capitalism that directly invokes racism and the manipulation of any race that does not resemble a western European archetype. The way in which the bourgeois “resolved personal worth into exchange value” stems from the utilization of African slaves as product in order for the bourgeois to further the development of Modern Industry (Marx 475). The proletariat consists of a diverse array of races while it is notable that the bourgeois are composed of mostly wealthy western Europeans. This division of race lays the foundation for racism as an ideology that justifies bourgeois power since they believe that they are naturally superior to others. They can then create false consciousness within the proletariat by flaunting their power and instilling ideas that ensure that the working class feels that their race makes them inherently weaker. Therefore, racism within capitalism provides cheap labor because of immigrant and minority exploitation. So, it is obvious that Marx’s monocausal approach to class is legitimized since race only plays a role dependently of the economic social relations.
Furthermore, the bourgeois can essentially use racism as an ideology to divide the proletariat even further through internal-class conflict. Now that the racist ideology is engraved into the minds of the proletariat it becomes correlated with economic status or class. This stirs conflict within the proletariat class, which divides the proletariat and keeps them from revolting. The intertwining of racism in economic status results from Marx’s conclusion that ideas serve power. This is strategic and plays out well for the bourgeois since it means that whole classes of people will feel powerless since the proletariat becomes comprised of minority groups that have been historically discriminated against. So, a whole class—the proletariat class—unite under a false ideology that they don’t deserve to rule and that they are a weak class. Moreover, they are divided within their own social classes since different minorities try to justify a rise of power over other minorities in order to feel more influential under the capitalist system. Since the bourgeois use race to justify their power, it is fair to conclude that racism is necessary to sustain capitalism—and therefore bourgeois dominance. It also becomes obvious that race is dependent on class since economic status becomes constructed on race.
The problem for Marx is that these sorts of ideologies only temporarily stall the evolution of communism, and the proletariat revolution. The next step for the proletariat to awaken from their state of false consciousness is active self-awareness. Marx believed that ideas “must be traced to the life-conditions and the historical situations of those who uphold them” (Coser 53). Marx states here that by understanding the historical situation of the bourgeois—especially comprehending the deceptions that keep them in power— the proletariat can become aware of their situation and can come to their senses to become aware of their class interest. By understanding that racism is a man-made ideology that only further empowers a corrupt class, the proletariat can cause revolution and lose their chains of oppression. If the proletariat can ignore race, they can unite more strongly to defeat the bourgeois. Therefore, race’s direct correlation with class and emancipation justifies Marx’s focus on class as the sole independent factor that influences social interaction within capitalism.
Marx’s excessive use of class in his writing was necessary and warranted to explaining the materialist conception of history. Furthermore, it is the only way to understand social interactions in the realm of capitalism. Within the structure of class lie several dependent factors that influence social interactions that helped establish and keep capitalism in place for long periods of time. The Proletariat revolution is delayed because of dependent factors such as race that create false consciousness inside the working class. However, the proletariat can eventually reach the ideal state of communism by developing self-awareness to realize its own class interest.
Coser, Lewis A. Masters of Sociological Thought; Ideas in Historical and Social Context. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1971. Print.
Marx, Karl. “Manifesto of the Communist Party.” The Marx-Engels Reader. Ed. Robert Tucker. New York: Norton & Company, 1978.473- 500. Print.
 This is a large theme; therefore I cannot address other examples of dependent factors such as gender or religion to prove my point on the importance of class further.