Social and political theories give specialized knowledge in the spheres of sociology and political sciences. Social theories comprise empirical evidence that is essential when studying and analyzing social phenomena. On the other hand, political theories encompass the principles and concepts that are incorporated when evaluating political institutions and activities. Both the historical political thought and the contemporary political philosophy play a vital role in issues of liberty, justice, and the responsibilities of the citizens in legitimizing the government. Furthermore, the social and political theories give varying views concerning the key actors and processes in the international realm that stem from particular opinions on conflict, power, and human nature. This essay compares and contrasts the Marxism and feminism theories.
Marxism or socialism comprises a body of ideas that were advanced by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. The postulations under the Marxist theory provide the theoretical basis about the struggles of the working class to achieve socialism as a better form of human society (Mouffe 2014). The stratification of society into different classes emerges from the concept of materialism and dialectical view to social changes. Both Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels demonstrate the effect of capitalism that divides a nation into two fundamental classes of bosses and workers. The higher class is composed of the owners of capital who are the ruling class while the proletarian is the working class. In this view, the Marxism theory originates from an economic viewpoint (Vogel 2013). The class conflict arises from the contradictions between the ones who own the means of production and those involved in the manufacturing process. In most cases, those involved in the manufacturing process or simply the workers are exploited, as they get barely enough to lead comfortable lives.
The owners of the capital privately own the production machinery, but they employ inequality in the sharing of the surplus profits to the majority working class, thus resulting in class struggles (Barrett 2014). As the antagonism between the rich and the working class intensifies, a social revolution emerges as the proletariats fight for equality in the distribution of resources based on an individual’s contribution to the production process. Karl Marx anticipated that the socialism emanating from the advancement of output forces and technology would eventually pave a way for communism (Mouffe 2014). The communist stage of social development would ensure a society that bears establishment from joint ownerships and void of class stratifications.
The Marxist philosophy is based on dialectics and materialism. According to dialectics, the alterations and interactions play a fundamental role in influencing the behavior of institutions and processes (Vogel 2013). The past context of economic systems affects the current development of the society. Actual changes that took place in history are the outcomes of divergent tendencies and contradictions that arise during the ordinary functioning of the community (Mouffe 2014). The methodologies and analysis of the Marxist theory help in the interpretation of various political ideologies as well as social movements and especially in an element that involve power, conflict, and human relations.
The history of the feminist theory can be traced from the abolitionist movement of the late 1830s. The convention on human rights that took place in Seneca Falls under the leadership of Elizabeth Cady and Lucretia Mott launched the efforts of fighting for equality among all sexes (Pateman & Grosz 2013). The convection led to the declaration of the sentiments that demonstrated that men and women are equal, and thus they should have similar opportunities. Gunew (2013, p. 83) notes that in Germany, ‘several feminists fought for the rights of women to initiate sexual relations regardless of their marital status’. Marianne Weber advocated equal treatment of women in social institutions and particularly marriage. For liberal feminists to support social changes successfully there needs to be proper legislation and efficient regulation of employment because they view sexism as the primary obstacle to equality.
According to the radical feminists, the privileges and power shape social relations and utilize the tool of patriarchy to ensure the oppression of women (Pateman & Grosz 2013). Feminism entails a conglomeration on political ideologies and social movements that have the sole objective of achieving equal rights for women that are similar to those of men. The theory supports political, social, and economic equality between men and women. Feminism seeks to establish similar changes for all both in employment and education by promoting the social rights of women (Barrett 2014). The feminists re-examine the roles of women’s experiences, chores, and interests concerning established processes and systems within society.
The theory aims at achieving gender equality by avoiding instances of discrimination against women. The feminist theory refutes the patriarchy system that views men to hold more power and dominance in all the spheres of life including political leadership, religion, and the absolute right to own and control property (Barrett 2014). Some feminists also disapprove of the postulation that sees men as the father figures who hold the authority over the children and wives. The theme of negative stereotyping against women is an essential element that the feminist theory addresses (Pateman & Grosz 2013). The theory postulates that thoughts and beliefs aligned to hold women in a subordinate position are erroneous.
Similarities between Marxism and feminism
The feminist theory coincides with Marxism by relating the division of labor to the expectation accruing from gender roles. Gender entails socially constructed roles that are attributed to both sexes (Kennedy 2013). In some societies, it is the role of women to give birth and nurture the children while the responsibility of men is to offer support to the family. In this view, men assume the role of the bourgeoisie while the women are the proletariat. Men exclusively on the resources of the family due to the superior position they occupy and they have the sole mandate to redistribute the earnings to the other family members (Lane 2015). Similarly, the ruling class in the Marxist theory owns the means of production thereby oppressing the working class by extracting the surplus profits rather than redistributing them to the workers.
Both Marxist and feminist theories advocate a revolution. The radical feminists postulate sexism as a primary weapon that men use to oppress women. The discrimination against women acts as a viable conceptual model of comprehending other divergent forms of oppression (Barrett 2014). Consequently, radical feminist advocates a drastic realignment of society. Through a revolution, feminists seek to abolish the male supremacy in both the economic and social contexts by opposing the prevailing male social institutions as well as norms. The radicals attempt to remove the gender equality barriers created by sexual objectification and the traditional definition of women’s roles in society (Lane 2015). The revolution does not follow pure political processes, but it encourages women to raise their voices against abusive social structures enacted by men and refuse reproduction responsibilities.
Consequently, the Marxist theory advocates a revolution as a way of emancipating the working class from the oppression of the bourgeoisie. The social revolution emerges from the dissatisfaction of the proletariats who seek the initiation of a production system that distributes the production profits in an equitable and organized way (Mouffe 2014). The objective of the insurgency introduces joint ownership by eliminating power and control among the political cohort and elites who own the production machinery.
Alienation plays a critical role in both feminist and Marxist theories. Women become the subjects of class-oriented capitalism due to the inferior position that they occupy in patriarchal societies (Kennedy 2013). The repression of women stems from the nature of their work both at the domestic and national levels. Women are also alienated in making political decisions due to their misrepresentation in leadership positions in the social and economic organizations. Similarly, the Marxist theory depicts forms of labor characteristics among the bourgeois society as a profound form of alienation (Lane 2015). The earnings that the working class receives in exchange for its work contribution alienate them from the right to receive an equitable allocation of production profits.
Differences between the Marxist and feminist theories
The two theories differ in their ultimate objectives. The feminist theory is interested in gender equality through the abolishment of the patriarchal system while Marxism rejects capitalism. Through communism, the workers gain awareness of their afflictions thus bringing into action an ideal system of a classless society where benefits are shared amongst all (Mouffe 2014). The Marxist theory observes the change of power in society to coincide with economic relationships because individuals define themselves by social relations. The shift of society from feudalism to capitalism creates stratification within the society (Barrett 2014). Subsequently, the power to control both the social and legal institutions is skewed towards the side of the bourgeoisie.
Furthermore, the Marxist theory abhors capitalism because it articulates authority to the control of educational, political, and religious systems on jurisdictions of the ruling class, thus alienating the middle and the lower classes (Lane 2015). On the other side, the focus of the feminist theory is to reject the postulation that women possess fewer abilities as compared to men. Men supremacy denies women their fundamental rights and demands them to initiate vibrant awareness to avoid instances of discrimination and stereotyping.
Although both theories have a social dimension, the Marxist theory is more concerned about the economic and the educational system of society (Mouffe 2014). The disparity in the level of education assists the bourgeoisie in the acquisition and maintenance of power at the expense of the illiterate who are involved in the production of goods and services. Karl Marx also believed that economic dominance leads to more authority that is political in nature (Lane 2015). In this regard, fiscal systems result in the establishment of a wealthy category of individuals who own industries while the lower and middle classes provide cheap labor. Other social institutions such as churches, prisons, and courts among others are established to sustain the gap between those who are economically powerful and have-nots (Kennedy 2013). However, the feminist theory lays less emphasis on the monetary systems because it attributes the suffrage of women to patriarchy. Male dominance over women is the primary cause of oppression in all other critical spheres of life including business, power, and marriage.
Feminism bears a discrepancy from Marxism due to the lack of unique goals. Multiple feminists have varying opinions among themselves and the emergence of many controversial topics on equality between the two sexes (Lane 2015). Varying waves in the generation of feminism is characterized by different demands. Initially, in the 1700s, women feminists advocated the establishment of a vindication of their rights that was later followed by the declaration of sentiments in 1848. The second signal in the generation of feminism started in North America through vigorous campaigns of gender equality. Other brackets of women in the late 18th Century shifted their attention to issues of sexual orientation and identity (Kennedy 2013). As time unfolds, the feminists’ agenda keeps on fluctuating, thus creating a distinction from the Marxism theory.
Social and political theories are significant in shaping international politics. The Marxist theory postulates the position of the bourgeoisie in controlling the means of production while the middle and the lower classes provide labor in the manufacturing of goods and services. The feminist theory focuses on ensuring that both men and women acquire similar rights economically, socially, or politically. The similarities inherent between the two theories include alienation and their advocacy for a revolution while the discrepancies arise in the ultimate objectives and economic dimension. Besides, different feminists promote varying opinions with time.
Barrett, M 2014, Women’s oppression today: The Marxist/feminist encounter, Verso Books, New York.
Gunew, S 2013, Feminist Knowledge (RLE Feminist Theory): Critique and Construct, Routledge, London.
Kennedy, S 2013, ‘Marxism and Feminism in an Age of Neoliberalism’, Irish Marxist Review, vol. 2, no.7, pp. 5-16.
Lane, D 2015, ‘Book Review: Dangerous Liaisons: The Marriages and Divorces of Marxism and Feminism’, Political Studies Review, vol. 13, no.3, pp.393-394.
Mouffe, C 2014, Gramsci and Marxist Theory (RLE: Gramsci), Routledge, London.
Pateman, C & Grosz, E 2013, Feminist challenges: Social and political theory, Routledge, London.
Vogel, L 2013, Marxism and the oppression of women: Toward a unitary theory, Brill, Leiden.