Karl Marx’s theory to explain social inequality is based on the unequal division of resources between two groups: bourgeoisie and the proletariat, or the wealthy/business owners and the laborers. According to Marx, the bourgeoisie have the monetary power to gain economical resources, as they own the businesses where the proletariat must work to gain money to survive. The bourgeoisie maintains this position by paying the proletariat just enough to provide for his or her basic needs of survival. Marx states that the bourgeoisie create the social rules, cultural values and norms, and the proletariat goes along with it.
This idea is the basis for what Marx calls, “false consciousness,” which is the idea that the” system” is working and there is no reason to change it because the proletariat hopes that one day he will become the bourgeoisie; this false hope is what keeps social inequality in a perpetual cycle. Marx believed that social inequality can be resolved through the abolishment of capitalism altogether. He suggested that this could be made possible if the proletariat would stand up and revolt, and rise up against capitalism by refusing to work and sell their very valuable labor, which the bourgeoisie needs in order to survive.
Marx did not see social inequality as inevitable, unlike Max Weber. The basis for Weber’s theory can be found in Karl Marx’s theory, but takes it a step further and breaks the social structure up even more. According to Max Weber’s theory behind social inequality, there are three major components that play into creating an unequal division in society: social class, status in society, and political parties. Each group directly relates to one another, although they are not all the same thing. Weber contends that social classes are divided because of certain lifestyles or opportunities that are given to a person.
If a person is born into a wealthy family, he or she is automatically provided with a lifestyle that will propel him or her into success through money and/or properties, which inevitably creates an opportunity for power. This demonstrates how money and power clearly shapes classes. Classes do not always make up communities though. Communities are shaped by social status, which is one thing that Weber is clear about. Social status is defined by the opportunity for a wealthy lifestyle. The main difference between status and class is that of the value system within each of the groups.
Through a lifestyle that one lives, ideals and values are developed, which creates one’s political stance. Political parties are a direct reflection of the pattern that creates class and social status. They are all intermingled: class determines social status, which shapes ideals within a political party. Weber makes a strong argument that social stratification is inevitable or “guaranteed” because lifestyles (which you are born into) create status groups and once those are established, over a period of time, the people accept them as status quo.
Once a standard of life is set, it is rarely moved. Karl Marx’ theory behind social inequality is most compelling. It explains that social inequality, which is detrimental to so many, can be resolved. His theory gives hope for resolution and even offers a plan of action to do so, yet there have been little done by those who feel like they are oppressed by the unjust division of resources to rise up and change the system which oppresses them. Marx’ theory is timeless and continues to speak to those issues which are seen in today’s society.