In the history of time, there has been many socialtheories which give us an insight on how certain society’s work. Most time,these theories are influential for that time period and then lose status once anew, more seductive theory is established. Marxism and Sociological criticismare two good examples of social theories that made a massive impact on thesociological fields, but have since lost its statues due to the society’schanging. Even so, Marxism and Sociological criticism have shown up many timesin literature, movies and even in the real world. Sociological criticism wasintroduced by Kenneth Burke in the 1900’s.
This “explores the relationshipbetween the artist and society”, which in short form means, literary criticismdirected to understanding literature in its larger social context. This form ofcriticism applies sociological theory to the interpretation of literature. Forsociological critics, the social, cultural, economic, and political contexts ofliterature are worthy of investigation, shedding light on the content andideology of the work of literature and its reception by readers. Sociologicalcriticism has a social impact that deals with real life situations and givesyou a different point of view of how to perceive society. The main sub-categoryfor Sociological Criticism is Marxism.
Marxism was established by Karl Marx inthe mid-1800s and was later adopted by other theorists, such as Marvin Harris.Marxism was built upon the idea that there has been an ongoing class strugglein human history and it is this conflict between classes that will lead tosocial change and eventually to the birth of Communism. The Marxist criticsapply Marxist economic and political theory to literature.
Marxist theoriestend to focus on the representation of class conflict as well as thereinforcement of class distinctions as they are presented in a work ofliterature. It also tends to focus on creating a world of equal social classes,in which the upper class and lower class are equally sharing the means ofproduction and property. Capitalism and its influence on class distinction arecentral to Marxist literary theory. Karl Marx is often credited as the fatherof Marxist political theory. His ideaswere significantly influenced by G.W.F. Hegel, politics, economics, andpersonal observations of class struggle during his time.
Social stratificationwas very prominent during Marx’s time due to the Industrial Revolution, whichpromoted economic disparity. As a result, Marx attributes monetarydisproportion as the foundation for societal problems. He treated economics and politics as ascience and wrote his thoughts on them in The Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital.These works highlighted in-depth what he thought was the root of societalproblems and how society would solve these problems in a series of steps. Marxalso declared that the capitalists, or the bourgeoisie, had successfullyenslaved the working class, or the proletariat, through economic policies andcontrol of the production of goods.
Karl Marx was able to create his ownversion of the different types of the classes in a society. The Proletariat(Lower class) and Bourgeoisie (Upper class). The Proletariat is the industrialand manual working class that produces goods. This class works for wages ratherthan a salary. The Bourgeoisie on the other hand are the educated populationassociated with money for whom the system is working for. They serve ascontrollers of the world’s natural, economic, and human resources.
Karl usedthe word Hegemony as it shows that the Upper Class is always dominating thelower class due to economic superiority and this causes, False Consciousnesswhich means the lower class don’t realize the affect that the upper class hason them. Marxist literary theory emerged through these theories of politics,economics, and class struggle in the 1920s. People began acknowledging thatliterary creation is the result of both inspiration from the author as well astheir surroundings. This exemplifies a key idea of Marxist literary criticismwhich asserts that works of literature are products of history which can beanalyzed by looking at the social and material conditions in which they wereproduced. Although an author determineshow a character develops, it is the socio-economic situation of the authorwhich determines how the author develops and influences the literature theyproduce.