Karl Marx is fundamentally important within sociology. He is considered to be one of the key thinkers of sociological thought. Despite his death in 1883, Marxist analysis still has considerable significance and credibility within the study of society. His basic assumptions are still widely used and referred to, even in the understanding of modern phenomenon. Despite his large body of work, Marx actually wrote very little about religion. However, within some of his publications he provided the basis of his sociological analysis and interpretation of religion within society. Both Marx's Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right (1954/1844) and Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 are fundamentally important for understanding understanding Marx's view in application to religious ideology, and furthermore, will be examined within the context of this essay.
Karl Marx and his analysis of society is seen as been a fundamental contribution to the advancement of social theory. Marx saw society as being characterised by conflict, especially in regards to the economic system. Moreover, Marx saw society as being divided by two distinct social classes; those who own the means of production, and those who do not. The social class who own the means of production are referred to as the bourgeois, and the workers are know of as the proletariat. He states that in both pre-modern and modern society, society is characterised by the exploitation of labour of one group by another. Within his sociological analysis, Marx saw the economy as being centre around such exploitation. Furthermore, in Feudal societies, peasants were exploited by the aristocratic lords, and in modern capitalist society, workers are exploited by capitalists. (Inglis and Thorpe, 2012)
Marx's notion of the economic base and superstructure are fundamental concepts in the understanding of Marxist sociology. He saw the economy as being the dominating institution of society; the economy shapes all other social institutions within society. Institutions such as the political system, family, mass-media and religion, all form part of the superstructure, and Marx states that they all function under the power of the economy in society. Moreover, he states that the institutions within the superstructure serve to trick the proletariat into accepting the ruling class ideology. "The mode of production in material life determines the general character of the social, political, and spiritual processes of life" (Marx, 1959:43) This quote serves to highlight the importance of the economy in shaping the social institutions which make up a fundamental part of society. Marx proclaims that the upper class control the institutions within society. This includes religion, politics, education and law. Furthermore, they use they institutions to legitimise their wealth and the exploitation of the proletariat.
The notion of ideology is fundamental in understanding Marx's position within his analysis of ...