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Marxs definition of class Its strengths and weaknesses - Although the concept of class has a central importance in Marxist theory Marx does not define it in a systematic form Marx left this problem of producing a definition of the concept of social class until much later The manuscript of the third volume of Capital breaks off at the moment when Marx was about to answer the question What constitutes a class Even without his definition of class one can reconstruct how the term is to be understood in his writings In the Communist Manifesto Marx presents us with a theory of world history as a succession of class struggles for economic and political power The main classes of pre-capitalist societies are stated as freeman and slave patrician and plebeian lord and serf guild-master and journeyman1 But the dominant theme of Western society is the conflict between the exploiting bourgeoisie and the exploited proletariat Thus it is the class structure of early capitalism and the class struggles of this form of society which constituted the main reference point for the Marxist theory of history This is asserted by the Communist Manifestos famous phrase that the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of all class struggles2 The history of civilized society for Marx has been the history of different forms of class exploitation and domination It is the form of class domination present which determines the general character of the whole social structure For example the growing of wheat using traditional non-mechanical techniques is compatible with a wide range of social relations of production A Roman citizen often owned slaves who worked his land growing wheat a feudal lord would seize the surplus wheat grown by the serf on the lands the early capitalist farmers began to employ landless laborers to do their manual work for a wage which was less than the total value of
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