Sociology emerged from the desire of humans to understand our behaviour. However, throughout the years the way humans behave and believe has been passed through generations; and it was mainly explained in religious terms. The origins of sociology started with the social movements of the late XVIII century such as the French Revolution in 1789 and the subsequent Industrial Revolution in Europe. (Giddens, 1997)
The German thinker, Karl Marx (1818-1883), wanted to understand and explain the changes that occurred in society at the time of the Industrial Revolution in Europe. (ibid) In 1843 Marx met Engels in Paris. It marked the beginning of a lifelong of friendship and professional collaboration. In 1848 Marx and Engels published “The Communist Manifesto”. The Manifesto outlined the struggles between classes. From then onwards it has become apparent that Marx was not an economist. His theories are a combination of economics, history, sociology and politics. Marx moved to London in 1849 where he spent the rest of his life.
A social class can be defined as a large group of people sharing similar economic resources. (Giddens, 1997) Communist Marx identifies two social classes: bourgeoisie and proletariat. “Marx held that history was a series of class struggles between owners of capital (capitalists) and workers (the proletariat).”(econlib.org, 2013). Marx states that the bourgeoisie cannot exist without proletariat and the other way round. In The Manifesto Marx and Engels outline the evolution of the bourgeoisie.
The bourgeoisie “has sprouted from the ruins of feudal society” (Marx and Engels, 1848). The bourgeoisie or capitalists are those who purchase and often exploit labour power in order to maximise their surplus value. The bourgeoisie are the owners of machineries and labour power. (ibid) The surplus value created by works is used to accumulate wealth and expand their capital. Bourgeoisie originated in medieval European cities. Originally there was the Industrial capitalist (emerged from the employment of labour power); the merchant capital (individuals that accumulated their wealth through trade and commerce); finance capital which refers to the banking and finance system, the landed capital refers to landlords using land in a capitalist manner. The aim of the capitalist (bourgeoisie) is to expand capital in such as surplus value (profit), rents or interest. (www.uregina.ca, 2013)
The proletariat is described as a free class. Individuals in this category depend on the capitalists (bourgeoisie) to earn their wages. The proletariats own no property and they had to therefore sell their labour force to the capitalist. Marx indicates that it is then when the exploitation of the workers begin. According to Marx freedom is when an individual is free, when not owned by anybody, and is free to sell its labour power as opposed to slavery. (ibid)