What Is Marxist Theory of Social Change?


Jane Flores

The Marxist theory of social change is a key concept in the field of sociology and political science. Developed by Karl Marx, this theory provides a framework for understanding how societies evolve and transform over time. It offers insights into how economic factors shape social relations, power dynamics, and class struggle.

Understanding the Basics

At the core of the Marxist theory of social change is the idea that all societies are divided into different classes based on their relationship to the means of production. The means of production refer to the resources, tools, and technology used to produce goods and services. In capitalist societies, for example, these means are owned by a small group of individuals or capitalists.

Marxists argue that these capitalists exploit the working class, who do not own the means of production but sell their labor power in exchange for wages. This exploitation leads to social inequalities and class conflict.

The Role of Capitalism

According to Marxists, capitalism is inherently unstable and prone to crises. This instability arises from contradictions within the capitalist system itself. One such contradiction is between the drive for profit maximization by capitalists and the need to pay workers as little as possible to maintain profitability.

This contradiction leads to overproduction and underconsumption as workers’ wages stagnate or decline while capitalists accumulate wealth. Eventually, this economic inequality becomes unsustainable and can result in economic crises such as recessions or depressions.

The Class Struggle

Marxists view history as a series of class struggles, with different economic systems emerging through revolutionary processes. They argue that capitalism will eventually be replaced by socialism or communism through a proletarian revolution.

In this revolution, the working class or proletariat will overthrow the capitalist class and establish a classless society where the means of production are collectively owned. Marxists believe that this transition to communism will lead to a more equitable distribution of wealth and power.

Evaluating the Theory

The Marxist theory of social change has been both praised and criticized by scholars and thinkers. Critics argue that it oversimplifies complex social phenomena, neglects cultural and ideological factors, and underestimates the role of individual agency in effecting social change.

On the other hand, proponents of Marxist theory highlight its emphasis on social inequality, exploitation, and the potential for collective action. They argue that it provides a critical lens through which to analyze power dynamics in society and advocate for social justice.


In conclusion, the Marxist theory of social change offers valuable insights into how economic factors shape societies over time. It highlights the role of capitalism in generating social inequalities, class struggle, and potential revolutionary change. While it may have its limitations, this theory continues to stimulate debate and analysis among scholars seeking to understand societal transformations.