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Neo-Marxism refers to a collection of theories that amend or extend the Marxist theory. These theories mostly appeared in the 20th century, aiming to explain questions that could not be explained by using traditional Marxist methods.

Key ideas

-Capitalism today is not only an economic system; it is a way of life. Everyday life is affected by its concepts of commercialism, consumerism, and profit-making.

-Making money, shopping, and aspiring to the lifestyles of the rich and famous are the very values and motivating forces of life in Western society, fueling giant corporations that encourage us to buy more and consume more as they seek new markets and new profits.

-The term hegemony is used to refer to how the bourgeoisie dominate the culture with their norms & values. This makes sure that the proletariat doesn't challenge them, and accepts their position without question. 

Difference from classical Marxism

-Neo-Marxism focuses less on the capitalist economy and more on capitalist culture, and how this culture keeps the proletariat in the dark about their exploitation.

-False class consciousness is a key aspect of Neo-Marxist theory. It refers to how the proletariat are kept unaware of their exploitation under capitalism. The superstructure does a very effective job of making the proletariat think capitalism is normal & fair, which helps keep them obedient to the capitalist society. The media, in particular, keeps the proletariat in the dark about what’s really going on. 

Key sociologists

Antonio Gramsci: Ideological control, not military might nor economic dominance, is the highest form of hegemony, a form of consent rather than coercion. Western societies today have taken capitalism to their hearts as well as their heads and it will take a great deal of persuading to convince them that socialism is a better way of life. 

Criticisms

Criticised by classical Marxism: Neo-Marxism reduces economic factors down too much in favour of culture and ideology. In recessions the economy is the most relevant factor in examining society. 

Related theories

Marxism

Conflict theory

Past paper questions