Marx's theory of class is deeply linked within his explanation of the emergence of industrial commercialism and capitalism. He formed and proposed his theories during a time of extreme change within his own society and others around the world caused by several factors including the emerging 'industrial revolution' and new political views and parties.
He was concerned throughout his work with the environment and his belief that all society must organize itself around and make use of its own environment. Marx also believed that the defining feature of any society is 'the way in which goods and wealth are produced' (Questioning identity, 2000, p97). This involves the organization and ownership of the 'means of production' as well as the social relationships between groups and individuals. Thus Marx theory states that all areas of society (social, cultural and political) are all related to, and driven by the economic relationship within that society.
Marx theories use the production process as the most fundamental of all social relationships, and therefore his theory of class are based on these relationships.
According to Marx a class is a group of people who all share the same relationship to the 'means of production', the 'means of production' (MOP) being the way in which the society produces their means of subsistence through a materialistic relationship with their environment. Marx isolated two such relationships/ classes. The 'Bourgeoisie' were, Marx theorised, the new ruling class. They own capital and the use their capital within the MOP. The other class he recognised were the 'Proletariat', these were the property less working class who the Bourgeoisie employed. The two were described as 'two great warring and hostile camps' (Marx and Engels, 1848, p.49)
The relationship between the two classes can only, Marx believed, truly begin when class- consciousness...