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Beyond Class

An important trend in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century has been to resist both Marxian and Weberian theories of social differentiation in favor of other fundamental sources of division among human beings. Feminism provides an example of one such line of reasoning. Feminist theory claims that gender, rather than class, constitutes the defining division in human historical dynamics. Broadly stated, feminists assert that reproduction trumps production as the organizing principle around which human social institutions are fixed. Thus, it is the gender divide, emerging from the male oppression of women, that drives social processes throughout history. Patriarchalism, not classism, constitutes the major division among human beings, and the obsession with class is itself a patriarchal trick to divert attention from the fundamental struggle between the sexes.

Class-oriented conceptions of social power and dynamic have also come under attack from proponents of critical race theory. The orientation of critical race theory raises questions quite similar to those of traditional Marxism concerning the ways in which state power (in its legal-juridical and coercive applications) reinscribes and reinforces racial divides. Thus, just as gender is foregrounded in feminist analysis, so race becomes the central focus of analysis among proponents of the critical race school.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Chimaeras to ClusterClass - Early Histories, The Renewal Of Class, The Marxist Transformation, The Weberian Reply, Marxist Rejoinders