Social Inequality: Comparison Of Wollstonecraft’s And Marx’s Thoughts On Inequality

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The essay will compare Wollstonecraft’s and Marx’s thoughts on inequality. Mary Wollstonecraft considers inequality as an unnatural act that is arbitrary, socially produced, and alterable. Therein, in the book A Vindication of the Rights of Women, Wollstonecraft recommends providing quality education to both men and women in her book, as a means of countering inequality. On the other hand, Karl Marx perceives inequality as a consequence of harsh capitalism system. This means that capitalism breeds situations that promote unfairness and discrimination between the poor and the rich, and between the working class and the capitalist. In the book Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 and the Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx demonstrates how inequalities thrive in the economic structure of the capitalism system plus the government-centered system of communism. Therefore, Mary Wollstonecraft condemns inequality in regards to society adapting values that undermine women, while Karl Marx examines social inequality in both capitalist and communist societies.

Wollstonecraft’s thoughts on inequality are gender-centred. In the book A Vindication of the Rights of women, the author argues that to a certain aspect, women are inferior to men. For example, the conducts and manners of women prove their minds are not in a healthy state since they have been forced to live by societal values (Wollstonecraft 2004, 11). She compares women to flowers planted in rich soil, which however fade away before reaching maturity. The inability of women to blossom is unnatural and steered by discriminatory social constructions. Wollstonecraft (2004, 11) notes that “either nature has made a great difference between man and woman, or civilization which has hitherto taken place in the world has been very partial.” The statement implies that some inequalities between men and women are naturally based and some still are out products of incomplete civilization. Therein, Wollstonecraft’s strategy is to demonstrate that some biased relations between men and women are based on hierarchical social relations, which leads to inferiorities. The scholar further identifies that there are numerous dissimilarities among people, which benefit some while subjecting others into misery. Therefore, inequalities originate from inherent variations and imperfect social systems.

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On the other hand, Marx’s thoughts on inequalities are based on social classes, which include the dominant bourgeoisie and proletariat. The bourgeoises are the owners of productions, which include factories, equipment of power, and businesses. Thus, they exploit the proletariat by giving them wages that cater to solely food and shelter. Marx, who was an economist and journalist, was more motivated by the concern of workers, who were undergoing terrible poverty while being surrounded by the wealth of their employers. Therein, under the topic “Estranged Labor” the philosopher argues that society is divided into two classes, which include the property owners and the property-less workers. The latter anguish in poverty as they are alienated from the material wealth. On the other hand, the rich control everything, forcing the poor to work for them and paying them minimum wages. Since the workers do not own the means of production, which are appropriated for them by capitalism, they become more estranged. As workers put more effort into work, they become more alienated from the capitalists since they get more prosperous from the workers’ struggles. Therein, inequality breeds as a result of class divisions.

Concepts Wollstonecraft and Marx Use to Problematize Inequality

Wollstonecraft demonstrates that a weak education system is the primary cause of growing inequalities between men and women. The philosopher notes that “one cause of this barren blooming I attribute to a false system of education, gathered from books written on this subject of men” (Wollstonecraft 2004, 11). She further demonstrates how the books compiled by men represent women as inferior victims, who are either mistresses or housewives. Similarly, Wollstonecraft (2004, 26) blames writers who have addressed the subject of female education plus manners, such as Rousseau and Dr Gregory, for representing women as artificial and weaker characters. The scholar further argues that ‘mistake’ education brings about a narrow and uncultivated mind, which exposes the women to sexual prejudices. The women are denied equal opportunities, which are given to their male counterparts due to societal and women’s ignorance. However, most women appear ignorant since the education system does not grant them the essential experience. Wollstonecraft (2004, 9) questions “And how can women be expected to co-operate unless she knows she ought to be virtuous?” Therefore, Wollstonecraft critiques the existing education system for not equipping women with the necessary means of knowledge, which exposes them to various forms of inequalities.

On the other hand, Marx uses the concept of division of labor to problematize inequality. The productive forces of a country are illustrated by the degree of division of labor. Therein, the desire for private ownership had led to division of labor, raisin social classes based on financial status. Marx (1988, 26) notes that division of labor generates the productive power of work, which increases wealth and refinement. As a result, it impoverishes workers and reduces them to machines. Although the workers struggle to accumulate more wealth for the capitalists, they are forced to depend on them. The decision on amount paid to workers is solely determined by the capitalists. Marx (1988, 86) argues that the wages belong to the capitalists and it should not exceed the bounds of this necessity. The trend of undermining the workers is passed on the children, who are forced to follow the laws laid down by the bourgeoises. Marx (1988, 227) notes the family ties among the proletarians are torn asunder as the children transform into simple articles of commerce plus instruments of labor. Additionally, the capitalists take advantage of workers’ competition for the available jobs by paying them minimum wages.

Furthermore, Marx uses the concept of power to problematize inequalities. He notes that the capitalists have the supremacy to make laws, which only drift the lift between the rich and the poor. In essence, separate regulations, interests, governments, and systems of taxation are concentrated into one nation, that has one government, one national interest, and one code of laws (Marx 1988, 214). Therein, the poor are rendered off any means of acting against the rich. On the other, the rich controls media and education, forcing the poor to adopt the ideologies of the capitalists. Marx (1989, 219) notes that the bourgeoisie supplies the proletariat with elements of political and general education to furnish them with weapons of fighting the bourgeoisie. Therein, the society is in constant conflict for limited resources, which are in the hands of the bourgeoises. However, such conflicts can be eradicated by adopting social order, which is practiced through domination and power, instead of conformity and consensus. Nonetheless, the persons with power and wealth use any means possible to retain it, even suppressing the poor and the powerless.

Concept to Propose Solution to Inequality

Wollstonecraft believes that providing quality education to both men and women will help to end social inequalities. In essence, enlightening women will make them support their life with dignity, which will consequently earn them respect. The quality of education given to women should be in a great degree be by the opinions and manners of the society (Wollstonecraft 2004, 122). Furthermore, it should aim at strengthening the body and heart. This means that it should help the individuals acquire the habits of virtue. The scholar argues that women are not naturally inferior to men, but they appear so due to lack of education. Therefore, changing society’s perception of women would help to end inequalities. Wollstonecraft (2004, 7) notes “if she be not prepared by education to become the companion of man, she will stop the progress of knowledge, for truth must be common to all, or it will be inefficacious concerning its influence in general society” (7). The statement implies that giving quality education to women will empower them to become productive the same way as men. Moreover, it will enlighten them to compete with their male counterparts and end gender discrimination.

Furthermore, Wollstonecraft calls for revolutionary ideas, which bring about new political and social relations. The form of revolutionary she calls for is intended to make women aware of their strength and social systems. The author notes that societal constructions have made women ignorant to the social system. This implies that women have been constructed by societal values to adapt however they are treated. Thus, they do not question any form of discrimination. However, this trend can be changed by adapting revolutionary measures on social, political, and economic values. Wollstonecraft (1989, 9 ) notes that “unless freedom strengthens her reason till she comprehends her duty, and see in what manner it is connected with her real good.” Therefore, averting the political and social relations will help educate women, which will consequently eradicate gender inequalities.

Marx proposes ending inequality by adopting social change. The philosopher argued that social change is the only natural order for societies. The scholar predicts a worker’s revolution, which will succeed after the workers develop real class consciousness, or shared identity that is based on mutual experiences under the hands of the bourgeoisie. After the revolution, the workers can acquire the means of production, making the world communists. However, his vision has not yet been achieved as society has modernized. Most workers have attained skills plus financial well-being, which Marx never thought would come into being. As a result, the majority of workers have formed unions that protect workers and counter any exploitation at workplace

In summary, inequalities in society are driven by a weak education system and unfair division of resources as demonstrated by Wollstonecraft and Marx. Wollstonecraft recommends changing the existing education system and adopting one that touches on strengthening the body and mind for both men and women. On the other hand, philosopher Karl Marx recommends adapting social change in a bid to eradicate the social class inequalities. Similar to Wollstonecraft, Marx also recognized the existence of gender inequalities. However, he argues that for society to eliminate it, there is a need to overcome all forms of indifferences for a better a fair system. Currently, a majority of feminists have borrowed Marx’s ideologies to condemn gender inequality as they believe that they believe that inequality thrives since men oppress women, the same way the rich oppress the poor.

Works Cited

  1. Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. Economic and philosophic manuscripts of 1844. Amherst, N.Y: Prometheus Books, 1988.
  2. Wollstonecraft, Mary. A vindication of the rights of woman. London New York: Penguin Books, 2004.


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