Karl Marx, German philosopher and revolutionary socialist, was the creator of the concept of Marxism. To provide a little background on the topic, it is important to know that this theory was generated around the time of the industrial revolution. This conflict theory is based on the idea that modern society only has two classes of people: the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. The bourgeoisie are the owners of the means of production, meaning they own the businesses, the factories, and the machinery that is needed to produce the wealth in society. And then there is the proletariat who is the workers.
The struggle takes place between those who control the means of production by owning all of the natural and human resources available, and those who supply the labor that allows the owners to make a profit, giving them the all the power.
Katniss Everdeen of The Hunger Games would be considered a modern day Karl Marx in the fictional city of Panem, continuously trying to change the course of society. Katniss and her family are a few of many people who live in the section of District 12, also referred to as “The Seam”, a demeaning name given to their area that lends itself to the idea that this area isn’t an ideal living situation. The members of this community are the coal miners, all dirt poor, starvation is commonly seen, and can be compared to the proletariat of Marx’s time. On the other hand, there is also The Capitol, which would be compared the bourgeoisie. The Capitol is a place of luxury and wealth, having everything that the people of the districts cannot afford, giving them power to rule over all of Panem.
The important distinction of this comparison is the way the members of these classes are treated by other members of society and government. Similar to the proletariat, the miners are required to work just to feed their family, working long shifts regardless of how safe the conditions are, a form of exploitation by the Capitol (The Bourgeoisie). The workers of District 12 don’t have the power to control the means of production, all they have is their labor power that they then sell.
One of Marx’s concepts of class that is apparent in The Hunger Games is termed “class consciousness”. This is something that occurs when similar class situations come to act similar as well. They share common ideals like developing mutual dependencies, a community, and have a shared interest unified by a common income. From this, common interest classes are formed and in Marx’s society it was apparent that their interests lead to a struggle with the opposite class.
More specifically, free speech is not a given in Panem, which is something that Katniss becomes very aware of, so she censors herself especially because of her mothers continuous fear of the government. She’s aware of the fact that she is part of a lower class and remains silent to protect her family. This shows that class consciousness is a concept that has been carried through from the industrial revolution to modern day society. As a member of district 12 Katniss builds an awareness of her identity. How this concept develops is when the consciousness moves from being individualistic to a common consciousness of the whole class. The people of District 12 eyes’ are opened when Katniss replaces her sister in the games, as talked about in my previous post. She raises the awareness that they need to fight for their freedom, ultimately bringing the people to a higher level of class consciousness. The progression of this leads to everyone sacrificing their personal interests in support of the moment to fight for the classes interest as a whole.
Although that comparison is on a more broad of a level, it really sets up the scenery for how theories on class structure in history are carried through to modern day society. On a smaller scale, a more specific example that actually points out the difference in classes and standing up for your class is when Katniss is entering the Hunger Games. The commentators of the games make sure to point out the fact that they are saying “I am proud to be from district 12, we will not be overlooked.” This is a large leap because the stand that Katniss makes is finally noticed.
It is really interesting to compare the theories of Karl Marx to modern day society because there are many examples whether they are large scale or small scale. I think that it is less comparable to how America is today, but there are many examples in film and literature that pull from the conflict theories of Marx to create a relatable and realistic, yet fiction society.