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Paper #1: The Ruling Ideas: Marxist Analysis of American Popular Culture

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Paper #1: The Ruling Ideas: Marxist Analysis of American Popular Culture

Sociology 356: Development of Sociological Theory

Spring 2020:


Paper #1: The Ruling Ideas: Marxist Analysis of American Popular Culture


This paper requires you to apply Marx’s theories on the influence of power in society to a particular example of contemporary American popular culture.  In “The German Ideology,” Marx famously describes how the ruling ideas of every society are the ideas of the ruling class.  In this paper you will examine an aspect of popular culture, in this case an episode of the reality TV program, Undercover Boss, to prove Marx’s theory.  Your paper will consist of two separate though equally important parts.


Part 1: Summary of Marx’s theory on “Ruling Ideas”:


In the first half of your paper, please detail what Marx meant by saying that the ruling ideas of every age are the ideas of the ruling class.  In summarizing this specific aspect of Marx’s theory you may have to discuss other aspects of his general theory in regards to the dynamics of Capitalism for the working class and the capitalists.


Part 2: Marxist Analysis of Undercover Boss:


In the second half of your paper, analyze a specific episode of the CBS reality TV program, Undercover Boss, in order to prove Marx’s theory.  Undercover Boss follows a CEO of a major corporation as they go “undercover” to become an average worker in their company.


As per your discussion of Marx’s theory in Part 1, you should be focused on using both general (i.e. overall themes represented) and specific (i.e. scenes and dialogue) examples from the television program which seem to support Marx’s conclusions on the connections between ideas, class position and power in society.  Full episodes of Undercover Boss can found on the CBS website for the show, as well as YouTube and one episode is available at the following address:


Your paper should be no more than 1,500 words (approx. 5 pages typewritten, 12-point font, Times New Roman, 1-inch margins and double-spaced).  Please make sure to include your paper’s word count somewhere on the first page of your paper.  Your grade will be based primarily on how well you are able to explain Marx’s theory and how well you are able to connect that theory to this particular popular culture text.  Please keep in mind that organization and grammar will also be a part of your grade.  Do not wait until the last minute to do this assignment, instead outline your papers, watch the episode multiple times and give yourself enough time to re-read and revise your papers before turning them in.  I will gladly discuss outlines or specific points of analysis, but will not read or “pre-grade” full drafts of your papers.


If you use only class materials, there is no need for a bibliography.  However, be sure to use parenthetical documentation for any references, i.e. (Marx 172) or (Edles and Appelrouth 72) for readings, (Undercover Boss 2020) for the episode or (Barnes 2020) for lecture.


This paper is due in class  Late papers will lose  of a grade for each day they are late (i.e. from A to A- to B+, etc.).  Papers which exceed the word limit will also lose additional points.


YouTube link to watch the episode:

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