By Godfree Matthew Esq.


The Marxist school believes that society is a product of social change as results of conflicts between certain opposing forces. The Marxist sociologists are also known as conflict theorists. They believe that social changes occur as a result of conflicts between opposing forces in a society. This school of thought is greatly, influenced by the work of Karl Marx (1818-1883).[1]However, despite the fact that Karl Marx was the founder of this school of thought, other scholars immensely consolidated on it.

In discussing Marxist perspective, this work is structured into three parts. Firstly, the work will examine the basics of Marxist sociology. In the second part, it will examine the reflection of conflict sociology in the COVID 19 pandemic situation in Nigeria. Also, in this part of the work, the writer will align the correlations between law and conflict sociology on the state of COVID 19 pandemic in Nigeria. While the third part of this work is its conclusion.


The Marxist theorist relied on class struggle to explain the source of conflict in the society.  He  believed that capitalism divided the society into two: those who owned the means of production and those who worked for the owners of these means of production.[2]  He termed the owners of factors of production as burgeousie while those who worked for the owners of factors of production as proletariat i.e. workers. As a result of inequality and exploitation of masses by the burgeouisie, tension will arise where the masses will overthrow the bourgeoisie system.

Again, the Marxists believed that the relationship between the burgeousie and the proletariat is based on exploitation because the workers are alienated from the goods and services they produce. They have no say on how those goods are sold or the funds gotten from those goods and how they are managed. For example, a worker in sugar factory has a duty to farm the sugar cane, harvest it and take it to the factory for processing. After that, such worker had no say on how the sugar is manufactured, how it is sold and how the profits are shared, because it is the sole responsibility of the management of the factory- who might have never visited the farm or touched the sugar cane as a plant. The rights of the worker to have a say on how the funds realized from the sugar cane is restricted by the limited money given to them in form of wages and salaries. Thus, to Marx, the workers who produced the sugar cane through their labour can still be charged as thief for taking that sugar in certain parts of the factory.

In the same vein, the worker who initially produced that sugar with the sweat of his labour, might not afford to buy that one bag of that same sugar from the wages paid to him by the burgeousie. Thus, issues like inflation and scarcity, make what the workers originally planted, to be  a distant reality from them- as they cannot afford it.  Thus, the inability of the workers to have a say on how the product of their labour is produced or sold is termed as ‘alienation’.[3]

Also, the Marxists believe that as the exploitative tendencies of the burgeousie against the proletariat i.e workers continue, the workers will one day come to the realization of their exploitation and revolt against the bourgeoisie. This is what the conflict theorists term as class consciousness. This class consciousness will lead to the conflict in society wherein there will be changes to the extent that the masses will have a say on how decisions are made regarding ownership of factors of production and management of scarce resources. This situation is termed as dialectical materialism – a conflicts of incompatible forces that produces a social change in the society.[4]

Moreover, the Marxists are of the opinion that all stages of human society passed through conflicts as a result of class differences that exists in a society. They term this as historical materialism.[5] By historical materialism they maintain that social change is not a smooth sail because every human society was a product of tension and conflict. This can best be illustrated in the Marxist stages of historical developments. For example, during the Stage of Slavery, the relationship between the slave masters and the slaves led to revolution that put an end to the slave trade. In the feudal stage, the relationship between the Serfs (servants) and Landlords was also exploitative.  Here the Serfs where given certain portions of land to farm and brought the proceeds from the land to their masters i.e Landlord.

The obliteration of the slavery and serfdom, ushered human beings to another stage of development called capitalism. The capitalist era was characterized by profit maximization as the factors of production rested in the hands of few to the detriment of the many and this led to exploitation. As a result, many people resorted to revolts and sought to overthrow the system and ensure equal and collective ownership of the means of production. History supports this view with the Bolshevik revolution of 1917 and the Communist revolution of 1946 in Russia and China, respectively

The next phase of development, the Marxist envisages, are Communism/Socialism. In this system, Marxist believe that there is a common and collective ownership of means of production. In this society every man is provided with essential needs of life according to his needs. The workers have a say on how goods are produced, manufactured, distributed, sold and have a say on how the funds will be managed.

The last stage of development envisaged by Karl Marx is communalism. This stage is viewed as the perfect stage where there is no class distinction between the haves and the haves not. It is tagged to be a classless society. This stage of development is termed as ahistorical- because there is no historical record of any society yet, where human society is classless. It is termed as Utopian state- because it is not practical to attain such state in human existence.

The last contribution of Marxist sociology to be examined in this work is the doctrine of economic determinism. By economic determinism, the Marxist posit that economy is the most determinant factor of every society. Thus, it is only those who are in the robust economic standing that can influence politics, health, religion, law, education and other social aspects of the society. It is the economy that determines the superstructure of the society. Thus, all other aspects of human society are subservient to the economy.

From the above exposition of the Marxist views, the reader’s mind is equipped to watch out for how Marxist views are reflected during the COVID 19 pandemic in Nigeria. This perspective will be examined hereunder.


For better understanding of the Marxist perspectives on COVID 19, this section of the writing shall explore the concepts of disease, medicine, health, drugs and law- within the Marxist world view.

The Marxists believe the causes of sickness to be more of environmental and occupational factors instigated by the capitalist system. They don’t believe that sickness is the biological or hygienic fault of the individual victim of the disease. This is because it is the capitalist industrial activities that polluted natural environment such as air, water, space and land. Consequently, this affected innocent human beings with illnesses.

In the same vein, the Marxists believed that most sicknesses occur as a result of occupational hazards that workers encountered during their service to the burgeouse. Therefore, incidences of stress, fatigue,accidents on heavy duty equipments resulting in disability, hypertension as a result of loss of job, poor dieting  and others- are some causes of diseases that are prodded by capitalist activities.[6]

Situating the above views within the context of COVID 19 pandemic, one will agree with the Marxists that the aetiology (study of the causes of disease) of COVID-19 is environmental. This is because of two reasons. Firstly, the pandemic started in China and got spread to the other parts of the world. Secondly, China was accused to be ‘environmentally responsible’ for the spread of COVID 19 to the global communities in two ways viz: (a) China has been accused of developing the virus in Wuhan Province, and (b) China has also been accused of not disclosing the havoc of the virus in time to WHO in order to halt global spread of the pandemic. Thus, China was sued by some countries for internationally wrongful acts under international law for violating International Health Regulations.[7]

Nigerians came into contact with COVID 19 pandemic through what Marxists refer to as occupational and environmental aetiology. This is because the first index case was an Italian who was probably in Nigeria for business (a capitalist engagement). Apart from him other Nigerian elites went outside the country on official and commercial trips (occupational functions) and when they returned they came back with COVID 19 and unfortunately the virus spread to the innocent taxi driver who picked them from the airport, and it is possible that the innocent house girl or boy who welcome oga or madam home contracts the virus. These innocent Nigerian citizens contracted an imported sickness brought from an environment they never visited. The consequences of the causes and the effects of  disease (like COVID 19) on the poor, is aptly captured by David Mechanic, who stated that:

Much of ill-health arises from the material bases of the society and that those at the lower end of the class system face higher risks of illness and disability …than the affluent.

As a result of the widespread effect of COVID-19, the government of Nigeria intervened through the instrumentality of the law to restrict movement, interstate transportation was banned, international flights were banned and people were asked to stay at home. The legal intervention is not palatable to the masses as many whose sources of livelihood were affected, and as poverty knocks at their doors, they cry ‘it is better to be killed with Coronavirus than to be killed with hunger virus.’[8]

Another interesting perspective of Marxist’s appraisals of COVID 19 pandemic is on the role of health care system. They posit that human beings naturally prefer health than illness. However, because wishes were not horses, it is only the rich than can access quality health care while the poor cannot. [9] Thus, to the Marxist, the health care system is an economic institution where only the rich engage in competing commercial transactions.[10] Stating the desperate needs of the capitalists to monopolize the global health sector, former International Monetary Fund, Economist, Ken Rogoff, commented in 2005, that “next great battle between socialism and capitalism will be waged over human health and life expectancy”.[11] Today with the COVID 19 pandemic, Rogoff’s economic prediction is now a social reality. We are living witnesses to this reality. The duel between China and US on COVID-19, says it all.

The Nigerian situation that agrees with the above position is the provision of the National Health Act, which supposed to address how government shall provide accessible  public health care to the poor, but it did not. Rather, the Act further legitimizes the continuation of the poor health infrastructure in the country by providing for the right of the ‘rich’ to seek medical treatment abroad under section 46 of the said Act. The right to seek medical care abroad is also approved by the court in the case of Afeni V Shehu. [12]

Furthermore, the Marxists view of health care system birthed the twin principle of medicalization and pharmaceuticalization of disease. By medicalisation of disease, the Marxists believe that the capitalist society tends to create an impression on the society that makes people to rely on the use of medicine and drugs for healing.[13] To the Marxists, there are certain diseases like stress and fatigue that do not need medical treatment. All the patient naturally needs to do is to relax, take vacation and be refreshed. Therefore, in order to keep the worker in perpetual servitude in the interest of capitalism, the capitalist system introduced the medicalisation system to treat the workers and ensure that they resume back to work in good health. To the Marxists, the capitalist system requires the masses to be in good health as long as they are productive to the society.

At this juncture, it is important to objectively comment that the Marxists’ paradigm in the context of COVID 19 pandemic in Nigeria is not apposite. This is because the healthcare systems used by the Nigerian government are mostly public health institutions as private hospitals were prohibited from rendering service to COVID 19 patients. Also, COVID 19 patients in Nigeria who were also treated at the expense of the government, not there personal pockets.

However, the only situation where the Marxists notion of clashes of contradiction is reflected in Nigeria is resorted to the already neglected health care system. With the restriction of international travel, medical treatment is also restricted, thus, many Nigerians who were supposed to develop the health care system but neglected to do so, see themselves coming back home to the dilapidated health care sector. Thus, “the stone the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone” .In terms of the health care facilities, it is right to say that , the once undesirable, has now become the desirable.

Moreover, the Marxists believe that, the health care system is a wider process of oppression crafted by the capitalist society.  To them, scientific medicine and health care system has metamorphosed into an industry that creates new sectors of production and exploitation.[14] In order to sustain the health sector, the capitalist society had to cut the wages of the working class to address the health needs of the society.[15] These measures are used as tools of oppression and repression to retard the advancement of the working class to the upper ladder of the society. This postulations is currently, reflected in the cutting of some workers salary in Nigeria in effort to augment the funding of COVID 19. campaign[16] This move by the government made the Labour Congress to react by urging the Nigerian government to suspend its actions.

Another area of concern to the Marxists in health care management is the pharmaceuticalization of sickness. Phamarceuticalisation simply means the role of drugs and drug manufacturers in defining the treatment of particular sicknesses.[17] Pharmaceuticalisation suggests that even issues like stress and fatigue that may require natural rest, must be treated with drugs because the said fatigue or stress may occur as a results of certain chemical or organic imbalance, which can only be treated with drugs.[18] Therefore, through this process, the pharmaceutical companies increased their production and maximized profits to the detriment of the poor.

In line with the above, the Marxists further maintained that relying on the drug companies for treatment, further gives them the opportunity to determine the course of the treatment of drugs and sometimes exaggerating the severity of said disease for the purpose of attracting clientele.[19]  Some of the drug companies also sponsor research into the scientific and clinical examination of drugs and in the course, influenced the process of approval of which drugs to be used.[20] This is may done with the understanding that after the cure is found the drugs manufacturing company will have certain concessions. This is an avenue for monopoly.[21]The Marxist refers to this phenomenon as corporate construction of diseases.[22] They believe that drug companies achieve corporate construction of diseases through the following schemes:

  • They gain control of the organization that conducts tests and recommends drugs for general use.
  • They reframe the public perception about a particular disease to instill a public demand for drugs, and
  • They inspire growing movement to extend the use of drugs beyond the health market and towards routine enhancement of peoples’ lives. [23]

By the above praxis, the Marxists believe that drugs are rather manufactured in the favourable interest of the drug companies instead of the patients’ interest. This is a sheer exploitative venture inspired by capitalism.

Therefore, to the exploitative concept of corporate constructions of disease by capitalism, the Marxists advocate for self-determination on medical care.[24] Thus, where a person believes that the ailment to his fatigue or stress is just to relax and refresh himself, it is okay. Also, where a person believes that his health condition does not need drugs for treatment, the health worker must respect his rights. This is termed as principle of autonomy in medicine. The Nigeria cases uphold that principle.[25]

The corporate control of drugs theory also rationalizes charitable acts by most of the corporate world. This is seen as an effort to assuage the effects of the disease, but it is a smokescreen of further perpetuating capitalist exploitative tendencies. Marxists believe that palliatives are measures taken by the privileged in order to pacify the revolutionary tendencies of the masses who may not be happy with a particular social change. Chinua Achebe, though not a Marxist, captures this view thus, “Charity …is the opium of the privileged.”[26] The Marxists refer to this phenomenon as phamalontrophist– a philantrophic gesture done in order to promote drugs and health sector in sickness situations. As far as Marxists are concerned, the target of the capitalists is to recycle their wealth creation within the keys forces of production. Charity is just a smokescreen and human beings are just used as specimen. Presently, there is intense competition between the world powers on who will control the WHO financially. When China donated $2m to WHO to combat COVID 19, US President condemned that amount as token.[27] Trump maintained that China is covering under charity to escape liability for causing COVID-19 pandemic. Perhaps, in America’s attempt to influence WHO, President Trump gave the WHO an ultimatum that unless “WHO is committed to major substantive improvements within the next 30 days”   US will permanently withdraw its funding.[28]

In Nigeria, COVID-19 pandemic provides an avalanche of the financial donations from both domestic and foreign donors. The donations total up to quantum of dollars. However, do these charitable acts address the plights of the masses?  In Nigeria’s situation, even the essential workers who are supposed to benefit from the largesse still complain that they are not paid. Some of these donors have to pay back the effects of such donation on their workers by sacking them. A peculiar act that attracts public criticism is that of Access Bank that donated N1 Billion to the federal government and after one week, sacked over 100 workers.[29] From these developments, in Marxist consciousness, one will agree that there is no genuine intention of capitalists to relieve the plights of the masses, rather the COVID 19 pandemic is an opportunity for capitalism to recycle and re -strategize its investment using the public’s plight as a privilege.

Again, the process for sharing of the palliative measures is another sphere that shows the insincerity of the state to address the plight of Nigerians. The organizations responsible for sharing the palliatives have been accused of defying the social distancing ethics in the prosecution of the war against COVID 19. Consequently, many people are not interested because they perceived the process of accessing the palliative as a trap which is another means of contracting the virus. As a result of this discouragement by the public, the remnants of the palliative might be siphoned into personal pockets.  A probing question that the federal government is yet to answer Nigerians satisfactorily is that, why must the government persist and insist on School Feeding Program while children are at home? Also, does the federal government have a comprehensive data of all children in the said schools? These questions query the integrity in the exercise of the palliatives by Nigerian government. No wonder a social media commentator said that”there will be football match between EFCC and NCDC after COVID-19 pandemic”‘- alluding to the impending investigations and prosecutions of corrupt officials that will come after the COVID-19 pandemic is over.

In Nigeria, the Marxist view of medicalisation and pharmaceuticalisation of COVID 19 is evinced in the arrest and isolation of travelers returning from abroad and those suspected of having the disease. In the course of doing that, the public are now aware that there is threat in the land. Even those who claim that they don’t have COVID-19 are still kept in detention to justify the existence of that disease in a state. A perfect case is that of a lady detained by the Benue state government. Fortunately, the lady was released. Nigerians will like to hear her story.

Another instance of medicalisation of the COVID 19 in Nigeria is the victimology of the pandemic. From global perspectives, it appears more of the victims that willing to disclose they identity are celebrities and top executives. In Nigeria, the first victims are the chief executives and their allies who are mostly governors. With the infection from the higher cadres, the poor masses are easily deluded to believe that the disease is a “Rich Man’s Disease.” Consequently, once any decision will be taken to purchase drugs for the cure of COVID-19, less opposition will come because the medicalisation technique comes with justifying the needs for the drugs.

Another Marxist view is that phamaceuticalisation has a global and local implication on who determines what drugs are suitable for the treatment of COVID 19.  The whole world appears to look up to WHO and the  advanced democracies to determine the real drugs for the cure of COVID-19. Certain yardsticks where enumerated of clinical tests that were put in place by the WHO. Some of these clinical tests are so advanced and relied on the facilities that are not available in the health facilities of the developing countries.

Again, by relying on the WHO and the advanced countries to provide for drugs, the global powers continue to enjoy the status of demi-gods that have the only Midas touch.  This reflected in the fact that when Madagascar claimed to have discovered the cure for COVID 19, the western world used the ‘clinical test approach’ in an attempt to discourage the herbal remedy of that small nation. But in accordance with the Marxist notion of self-determination in medical treatment, Madagacar proceeded with the supplies of its drugs. The Madagascan President Andry Rajoelina claimed that the WHO had bribed him with 20 Million dollars to poison the Madagascar’s herbal remedy so that the drug will not be potent, but he refused.[30] Such poignant indictment was not impeached or refuted by the WHO. As a result, many Africans rallied around Madagascar and supported its herbal remedies.

However, it is quiet unfortunate for Nigeria in that while it sought to identify with African struggles by sympathizing with Madagascar, it neglected its own national responsibilities. It technically refused to support the invention of Professor Maurice Iwu, despite the call by Nigerian Pharmaceutical Association. This is despite the fact that the obligation of Nigeria’s government to encourage local production of drugs is statutory. The law enjoins the government agency to undertake, co-ordinate and promote private and public individual to conduct research in production of drugs.[31]

The refusal of the Nigeria government to use the instrumentality of the law to encourage Professor Iwu’s drug is what Karl Marx refers to as the use of law by the powerful to oppress and suppress the will of the people of the society or individuals who are not in support of their interest. Thus, he sees law as a tool of oppression in the hand of the oppressor who use it to project their interest and superimposed it over others.

Lastly, while the functionalists view COVID -19 as bringing about social change by rehabilitating the once dilapidated Nigeria health sector, the Marxist view COVID-19 in Nigerian context as bringing conflict that seeks to eliminate certain class from the economic strata of the  society. This is because the COVID 19 has led to the loss of many jobs. The pandemic brought about virtual economy whereby other manual labourers like cleaners, messengers, clerks and other manually inclined industry will be wiped off the cadre of employment. Marxists, view that as a traditional strategic ploy by the capitalism  to dump human beings once its imperial goal is achieved. In the age of slavery, when capitalism invented machines, it saw the needlessness of human labour and then brought about the abolition of slave trade. In the industrial age when capitalism noticed the efficacy of information age over industrialism, it hurriedly embraced information and computer age. Now that, capitalism is planning to usher humanity into digital age, COVID-19 could be used as forerunner to the digital age. With the global effect of COVID-19 pandemic, one is prompted to ask, are we at the end of history as envisaged by Francis Fukayama?[32]


This work started with the fundamentals of Marxist sociology and thereafter an exposition of the Marxist views relating to COVID 19 was examined. Furthermore, legal provisions that supported or opposed certain developments were stated. It is important to note that while Marxists view COVID-19 from the prism of economic determinism and the capitalist hijacking of health institution as industry that  perpetuates capitalism, however, the reader should be mindful of the fact that COVID-19 did not emanate from a capitalist nation but China, a communist nation. In the same vein, the most victims of the pandemic appear to be the western capitalist societies. Even in Nigeria, the sickness was once tagged as ‘Rich man’s Disease’. These observations point out some of the flaws of the Marxists- View on COVID-19. Therefore, quest for which sociological schools between functionalist and marxist best describes COVID-19 cannot be answered at this stage until the view of another school of sociology known as symbolic interactionist is examined. This will be the focus of our next socio-legal engagement.

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[1] James W.Vander Zanden,’ Sociology: The Core”4th Edn.,(McGrwaw-Hill,Inc.,1996) @P.11

[2] Haralambos and Holborn, ”Sociology Themes and Perspectives”,  8th Edn., ( HarperCollinsPublishers, London, 2013) @P.964

[3]  James W.Vander Zanden,’ Op. Cit.. @P.11

[4]4.Ibid@ P.12

[5]5. Haralambos and Holborn, Loc Cit

[6]6. Fran Coyler,”Karl Marx and Frederich Angels: Capitalism Health and Health Care Industry”, February,20152@P.8 @<accessed on May 14,2020>

[7] . China was sued by U.S, India  Nigeria for  Internationally Wrongful Act, See “Complaint by DR .ADISH .C .AGGARWALA .SENIOR ADVOCATE,. TO THE UNITED NATONS HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL, GENEVA”,APRIL,1,2020@https;//www/ <accessed on the April,8,2020>See also Nick Wadhams and Jenniffer Jacobs, “China Concealed Extent of Virus Outbreak, U.S. Intellegence Says”,Bloombeg @>c..<accessed on18 April, 2020> Comp. L. .J. 821 (1996)atP.830. See  Also, Anwesha Madhukalya,”$20 Trillion law suits against  China! US group Says  corona virus is bioweapon” Business Today, New Delhi April, 2, 2020>

[8] Ajiri Daniels, Sultan’s Bombshell: Hunger Virus killing Nigerians more than Coronavirus”, March 20,2020@>..<accessed on April,2020>

[9]. James W.Vander Zanden,’ Sociology: The Core”4th Edn.,(McGrwaw-Hill,Inc.,1996) @P.347

[10]10.  Fran Coyler, Op Cit @P.10

[11]11.Richard Horton, “Offline: Medicine and Marx ”The LANCET,publ.Nov.4,2017.DOI:…<acceesed on May 14, 2020>

[12] 1998) 7 N.W.L.R(PT.556)

[13] Michael Haralambos and Martin Holborn, Op. Cit@P.p. 313-314

[14]14. Fran Coyler, Op.Cit@P.10

[15]15.David Mechanic, “Policy,Politics, Health and Medicine: A Marxist View”(1990)@<accessed on May 15, 2020>

[16]16.Agency Report, ”COVID -19:Union rejects deduction of workers’salaries by Kaduna govt.”,Premium Times, April 29, 2020@><accesssedon May19, 2020>

[17] Michael Haralambos and Martin Holborn, Op. Cit@P.p. 315



[20]20. George A Jelinek  and Sandra L.Neate, “The Influence of the pharmaceutical in industry in medicine”, P.217,Journal of Law and Medicine, October, 2009, Researchgate@ <accessed on May 16,2020>

[21]21.Arthur Daemmrich, “ Where is the Pharmacy of the World? International Regulatory Variation and Pharmaceutical Industry Locations” Working Paper, Harvard Business School. Pp. 17-18

[22]22. Michael Haralambos and Martin Holborn ,Loc Cit


[24]24. Richard Horton Loc.Cit,

[25]25.M. D.P.D.T V.Okonkwo(2002)2MJSC 67 and Okekearu V Tanko (2002) 15(Pt.791)

[26]26.Opera.Com,”Chinua AchebeV Robert Mugabe: Beautiful Amazing and Funny Quotes By Two Genuises ”April 19,2020@https://newsaffeed<accessed on May 8,2020>

[27]27.Reuters, ”US calls China’s $2billlion WHO pledge a ‘token’,says it must pay more’ ,MAY 1, 2020@>article<accessed on May20, 2020>

[28]28.Lauen Fruen,”Donald Trump threatens to permanently pull$400m in WHO…”DailyMail. May 19,<accessed May 20 2020>

[29]29.IgboWatch,”After Donating N1b to FG, Access Bank SACKS 800 workers, slashes other salaries by 40%”May 2, 2020 @https:/><accessed on May 19,2020>

[30]29.ZambiaObserver,W.H.O Offered $20 Million To Million Bribe To Poison Covid-19 Cure  Made by Madagascar-President Andy Rajoelina Claims”,Zambia Observer, May 30.2020@<accessed on May 19, 2020>

[31]31..Sections 5(n) and 6 (h) and (i) of  the  NAFDACT, ACT, CAP.N.1,2004

[32]32. Francis Fukayama,  is an American philosopher, who predicted that as slavery defaced, Nazism, facism, Soviet,  and other philosophies of life, the world will end up into One Market Economy and probably last stage of development See..James Atlas, ”What is Fukayama Saying? And To Whom  is He saying it?”, New York Times ,October 22,<accessedon MAY19, 2020

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