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Essay: Marx vs. Weber: Examining Social Structure and Social Class in Modern Society

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Paste your essay in here…During the rise of capitalism and the industrial revolution, the structure of the economic and political worlds were changing rapidly. While factory systems busied the laymen and the bourgeoisie/middle class came to the rise, different sociological theorists attempted to take a step back and view how these newfound systems were affected modern societies. While some sociologists took economic approaches, others took political and social spheres into consideration of their social research. Among those most prevalent were Karl Marx and Max Weber who are now known as two of the most influential theorist as well as the founders of  modern sociology. While both Marx and Weber examine social structure and social class, these theorist have different methods and ideas on their perceptions towards society. While Marx believed that socioeconomic status is determined by overlying structures, webber though taking a similar approach anchored his research towards a more individualistic interpretation of the relationship between people and their socioeconomic status.

Karl Marx was an optimist. He wanted to find out what the problems in society were in order to figure out a solution to help advance and better society. He determined that everything that happened in society was determined by capitalist infrastructure. Marx’s dialectical materialism, the way theorist try to understand and interpret things in theory, has four main elements to it. The first one is mode of production, which is the organization of economic or productive system in society. The second one is relations of production which is how people within the system relate to one another. The third one is forces of production which are technology, land, labor and objected forces which influence the production. These are the forces needed to create the product or production such as material, factories. machiences and labor. The last element is the ideological superstructure which are arts, music, politics, philosophy, religion, science, etc. He believed that the infrastructure, which is the base, determines the the superstructure. He also believed that there will always be a gap between superstructure and infrastructure because technology advances at a faster speed then our minds, ideas, and views do. Therefore, the two will never be synchronized. Technology is an important force of social change because without change of forces in production, you won't see a lot of change in the relations of production.  “Marx believed those who controlled the means of production were those who were able to see that their class interests were advanced” (Mahdis lecture, ch. 6). So, whatever the ruling class thinks is what the rest of society will follow.

Through this way and many others, Marx concludes that the superstructure identifies identity. He even says so in his Preface to A contribution to the Critique of Political Economy “the mode of production of material life conditions the social, political, and intellectual life process in material life conditions the social political and intellectual life process in general. It is not consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness” (Norton, 662-663). Through this quote, Marx is expressing that people in society do not define themselves through how they perceive themselves to be, but rather through how our jobs. Therefore,  what field you work in or what you did specifically identifies who you are. Because the structure is set in place, you have people above you telling you who you are. Marx goes on further to say that “The sum total of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which rises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness” (662). Therefore, Marx is saying that the superstructure set in place in terms of how economics play out in society, directly determines our socioeconomic status and our social consciousness. Therefore, Marx felt  if we could understand this structure, we can create a more efficient economic structure which would in turn, create a healthier view on socioeconomic status among society and perhaps slow down class tensions.

Marx further broke his structure down to represent two budding social classes. In Marxism the proletariat is the working class and the bourgeoisie are the capitalist class and the ones who own majority of the means of production. Social change was driven by the wants of material things and not ideology. The ideology is instead based on those wants. He thought strongly that economic change would bring about social change  is what was needed in order to better society however in order to achieve social change there must be class conflict. He believed that private property was one of the reasons that split people into social classes and how eventually tensions will rise and clash between the classes. Marx said that production is dependent on the division of labor. This is the splitting of classes. “…the bourgeoisie has at last, since the establishment of Modern Industry and of the world-market, conquered for itself, in the modern representative State, exclusive political sway. The executive of the modern State is but a commitee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie” (Engels Marx, 658). The bourgeois have control of everything because they are the ones with all the money. Therefore, the bourgeoisie class is not only in control of economic matters, but also of political ones. So although proletarians may have better ideas to enhance aspects of society, they are typically unheard and unseen because they do not have as much power. Economics play a huge role in this. Marx thoughts on alienation talks about this? [change this sentences] Marx believed that “rather than laboring to fulfill their needs or express ideas, in capitalism workers do so at the demands of capitalists” (Mahdi’s lecture ch. 6). This quote further expands on the notion that laborers, or proletarians, cannot freely voice their thoughts because in the end everything is up to the capitalist. The lower class had no voice years ago and it remains the same in today's society.

Weber’s theory on socioeconomic status though in some ways mirrored Marx’s ultimately differed from Marx’s theories through their different foundation. Weber rejected Marxism because he believed economics did not account for political power, but rather felt that the two should be considered separately. “his criticism of most Marxist contributions is that they fail soberly to distinguish between what is strictly 'economic,' what is 'economically determined,' and what is merely 'economically relevant” (Gerth 48).  it did not pay attention to the concept of individuals and was too regimented. He thought that sociology should deal with individuals and interactions. Weber saw power as an independent variable and felt that one person imposes their action onto the other. He was an action theorist, which meant that the actions people make has their intentions in it. Weber felt that individuals are affected by structure but they are the ones who influence the structure. If action does not take place, then structure does not exist. Therefore according to Weber consciousness does determine life which is the opposite of what marx thinks. (insert quote)

For instance, Weber distinguished four different types of action, functional, substantive, emotional or affective motivation action and traditional action. Goal oriented rationality is how you justify or look at something. This form of action basically states that any action you perform always has an end goal. Substantive is a value-oriented rationality and affective motivation action is when you are in your emotions rather than thinking rationally. The last one of these actions is traditional action which is guided by habits or traditions such as religious rituals. Each one of these actions provide explanations in why we act certain ways. So the difference between the two is that Weber says people define their conscious. Their actions take place because of their own personal intentions. Whereas Marx believed that the infrastructure is what determines and influences their action. Weber also believed that ideas are in fact important and individualism unlike Marx who thought that ideas are nothing without infrastructure. Another difference between the two is that they both have contrasting views on classes. Marx believed that there are only two classes in society as mentioned earlier, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. Weber's view was different, he thought there were multiple levels of class and proposed the idea of the middle class which disrupted Marx’s plans to acquire a proletarian revolution.

Although both theorists have different ways of viewing things for the most part, they also share some similarities.

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