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Essay: Exploring Karl Marx and Max Weber’s Different Explanations of Inequality

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Almost every time that we talk about

social inequality or sociology and many other things it is easy to think of

Karl Marx right away. For this paper I will be focusing on Karl Marx and Max Weber.

1.) What are the key tenets of my chosen theorist's explanations of inequality?

That is, how does each theorist define and explain inequality? How does each

theorist define 'class'? In The Inequality Reader, Marx explains to us that

class changes through time and 'we find almost everywhere a complicated

arrangement of society into various orders, a manifold gradation of social

rank. In ancient Rome we have patricians, knights, plebeians, slaves; in the

Middle Ages, feudal lords, vassals gild-masters, journeymen, apprentices,

serfs; in almost all of these classes, again, subordinate gradations (Grusky

and Szelenyi 2006).' Marx emphasizes the fact that he has no specific

definition of class, but his own perspective of it is that it is something that

nobody will ever be equal and saw that issue highly conflictive. Everyone's

level of class depends on their level of occupation.'' Weber's definition of class as ''classes,'

'status' 'groups', and 'parties' are phenomena of the distribution of power

within a community (57).' Weber looked at classes as 'one dimensional of social

structures, social status and social power. 'His three main components that

define class are power, wealth, and prestige (Randles 2/16).' The way that

Weber defines class is the best way to define inequality. Those who have power,

wealth, and prestige are the ones who are 'entitled' or inherited with the

ability to hold political power or social honor. Marx defined inequality: '[the

peasants] they are consequently incapable of name, whether through a parliament

or through a convention. They cannot represent themselves, they must be

represented. Their representative must at the same time appear as their master,

as an authority over them, as an unlimited governmental power that protects them

against the other classes and sends them rain and sunshine from above. The

political influence of the small holding peasants, therefore, finds its final

expression in the executive power subordinating society to itself (46).' That

is the perfect way to describe inequality when one does not control his/her

destiny, when somebody is incapable of name, or when they are treated as

subordinates in their own society.

2 & 3) Marx and Weber do not differ

much from each other. They both lived around the same time, only with Weber

being younger. Both had wealthy upbringings, except that Weber stayed within

the grounds of his class, but Marx chose to reside in the lower-class neighborhood. Their explanations mostly similar

because they agree that the class society is a very controversial matter that

has affected the people and will always affect the global society. Angus

Bancroft from Cardiff University, School of Social Sciences explains how they

differ: 'Weber differed only marginally from Marx

when he defined as a class a category of men who (1) "have in common a

specific causal component of their life chances in so far as (2) this component

is represented exclusively by economic interests in the possession of goods and

opportunities for income, and (3) it is represented under the conditions of the

commodity or labor market." He was even fairly close to Marx's view,

though not necessarily to those of latter-day Marxists, when he stated that

class position does not necessarily lead to class-determined economic or political

action. He argued that communal class action will emerge only if and when the

"connections between the causes and the consequences of the 'class

situation' (Bancroft 2010)" become transparent; Marx would have said when

a class becomes conscious of its interests, that is, of its relation, as a

class, to other classes. Yet Weber's theory of stratification differs from that

of Marx in that he introduced an additional structural category, that of

"status group." (Bancroft 2010).'

4) For this question, I would

go mostly with the Weber definition of class as Dr. Randless brought up in

class to discuss Weber's components of class; power, wealth, and

prestige (Randles 2016). The biggest corporations are owned by the 1% in

America. In class we were shown a slide show of the richest billionaires in

America, and we saw names, but we did not discussed much on what they owned. I

know that not only the billionaires own everything but the richest corporations

own almost everything too. Disneyland Corp. owns ESPN, ABC and many more. Coca

Cola owns Fanta, Fresca, Sprite and many more drinking companies. Again, that

tells us that the big corporations have total monopoly. Donald Trump probably

has not done anything for the country, but he was born into a wealthy family,

and now he is running for president. His presidential campaign has been marred

by controversy and yet he has been able to get away with every wrong he has

said, provoked, and done, all because of his wealth. Many politicians' kids are

the great benefactors of their parent's legacy, because they do not have to

excel in school or at work to be admitted to prestigious universities or jobs.

Karl Marx and Weber would not be surprised to see the inequality that America

is living today. They'd say that the whole class situation is horrendous and

shameful, because in America we preach liberty, freedom, and equality, but we

do not practice it. Being the most powerful and influential country in the

world, and not being able to live up to its reputation it is something that the

people cannot ignore.


Olanike F. Deji described the

perfect way to define the divergence between Weber and Marx:'sociologist''Max Weber''was strongly influenced by Marx's ideas, but rejected the

possibility of effective communism, arguing that it would require an even

greater level of detrimental''social''control''and bureaucratization than capitalist''society. Weber criticized the dialectical presumption of''proletariat''revolt, believing it to be unlikely. Instead, he developed

the three-component theory of stratification and the concept of''life chances. Weber supposed there were''more''class divisions than Marx suggested (Deji 2011).' Weber

claimed there are four main classes: the upper class, the white-collar workers,

the petite''bourgeoisie, and the manual''working class (Grusky 2006). As we can see that Weber's theory is more closely

resembling to those of the of modern Western class structures embraced by

sociologists, although economic status does not seem to depend strictly on

earnings in the way Weber envisioned. There will always be a great debate

whether Marx and Weber had similar viewpoints, but as we know that Weber was

younger and had a different kind of view because Weber started working half a

century later than Marx, Weber derived many of his key concepts on''social stratification''by examining the social structure in Europe, specifically in

Germany. 'Weber examined how many members of the aristocracy lacked

economic''wealth, yet had strong political power. He noted that, contrary to

Marx's theories, stratification was based on more than ownership of capital.

Many wealthy''families''lacked prestige and power, for example, because they were

Jewish' (Deji 2011). Weber introduced three independent factors that form his

theory of stratification hierarchy: class, status, and power. He treated these

as separate but related sources of power, each with different effects on social

action (Randles 2/2016).

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