Marxian And Weberian Theory Essay, Research Paper
Compare And Contrast Marxian And Weberian Approaches To The Understanding Of Social Class In Modern Society.
Karl Marx and Max Weber both offer valid approaches to social class in modern capitalist society, though there are very different from each other.
The capitalist society is a type of society in which the private ownership of the ‘means of production’ is the dominant form of providing the things needed to survive. What distinguishes capitalism from other types of society is the emphasis on the rights of property and the individual owner’s right to employ capital, as she or he thinks fit.
Karl Marx’s approach was, at first, the most convincing theory of social class. However the Neo-Marxists (the later generation Marxists) have developed the same ideas but in different ways. So today there is no single Marxian viewpoint.
Marx believed that economic processes are of great importance in society, such as the harnessing of natural resources, producing goods, developing new technologies and establishing a division of labour in the workforce. These are important because in order for these things to happen, people in society have to come together. Therefore they enter into social class relationships.
Social classes came about when society developed a more specialised division of labour and introduced private property.
Marx argued that under capitalism there are two major classes:
1. The Bourgeoisie (capitalists)
2. The Proletariat (the workers)
These two classes are defined by their relationships to productive resources, such as land, factories, machinery, raw materials etc. these are known as ‘means of production’.
The Bourgeoisie is the owner of the ‘means of production’. Therefore they have a much higher and more powerful economic position in society. Workers can only live by offering their labour to the capitalists. This division creates major class conflict.
According to Marx the proletariat create the wealth by the sweat and toil, but their employers seize most of the economic rewards. This is known as the LABOUR THEORY OF VALUE.
Marx has three contradictions:
1. Polarisation of social classes. This is where Marx thinks that the proletariat will fall further behind the bourgeoisie. Class divisions will become more polarised as ‘intermediate’ classes merge with either bourgeoisie or the proletariat.
2. Social Alienation. This is the ‘impoverishment of the human spirit’, which means that the workers have very little chance of leaving the working class.
3. Economic Crisis. This is when capitalist’s profits fall because it is an uncontrollable system. Marx believes that eventually the capitalist system will collapse.
Max Weber also sees social class as an economic matter. However he did not seem to agree with the ‘two class model’. Weber chose to define class by position in the economic market. This market has various positions that all have a different amount of income, amount of occupational skill or educational qualifications required.
Weber’s approach gives many more classes based on the position in the market.
When Weber speaks of status he means the degree of honour which is in all social groups. Each group fights for the amount of ‘social esteem’ they have in society. Status has more to do with judging people based on consumption styles (how you spend your money).
Party refers to the exercise of power by pressure groups, political parties’ etc. Each group competing for power. Parties can use their power to enhance their economic wealth. But Weber doesn’t believe that wealth automatically bestows power.
Weber thinks that power in modern society is more in the large bureaucracies than in the ownership of the means of production.
The Marxian and Weberian theories are very different. They both offer very valid points.
Some sociologist suggest that the main difference is that the Marxians view class relationships as grounded in exploitation and domination within means of production while Weberians see classes coming from positions in the market.
Marxians believe that social class is based on the means of production, but Weberians think that power and status matter more.
Marxians have 2 main classes and Weberians have a much more complicated class system.
So, in conclusion the Marxians believe social class in modern society is based on ownership of means of production and the two-class model.
Weberians think that social class in modern society depends on the positions in the market place, which has many more classes.
Both Marxian and Weberian theories are very good and I think they are theoretically correct to a certain extent. However no one will know for sure who has the best theory.