Marx, Durkheim and Weber theories Comparison

Compare and contrast three theories(Marx, Durkheim, and Weber) approach to the role of ideas in shaping social actions.

Assess the place and interaction of rational and non-rational factors in creating social change in Marx, Durkheim, and Weberâ??s works.

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Highlight and discuss those parts of in three of our theorists (Marx, Durkheim and Weber) works that allow for the realization of the Enlightenment perspective on freedom and reason in modern society.

Compare and contrast the explanations given by three of our theoris(Marx, Durkheim, and Weber) for discontent in modern society.

5. Assess the strengths and weakness in Marx, Weber, and Durkheimâ??s theories. What are the central insights in their works you find useful?Each question need to be answered in a small 5 paragraphs essay separately , (intro, 3 body paragraphs and conclusion) . A thesis statement need to be put in the intro. every point that be made in the essay, if possible, need to be located in their original work. For example, in question #4, in his work ” Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts” “Estranged Labor” shows Marx sees class struggle as a form of discontent. Feel free to look for hints everywhere, but only books that were written by Marx, Durkheim, or Weber need to be quoted.For example the following: Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts,The Communist ManifestoDivision of Labor in SocietyEmile Durkheim, Suicide: A Study in SociologyMax Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. I also uploaded a very useful comparison article that I found on google as a sample of potential source bank

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Description of the Module
Description of the Module
Subject Name
Paper Name
Classical Sociological Theory
Module Name/Title
Contrasting and Comparing Marx, Weber and
Durkheim â?? 1
Pre Requisites
Classic Theories and Marx, Weber, Durkheim; Western
Capitalism and Social Theories; Comparative Discussion;
Thematic Differences and Similarities
This module will help to broaden views on thematic
interrelation, commonalities and contradictions of
founding fathers of sociology.
Classic sociological theories, Social Stratification,
Capitalist Economy, Division of Labour, Comparative
analysis, Social structure and function
Key words
Module Structure
Contrasting and Comparing Marx, Weber and Introduction; Basic Thoughts and Interrelations;
Durkheim â?? 1
Class, Status and Social Order; Division of Labour
and The Trio, Capital, Economy and Politics;
Team Details
Principal Investigator
Paper Coordinator
Prof. Sujata Patel
Dr. Vishal Jadhav
Content Writer
Ratan Kumar Roy
Content Reviewer
Dr. Vishal Jadhav
Language Editor
Dr. Vishal Jadhav
University of Hyderabad
Tilak Maharashtra Vidyapteeth
Dept. of Sociology
South Asian University, New Delhi
Tilak Maharashtra Vidyapteeth
Tilak Maharashtra Vidyapteeth
Contrasting and Comparing Marx, Weber and Durkheim -1
Part 1
Karl Marx (1818-1883), Max Weber (1864-1920), Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) contributed to build the
base of sociological knowledge which is popularly known as classic sociological theory. Their involvement
with social changes and transformation from mid-nineteen to early twentieth century grasp the core
issues of human existence and development. In the time span of emerging modern social theory the
influential and leading contribution came from these three thinkers. That is not the only point why a
comparative discussion among Marx, Weber and Durkheim is needed, but also the common ground they
have chosen to develop their theories needs to be acknowledged. They discussed about human history,
society, politics, economics and culture in an interconnected manner. They show and reveal this
connection of individual and society which becomes the interior of practicing sociology. Hence, reading
about the founding fathers of sociology Marx, Weber and Durkheim is necessary to acquiring knowledge
about social theories and apply them in social problems (Visvanathan 2011). Furthermore the
contradictions and conversation among them regarding human world and social changes allow us to
examine any sociological issue with a critical viewpoint.
This module will help us to know about the commonalities of these three thinkers and their works. How
they have seen the social system and human culture? How their ideas become contradictory as well as
complementary to each other in some point? What are the basic points to contrast the theoretical
schemes they have given? What are the shortcomings for each of them to define and describe human
society? By comparing Marx, Weber and Durkheim and discussing how their views are contrasting, this
module will answer these questions.
Marxâ??s theory based on social critique and conflict, wherein Durkheim emphasizes on social factors.
Weber believes social relation shaped by politics, economics and culture and individual act has subjective
meaning. To talk about human life, act, behavior, and formulation of human society all of them have taken
a strongly defined position. In Marxâ??s view, â??The first historical act isâ?¦ the production of material life itself.
This is indeed a historical act, a fundamental condition of all history� (Marx 1964: 60). Taking this
understanding in foci, he develops the idea of historical materialism. He goes on talking about human
basic needs and the dissatisfaction that leads to new needs. The production of new needs is the first
historical act for him (Marx 1964). Hearing to Marx, Durkheim is also stating that human desires are
unlimited and â??the more one has, the more one wants, since satisfactions received only stimulate instead
of filling needs� (Durkheim 1951: 248). However, he is offering the idea of social control in this matter
where society imposes limits on human desire and constitutes and regulative force. Weberâ??s definition of
sociology reflects his perspective on human action and behavior. According to him, social facts are in the
last resort intelligible facts and we can perceive human actions by penetrating to the subjective meaning
of behaviors. Hence he defines sociology as the â??science which aims at the interpretative understanding
(verstehen) of social behavior in order to gain an explanation of its cause, its course, and its effects (Weber
1964: 29).
Contrasting and comparing these three thinkersâ?? ideas and theories will foster the possibilities to debate
on social system, social stratification, division of labor, religion and social change. Therefore the module
is designed in dividing it two parts. In the first part, we will know about the basic works of Marx, Weber
and Durkheim where we found their common interests. Then we will elaborate the discussion on some
specific thematic points bearing their conceptual ideas. The second part of this module will continues with
the rest of thematic ideas.
Basic Thoughts and Interrelations:
As a major figure in the history of economic and philosophical thought, Karl Marx took the side of tension
and struggle for social change in describing how society move forward. To elaborate the idea he
emphasizes on class struggle, division of labor and production system. He also clarified this class struggle
had marked all history and these struggles differed according to historical stage. He pronounce, â??ideas
and categories are no more eternal that the relations which the express. They are historical and transitory
products� (Marx 1976: Ch 2 p 1). Marx was convinced by a holistic approach that considered society as a
structurally interrelated whole. He counts and identifies all aspects of human life for instance education,
culture, religion, legal codes, art and so forth reliantly connected in with this structured whole means
could not be understood by themselves. Hence, he is suggesting the major independent variable which is
mode of economic production and to learn about the historical phenomena you have to look at the
economic factors.
The political, legal, philosophical, literary, and artistic development rests on the economic. But they all
reacts upon one another and upon the economic base. It is not the case that the economic situation is the
sole active cause and the everything else is merely a passive effect. There is, rather, a reciprocity within a
field of economic necessity which in the last instance always asserts itself. (Marx and Engels 1962: 304)
Another German born sociologist and philosopher Max Weber used to introduce himself as a political
economist. He opposed with Marx on the idea of historical materialism and defining social system in a
new way by combining the factors of economy and religion. In this new way of viewing society, Weber
identifies the processes of rationalization, secularization and disenchantment. These three processes are
associated with the rise of capitalism and modernity. This is a great shift of focus to analyze capitalism
from the Marxist point of view. This new line of though demonstrated by Weber in The Protestant Ethics
and The Spirit of Capitalism where he defines the rationalization as a process of replacing the current
values, traditions and emotions of a society, that motivate their current behaviors, with thoughts and actions
which appear to be more rational and a move towards rational-legal authority is inevitable. Secularization
broadly refers as a progress through rationalization and modernization where religion loses its supreme
authority. Disenchantment for Weber is forward move towards cultural rationalization and scientific progress
by opposing the traditional system. It is a disenchantment because it oppose to live in the traditional world
where â??the world remains in a great enchanted gardenâ?(Weber 1971:270).
However, Marx underlined the emergence of modern society above all with the development of capitalism,
Weber advocates a distinctive way of thinking which is a â??rational circulationâ?? that associated with the
protestant ethics. On the other hand, for Durkheim it is connected with industrialization and the new social
division of labour (Harris 1992: 325). For this French philosopher and sociologist, sociology is the science to
discover structural social facts. Hence, unlike to Marx and Weber he was interested to see how Western
societies in modern era maintain their coherence and integrity. Then he found that, in the modern age
traditional social and religious ties are no longer assumed, rather new social institutions come into being.
Opposing with Weberâ??s interest on individuals action, he suggests the phenomena regarding society at large
as the site of investigation in sociology. In the book The Division of Labour in Society (1893), Durkheim regards
conflict, chaos, disorder, crisis as pathological phenomena to modern society unlike Marx who identifies class
conflict. To outline the development of society from â??primitiveâ?? to â??industrial-capitalistâ?? he acquire the
terminology â??solidarityâ?? and distinguished between mechanical and organic solidarity. In Mechanical solidarity
the members of the society are much alike in their devotion and contribution to common spirit. Here â??ideas
and tendencies common to all members of the society are greater in number and intensity than those which
pertain personally to each member. This solidarity can grow only in inverse ratio to personality� (Durkheim
1956: 129). On the other hand, organic solidarity emerges out of differences rather than likenesses where
society functions with these increasing differentiations between its members. But he clarifies in modern era
the organic solidarity resulting a highly division of labor but still needs some common beliefs and faith to tie
called common conscience collective.
These similarities and differences in particular issues, contradictions and fairly new ideas in relation to others
derived from Marx, Weber and Durkheim develop the grand theories in sociology broadly for social sciences.
One of the issues may be social stratification regarding what they shed light on with different but in a holistic
Class, Status and Social Order:
Conceptualization of Social class and class structure is Marxâ??s classical contribution in defining and
elaborating the human world and historical materialism or dialectical materialism. In his concept of class
he identifies the historical tendency in all societies to divide themselves into two social classes which are
unequal. These classes are structured in a hierarchy. In this situation of manifold and subordinate
gradation of social rank classes are always engaged in a â??historical struggleâ?? or â??class struggleâ??. He outlined
it in Communist Manifesto (1848):
The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles. Freeman and slave,
patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and
oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one anotherâ?¦. In the earlier epochs of history, we find
almost everywhere a complicated arrangement of society into various orders, a manifold
gradation of social rankâ?¦.The modern bourgeois society that has sprouted from the ruins of
feudal society has not done away with class antagonisms. It has but established new classes, new
conditions of oppression, new forms of struggle in place of the old ones. Societyâ?¦ splitting up into
two great hostile camps,â?¦â?? Bourgeoisie and Proletariat. (Marx 1988:55-56)
Disagreeing with Marxâ??s viewpoint on class and class struggle, Weber identifies the development of â??status
groupâ?? in modern societies. Actually, he argues that, three major adjustments have taken place in modern
age: class, status and party. Weber defines social class in relation with social action and emphasize on
class situation in a different way.
We may speak of a class when (1) a member of people have in common a specific causal component of
their life changes insofar as (2) this component is represented exclusively by economic interests in the
possession of goods and opportunities for income and (3) is represented under the conditions of the
commodity and labor markets. This is the class situation. (Weber 1968: 927)
From this assertion from Weber we can see the formation of social class is depended on (a) modern
market situation, (b) social actions and (c) different types of class antagonism and struggle. Weber is
proposing different types of class antagonism in comparison to Marxâ??s class struggle. According to Marx,
depending on common set of interest the â??mass peopleâ? transformed into a class and they initiate a
political struggle by opposing the interest of dominant class. Here Marx also pointed the absolute
â??ownership of the means of productionâ?? is sole determinant of the class situation. Weber brings the
different argument in this matter and outlines two categories of the class situation. First category
underlines the ownership of property by one class that leads a monopolization of the means of production
and determined the class situation. In this situation, life chances existed only for the propertied classes
and they only confronted each other. Second category highlights the class category that determined by
different skills, abilities and education. These capabilities, credentials are capable to sold in market and
create life chances. Here in modern market situation individual can have a life chances without owning
property. From this point of view he also found Marxâ??s theory of class struggle â??ambiguousâ?? and suggested
different types social action and struggle. For him there are no class interests in modern age only â??average
interests� of individual in similar economic class situations. The action by class against the class structure
can happen only in two ways: â??irrational protestâ? and â??rational associationsâ?. (Weber 1968: 929-30).
Contrasting with Marxâ??s use of the term â??classâ?? Weber frequently uses â??groupsâ?? and focused on a great
shift of class struggle between antagonistic groups because progressive use of legal order has been used
to resolve disputes. Moving towards by following the resolution of extreme class struggle, he suggested
about the formation of â??status groupâ??. Weberâ??s status groups compete for prestige and social reputation
unlike to Marxâ??s class struggle for power and property/wealth. He defines the status group as a choice
and life style of individual which has nothing to do with market situation and economic behavior like class.
Social honor is the basic principal for status group whereas it has distinct activity criteria. In conjunction
with class and status group Weber also considered political party that restricted to the realm of power
and political order. (Weber 1968:932-38).
When we see a contradiction regarding class situation and social stratification between Marx and Weber,
another founding father of sociology Emile Durkheim does not see social classes as the main determinant
of individual consciousness. Rather, he suggests about social solidarity and describes the modern society
based on new mutual dependencies that crates a complex division of labour. We need to have a
comparative discussion on division of labour to learn about the major viewpoints of them
regarding this specific issue.
Division of Labour and the Trio:
The classical sociology of Marx, Durkheim and Weber see the development of industrialisation and
specialisation in different ways and present different kinds of prospects. However, the blueprints for the
future society are not present in the work of any of these theorists but their analysis presents an effective
framework for studying modern society. The concept of division of labour is present in most of the work
of Marx like Economic and Philosophical Manuscript, The German Ideology, Capital etc. Durkheim
dedicated his first and major theoretical work in this domain with the same name and ecplores a curious
paradox by asking: â??how does it come about that individual, whilst becoming more autonomous, depends
ever more closely on society?�(Durkheim 1893: xxx).
Both Marx and Durkheim say that the modern division of labour was possible because of decimation of
old social order. Durkheim says that â??the division of labour varies in direct proportion to the volume and
densities of societies and if it progresses in a continuous manner over the course of social development it
is because societies become regularly more dense and generally more voluminous.�(Durkheim 1986; 205).
So, for him, increase in social density is the cause for the specialisation and subsequent development of
division of labour in societies. Further, he says that growth and development of societies necessitate a
greater division of labour. So, it is not the instrument whereby that division is brought about; but it is its
determining cause (Durkheim 1986; 205). The determining cause for the increase in the â??moral and social
density� is not demography rather it is due to increase in the interactions among the social groups on
permanent basis. So, he agrees with Marx that the locus of specialisation in cities where people from
different strata come and converge to go for differentiation of work. Marx gives the example of Northern
America and says that Northern states of American Union is more denser than India due to development
of division of labour despite India having higher population (Tucker 1978; 393).
In the work of Max Weber, the division of labour in the society came from the inescapable rationalization.
This process of rationalization changed the face of different domains and created specific kind of
knowledge to satisfy the need of society. In his work, The Protestant Ethics and the spirit of capitalism, he
talks about the rationalisation of protestant through the doctrines of Calvinism which changed the rational
means of gaining economic prosperity to deal with salvation anxiety. The protestants, generally, took
technical education which helped them to become specialised in their field. They also followed the spirit
of rationality in their work to cultivate ‘spirit of capitalism’ in them. So, the division of labour through
specific process of rationalisation created a differentiation in the society which gave them the feeling of
‘disenchantment’. So, Weberian notion of division of labour is different from the work of Durkheim and
Marx, however, Marx and Weber both finds the process of rationalisation is alienating the workers.
Max Weber in his theory of Bureaucracy talks about the specific role attached to the specific posts through
the specification of jurisdictional areas and these areas cannot be changed by the whim of the superiors.
He says that increasing rationalisation of society leads to development of strict division of labour. This
kind of division of labour is manifested through the bureaucratic organisations of the society. His concept
of bureaucracy is based on hierarchy of authority, impersonality, written rules, achievement based
growth, specialised division of labour, efficiency etc. The increasing rationalisation of social world is
building greater control of human over nature. Rationalisation, which is the most important element of
Weber’s theory is identified with division of labour, bureaucracy and mechanisation. He in the work
â??Science as Vocationâ? talks about the notion of progress and says how it is giving rise to
‘disenchantment'(Gerth and Mills 1946; 140).
Du …
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