Term Paper: Marx Weber Durkheim

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Sociology - Theorists

According to Karl Marx, the mode of production consists of productive forces and the relations of production. The former include desire, human labor power, and the means of production - which can be anything from tools and materials to the type of land on which one is working. The relations of production are the social and technical means by which work is carried out. This might include the power relations that govern a particular society's productive assets, cooperative work relations, and specific modes of relation among workers. A social relation may be a relation among different groups, among individuals belonging to a particular group, or between one particular individual and a group. This group may be an ethnic group, a social class, a social institution, a gender, or a nation.

Max Weber defined the ideal type as a comparative tool to be employed for sociological study. It is formed when one or more points-of-view are stressed in a one-sided fashion. They are then blended into a synthesis of numerous concrete individual phenomena, which are then arranged according to the one-sided viewpoints into a single analytical construct. While ideal types are clearly an abstraction, they are useful in that they help one to understand particular instances of social phenomena. Human behavior, argued Weber, must be understood through the use of ideal types. This is what differentiates Human behavior from physical phenomena. Thus, when using ideal types, not only is an individual or a group's actions described - they are also interpreted. Weber defined the four types of ideal type behavior as follows: zweckrational (rational means to rational ends), wertrational (rational means to irrational ends), affektual (guided by emotion) and traditional (guided by custom or habit).

Max Weber considered bureaucracy to be a part of legal domination. While he initially argued that bureaucracy was necessary and thus positive, he also advanced the idea that bureaucracy was inefficient when it had to adopt its decisions to particular individual cases. Some of the attributes of bureaucracy in the modern era were delineated by Weber as follows: impersonality, a concentration of the means of administration, an implementation of an indestructible mode of authority, and a leveling effect on social and economic differences. When a business or organization is run bureaucratically, it means that official business is continually conducted. Bureaucratic business is carried out according to official, written documents.

The establishment of the social fact concept represented Emile Durkheim's efforts to set sociology on the course of a firm, positive science. A social fact is defined as encompassing all those cultural values and norms and social structures that are external to the individual. By studying the correlations between social facts, one discovers laws. Once one has uncovered those laws, the sociologist may then study the social structure and determine whether or not a society is healthy or sick. In the case of the latter, the sociologist may then prescribe remedies for "curing" that society's ills. One of Durkheim's most famous usages of social facts was in his study on suicide rates. Through this, he was able to establish that Catholics have a lower suicide rate than Protestants.

Karl Marx's theory of alienation addressed things that were separated that naturally belong together, as well as the antagonism between things that should otherwise exist in harmony with one another. In the human realm, which Marx was most concerned with, his theory of alienation was meant to apply to people who are alienated from various aspect of their inherent natures. Marx felt that alienation came about as a result of capitalism. Many of the young Marx's ideas about alienation were rooted in Feuerbach's work the Essence of Christianity. In this book, Feuerbach argues that human beings are alienated due to the idea of God.

Marx felt that under capitalism, workers inevitably get to the point where they lose control of their lives - as well as their identities - as a result of the fact that they no longer have any control over their work - rather, someone else is telling them what to do and how to do it. Thus, workers are never able to become autonomous beings, as they are always being forced to conform to the view that the bourgeoisie - who controls them - has of them.

The result of all this is alienation. While work is meant to contribute to the common wealth and good, the only way workers can express their individuality is through a production system that is not socially, but privately owned. Thus, each individual is not meant to function as a social being, but as an instrument attached to larger apparatus. Through production, the worker objectifies his or her own individuality, a process through which alienation is the inevitable result.

Max Weber argued that this alienation could be traced back to the loss of religious spirit, which was the underlying justification of early capitalist endeavor.

The Puritan wanted to work in calling; we are forced to do so. For when asceticism was carried out of monastic cells into everyday life, and began to dominate worldly morality, it did its part in building the tremendous cosmos of the modern economic order. This order is now bound to the technical and economic conditions of machine production which today determine the lives of all the individuals who are born into this mechanism, not only those directly concerned with economic acquisition, with irresistible force. Perhaps it will so determine them until the last ton of fossilized coal is burnt.

This is where Weber disagrees with Marx. Whereas Marx believed that all human exchanges were based on economic foundations, Weber felt that religion might have been one of the motivating factors behind the creation of capitalism. For Weber, the emergence of the Protestant ethic represented one facet of man's disenchantment of the world. This idea of disenchantment was meant to refer to the period when man turned away from magic and began turning towards rationalism as a means for discovering and justifying occurrences in the world.

Emile Durkheim employed the concept of anomie in his famous book on suicide. Durkheim felt that anomie - an individual's disconnect from societal values and the resulting feeling of aimlessness and alienation - occurs when society undergoes major changes in its economic make-up. Anomie is also quite common when there exists a divide between ideological theories and values purported by a society and what an individual is actually able to accomplish living in that society.

Karl Marx articulated his systematic approach to the study of history, society, and economics as "historical materialism." In order to exist, Marx reasoned, human beings must work as a collective on nature in order to produce the means that are necessary for life. It is a fact, however, that not all human beings do the same sort of work. There exists a division of labor, in which different people do different jobs. There are some people, however, who are able to live off the work of others because they own the means of production. How this occurs is contingent on the type of society in question.

In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will, namely relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness.

The "historical" component of historical materialism is rooted in the idea that, over time, society has moved through a certain number of modes of production. Some of these modes would include tribal society (in the prehistoric era), ancient society, feudalism, and capitalism. (Today, it is becoming increasingly popular to speak of our era as one of "advanced capitalism.") in each of these historical social stages, individuals have made their livings by interacting with nature in a different way, and in each instant the surplus from production has been allotted in a different fashion. While ancient society consisted of the ruling class - slave owners - and the slave class, feudalism consisted of landowners and serfs. Under capitalism, a group of capitalists own the means of production, distribution, and exchange; the working class must make their living by selling their labor to capitalists in exchange for wages. By analyzing the past, we may understand the conditions we live under in the present.

This is where the "materialist" side of "historical materialism" comes in. The materialism in Marx's theory is divided up into three points. The first of these is metaphysical materialism, in which matter-in-motion is primary, and thoughts about matter-in-motion assume a secondary role. Second, there is the idea that… [END OF PREVIEW]

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