Essay: Sociological Theories Marx Weber Durkheim and Mosca

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Sociological Theories

The theory of history from Marx, Durkheim, Weber, and Mosca- There are a number of different modern social theories regarding the nature of society, social change, human's place within society and the idea of how integration and alienation fit within a modern society. These paradigms combine reflexively into a notion of history. Many of these theories have been used to buttress political regimes, many social and psychological thoughts, and many simply to readdress the manner in which humans can more appropriate interact in a post-industrial world. There are three four theorists that have contributed to this discussion; certainly not an opus of their work, but clearly, influential and controversial in their own right: Karl Marx, Max Weber, Emile' Durkeim and Gaetano Mosca.

Karl Marx was one of the most influential political and social philosophers of the 19th century. He and Freidrich Engels wrote "The Communist Manifesto" in response to working and social conditions in the Industrialized world, and their views were expanded by Russians Lenin and Stalin, China's Mao, Cuba's Castro and Guevara, and numerous other social thinkers of the 19th and 20th century. Max Weber was a German politician, scholar, economist, and sociologist. In fact, he founded the modern studies of sociology, public administration, and organizational theory. He was born in 1864 and so was writing and publishing after Marx, but still looking at capitalism, socialism, and the various dictates of society as ways humans are shaped, actualized, and able to have upward mobility. He is most famous for his works surrounding the sociology of religion and government, and how those two institutions shaped, controlled, and contributed to humankind. Whereas Marx was completely comfortable with his works being interpreted in the hard sciences, Weber really focused on the social aspects of theory in explaining the human condition. Emile Durkheim, a French sociologist of roughly the same period (1858-1917) studied education, crime, religion, suicide, and the manner humans acted within society -- which would become the modern science of sociology. Durkeim was primarily focused on the manner in which societies could maintain integrity and coherence within the modern, post-industrial world when past trends and traits (such as religion and ethnic backgrounds) could no longer be assumed to be a general fact of that society. Instead, Durkheim asked, what is it that binds society together as a unit -- and causes people to actualize individually and collectively. Gaetano Mosca, the most modern of the four (1858-1941) was an Italian political scientist whose most famous work, the Theory of Elitism, defined modern elite systems based on their superior organizational skills. Influenced, of course, by Marx, Weber and Durkheim, Mosca was able to view changes in the political structures of Europe in their dramatic changes during the early 20th century.

All four used the theory of history as one of their primary templates. Marx viewed history as one of continual class struggle. This struggle was apparent in that the ancient world (slavery) gave way to feudalism, capitalism replaced feudalism, and eventually, the historical dialectic would allow the workers to overthrow the bourgeoisie and form a stateless, classless society called pure communism. Historical materialism says society is determined by the material conditions at any given time:

At a certain stage of development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production or - this merely expresses the same thing in legal terms - with the property relations within the framework of which they have operated hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an era of social revolution. The changes in the economic foundation lead sooner or later to the transformation of the whole immense superstructure (Marx, Manifesto).

For Weber, the idea of rationalism -- rational thought based on societal efficiency and productivity, runs through his works -- particularly the Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. In this seminal work, Weber argues that the idea of Protestantism contributes to history and economics in that piety and the chance for a better life after death cause humans to strive for economic gain in certain ways, whereas that is not always using work as an expression of self -- it is work, as Marx might say, for the ends justifying the means, rather than the means justifying what work is being done. Authority, then, rather than being solely economic, does have at its basic roots an idea of class or structure and control -- alienation for Marx from humanity, a preponderance of ways to keep one from actualization for Weber. "In order that a manner of life well adapted to the peculiarities of the capitalism…. Could come to dominate others, it had to originate somewhere, and not in isolated individuals alone, but as a way of the common to the whole group of man" (Weber, Protestant Ethic).

Durkeim focused more on the description of societal phenomena that exist cohesively and without ties to unique individuals, as opposed to society being comprised of what motivates unique individuals and then becomes collective. It was the process of education; one might say the historical process that feeds the vitality of the individual in combination with the rule of law. Thus, "The most visible symbol of social solidarity is law (24). Law is the organization of social life in its most stable and precise form. All the essential varieties of social solidarity are reflected in law" (Division, I:i). In a formative way, Mosca saw a Marxian development of society, but based it on political society and class -- history as a dialectical theory of constant competition between elites. This elite, "always the less numerous, performs all political functions, monopolizes power, and enjoys the advantages that power brings" (Mosca in Grusky, 195).

Compare Marx's account of the emergence of capitalism in the German Ideology with Max Weber's account in the Protestant Ethic- for Marx, capitalism is an economic system in which the means of production and distribution are privately or corporately owned and development is proportionate to increasing accumulation and reinvestment of profits. Over time (history) capitalism has progressed through several stages, arriving after the Industrial Revolution at a more mature state of exploitation. However, capitalism tends to incorporate a certain "way of thinking," driven by greed, the search for ever increasing profits, worldwide expansion, and internal development. Starting from the earliest origins of capitalism, only societies with the capabilities and the appropriate mindset could flourish amidst this period of economic, social, and religious dispersion.

The earliest form of capitalism is seen in feudalism, the political and economic system based on the relation of lord to vassal held on conditions of homage and service. Feudalism was characterized by a surplus of agriculture and monopolistic rights, as only the members of town guilds could practice certain trades. Essentially, monopolistic redistribution of the product of society has been the essence of capitalism from the beginning, which originated from Feudalism.

However, capitalism evolved into a complex European system that soon spread around the globe and involved many aspects: the accumulation of capital, increased productivity, wage labor, mass-trade in necessities, individualist thinking, and the large-scale goal to produce wealth and develop the national economy. Capitalism, as a system, was unique not in the fact that it used capital, but that for the first time in history it used capital as the sole reason for society -- profit.

In broad outline, the Asiatic, ancient, feudal and modern bourgeois modes of production may be designated as epochs marking progress in the economic development of society. The bourgeois mode of production is the last antagonistic form of the social process of production -- antagonistic not in the sense of individual antagonism but of an antagonism that emanates from the individuals' social conditions of existence - but the productive forces developing within bourgeois society create also the material conditions for a solution of this antagonism. The prehistory of human society accordingly closes with this social formation (Marx, CM).

Modern capitalism first arose in Western Europe. Many factors led to the rise of capitalism. Technological advancements led to demographic and economic advancements. Christianity's humanitarian ethics promoted manual labor, which helped provide the necessary productivity for a surplus. A dramatic population increase struck many areas, particularly western European, between the 10th and 14th centuries. This population increase demanded a greater food supply, bigger towns, and more necessities. Cities grew and banded together; subsequently merchants gained power and formed guilds. The Industrial Revolution, a spark of technological advancements to benefit industrial production, communication, and transportation, was the single most important cause of the West's transformation and expansion in the nineteenth century. The Industrial Revolution provided economic incentive exploiting both human and natural resources, within Europe and then as the need grew, through Colonial empires. England was the first country to industrialize, due to England's abundant labor supply, secularization of technology and religion, strong domestic and overseas markets, large supply of capital, sound banking system, good transportation, rich coal deposits, stable government, politically supported merchant… [END OF PREVIEW]

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