• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Marx and Weber - Theories of the state

Extracts from this document...


There have been a number of rival theories of the state offered throughout history, according to Marshall (1998) "The state is a distinct set of institutions that has the authority to make the rules which govern society" (p.635). However, Marx and Weber had their own theories and this essay aims to critically compare their theories on the role of the state in capitalist society. The state refers to all the institutions, agencies and agents that operate within a given territorial space, have legitimate power and authority over its citizens and can utilise force as the ultimate sanction if we fail to accept its laws and orders. This characteristic of the state as the sole legitimate user of force is a common theme among theorists and academics. In addition to the possession of the power and authority to employ violence legitimately, the state can be characterised as consisting of a number of agents and offices, for example; government ministers, police, army and local governments. However it is important to note the difference between the government and the state, the state fulfils its role over time and is more permanent than the government which is only an element within a much larger and more powerful entity (Heywood, 1999, p.74). Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels were the founders of Marxism, it was they who formulated the ideas central to it. ...read more.


development was the mode of production, which consisted of two forces; the means of production and the relations of production (Heywood, 1997, p.51). The means of production being the raw materials and machinery used to produce goods and the relations of production being the social classes consisting of the owners of these materials and machinery and those who worked for the owners to produce the goods. Marx viewed the owners as the exploiters and the workers as the exploited. He identified history of consisting of a number of 'epochs' which were characterised by a particular mode of production. He believes that through revolution a capitalist society will lead to a communist society and when this communism is reached there will be no longer any social classes left and there will no need for a state. Thus the state will 'wither away'. As each stage of the mode of production arises an economic base and infrastructure is created which corresponds directly to that mode of production. For Marx, this break between base and superstructure marks a period of crisis and revolutionary change. From this perspective Marx identified the economic infrastructure as the source of power. Through historical materialism, Marx would have considered the state part of the 'superstructure' of society, and thus as a part of the relations of production. ...read more.


This identifies that the state consists of the government or legislature which passes laws, the bureaucracy or civil service which implements government decisions, the police who are responsible for law enforcement and the armed forces whose job it is to protect the state from external threats (REFERENCE). Weber, like Marx, identified society as being characterised by conflicts over power and resources. Yet where Marx saw polarised class relations and economic issues at the centre of all social conflict, Weber developed a more complex, multi-dimensional view of society. Weber identified two factors associated with social stratification that Marx failed to recognise. Marx identified class but Weber put emphasis on status and party. By overlapping these three components Weber showed that there is a greater number of positions within society rather than the rigid, bi-polar model that Marx proposed. Weber characterized the state as a structure based on the legitimized monopoly of physical coercion; a mixture of legal authority and bureaucracy. He argued that states are compulsory associations claiming control over territories and the people within them (Weber, 1972). Stepan (1978) offers this quick summation of Weber's view on the state: "The state must be considered as more than 'the government'. It is the continuous administrative, legal, bureaucratic and coercive systems that attempt not only to structure relationships between civil society and public authority in a polity but also to structure many crucial relationships within civil society as well." ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Political Philosophy section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Political Philosophy essays

  1. Compare and contrast the pluralist, elitist and Marxist theories of the state.

    national level), and managed to conceptualise power in terms of "decision making". He concluded, "those who have power are those who either make or break decisions"2. As Lukes declares "[The] one-dimensional, view of power involves a focus on behaviour in the making of decisions over key or important issues as

  2. An analysis of the Marxist perspective on religion

    Therefore, is it right to blame the capitalist society for the emergence of religious beliefs? Marx could counter this with saying that alienation still existed, even though true capitalism didn't. There was still some separation of politics and the economy.

  1. How revolutionary were Lutheran and Calvinist theories of authority?

    Resistance theories spread in different forms around Europe. They originated in Germany due to Martin Luther's protest against Papal corruption. Martin Bucer and Philipp Melancthon, both prominent German reformers were also influential in supporting Luther's ideas. English, Scottish, French and Dutch writers developed Luther's resistance to authority; they aimed to defend the Protestant reformation against persecution.

  2. What did Karl Marx mean by 'exploitation' in a capitalist economic system?

    Marx did not have much faith in the peaceful surrender of the owners, though he admitted the possibility that it might occur in nations like Britain and the United States. He believed the division of the people into two opposing forces would come about through the spread of industry and

  1. Assess critically Marx's distinction between ideology and science

    Conclusion Marx's criticism of the Young Hegelians focused on their detachment from reality. These German philosophers - Ludwig Feuerbach, Max Striner and Bruno Bauer imagined unlikely conceptions, and defined reality on their basis. They rebelled against the conservative outlook of the Old Hegelians and tried to debunk Hegel himself who,

  2. An analysis of the Marxist perspective on religion

    Another problem was that the age of mass production each worker in a factory only produces a small portion of the finished product. The worker does not see the product in its entirety and may not even enjoy what he is making.

  1. Socialist uses of workers' inquiry

    Thus, the use of the inquiry was intended to reveal a "new worker condition?. Looking at the condition of these new subjects, how they could reopen spaces of conflict and reinvigorate workers' demands become a central theme for the operaisti's practice and discourse.

  2. What were the most important factors in the rise of the modern state?

    Looking at a map of Europe at around 1500, one sees that the region is divided into hundreds of small states with unclear borders causing difficulties for the king in terms of being able to oversee the land. This system was the source of economic and social chaos and as

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work