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Produce an essay identifying the different sociological approaches to secularisation with reference to Marxism, Webber and Durkheim.

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Sociology Secularisation Produce an essay identifying the different sociological approaches to secularisation with reference to Marxism, Webber and Durkheim. In my assignment I will be looking at secularisation and the different sociological explanations and theories, from sociologist such as Marx, Webber, Durkheim and Wilson. I will then look at how these different views compare and differ with one another. It can be seen that an on-going debate by sociologists is the disagreement whether religion encourages or inhibits social change. Most sociologists agree that as society changes and evolves so will changes to religion. However, many have claimed that this change will lead to the disappearance of religion altogether. It has been thought since the early 19th century that industrialization and the growth of scientific knowledge, would lead to the decline of religion, known as secularisation. Emile Durkheim a functionalist did not see religion as hopeless. He looked more at its function within society. He saw religion as maintaining social cohesion, a main part of society where religion brought people together. However, he anticipated that religion was on the decline of social significance. This is because in an industrial society where there was a highly specialised division of labour, religion would lose a part of its power for integrating society (Holborn, 2009). This is where Durkheim believed the Education System would replace the religions part of social solidarity, instead of religious rituals. ...read more.


Marx looked at religion as if it was there to justify an inequality of the class communism, and religion would stop to have any social purpose. However, Webber believes religion pursues the process of rationalisation. This is because he saw that the capitalist society had its origins in Protestantism, particularly Calvinism thus the spirit of capitalism was one of the main factors in the development of rational capitalism. Once on its way there was no need for modern society and it no longer needs to guide of religion reason was a sufficient guide. Once this happens there is no need for religion, this leads to a loss of mystery, imagination and faith in the unknown. Webber looks at the world a being taken over by objectivity and not subjectivity (Holborn, 2009). Many more modern sociologists have followed the belief of many of the founders of secularisation. They see that rational thinking will decline the belief of religion. As science progresses it will over rule the more non-rational beliefs. This does not mean that the belief of religion will disappear altogether. Instead they argue that in many ways religion will just decline. Brian Wilson a leading believer in secularisation defined it as 'the process whereby religious thinking practice and institutions lose social significance. His sociological explanations are similar to Webber, where rationalization has overcome religion and has become more significant to modern society; he sees questions like 'the existence of life' become less important. ...read more.


The capitalist society produces a materialistic society in the world. This is where its aim is to manufacture good and produce profits. This leads to the social order being based on contracts rather than being made by god, as the religious beliefs point to (Roberts, 2005). Overall, all three perspectives do believe religion will decrease within modern society. The Marxist has stronger views that religion will disappear altogether, where on the other side Durkheim sees religion will decline but will not totally disappear. Webber brings up the idea that religion has become more disengaged from society in the way of having less social influence in institutions like politics and social-welfare and the government does not represent religion as much in modern society. Throughout this assignment I have looked at secularisation theories from four perspectives. I have found in general they all point in the same direction, although they do contrast in certain ways. Durkheim and Webber do seem to have the most similar view in the way they both believe that religion is declining, however not totally disappearing just taking a different role in society. Marx on the other hand has a stronger approach to religion, that it will die away from society, Opposed to Durkheim and Webber that it will just become more marginalised. Furthermore they all see that religion started with the industrial revolution. This happened when close-knit communities were broken up and people moved to the cities, this enables people to have a more rounded ration belied system. ...read more.

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Response to the question

I have always been told that this is not the best way to do an introduction. At A Level the examiners don’t really like candidates to use the words “I” and “my” because the essay is supposed to be wholly ...

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Response to the question

I have always been told that this is not the best way to do an introduction. At A Level the examiners don’t really like candidates to use the words “I” and “my” because the essay is supposed to be wholly objective. So instead of “In my assignment I will be looking at...” the writer should state: “This essay will discuss...” as it just seems more sophisticated and unbiased. The conclusion’s contents are good but it suffers from the same mistakes that the introduction does. In general the structure is fair because it begins with Durkheim, and then proceeds to discuss views of Marx and Weber which is what the question is asking for.

Level of analysis

There is a wealth of information about Functionalism, namely Durkheim’s views, “By looking over the 19th and 20th century he saw a huge social change by industrialisation and urbanisation as a threat to religion” however this could be improved by name-dropping some other Functionalists like Parsons. This would then gain more evaluative marks as Parsons tends to agree with Durkheim about secularisation, so it makes Durkheim’s views seem more convincing.
Key terms in Sociology are used well in context such as “institutions”, “capitalism” and “social differentiation” which indicates to the examiner that they have a good general understanding. The use of discourse markers at the beginning of paragraphs like “however” and “on the other hand” are clever to use because already the examiner is then forced to give you evaluative marks! I would suggest that the candidate writes more about Marx and Weber though to gain the maximum amount of “knowledge” marks. But including Bryan Wilson’s views in this essay is a good idea to show that you have knowledge outside of the specific theorists mentioned in the question.
The use of a bibliography is useful for future reference as well as very credible, as it shows that the writer realises they have used other sources to help create their own assessment of the question.

Quality of writing

A few issues... “Webber” is spelt incorrectly – it is “Weber”. The writer also occasionally uses random capital letters in the middle of sentences, “... that it will die away from society, Opposed to Durkheim”. But on the whole the quality of writing is sound and coherent and will not detract marks from the essay.

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Reviewed by cwhite 14/09/2012

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