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

Comparisons and contrasts between the theories of Karl Marx and Max Weber on social class.

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

Comparisons and contrasts between the theories of Karl Marx and Max Weber on social class Inequality between people is the basis of the democratic system. Those who have the skills and abilities to perform and produce will succeed. But this belief is with the assumption that all people are given equal advantages and opportunities. During the nineteenth century, Karl Marx and Max Weber were two of the most influential sociologists who developed their own theories about why inequality is maintained. This essay, using sociological explanations, compares the differences and similarities between Marx and Weber's theories of class. It examines their theories of class, which are based on economic inequality. Finally, this essay reveals that Weber emerges as the better theorist as he can explain more of the complexities of modern stratification thereby providing a better explanation for class in contemporary society. As Giddens (1997:240) writes "inequalities exist in all types of human society". Sociologists have given the term 'social stratification' to describe inequalities. "It is necessary to make a distinction between social inequality, which is the existence of socially created inequalities and social stratification, which is a particular form of social inequality" (Haralambos and Holborn, 1995:21). Social stratification includes all forms of inequalities such as gender, ethnicity, age and political power, not only that of class inequality. (Bilton, Bonnett, Jones, Skinner, Stanworth and Webster, 1996:138). "Some dimensions of stratification may include the amount of property one owns, the honour one receives, the ethnic group into which one is born or the income one receives" (Waters and Crook, 1993:174). ...read more.

Middle

Weber, unlike Marx, explains other dimensions of stratification besides class. One based on 'life styles' (or status), that may be quite different from class systems (e.g. particular occupations might have traditional status regardless of their levels of income or wealth). Status groups for Weber, may have sources outside class: people who work in the same place feel that they have much in common, for example, even if they belong to different classes. (Haralambos and Holborn, 1995:37). What members of status groups have in common is a style of life. Stratification therefore occurs along lines of lifestyles. Finally, there are independent systems of political power too, where groups known generally as 'parties' (which might include pressure groups or informal lobbying outfits like consumer protest movements) struggle for power to influence legislation or to control and limit markets etc. (Haralambos and Holborn, 1995:38). Just as status groups can both divide classes and cut across boundaries, so parties can divide and cut across both classes and status groups. Weber's arguments about bureaucracy must be added to this picture. The development of modern bureaucracy makes the picture of class more complex again. Weber notes, however, that bureaucracy is often bound up with class structure: bureaucracy is fully developed only in modern times and especially in the 'advanced institutions of capitalism' (Gerth and Mills, 1947:196). Bureaucrats form a status group, and one, which cultivates and reinforces its position. Marx believed that certain factors, such as capitalism 'alienating' workers from their job, would hasten the downfall of capitalism and that these factors will result in the polarisation of the two main classes. ...read more.

Conclusion

In conclusion, this essay has shown that both theorists agree that ownership of property and the value of labour are key causes of class stratification. But Marx puts his emphasis on property ownership, while Weber focuses on labour value. The result is that Marx sees the role of a capitalist government as protecting the bourgeoisie property rights and Weber sees it as introducing bureaucracy to stand between the bourgeoisie and their exploitation of the workers. Weber, unlike Marx, takes a multi causal approach when explaining social phenomena. We can see this multi causal approach at work in Weber's treatment of class. For here Weber is arguing that non-economic factors such as 'family background', 'educational attainment' and 'culture/beliefs' are important causal factors in the determination of class. Weber refuses to tie 'status' or 'party' too closely or necessarily to class. Weber emerges as the better theorist, because he can explain more of the complexities of modern stratification, while Marx is seen to reduce everything down to one fundamental model based on his own analysis of capitalism as exploitation. Weber's theories on class and stratification show that other dimensions of stratification, besides class, strongly influence people's lives. Marx's attempt at a formal definition usefully indicates the social bases of class; this approach fails to take adequate account of all the other classes that exist in society. The Weberian perspective gives credence to the importance of ideas in social life and in my view provides a better explanation for class in contemporary society. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Sociology 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 GCSE Sociology essays

  1. Using examples describe a range of sociological perspectives and theories (including both classic and ...

    to ensure different things are met but they do not see what happens if there is a break down in communication, society does not just stop. They say that certain prerequisites must be met in order to function correctly in society.

  2. Compare and Contrast Marx and Weber's view on Stratification

    Social stratification is not merely a matter of class. Two further aspects also shape it: status and party. These three overlapping elements of stratification produce a vast number of potential positions within society, rather than the more rigid bipolar model, which Marx projected. According to Weber, social divisions derive not only from control or lack of control of the

  1. Compare and contrast Karl Marx's and Michel Foucault's analysis of the concept power.

    This form of power according to Freire (1993, P:58) is ....necrophilic. Based on a mechanistic, static, naturalistic, spatialized view of consciousness, it transforms (people) into receiving objects. It attempts to control thinking and action, leads women and men to adjust the world, and inhabits their creative power. Marx described those who could not see that they were oppressed as suffering from 'false consciousness'.

  2. The essay will interpret inequalities in health among the sub-populations of socio-economic class position, ...

    There is evidence to suggest that the 'mortality gap', between those at the top and those at the bottom may be increasing. Of all long-standing illnesses in 1989 the percentage of professionals was 29.1% in comparison to 47.8% of those who are unskilled.

  1. What are the major dimensions of social stratification?

    They saw stratification as a mechanism whereby some exploits others rather than as a means of furthering collective goals. Marx focused his theory on social strata in terms of the relationship of the means of production. He believed that society was divided into two major classes, the ruling class called

  2. The cannabis debate

    and the effects of them, but others would see this as the tolerance of illegal drug use. If cannabis were legalised and there were coffee shops licensed to sell cannabis, like pubs are licensed to sell alcohol, then you would go there to buy your cannabis.

  1. Crime and Social class - Hypothesis - 'There is a relationship between social ...

    Secondary Sources The Marxist View: The type of society we live in. The capitalist society, in which there is a small group of wealthy people own the means of production. Capitalist society is based on materialism, consumerism, and individual competition.

  2. This essay will explain the functionalist, Marxist and Social action theories of race and ...

    The in-betweeners socialise with the hustlers out of working hours, but do not partake in illegal activities apart from their occasional recreational use of marijuana. Pryce describes the mainliners as rigidly law abiding well established conservative West Indian citizens. Mainliners are typically middle aged, maintaining respectable jobs and advocate the integration of the 'black' and 'white' communities.

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