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I will examine the social class theories of Karl Marx and Max Weber, and how these relate to society.

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Introduction

Assessment one In this essay I will examine the social class theories of Karl Marx and Max Weber, and how these relate to society. Marx argued that class was determined by income and the relationship a group had to the means of production, which created a distinction between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat.Weber, however argued that class was created according to an individual's own abilities and skills and through this they would be rewarded by their income and status. His approach was more individualistic and allowed for a more flexible and less rigid class structure. Karl Marx argued there are two major social classes, the ruling class who own the means of production and the subject class, who don't own the means of production and are a diverse group of people controlled by and working for the ruling class. These two groups are better known as the bourgeoisie and proletariat. In particular, the bourgeoisie use a mode of production, in the form of capitalism, to oppress the proletariat. Whereby the owners of production (bourgeoisie) use the (proletariat) workers labour to produce their surplus value. In turn they pay their workers the smallest amount possible to make a profit, thus exploiting the working class. The defining factor in what makes them a separate class is the bourgeoisie's ownership of the means of production, not their wealth, because they don't produce the surplus value, the proletariat do. ...read more.

Middle

Marx and Weber differ in their thoughts on social mobility. Marx argues that there are two main groups, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, and that it is a predictable relationship and the only way to end this power relationship is through the proletariat overthrowing the bourgeoisie. (Krieken) Whereas Weber argues that social mobility is possible through the individual acquiring marketable skills. These skills through education, life chances and subsequent occupational choices can lead to movement in the class structure for the individual. (Krieken) For instance, a boy has grown up in a working class family and his father is a tradesmen. But the son, through education and attending university, graduates as an accountant. The son is now considered to be middle class. Weber argues that social mobility can either move us upwards or downwards depending on our choices and opportunities. While Marx does recognise social mobility, he relates this mainly to the petty bourgeoisie, and its likelihood of being absorbed by the other two classes due to its transitional nature. For Marx, class is a clearly defined and ridgid structure with little in the way of social mobility being possible or likely. This is particularly the case with the working class, due to the oppressiveness of the capitalist system itself. (Krieken) Pierre Bourdieu's work concerns the operation of taste in French society. It is based on a large survey carried out in 1963 and 1967-8, with a total of 1217 subjects. ...read more.

Conclusion

They are in the upper class due to their economic position and their status, while at the same time they are also in the middle class due to their actual economic function of assisting the capitalists, who do own the means of production, (in this case the entertainment industry and the media), and from their level of political power derived from their work. This would appear to undermine the Marxist perspective on class, with its rigid divisions between the classes and class membership. Rather, the celebrities fit in more with Weber and his recognition that class membership is more flexible and less clear by being defined as much by status and standard of living, as to whether or not an individual owns the means of production. In conclusion, this essay shows that Marx and Weber's theories do have relevance in today's society. Weber and Marx differ in the emphasis they place upon the role of ideas in social change and, relatedly, in the extent to which capitalism is destined to change. Weber's analysis leads us to believe that we are trapped in an `iron cage' of rationalisation, a cage whose bars are constructed out of materialistic values from which there is no escape. In contrast, Marx argues that the bourgeois epoch is characterised by instability and uncertainty which, eventually, will produce a revolutionary transformation. Unfortunately, neither Weber nor Marx make more than passing comment on the construction of subjectivity within the capitalist labour process, and this is an area which has been neglected by subsequent generations of sociologists. ...read more.

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