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

"Classical sociological theory has likttle relevance in understanding contemporary employment" - discuss

Extracts from this document...


"Classical sociological theory has little relevance in understanding contemporary employment" - discuss. Marx, Weber and Durkheim are three names that have had an enormous impact on our understanding of the social context of work. Karl Marx was the driving force behind Marxism - a political and sociological thesis which has influenced many policies and political parties throughout the last century. His writings on politics, the world of work and its social relevance have influenced the way employers treat their staff and run their companies, as well as how governments have legislated to give more socio-economic power to the workforce. In a similar vein, Max Weber and Emile Durkheim's writings question how companies work and how people respond to social situations. However, with the changed cultural and economic power structures of today (which have arisen partly due to these writers), it is debateable whether their ideas have such relevance today, although some modern sociologists try to apply classical theory to the contemporary world by building on their work. Marx lived during a time of great change. The world was entering what many social scientists called the first wave of globalisation. Industrialisation meant that the workforce was becoming more affluent, educated and sophisticated, yet, at the same time, obsessed with work. Better transport links also meant that it was much easier to trade and for countries and peoples to interact more easily, learning each from each other. ...read more.


Some authors consider assembly line workers show the greatest sense of alienation, while workers such as physicians, teachers or other professionals experience the least alienation because they are both more involved with their work and have more direct control over it. Emile Durkheim, the French sociologist, wrote about "anomie" in The Division of Labour in Society, (1893), which was the process of deregulation that was occurring in society. The rules on how people should behave with one another were no longer clear cut as in the past, so people were unsure what to expect from each other. Anomie is a state where norms are confused, unclear or not present. Durkheim believed that traditional religions provided the basis for common values which the anomic individual lacks. Nowadays, with the much greater prevalence of conflicting opinions and the freedom of expression (often encouraged by political correctness), people are less likely to conform and obey rules and regulations. With no clear or common goal, it is hard for people to work and live in harmony. If a company or society lacks a cohesive identity, there is likely to be anomie as no one knows in which direction the organisation is heading or what to expect from one another. Another Durkheim idea was that of division of labour. Its primary aim was to increase efficiency and output by giving specialised tasks to clearly defined sections of the workforce. ...read more.


This has meant that there are fewer mundane jobs which lead to division of labour, alienation and anomie. While their underlying principles are still applicable to certain jobs, it is likely that their ideas are not applicable to nearly as many jobs today, whilst modern managers try very hard to keep the workforce motivated and involved. Contemporary supporters of Marx argue that his analysis of social class and commodities is still useful as his critique of capitalism can be applied to the current global situation and that alienation is still a problem. However, employers have recognised that it is necessary for employees to work as a team to achieve specific goals and that there is a need for a sense of ownership of the project they work on. So, more and more companies are making a conscious effort to reduce alienation. Anomie, however, is still perhaps present, because companies give their employees more autonomy over the job they do and how they do it. This means there are fewer rules and regulations which may lead to uncertainty about how a particular task should be carried out. In conclusion, classical sociological theory still helps us to understand how best to deal with complex employment situations and how to re-order society to give the workforce more status and involvement. It must be noted, however, that there are limitations to the theories because of the way the workplace has changed since Marx and Durkheim's time. Their theories can be used as a basis for analysis, but not as definitive guides to understanding contemporary employment. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our University Degree Social Theory 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 University Degree Social Theory essays

  1. The Strengths and Weaknesses of Classical Criminology

    This has repercussions throughout the whole of the justice system and renders the classical theory in need of reform. The Classical theory obviously provoked a radical change to the justice system and forced elements which were brutal, unpredictable and unfair to be amended in a manner which suited all of society.

  2. Social theory - What is the relationship between the French Revolution, the Industrial Revolution ...

    The freedom for ideas and institutions in society is dependent on the military power a country/city can exert. Democracy arises out of the rules of the military. The more equipped a military force is in relation to others is the basis for democracy.

  1. What Is The Relevance Of Emile Durkheim For Our Understanding Of The Human World ...

    Giddens (1978) argues that Durkheim pays little attention to the presence of inequalities in this work; he assumes that inequalities are resolved because the relations between groups are morally regulated by either the conscience collective or the state (the brain), however inequalities obviously do still exist despite this.

  2. Unravel the underlying principles in moka-exchange, and in the bridewealth-exchange amongst the Nuer of ...

    When a man marries a woman with the family herd, his brothers will call her 'our wife', because she was married with their cattle, and the married couple's children become 'our children', because they are 'children of our cattle' (Evans-Pritchard, 1951: p .78).

  1. Critically assess Marx's concept of Alienation.

    the worker and its sense of purpose, the level to which a worker is socially integrated into their work, and finally how much are they involved in their work. The result of this study allowed Blauner to argue that those individuals who worked in printing were non-alienated as they had

  2. How does the concept of citizenship contribute to our understanding of the experience of ...

    As a result of this model and a 'personal tragedy' approach, disabled people have experienced segregation, disadvantage and a lack of choice and control. The medical model is deeply embedded in society and ideas about disability and dependency have become common sense and hard to shift (Oliver, 1990).

  1. One of the most important sociological questions for Weber was the issue of how ...

    this component is represented exclusively by economic interests in the possession of goods and opportunities for income, and (3) this component is represented under the conditions of the commodity or labour markets"(Ashley and Orenstein, 2005). Class situations are determined by the clearness of the connections between the causes and consequences of class.

  2. Free essay

    What is the difference, if any, between contemporary forms of control and those enumerated ...

    we require things that we do not, so that our need is understood as a need for consumption. This affluent society seemed to be undermining Marx's theories of a revolution; 'non-conformity with the system itself appears to be socially useless' (Marcuse 1964:4)

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