Comparing the Ideologies of Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, and Max Weber

Category: Karl Marx, Max Weber
Last Updated: 16 Jun 2020
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Comparing the Ideologies of Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, and Max Weber Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, and Max Weber were three historical sociologists. Their views have become world renown and have shaped many ways of interpreting the social structure of many modern societies. This essay will take a glimpse into the three sociologists’ ideals and expose the similarities and differences they may have. Karl Marx’s view of society was based around the economy. All other social structures according to Marx, such as religion, family values, and politics stem from the base, the economy.

Religion played no part at all in Marx’s sociological views. He is known as an atheist. He believed that religion was nothing more than a burden on society. “The economy that forms from the means of production results in the division of labor and forms property” (Simon 1). Division of labor can be described as the way in which tasks are divided in a society. Certain people are assigned certain tasks which help to make sure that the social structure progresses smoothly. As society becomes more advanced, the division of labor becomes more advanced, because more tasks become necessary for society to stably exist.

Therefore, in Marx’s opinion, the economy grows and advances society which fuels the division of labor that is necessary for harmonious living. Marx believed that social struggle was the main cause of social evolution. In a society there is always a group that is in some way oppressed. If we look back just a few hundred years we see this in slavery, and before that serfdom. So how does oppression promote social change? “It is the ruling economic class that determines the dominant ideology in a society… And it is class interest that the proletariat must oppose with revolution. ”(Simon 2).

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The upper class in society rules over all the lower classes. When the oppression becomes an unbearable horror for the lower class, they must revolt, according to Marx. We saw this with both given examples. Serfs often fled from their lords, and slaves sought refuge in non-slave states and sometimes even killed their owners. In the case of slavery, there was a complete societal split between the north and the south in America. The main dispute between the two sides was the subject of slavery. But if not for the slaves revolting and feeing, maybe no action would have been taken.

This is Marx’s view of social evolution at its finest. The lower class fought for social freedom, and American society was forever changed. So basically, Marx’s cycle of social change is simply Oppression, revolution, uprising, and then the cycle repeats itself as another lower class becomes oppressed. Durkheim believed that social order is obtained through social integration, which is the extent to which the members of a society are held together. “Durkheim advances his theory of social transition where he argues that social order is maintained through social integration and regulations in a social equilibrium.

All nations develop normative behavior patterns and belief systems in the evolutionary change process. During the transitional period the diffusion of new norms and values disrupts the equilibrium of traditional societies. ”(Zhao 2). Durkheim believed that society is held together by social integration, but when society is evolving, chaos takes over until new social norms are set. After these social norms are integrated into the new society, social equilibrium is once again achieved; that is until the next social evolution. This in between stage of chaotic change is fueled by what Durkheim called anomie. Anomie is described as a breakdown of social norms regulating individual behavior and social interaction. ”(Zhao 4). Durkheim claimed that is human nature to act in a chaotic manner and to seek evolution. The only way he believed that order was possible was through social integration. Religion was a factor in the sociological views of Durkheim. “Religion, in this manner, contributes to the constitution and protection of social order by supplying a moral order. That is to say that ‘since society will always require periodic reaffirmation, religion is an indispensable, permanent social fixture. ”(Mazman 10). Durkheim does not hint whether he himself is religious or not, he simply states that religion is necessary to have social integration. He claims that a moral order is necessary in society. It is a set list of rights and wrongs for people to live by. This order is never changed or even questioned by the members of society in times of peace. This moral order cannot simply be insisted by a ruler of some sort, it is much more complex than that. The moral order must come from an unquestionable source. This is why religion is necessary.

With religion ruling people, they are threatened not with a punishment in this life, but with eternal damnation. People fear what they do not understand; therefore religion is the only thing that can provide absolute social order. A higher being that no person can see or hear cannot be questioned. The fear of eternal punishment will force a large majority of members of society to submit to the moral and social order. Durkheim insists that religion is one of the greatest ways to prevent anomie which leads to the inevitable society revolutionizing chaos.

Max Weber greatly opposed Karl Marx’s views on religion and economy. Weber believed that the economy was certainly not even close to the center of society. “Economies result from communities, which are arranged in such a way that goods, tangible and intangible, symbolic and material, are distributed. Such a distribution is always unequal and necessarily involves power. ”(Simon 8). So in Weber’s opinion material possessions are the root of inequality. Nothing is distributed equally and therefore, leads to social injustice and in some cases oppression.

Weber believed that religion was responsible for change in society. “For Weber, religion, because it calls forth a type of personality through beliefs in ethical values, affects social life and interactions. These ethical values and religious ideas, in turn, are affected by social, economic and political conditions in a given society. ”(Mazman 13). Weber’s view on religion is similar to that of Durkheim. Weber believed that religion gave society a set moral order. Weber also claimed that as society advanced the religious views advanced to somewhat modernize the social order. Weber’s work is therefore an invitation to see the history of political institutions, the history of religions or the history of morals as guided by a diffuse program aiming at defining institutions, rules, etc. which will most efficiently respect the dignity and vital interests of all. ”(Boudon 6) Weber also dug even deeper. He claimed that certain religions prospered more than others. He actually did prove this. Weber showed that Protestants had the best religion, not in the sense of religious views, but socially and economically. Protestantism provided modern individuals with coherent, meaningful, ethical conduct in terms of seeking salvation and God’s blessing in their worldly activities. ”(Mazman 13). The Protestants believed in vocation. They believed that whatever occupation they had in life was not simply by chance, but they were called to it. They were what most would call ‘workaholics’ who dedicated every free second of their time to work. This made the Protestants statistically the most financially well-off group in most societies. This goes back to Weber’s view of the social structure.

The Protestants were the wealthiest so they would be the leaders of society. So as I have shown, these three sociologists, Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, and Max Weber, had world renowned views of society. They all had points that were unquestionable yet others that were flaky at best. We often saw views of each man overlapping. One cannot help but to ponder what if another sociologist came along and took the best parts of their works and put the pieces together. Would the perfect sociological view be formed? Only time can tell. ?

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Comparing the Ideologies of Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, and Max Weber. (2017, Jun 22). Retrieved from

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