Sunday, September 22, 2019

Marx and Weber’s Analyses of the Development of Capitalism Essay Example for Free

Marx and Weber’s Analyses of the Development of Capitalism Essay Capitalism is defined as ‘An economic and political system in which a countrys trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit.’ It is based on the division between two classes, one of which owns the labour of the other. Not only do the upper classes, or the bourgeoisie, own the means of physical production but also the means of ‘mental production’. They control and manipulate society through the rule of education, religion and the media. Althusser distinguishes between repressive state apparatuses and ideological state apparatuses and argues about how the bourgeoisie manages to maintain its rule. He argues that the repressive includes the police and the army in which use physical force to control the working class as opposed to the ideological apparatuses such as the media and religion which control the development of ideas. A key component of capitalism is that the working class are forced to sell their labour in exchange for wages in order to survive. However, they do not receive an equal exchange for the labour they produce, but only the cost of subsistence. The difference of what the bourgeoisie receive from the labourers and the amount they pay back is called the surplus value, meaning the profit they make. Max Weber was one of the founding fathers of sociology and contributed highly to our knowledge of how society works. Weber’s work can be highlighted by referring to his study The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, first published in 1905 (22 years after the death of Karl Marx in 1883). Weber argues that the Protestant Reformation introduced a new belief system of Calvinism (a form of Protestantism founded by John Calvin during the reformation) which promoted a high work ethic and which eventually led to the rise in capitalism. Calvinists believed that God preordains the ‘elect’ meaning of who would be saved after death and go onto heaven and who would not. This could not be changed through hard work or leading a good life as the decision had already been decided. This made Calvinists strive for success, with which they would reinvest into making more money, hence the development of capitalism. Weber distinguishes the differences between the capitalism of greed and wealth in past societies to those of present. Modern day people are pursing profit for its own sake rather than for consumption, hence why the Calvinists reinvested their wealth. Weber calls this the spirit of capitalism. He further argues that this was the reason capitalism was stronger in places like Europe and America and not in other places where Protestantism wasnt so established. Weber also distinguishes between many different existing forms of capitalism including ‘traditional capitalism’ and ‘booty capitalism’; however the crucial ideal type is the one named modern capitalism, or rational capitalism meaning the repetitive, ongoing economic activity on the basis of rational calculation. Understanding what needs to happen and what the best way of achieving it is, allows for reinvestment and the growth of economic enterprises. He argues that it is the rational side of modern capitalism that distinguishes it from other advanced economic areas such as China and India, both of which had higher and more advanced infrastructures in the 17th century compared to Europe and America. However, Weber is hugely criticised for his understanding of the rise in capitalism due to others believing that it was the peoples relationship with the material forces and there means of subsidence which drove the change. Weber takes a key focus on religion and the impact that had on the rest of society as well as capitalism, whereas Marx focuses on class conflict. Marx argues that through industrialisation capitalism had been forced to increase due to growing separation of the two contrasting classes. One class is the exploiting bourgeoisie who own the means of production and the other class being the proletariat who own nothing but their own labour. Marx predicted that the working class would eventually become conscious of their alienation and exploitation and unite to overthrow capitalism. This would slowly bring in a system of socialism which would gradually evolve into a pure classless communist society lacking in exploitation. He argued that capitalism would disintegrate due to interior tensions, just like every other social system. He believed that communism was inevitably the next stage in the line of historical changes to class systems. Just as feudalism was replaced by capitalism, so capital ism would be replaced by communism. Marx argues that religion performs a different function than that of what Weber argues. Instead it operates as an ‘ideological weapon’ used by the bourgeoisie to justify the suffering of the poor as something unchangeable and ‘god-given’. Religion persuades the working class that their suffering is honourable and moral and will be favoured in the afterlife. This is evident in the Christianity teaching of it is ‘easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven’. This manipulates and oppresses the proletariat as it renders them blind to capitalistic trends; ensuing and maintaining false class consciousness. However, Marx can be criticised for ignoring the positive functions that religions perform, made apparent by the psychological adjustment to misfortune that it offers. Abercrombie and Turner (1978) argue that ‘in pre capitalist society, while Christianity was a major element of ruling-class ideology, it had only limited impact on the peasantry’ (A2 Sociology AQA Specification, 2009, pg 13) However, although Marx does argue that religion helps to control the manipulation of ideas of the working class he also believes that it is ‘the heart of the heartless world and the soul of soulless conditions’, as it can act as an distraction to dull the pain of exploitation. When comparing and contrasting two very highly influential historians such as Karl Marx and Max Weber, some would argue that it is highly important to look at their overall impact on society as well as humanity. Karl Marx focused highly on philosophy and his work is still influential in many cultures worldwide today. This contrasts to Max Weber who is considered ‘one of the fathers of modern thought’ and could be considered one of the world’s most intellectual and influential persons. Although both historians share clear similarities, for example both coming from a European Protestant background they also contrast and have distinct differences. Weber criticises Marx’s theory as he believes that his view is too one dimensional and simplistic when looking at inequality. Weber argues that this is due to Marx seeing class as the only important division. Weber argues that status and power also have high impact on the volume of inequality. He points towards the ‘power elite’ for evidence and argues that they can rule without actually owning the means of production. Currently there are many independent companies that can control and rule particular labourers without being a part of the bourgeoisie, it is not as simple as Marx likes to preach. A great amount of people are in other situations than the time when Marx was writing, for example ‘dealers in information, managers and civil servants’, meaning that the relative importance of the struggle between owners and workers has relatively declined. Although Marx and Weber have severe differences in their evaluation of modern capitalism their augments also share many similarities. They both believe that the economic system is a place where â€Å"individuals are directed by abstractions† (Marx). We must also take into account the times of which both sociologists were writing. Weber is writing nearly half a century later and focuses highly on the impact of power, wealth and prestige. He argues that these were the three main factors contributing to capitalism and the distinction of classes. This contrasts to Marx who focuses singularly on the impact of class and how the contrast of bourgeoisie and proletariat impacted on the rise of capitalism. However, both of their summaries of overthrowing capitalism share many similarities. Both sociologists argue that in order for capitalism to be overthrown the working class must unite together to overthrow the ruling class and free themselves from capitalist oppression. Bibliography Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels (1932). The German Ideology . Moscow: David Riazanov. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels (1848). Manifesto of the communist party. London. Max Weber (1978). Economy and Society. California: University of California Press. Thomas Hobbes (1988). The Leviathan. London : Penguin . Phil Bartle. (2007). Marx vs Weber. Available: Last accessed 10th October 2012. Louis Althusser. (1970). Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses. Available: 970. Last accessed 10th October 2012 Michael Lowy. (2006). Marx, Weber and the Critique of Capitalism . Available: . Last accessed 10th October 2012. No Author. (1999). Max Weber. Available: Last accessed 10th October 2012. D. Sayer, Capitalism and Modernity: An Excurses on Marx and Weber, pg. 4, London: Routledge, 1991. Cuff, E. C., W. W. Sharrock and D. W. Francis, Perspectives in Sociology, third edition, London, Routledge, 1992.

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