Karl Marx was a German sociologist, philosopher, economist, and journalist among many other things. He lived in the 19th century from 1818 to 1883. Max Weber was a German too. His full name was Maximilian Karl Emil Weber. He was a political economist, philosopher, sociologist, and jurist among others. He was born in 1864, and he died in 1920. These two people were academicians who had differing schools of thought. This paper looks into the differences between the two schools of thought, and theories therein. It also looks at the application of these schools of thought in the field of sociology. Sociology is the study of the development, structure, and functioning of human society. It examines social problems in different societies (Marx and Padover).
Schools of Thought
Karl Marx came up with the Marxism school of thought in sociology. Marxism posited that human societies develop through a class struggle. He depicted a struggle between the haves and the have-nots in the society. For the rich, Karl Marx called them bourgeoisie.' These were mainly the ruling class. He referred to the poor as proletariat.' The rich were mainly the ruling class who controlled the means of production, while the poor were usually the working class who provided labour in the production processes.
Marxism derived two economic systems in any society: capitalism and socialism. An economy refers to the wealth and resources of a given society. Capitalism and socialism try to explain how to share these resources. In capitalism, the resources are shared depending on the market forces of demand and supply. Capitalism provides for an independent way to earn as much as possible for any individual. It all goes down to personal effort and demand and supply forces. In socialism, on the other hand, the government strongly regulates the economy to ensure that there is equality in resource distribution to all members of the society (Marx).
Karl Marx viewed capitalism as a harmful system that could trigger an unstable society. Materialism in the society led to inequalities. He argued that exploitation defined capitalism. The rich would use the poor to make surplus returns, and that would start a cycle of profit accumulation. He explained that the class struggle between the rich and the poor would lead to a war that would eventually eliminate capitalism and replace it with socialism. The war would be triggered by the realization of the poor that the rich were more powerful than them. They would struggle to topple the rich from their powerful leadership positions and in doing this everyone would end up at the same level, hence socialism. He termed such an equal society as communists. Karl Marx actively fought for this system as a leading sociologist (Marx and Padover).
Rational-Legal School of Thought
Mark Weber came up with the rational-legal school of thought. He looks at the economy of any society as a being comprised of precisely defined and organized systems. These systems exist in harmony because there are laws, rules, and regulations that govern them. It means there is a division of labour with clearly defined tasks for everyone in the society regarding economic contribution. There are firmly established chains of command.
Mark Weber saw this school of thought as a cure to the fixed bureaucracies in societies. It would be more effective. Bureaucracy is a set of checks and balances which have to be followed to the letter for any task to be accomplished. The rational-legal school of thought emphasizes more on getting the job done efficiently and with high standards rather than focusing on processes and procedures.
Weber explains a situation where leadership would be highly attached to legal legitimacy and bureaucracy. The legitimacy would come from the traditions of the society.
Comparison between Karl Marx and Max Weber Schools of Thought
It has been argued that a close comparison between Karl Marx and Max Weber schools of thought is the basis of the democratic system in our societies. People who have skills and qualifications are set to achieve much according to Max Weber. According to Karl Marx, this can only happen if everyone in the society is given an equal opportunity. Both theorists tried to explain why inequality in societies is maintained.
One sharp difference between the two schools of thought is the fact that Max Weber, unlike Karl Marx, explains other dimensions of social stratification besides class. He explains that stratification can be based on varying lifestyles. Different occupations, for example, can be said to be classier than others though the amount one earns from them may not be that much. There exist independent status groups too that try to influence legislation and the society in general. These independent players cannot be categorized into either the rich or the poor as Karl Max posts. A good example is the pressure groups and lobbying functions.
Both sociologists had their way of viewing capitalism. Weber looks at capitalism as a field where advanced and more efficient bureaucracy exists. He, however, notes that bureaucracy is the root of the class status. On the other hand, Marx looks at the job specialization aspect in capitalism as a catalyst for the downfall of the capitalist system of the economy. He argues that it is unnatural to separate an individual from his professional skills as they are the same being. Karl Marx, therefore, strongly opposes job specialization. He sees the struggle for individuals to move from one job to a more superior one as a catalyst for the collapse of the capitalist system.
Marx and Weber also held different opinions about the class system. Marx looked at the different classes in the society as being located in the production system. Karl Marx explains that there are those who own the resources to produce goods and services, and another class that provides labour to add value to these resources for the sake of making them ready for consumption by the final person. Weber, on the other hand, looks at the class system in the society as a being derived from the market system. It includes the money market, labour market, and commodity market. He argues that class divisions arise from economic differences which have nothing to do with possessions.
According to Marx, capitalism would rise to a destructive level which would then crush it to the ground and replace it with socialism. Weber disagrees with this. According to him, there is no way of bringing a classless society. He argues that the low-class people will compete to get to the top of the food chain. But this will not lead to the fall of a capitalist system. All it will do is to create a continuous healthy competition between people of different classes in the society. It is concerning competing to get a decent education to get a better job with a higher income. The two sociologists, however, seemed to agree that capitalism would erode some of the community values previously held. It would kill personal relationships and promote individualism. Marx talks about this when explaining how capitalism will fall and be replaced by communism. Weber talks about individualism while explaining how people will try to come up with the best versions of themselves regarding skills and experience to get jobs better than those of their counterparts (Hughes).
Impact of Karl Marx and Max Weber Schools of Thought on Sociology
Karl Marx theories on socialism help us understand the relationship between labour and capital in todays economies.
Max Webers school of thought is used today in our countries and organizations particularly in hiring and appointment policies. Today, every job has the specific required skill set. And employers look for the person with those skill sets because they are confident he/she is the most qualified to run that specific job most efficiently.
Karl Marx and Max Weber died years ago, but their work is still relevant in the sociology fields today. Their theories guide the distribution of resources in an economy. They guide political and organizational decisions today (Longhofer and Winchester).
Governments later adopted these two schools of thought all over the world. Wars such as the World War II and the Cold War have been fought on the grounds of communist states against capitalist states. Citizens of different countries of the world seek for the system that works for them.
In conclusion, Marxism and rational legal schools of thought are broad. Learning their differences helps us to understand where we have come from in the history of sociology. They guide our economies today, and our decisions tomorrow. Nations have been born from these schools of thought.
Giddens, Anthony, and Chris Pierson. Conversations with Anthony Giddens - Making Sense of Modernity. Wiley, 2013.
Hughes, John A, et al. Understanding Classical Sociology: Marx, Weber, Durkheim. SAGE, 2010.
Jessop, Bob, and Russell Wheatley. Karl Marx's Social and Political Thought: Critical Assessments: Second Series. Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2008.
Longhofer, Wesley, and Daniel Winchester. Social Theory Re-Wired: New Connections to Classical and Contemporary Perspectives. Routledge, 2012.
Marx, Karl. The Wisdom of Karl Marx. Philosophical Library, 2010.
Marx, Karl, and Saul K. Padover. The Letters of Karl Marx. Prentice-Hall, 1979.
Morrison, Ken. Marx, Durkheim, Weber: Formations of Modern Social Thought. Sage, 2013.
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