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A discussion and evaluation of Marx and Weber’s views on capitalist society

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Paul B.
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  1. Introduction.
  2. The first epoch described by Marx.
  3. This early primitive communist tribe.
  4. Max Weber disagreement with the oversimplification.
  5. Calvinism.
  6. Conclusion.
  7. Bibliography.

Capitalism is defined as an economic "system of wage-labour and commodity production for sale, exchange, and profit, rather than for the immediate need of the producers" (Marshall, 1998: 53). As observed by Karl Marx, capitalism transformed a small proportion of a society's population into capitalists, or those who own the factories and industrial businesses, while the larger proportion of the population became wage labourers, a grouping which Marx called the proletariats. These workers gain the wages needed to live through the sale of their labour to capitalists in the capitalistic industries (Macionis, 1997: 76). Though both Karl Marx and Max Weber, sociologists living during the 19th century, observed this economic system, each conjectured a different explanation for its rise.

[...] The structure which Marx focuses on in his explanation of capitalism is the economic infrastructure, and the social institutions built upon, and further conveying, the ideas of this infrastructure. Max Weber disagreed with the oversimplification of history which Marx uses in his explanation for the rise of capitalism, especially Marx's belief that ideas simply reflect the mode of production. Weber believed that ideas also have a transforming power, and modern society was a product of both the combination of new techniques of thinking and technological change. [...]


[...] Though both Marx and Weber observed the alienation created by capitalism, Marx offers an explanation as to how this alienation will be overcome, and the exploitation of capitalism ended by a proletariat revolution resulting in socialism. Weber disagreed with this interpretation, believing that "socialisation of the means of production would merely subject an as yet relatively autonomous life to the bureaucratic management of the state" (Gerth and Mills, 1991: 49). In other words, the state's bureaucratic authority would expand, exercising greater control over each individual. [...]


[...] For example, Marx defined two classes in a capitalist system, the capitalists and the proletariats. As discussed in the quote from the Manifesto of the Communist Party, classes existed in opposition to each other throughout history. Marx attempts to explain the rise of capitalism by dividing history into four main epochs, each defined by different modes of production. The main epochs which Marx discusses are listed in chronological order as primitive communism, ancient systems, feudalism, and lastly, modern industrial capitalism. [...]

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