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Karl Marx:Compare And Contrast Essay, Research Paper

During the nineteenth century, Karl Marx and Max Weber were two of the mostinfluential sociologist. Both their views on the rise of capitalism have various similaritiesand differences. They believe that capitalism is relatively new to the modern world. Their views differ on the rise of capitalism. Regardless of Marx and Weber s differences,both theorists agree that capitalism is a system of highly impersonal relations. Karl Marx was born on May 5, 1818 to the father of a Jewish lawyer. As a youngstudent Marx often read works written by Hegel. From school, Marx wrote to his fatherof his feelings on Hegel. He had found a disliking for those Hegelians who sought to draw atheistic and revolutionary conclusions from Hegel s philosophy (GranatEncyclopedia, pg.153) In order to better understand the views of Marx we must look atthe philosophy of Hegel. German philosophy in the nineteenth century was dominated by the ideas of Hegel. Hegel s philosophy was based on the concept of idealism. By looking at priorphilosophers one will see that Hegel s philosophy was similar to that of Immanuel Kant. Kant was interested in the study of knowledge. Kant had argued, that ideas or conceptsare apriori. Apriori ideas are one which exist before one s knowledge of the world, that isideas are not empirical. Hegel s philosophy was an expansion on the philosophy of Kant. Hegel believedthat apriori knowledge came from geist or the holy spirit. History, according to Hegel,consisted of a set of ideas or a thesis. For every thesis there was an opposite set of ideasor an antithesis. It is through this contradiction that a new set of ideas or a synthesis areborn. The synthesis of the thesis and the antithesis forms Hegel s theory of the dialectic. History was a set of arguments or a dialectic which would then define a new era inhistory. Between Hegel and Marx came Ludwig Feuerbach who believed that Hegel wasupside-down. Ideas, he contended, should be thought of more in the material and less inthe non-physical. Ideas do not come from geist but rather from other humans. Feuerbach had seen language as a shared phenomenon. It is with this ability for humans tospeak the same language that ideas are developed. Since ideas can only come from otherideas they are dependent on the language of society. Hence, ideas can only come fromsociety. Feuerbach viewed history as consisting of an epoch of ideas. An epoch wasa set of ideas that that defined a period in history. The nineteenth century was also the era of Darwin who tried to answer questionsusing scientific reason. Darwin had also exposed his theory of evolution during this era. Looking at the philosophy of Marx one sees that he takes into account the philosophyDarwin, Hegel and Feuerbach. Marx felt that Feuerbach had focused to little on Hegel,and had lost the dialectic. Marx had seen history as consisting of both the dialectic andmaterialism. He called this Dialectic Materialism. History, in the view of Marx, was adialectic materialism which evolved through time. Marx s dialectic was not based on the conflict of ideas, but rather on the dialectic ofclasses. This conflict results in a societies new mode of production. Each era of historyconsists of a mode of production. Throughout history, these modes changed through thedialectic. The dialectic would lead to a new mode of production and a new era in history. According to Marx, history would consist epochs of modes of production. Marx statesthat these modes of production are primitive communism, slave society, feudalism,mercantilism, capitalism, and then socialism and communism. In studying the rise of capitalism one is concerned with the epochs of primitivecommunism, slave society, feudalism, mercantilism and how they led to the rise ofcapitalism in western society. In society the mode is production is dichotomous to themeans of production. If there is a slave society there must be slave owners as well asslaves. Capitalism consists of those who own the means of production and those who arethe means of production, but to understand how society reached this level one must lookat the progression of society starting from primitive communism. In primitive society the mode of production is communal. This is due to the fact thatin primitive society there is no privately owned property. This is a society who s means ofproduction is based on hunting and gathering. What is not consumed in the huntingbecomes surplus and must be stored. This is where Marx found instability in this society. Those who have control over the surplus have the power. Herein lays the concept of thechief. The chief or leader is the one who has the power over the surplus. There aredifferent chiefs for each of the communes. These communes are then in competition forwho will gain the greatest surplus. The different communes are in competition with each other. The communes cometo the realization that it would be advantageous to conquer the competing communes togain their surplus. By conquering the opposing communes they would take over thepeople of the communes as well. It would be much easier for the victors to have theconquered do the hunting and gathering. In a sense they would be using these people asslaves. This is where one sees the first distinction between classes. The society hasmoved from a primitive communist society to the first slave society. Slaves have now become the means of production in this society. By creating a slavesociety we have created classes. It is in the classes that Marx talks about the dialectic. The arguments between the classes will eventually lead to a new mode of production andhence a new society. Many of the slaves were not only used as a means of production, butalso in defense of the surplus. The slaves also become used as a military power. Slavesociety had internal instability. This is evident in the case of Rome. Rome was a slavesociety whose downfall was due to the class dialectic between the slaves and the slaveowners. Slaves would eventually revolt against their slave owners. This would lead to theend of slave labor as a means of production. The end of slave society would lead to either an Asiatic or a feudal mode ofproduction. In the Asiatic mode of production the slaves were given some rights and usedas military power. The distinct difference was that slaves of the Asiatic mode were not tobe bought or sold. The other mode of production was feudal. Feudal society is the mostimportant since, it will directly lead to the rise of capitalism. We see in the feudal societythe rise of a stratified class system. The king was the ruler of the land and the ranks ofthose below him depended upon the military titles given by the king. The masses of land were owned by the lords. Work was done by the serfs on theland in order to survive. Any surplus was given to the lord. This was the payment to thelords for using their land. The land was worked by the serfs. The difference between theserfs and slaves were that serfs were not owned by the landlord. The one aspect ofserfdom which remained different from slavery was that the serfs children were required towork the same land their parents did. Serfs were a valuable asset to the land because theyproduced necessary goods as well as the surplus needed to pay the landlords. Serfs werealso valuable in the sense that they could be used in military battle. Many times serfs werepromised something in return for taking part in the battle. Between feudalism and capitalism came the rise of mercantilism. This from ofsociety was not based on the means of production. Rather, it was dependent on merchanttrade as a means of acquiring goods. This society was a small step in the rise ofcapitalism. In the era of mercantilism people began to make a living by trade of goods. Thosewho made their living by trade were the merchants. Some merchants would invoke apromissory notice if they did not have the product they wanted to trade. This notice was apiece of paper that later promised a product to the customer. In Switzerland the peoplebegan to print a general promissory notice called thalers. This gave rise to the notionof the dollar and hence the rise of the cash nexus. Merchants began to exchange cash without the lords knowing. In the meantime,feudal wars broke out between the landowners in Europe. Landowners were taking overother landowners and acquiring more serfs. This would eventually threaten the power ofthe king. In order to suppress the threat of the landowners, the king would unify the serfsas an army of his own. Concurrently, the cash nexus worked its way into the rest of society. The kingwanted a part of this cash. As a means to acquire the cash the king would impose taxeson the people. With this cash nexus many peasants were able to own land by purchasingit. The landowners were beginning to be a threat to the king. To help stop the power ofthe landowners the king allied with the merchants to suppress the landowners. Landowners would then charge tolls for the merchants to cross their land. This anexample of another class conflict, that is between the aristocrats and the merchants. In the late nineteenth century wool trade had become a big money maker. Yeomenwere experienced sheep herders who benefited from the wool trade. The Englishmerchants, who had allied themselves with the king, wanted to profit from the wool trade. In order to profit from the trade, the merchants had the landowners removed from the landand replaced with the yeomen.. The merchants could then use the wool in their trades. This would then lead to the beginning of the enclosure movement. The king, with the use of his army, would force the landowners off the land. Hewould then hand the land over to the yeomen to herd sheep. Since this enclosuremovement was forcing people off the land there was a rise in the number of vagabonds. These vagabonds constituted a source of human labor which the merchants could utilize inwool production. The merchants would then bring in the vagabonds to work the loomsfor a wage. Labor has now become a commodity to the merchants, and the formation of anew mode of production has risen. This new mode of production gave rise to thecapitalist society. There is a new class distinction between the laborer or proletariat, andthose who owned the means of production or the capitalist. In the formation of the capitalist society there are two prerequisites for the rise ofcapitalism. There first has to be the acquisition of enough money in the possession ofcertain individuals. In the feudal society the accumulation of funds was in the hands of themerchant traders as they took over the land. The second prerequisite is that there has tobe a large amount of free labor. Feudal society also met this requirement in the largeamount of vagabonds. These people were thrown off their land and had no work. Skilled labor was broken down into simpler tasks such that any individual couldaccomplish the tasks. Thus, skilled labor was devalued and unskilled labor came to thefore. The laborers work day consisted of twelve hours during which they received anhourly wage. A six hour work day may be enough to cover the cost of the labor but no surplusmoney is made. The next six hours of labor is surplus money. In the view of Marx thecapitalist makes his money by the surplus of workers. Therefore, from the standpoint ofthe capitalist there are two types of capital. Constant capital, which is the necessarycapital made to cover the costs of machinery, tools, labor and raw materials. The secondis variable capital which is dependent on the production of the labors. By expanding the variable capital the capitalist can gain more surplus value. One ofthese ways is by expanding the work day. According to Marx, any labor time over what isneeded for constant capital is considered surplus. If it takes only six hours a day forconstant capital then all hours after that would be capital that the capitalist makes for free.

This surplus capital may be free for the capitalist, but it causes a contradiction. For the capitalist the best way to sell a commodity is by having the lowest prices. The only way to have the lowest prices is by keeping the cost of production down. Theonly cost of production that the capitalist has control over is the cost of labor. So, inorder to lower prices the capitalist must lower the wages of the workers. This causes acontradiction because the laborers are also the consumers. If the laborers do not have thewages to buy a product then the company can not sell a product. This means that there isan overproduction and a under consumption of goods. When this happens the capitalistmust lay off the laborer because he is not making the necessary constant capital. The other problem Marx saw with capitalism is that it alienates the workers fromtheir jobs. The work becomes highly impersonal. In feudal times the laborer was able tosee what the end product was and was able to sell it for themselves. Under capitalism thelaborer is not able to do this. They are forced to produce product for someone else. Thelaborers feel alienated from their jobs. The laborers do not take pride in the work theyhave done. This will then lead to the laborer not producing quality products. The laboreris not dependent on the quality of the goods to sell the product because they are paid anhourly wage. This will lead to an unmotivated worker and low quality products. The dialectic between the proletariat and the capitalist will then lead to a newsynthesis. According to Marx, this new synthesis will be Socialism. In socialism there isno private property and the government owns the means of production. Marxhypothesized that socialism would lead communism which would be a classless society. Max Weber was a German anti-socialist born in 1864. Weber was opposed to Marxand believed that his theory was an oversimplification of history. Weber thought Marx sview of history was too focused on economics. Weber felt that scientific, historical, andphilosophical analysis of a period could never by itself provide the criterion necessary for adefinitive answer to questions, including those of politics. Weber had thought thatresearchers must distinguish the difference between what exists and what ought to be. Weber thought there was a link between capitalism and the Protestant work ethic. Specifically Weber looked at Calvinism. Calvinism was a simple way of life in which youwere to do good for others. The way into heaven was to do the greatest good for thegreatest number of people. Weber feels that this belief is eventually implemented intosociety. Work was done not for one s own personal gain, but for the sake of god. Weber had found that in areas where Calvinism was the highest is where capitalismrose first. Weber had based this theory on research he had done. The rise in capitalismwas where the Protestant ethic was the highest, and no other religion resulted in the rise ofcapitalism. All other religions do not stress work as a means to get into heaven. If wetake the Muslim faith we see that dying for ones religion is considered as a means to getinto heaven. The Protestant ethic is the only faith where wealth reinvested is a means toget into heaven. In comparison to Marx there are some similarities in this theory. Marx had believedthat a certain portion of the wealth will be needed to reinvest, but it was reinvested intomore capital. For example, a portion of money made selling hardware would bereinvested in more hardware. The difference between the two is that Weber feels thatcapital is reinvested for the good of others, and Marx feels that it is reinvested so one mayacquire more surplus. Weber not only saw capitalism as a system of reinvestment, but as a highly efficientyet impersonal system. With the rise of capitalism Weber was concerned about howhighly impersonal the system had become. Weber called this system bureaucracy. Thissystem depended on people who were appointed to a position. Weber saw that thissystem even existed in a democratic society. This system was impersonal but it wasefficient. It was a highly organized way of doing work. Marx had also agreed thatbureaucracy was a part of capitalism, but he had seen it as an inefficient circle. Where Weber saw bureaucracy as a necessary evil, Marx saw it as a endless circle. In the words of Marx, bureaucracy took state objectives and transformed them into theobjectives of the department. The department would then transform those objectives backto the state. According to Marx, this form of passing the buck is an endless circle that cannot be escaped. For Weber the power of a capitalistic society comes from the bureaucracy. Thisbureaucratic power is legitimized by the use of rational-legal authority. This authority is aset impersonal rules that regulate an anonymous individual. In the feudal society it wasnot the group who had power, but the person who had economic wealth. It is traditionalauthority which legitimizes this power. This authority is based on tradition and trust. Infeudal society it was the tradition to listen to the power of the king and his subjects put alltheir trust into the king. This type of authority, that of the king, was not as impersonal asthe rational-legal authority. If a king needs to borrow something from his subjects theking is able to get it. If the United States government asked to borrow one s car, onewould not give it to them, because one does not personally know and trust the unitedstates government. The bureaucracy may exist because of its rational-legal authority, but for Marx itonly exists as far as its relations to the state. This is very similar to Weber s theory ofpatent action orientations. One of the aspects of Marx s theory that Weber criticized wasthat of the lack of patent action orientations in his theory. Marx based his theory on thedialectic of the proletariat. What Weber criticized was that Marx did not define theproletariat in respect to their relations to the rest of society. In essence what Weber issaying is that one s actions with respect to others define who one is in society. For furtherexplanation of this theory lets take the example of the professor and the student. One is a student only as far as one s actions in relation with the professor, and theprofessor as far as the student. These actions would include one going to class, takingnotes, listening to the professor, taking exams and writing papers. These actions defineone as a student and define Mr. X as a professor. Actions define who one is in society. For Weber this is where Marx failed to define who the proletariat are in relation to theothers in society. Marx defines the proletariat in terms of their relation to the means ofproduction, but not in their actions. Marx was more concerned with the structure of society rather than the meaning. Marx had felt that it is this class structure which gave power to the classes. This term ofclass is used differently between Marx and Weber. For Marx the rise of capitalism was theresult of the dialectic between the two classes. Weber, on the other hand, felt that oncefeudalism had been abolished so was the class system. Class in the feudal era wasdetermined by one s blood line. If one were a serf then one s son or daughter would beborn into the same class status. The same would hold true for any other social status. The next in line for the throne of the king is his first born son. With the rise of capitalismthis distinct line between classes vanished. Weber, rather, saw class in capitalist societymainly in terms of a monopoly. Weber viewed a monopoly as those who had the power to bargain. Those who havea monopoly are less eager to exchange goods. One s class situation is defined by theresituation in the exchange market. Class is therefore determined by ones ability toexchange on the market. The possibilities of classes consist of ability to exchange and thekind of capital to be exchanged. This leaves the possibility for more than one class ratherthan two. Marx and Weber may disagree about the rise of classes in a capitalist society, butthey do have their similarities. Marx felt that history was based on the conflict betweenclasses and this conflict would cause the downfall of capitalism. Weber does not agreethat class conflict is what defines history, but he does state that a class is not acommunity but a possible basis for societal or even communal action (H.H. Gerth, C.Wright Mills). People of a community or group may have individual interests, but they put thoseaside to work as a whole. When individuals act in a societal movement they may dodifferent things, but they are acting in cooperation because in the end it will serve in theirindividual interests. Individuals act in cooperation with the group because it is the mostrational way to serve their individual interests. This is very similar to Marx s view on aproletariat revolution in capitalist society. Marx felt that the individuals in the proletariat would come together and revoltagainst the capitalist. Marx, however, did not feel that the proletariat would automaticallycome together because of their similar class. Rather, the people of the proletariat willcome together in a common interest. They all realize that in the capitalist society they willalways be exploited by the capitalists. So, the proletariat come together in a communalaction for their individual interests. Each person takes part in the revolution in a attemptto better their individual lives. Marx and Weber are two sociologist who both wanted to explain the rise ofcapitalism in western society. Weber had argued that Marx was too narrow in his views. Weber felt that Marx was only concerned with the economics in the rise of capitalism. Weber, on the other hand, tried to look at the macro-sociological phenomenon in hisexplanation of capitalism. Weber had felt that there is just more than one explanation tothe rise of capitalism. Regardless of their differences there are many similarities in the theories. Theunderlying theme in both of the theories is that capitalism rose from a personal society to ahighly impersonal society. They both may have different reasons as to why capitalismrose, but they both agree as to what it became. Weber had felt that the impersonal systemof capitalism was exemplified in the bureaucratic power. Marx saw the impersonal systemin the alienation of the proletariat workers. The writings of Weber leave the door open for the possibility for revolution in acapitalist society, but he does not directly speak of a revolution. Marx, although, speaksdirectly of a revolution and the self destruction of the capitalistic society. One of thefactors in this revolution is the impersonal relations between the proletariat and thecapitalist. The impersonality of capitalism, exemplified in the failure of the proletariat tofeel meaningful in their work, fuels the movement for a revolution. Weber was very concerned with this impersonal bureaucratic system and this wasone of the reasons that he was compelled to study the rise of capitalism. He had seen therise of the bureaucratic powers in western society, and Weber saw how society wasbecoming less and less personal. This is a problem in the capitalist society that both menhad seen in the nineteenth century, and it is a problem that still exists today. People havelost a sense of community and gained the sense of individuality. The loss of personalrelationships can lead to many internal problems in a society and possibly a downfall. Bibliography Benschop, Albert. Max Weber Sociological Institute University of Amsterdam http://www.pscw.uva.n//sociosite/TOPICS/sociologists.html.weberCoulter, Jeff. Boston University. Boston, 2 September 1996-8 October 1996Cuff, E.C., Sharrok, W.W. and Francis, D.W. Perspectives in Sociology. Routledge.1992.Giddens, Anthomy, Capitalsim & Modern Social Theory. Cambridge University Press,1971.Giddens, Anthony. Sociology. Routledge & Kegen Paul, 1970 289-310Heller, Agnes. The Theory of Need in Marx. St. Martin s Press: New York, 1976Kileullen, R.J. Max Weber: On Capitalism http://www.mq.edu.au/hpp/politics/y64110.htmlMrx, Karl and Engles, Fredrick. The Marx-Engles Reader. Ed. Robert C. Tucker. W.W. Norton & Company, Inc, 1978.Mills, C. Wright and Gerth, H.H. From Max Weber. New York, 1946.Rosdolsky, Roman. The Making of Marx s Capitalism . Pluto Press Limited, 1977.


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