Marx and Weber Comparison

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Question Description

1, Compare and evaluate the ways Marx and Weber use the concept ‘interest’ and locate them within their general theories. Provide examples.

2, Compare and evaluate Marx and Weber’s theories of revolution and locate them within their general theories.

3, Compare and contrast Marx’s view of alienation and exploitation in capitalists society with Weber’s view on the composition of the iron cage and the inevitability of disenchantment in modern society.

In a capitalist society, workers are alienated from others (no freedom)
In bureaucracy, individuals have no freedom because of all of the regulations and rules that are placed on them (no freedom)


Each question need to be answered in a small 4 paragraphs essay separately , (intro, 2 body paragraphs and conclusion) . A thesis statement need to be put in the intro. every point that be made in the essay, if possible, need to be located in their original work. For example, in question3 Marx talks about alienation in Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts" "Estranged Labor".

Feel free to look for hints everywhere, but only books that were written by Marx, and Weber need to be quoted.For example the following:

Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts

Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism,


I also uploaded a very useful comparison article that I found on google as a sample of potential source bank

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Comparing Marx and Weber Assignment: Each of you should write a couple of pages, identifying important comparisons between the two theorists. The comparisons should concern important analytical themes or styles of theorizing--the kinds of issues discussed in the "handouts" meant to guide your group papers and those raised in class. You may focus on one comparison or identify several. For each, try to state the issue, indicate why the issue matters, give an account of what is similar and different in how Marx and Weber approach the theme, and provide some analytic interpretation of the theoretical sources and consequences of the differences. The following lists all responses to the assignment in the order in which they were posted. ================= Danielle Lindemann ================== Marx v. Weber: The Role of Historical Analysis In our first paper on The Protestant Ethic, my group wrote in our thesis paragraph: "Unlike Marx, Weber does not intend to pursue a path of determinism; instead, the goal of his project is to understand the spirit of capitalism within a historical context." But this statement is not entirely accurate. The difference between Weber's and Marx's theoretical frameworks is not a case of historical versus contemporary analysis. Both theorists pursue diachronic analyses, attempting to understand the connection between modern capitalism and specific historical circumstances. Weber, writing as an historical sociologist, theorizes in PE that the cultural values embroiled in the American Protestant ethic, as embodied by seventh-century Puritans, accelerated the development of modern capitalism. He traces this ethic into the 18th century, when, exemplified by figures like Ben Franklin, the ethic became stripped of its connection to salvation and the striving for money became "understood completely as an end in itself." (PE, 17) Finally, in Weber's contemporary times, capitalism (divested of its linkage to Protestant values) manifested itself in a compulsory, socially-rooted system from which no one could escape. The 17th century ascetic protestant, Weber writes, "wanted to be a person with a vocational calling; today we are forced to be." (PE, 123) Marx's project is similar to Weber's in that, while he does not devote himself to the historical circumstances which have led to capitalism (thus, perhaps, my group's comment about how Marx, unlike Weber, does not concern himself with historical context), he does, like Weber, attempt to understand how modern capitalism has arisen from the capitalism which preceded it. Our group's comment belies the reality that Marx's analysis of capitalism is extremely historical in nature. He discusses the alienated state of modern man via an historical materialistic analysis, theorizing that, throughout history, "The mode of production of material life conditions the social, political and intellectual process in general." (The Marx-Engels Reader, 4) The history of class struggle, further, becomes central to his theory. Marx describes, for instance, the polarization of proletariat, bourgeosie, and petty bourgeosie into two distinct groups of workers and capitalists. Under a capitalistic system, "the distinction between capitalist and land-rentier, like that between the tiller of the soil and the factory-worker, disappears and…the whole of society must fall into two classes – the property-owners and the propertyless workers." (The Marx-Engels Reader, 70) Thus, Marx, like Weber, contextualizes the origins of modern capitalism, delineating the historical process by which capitalism has manifested itself in its contemporary form. The glaring distinction between the two theorists, of course, when it comes to historical analysis, is that Weber asserts that culture catalyzes economic conditions and Marx writes that economic conditions manifest themselves in society and culture. However, to pigeonhole the two theorists merely as espousers of economically- and culturally- driven historical change, respectively, is to obfuscate the nuances within the two theoretical frameworks which render them similar. While it is tempting, for instance, to assert that, to these theorists, we are all merely the result of social and/or economic processes from which we can not escape, it is important to note that both writers inject considerations of the characteristics and emotions of individual human beings into their analyses. Weber, for instance, describes the "unimaginable inner loneliness of the solitary individual" (PE, 59) under the Calvinist doctrine of predestination, which ultimately led to the Protestant work ethic as a crystallization of the individual desire to be saved. Marx, too, describes the psychological dimensions of human experience which have catalyzed capitalism. In Capital, writing of the individuals who exploit the working class, and providing case studies of workers who have endured such exploitation, Marx humanizes what he terms his "dramatis personae" by endowing them with specific individual characteristics. (The Marx-Engels Reader, 343) Delineating between the exploitative capitalist and the exploited laborer, Marx writes, "The one with an air of importance, smirking, intent on business; the other, timid and holding back, like one who is bringing his own hide to market and has nothing to expect but – a hiding." (The Marx-Engels Reader, 343) Thus, while he tends to view history in terms of classes and processes, rather than as a collection of the lives of specific individuals, Marx does, like Weber, ascribe specific human traits to the players in his scenarios. (Along the same lines, it is interesting to note that, while Marx often focuses on the collective rather than the individual, his very writing of "Capital" was an individual act which spawned social change.) To neither Marx nor Weber are human beings merely automatons, compelled to action by external forces. While it is tempting to view them both merely as theorizers of larger, disparate processes (Marx, economic and Weber, cultural) which drive history, both ascribe psychological motives to the players in their historical scenarios. In short, both theorists pursue diachronic analyses in attempting to understand their contemporary manifestations of capitalism, and human mentality plays into both of these analyses. It is important to point to these similarities within the projects of these two theorists – their use of historical analysis and the humanization of the players in that analysis – so as not to oversimplify the two projects as oppositional strategies for explaining capitalist development. ================== Mihaela Serban ============================= Religion and Capitalism in Marx and Weber Both Marx and Weber are concerned with the origins and development of modern capitalism. For Weber, religion, and specifically Protestantism (Calvinism), is a major, though not exclusive, causal factor in the development of modern capitalism. For Marx, capitalism, like other historical modes of production, is the result of real, material conditions, and religion is part of the super-structure of society (thus rising on a historically-determined material base). It would seem that for Weber, ideas can create social change, while for Marx, the causal relation is inversed, and they are only the result of material conditions. For Weber, religion can be a force of social change, while for Marx it is necessarily a conservative, status-quo-preserving force. It may, therefore, appear surprising that Marx and Weber agree on the basic elements of modern capitalism: a rational process of accumulation of wealth/capital (surplus value) for reinvestment, and thus on the basic reproductive features of the capitalist system. Before attempting to reconcile these two perspectives, it might be helpful to review their respective positions on religion. Marx starts from understanding God (spirit) as the projection of man's "true" self (reversing Hegel). Man is doubly self-estranged or alienated: in his consciousness and in his labor. For Marx, they are two sides of the same coin, and he is quite explicit on both accounts (pp. 72, 119, 53). He is also explicit in comparing alienation of self (religious) with alienation of labor (pp. 78, 85, 74). It is thus internally consistent that, just like alienation of labor is crucial for understanding and criticizing capitalism, alienation of self-consciousness plays an equally important part ("the criticism of religion is the premise of all criticism" p.53). In this context, religion is defined as "opium of the people" (providing temporary, false relief and keeping them "in their place"), as well as a form of social control (as an expression of the ideas of the dominating classes in a given historical phase) (pp. 53, 145, 28, 14, 54). Either way, religion is dependent on the material base, and it is not an independent force of social change (it is important to note that Marx does not distinguish between or within religions, as this is not important for his argument). The only place where Marx appears to allow religion a principal, rather than secondary part is in "On the Jewish Question." Here, Marx defines religion as a particular mode of production (p. 85) and then specifically discusses the impact of Judaism in real life (this is the only religion he singles out). In this discussion, Judaism seems to play a role similar to that played by Weber's Protestantism in the development of capitalism, although not via the work ethic path, but through the emphasis it lays on money (capital) and commerce. In this analysis, the Jewish "spirit", aided by Christianity, seems to play an important part in the development of modern capitalism (pp. 48, 50, 52). Unlike Marx, Weber assumes and does not attempt to explain the religious instinct; he merely tries to understand how it determines human action [religious action] from the actor's point of view. By excluding other possible explanations, and comparatively analyzing various strands of Christianity, he identifies Protestantism and specifically Calvinism as the root of the capitalist work ethic. The doctrine of predestination, vocation, a methodical life and asceticism (a strict work ethic that requires self-denial), as well as individualism, are all linked together to create a core capitalist ethic. However, Weber also claims that while these variables explain the origins of capitalism, by now they have lost their initial meaning and purpose, they have become ingrained in the system independently of their religious origins, and thus that the modern capitalist work ethic has become completely separated from its religious context, although it continues to function in the same way ("The Puritan wanted to be a person with a vocational calling; today we are forced to be", p.122). What do these two perspectives on religion mean for a common definition of capitalism? For both Marx and Weber, religion has a functional value. Weber explains the capitalist class from a psychological perspective (what motivates it), while Marx focuses on the working class. For Weber, religion is a key motivating factor that clarifies the psychology and behavior of the individual capitalist, legitimizes it, and ascribes to it a positive morality. Marx acknowledges the hold that the religious instinct has over individuals, and his "opium of the people" metaphor explains how it affects both the psychology and agency of the individual. As Marx understands religion to be a tool of oppression, it is only natural to ascribe positive morality to the exploited, and negative morality to the exploiters. Weber helps us understand how the exploiters, far from being intrinsically evil or mere creatures of the system, are in fact individuals who function within clearly delimited spheres of psychology, morality, and agency, and how this contributes to the perpetuation of the system. Interestingly, both Marx and Weber, albeit for different reasons, end up looking towards societies that either transcend or downplay religion. ================== Catherine Bell ============================= Both Marx and Weber take up the notion of socioeconomic class as one component of their analysis of what they considered the keystone to modern culture and society, modern capitalism. However, the two theorists have different projects in addressing this social category, and therefore have different descriptions of social class that neither contradict nor criticize one another. In creating his “grand theory,” Marx constructs the notion of class around two poles: the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. He suggests that modern capitalism tends to polarize all class relations, folding the unsuccessful petty bourgeoisie in with the proletariat and forcing an ever widening gap between the two class groups. In a historical sense, Marx was aware that the socioeconomic landscape was in fact much more complex; however, this polarization must be understood as functionally necessary to his notion of dialectical materialism and eventual classbased revolution. The existence of other, intermediate class groups was a historical particularity that neither invalidates nor adds insight to his theory of class relations, and is therefore theoretically irrelevant. Weber, in his later writing on “The Distribution of Power Within the Political Community,” addresses another dimension of class. He does not point out Marx’s historical inaccuracy in identifying a simplified class structure; rather, he complicates the notion of class by differentiating between structures of social status and economic class. He writes, “The economic order merely defines the way in which economic goods and services are distributed and used. Of course, the status order is strongly influenced by it, and in turn reacts upon it.” (927) This difference can be attributed to a divergence in the underlying questions the two theorists address when focusing on the issue of class. In his construction of a polarized class structure, Marx’s concern is the establishment of an internally coherent description of the relations of capital in the historically specific context of modern capitalism. His task is to describe the foundational economic structures from which other relations were derived. On the other hand, Weber’s project, as it relates to his aforementioned analysis of class, is driven by the question, “How is power organized in modern society?” Here, the focus and scope of Weber’s organizing question is different from Marx’s. He is describing power relations in the context of modern capitalist society, not establishing causality for the relations themselves and the origins of the system within which they exist. Following this, it can be asserted that Marx’s approach closely follows Hegel’s conception of the dialectic, constructing a model of history which can be distilled down to a tension of two competing forces. Far from a simplification, Marx’s account capitalist relations reveals the complexity of the new measures of value and forms of wealth as they developed under modern capitalism. However, in constructing his theory of capitalism Marx values the establishment of a causally complete abstraction that is an adequate explanation of modern capitalism rather than an accurate description of it. Weber’s work in “The Distribution of Power,” and “Bureaucracy,” is a theoretical description of a set of power relations, rather than an explanation for them. However, “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism” is indeed explanatory, positing that the Protestant ethic was a cultural phenomenon of origins independent from capitalism that fostered the development and eventual dominance of this modern economic form. Weber builds a causal account of the relationship between the Protestant ethic and modern capitalism, diverging from Marx’s historical materialism not only in his positing of the primacy of culture but also in his rejection of the conclusion of capitalism’s inevitable demise. Weber acknowledges a dialectical relationship between culture and economic structure, but does not go so far as to suggest that the embers that nourish capitalism will lead to revolutionary abolition of that very economic structure. Catherine Bell Sociology of Education Department of Humanities and Social Sciences in the Professions Steinhardt School of Education ================== Jane Jo-Ann Jones ============================= In comparing Marx and Weber, at first consideration their theoretical views appear to be quite different. When we examine the approach that each author takes to the idea of specialization, however, we can see subtle similarities that make the consequences of their arguments an important point of comparison. While Marx and Weber apply the concept of specialization in very different ways, the implementation and consequences specialization have much in common. Weber applies the idea of specialization (although he does not refer to it as such) most explicitly in the work “Bureaucracy”. Here, Weber informs the reader that for bureaucracy to be successful, it must have certain characteristics. First, there must be a commitment to bureaucratic offices, rather than the individuals who hold those offices. In this respect, the individual loses importance. For Weber, this specialization occurs in the political realm, as the bureaucracy is a governing structure. In Marxist theory, the division of labor has characteristics that are similar to those of specialization as explicated in Weber’s analysis. The first similarity is not particular to the division of labor, but instead generalizable to Marx’s general theory. The individual is not important; instead his labor gives him value. One could say that capitalism, as a system, values the labor of the individual more than it values the individual. Here, the similarity between Marx and Weber is clear. In neither situation is man valued for his self worth. Instead, his value is contingent on what his labor. In “Bureaucracy”, this work is the fulfillment of bureaucratic obligations, on the part of a bureaucratic official. For Marx, work is the labor performed by an individual on a daily basis. In The Critique of Capitalism, Marx discusses how the division of labor in factories, especially in the use of machinery, detaches all intellect from manual labor (409). In “Bureaucracy”; Weber describes the bureaucratic official as a person who, while having expertise in his field, is required to follow rules and regulations. Additionally, he is educated to be a bureaucrat – taught certain lessons that enable him to be specialized, so that he can carry out his work with the highest level of efficiency. His education is dictated by the mandates of bureaucracy, just as the worker’s education (of how to use that machinery) in Marx’s factory is dictated by the mandates of capitalism, namely surplus value, or profit. In neither instance is the individual permitted to express his creativity, nor is there a synthesis between his intellect and the labor that he performs. In both situations we can see that the individual becomes alienated from the work that he performs, although to different extents. For a bureaucratic official, awards can be given in the sense of promotions, which is something that Marx does not talk about in his theory. Yet, in the daily operation of bureaucracy, we see that there are striking resemblances to a capitalist system, which Weber concedes when he states that “Today, it is primarily the capitalist market economy which demands that the official business of public administration be discharged precisely, unambiguously, continuously, and with as much speed as possible (“Bureaucracy”, 974). While Weber’s capitalist system is obviously not identical to Marx’s, it is important to note that in both systems the emphasis on effic ...
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