After class I go home to check my e-mail. A concept such as e-mail would have seemed absurd to Karl Marx and Max Weber. It is accepted as just another part of life in our high-technology society, however. Max Weber and Karl Marx had a difference of opinion over what was the driving force behind changes in society. Marx vs. Weber, Social Conflict vs. Rational Thought. In a 12 round decision its Webers rationalization of society over socialism. The essential difference in these two theories is what drives a society towards its advancements.
Marx believed that the inequality between the haves and have-nots would lead to a revolt from the proletariat. (The proletariat are easily described as the workers who are employed by the capitalists. ) According to Marx, the proletariat and capitalists were class descendants of masters and slaves, and nobles and serfs. When the Industrial Revolution came to western Europe in the mid 1840s, Marx saw that the capitalists who owned the factories, and the workers who filled them, were growing further and further apart in class standing. The very rich could afford great luxuries, while the lower class worked full weeks to feed their families.
He summed up that an eventual revolution was the next logical step. When the proletariat gained “class consciousness,” a recognition of their strength in unity, they would overthrow the shackles of the capitalists, and eventually capitalism itself. And what of the capitalists The capitalists vast wealth, protected by the institutions of society, made them strong, indeed. Marx believed they would be slow to band together like the proletariat. He summarized that capitalists were afraid of competition from other capitalists, out of a desire for personal gain.
Furthermore, he reasoned, because the capitalists kept employee wages low, the workers drive to turn against them would be all the greater, contributing to the capitalists downfall. In Marxs theories, this conflict between proletariat and capitalist was to be the driving force that shaped society into a cooperative socialist society that met everybodys needs. Max Webers ideas were formed about 50 years after Marxs work. He shared many of Marxs views on social conflict, but they differed on what was essentially driving society. In Webers sociological theory, there are two different views of the world, tradition and rationality.
Weber recognized the power of new technology and its abilities to shape peoples ideas. He saw modern society as a product of not only technology and capitalism, but of a new way of thinking. Weber argued that as technology advanced people were less inclined to live their lives according to tradition; they moved toward a more rational view, meaning matter-of-fact calculation of the most efficient method to accomplish a goal. Sentiment and tradition have no place in a rational world view, which treats tradition as merely one type of information.
Modern rationalists typically act and think on the basis of present or future consequences. According to Weber, we view almost every relationship on what we put in and what we get out. Weber viewed the Industrial Revolution and capitalism as the historical rising of rationality. He coined the term, “rationalization of society,” to describe the change from tradition to rationality as the dominant mode of human thought. A good way to measure a societys rationality is their willingness to adopt a new technology. Look at the amount of homes with an Internet connection or cable television.
According to Weber, North America and western Europe are two of the most rationally advanced areas in the world. Countries where they have not yet had an introduction to industry are slow to adopt to rationality, sticking with their traditional ways of life. A good example of this are the Yanomamo people of Brazil. They hunt and gather for their food, as well as some small scale horticulture. They dismiss the need for modern conveniences like telephones that we take for granted. In short, they have a very different outlook on the world than we do, living in a rational society. Neither theory is entirely correct.
As society adapts to new technology, new ideas are being formed to adapt to our rapidly changing world. Marx had several things right when it came to the class system of the proletariat and the capitalists but his vision of a world-wide class struggle never occurred. Weber was correct when he viewed the world as ever-changing, adapting to new ideas and abandoning old traditions and his ideas of the world abandoning traditional views when new technologies become available did happen. Marxs ideas were based on his study of western Europe around the time of the Industrial Revolution.
Webers ideas were formed from a more scientific standpoint. He carefully observed several societies around the world, noting the more technologically advanced societies had abandoned tradition in favor of new views of the world. His theories have proven to be more accurate by the rise of: large scale corporations, specialized tasks emerging all over the world, a society where you are judged more for what you are based on technical competence rather than who you are based on your kinship ties, and finally the rise of impersonality that specialization has brought about.
They both feared wide spread alienation brought about by modern society, but Webers theory of the rise of bureaucracy stifling society with rules and regulations has proven to be much more plausible than Marxs idea of inequality causing alienation. In short, Webers ideas accounted for the technological advances brought on after the Industrial Revolution. He allows for human ideas to lead the changes in society rather than the work humans do.
I believe this will always be the case, people will always work and most likely resent their bosses. This doesnt mean that they will revolt anytime soon; however, their ideas and values will change triggering changes in society. Barely ten years ago the Internet was a novelty item that was used by scientists and computer professionals only. Now the world is witnessing a mass convergence of ideas, information, and creations that is available to anyone with a computer and a phone line.