Compare and Contrast Marx and Weber's Analyses of the Develoopment of Capitalism

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Both Karl Marx and Max Weber have contributed substantially in our understanding of how capitalism has flourished in some parts of the world and not in others, however “Weber sought to show that the path of causation often ran in the reverse direction” to Marx. In other words, Marx’s macro theory (focus on the world, and not individuals) relies on the assumption that capitalism (its forces, relations and modes of production) supplies an idealistic society with norms, values and attitudes (brought by institutions such as family, education, religion, law, art etc) that enable capitalist means to flourish; it is a “cunning of production” where capitalism exploits, alienates and oppresses the masses. On the other hand Weber’s micro theory states that Religion, using the Calvinist Protestant ethic as a “principal cause of capitalism” as an example, has led to a moral calling which leads to class domination, power and status which leads to the development of capitalism. He also says that Capitalism is not all bad for society; it sustains levels of social integration where necessary roles perhaps good or bad have a function for the smooth running of the state; there is a “particular conjunction of social relationships and institutions” . This essay will question what contemporary relevance both theories have today as society is becoming increasingly secularized and highlight some criticisms that have been noted by other sociologists including a “widespread feeling...contemporary social theory stands in need of a radical revision” , adding to this I will be identifying similarities and contrasting concepts within both theories. Marx wrote The Communist Manifesto and Capital in the late 19th century and Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism in the early 20th century, this was during the time of industrialization and urbanization where both sociologists saw society as moving in a direction that was unsuitable for the masses and generating undesirable effects, yet the differing causes of this outcome need to be analysed. Weber explored the relationship between a “particular religious ethic and a certain kind of capitalist spirit or mentality” , he noted the cultural influences within Calvinism that created the basic attitudes that contributed towards capitalism. For example, Calvinists believed in pre-destination; their place in heaven was already decided for them and they could do nothing on earth that would change their fate, therefore by working hard and being successful (financially and abstaining from luxury) they perceived that wealth was a sign of Gods favour, diminishing uncertainty and anxiety. This in turn led to the establishment of capitalism; Calvinists became increasingly acquisitive and less ascetic generating a wealth accumulation. Instead of spending their money on themselves, they would distribute profit back into their business in order for it to grow. Weber sees this as a social action (individual motives, actions and desires that shape human nature) that has a value-rational ideal type (making sense in the relation to the individual); through interpretivist understanding (verstehen) he has perceived this in regards to capitalism. However, it must be said here that “Weber does not exactly bombard us with evidence to show that the typical Calvinist was in fact deeply troubled by uncertainties about salvation” , this is supported by McKinnon (1998) who stated that Weber misunderstood the Calvinist notion of the calling. Adding to this, in hindsight we can question as to why capitalism did not flourish in parts of the world where there were Calvinists present and furthermore as to why it did develop in societies where Calvinists had little influence: in Scotland, Viner (1978) showed how Calvinism had a constraining, repressive effect on economic development. In complete contrast, Marx argues that religion is the product of capitalism –“Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the...
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