Marx, Weber, Durkheim, and Simmel: the Individual & Society

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Marx, Weber, Durkheim, and Simmel: the Individual & Society

By | May 2005
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Each of the four classical theorists Marx, Weber, Durkheim, and Simmel had different theories of the relationship between society and the individual. It is the objective of this paper to critically evaluate the sociological approaches of each theory to come to a better understanding of how each theorist perceived such a relationship and what it means for the nature of social reality.

Karl Marx noted that society was highly stratified in that most of the individuals in society, those who worked the hardest, were also the ones who received the least from the benefits of their labor. In reaction to this observation, Karl Marx wrote The Communist Manifesto where he described a new society, a more perfect society, a communist society. Marx envisioned a society, in which all property is held in common, that is a society in which one individual did not receive more than another, but in which all individuals shared in the benefits of collective labor (Marx #11, p. 262). In order to accomplish such a task Marx needed to find a relationship between the individual and society that accounted for social change. For Marx such relationship was from the historical mode of production, through the exploits of wage labor, and thus the individual's relationship to the mode of production (Marx #11, p. 256).

In the Communist Manifesto it is very clear that Marx is concerned with the organization of society. He sees that the majority individuals in society, the proletariat, live in sub-standard living conditions while the minority of society, the bourgeoisie, have all that life has to offer. However, his most acute observation was that the bourgeoisie control the means of production that separate the two classes (Marx #11 p. 250). Marx notes that this is not just a recent development rather a historical process between the two classes and the individuals that compose it. "It [the bourgeois] has but established new classes, new conditions of oppression, and new forms of struggle in...

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