A Story of Three Progressives

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A Story of Three Progressives

Three classic theorists, Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, and Max Weber have discussed and analyzed the complexity of modernization. Modernization is a broad concept that refers to major social changes which occur when a pre-industrial society develops economically and the workplace shifts from the home to the factory (industrialization), people move from farms into cities where jobs are available (urbanization), and large-scale formal organizations emerge (bureaucratization).Each of these sociologists have developed major theoretical and methodological statements on the topic of modernization and many of their theories that were made a century or two ago still hold true today.

Beginning with Karl Marx, an extreme revolutionary of the 19th century, he argued that modernization is an ascendancy of industrial capitalism. His idea of modernity was shaped by three developments in history: the French revolutions of 1789 and 1848, the industrial and agricultural revolutions in Britain, and the collapse of the church's intellectual credibility. Despite living his life when most of Europe was still agricultural and artisanal; most European states were still dominated by monarchical power; and most Europeans still went to church, Marx understood industrial labor and some of its future effects. Marx depicts modernization as a capitalist society working as a system, in which each group or individual works to fulfill the need of another. As soon as an individual enters a capitalist society, he is socialized into a certain role or behavior which fulfills the needs of that society (role meaning either a proletariat or a capitalist). For instance, if an individual is a proletariat he must work for a capitalist to satisfy the needs of the society. (cite communist manifesto somewhere). This division between the proletarians and the capitalists are enforced for the benefit of the owners so that they can exploit the working class for their own means, but the working class does not resist because this system has become normalized. The two classes work as a “team” and through a hierarchy create a productive society. Overall, Marx thinks of modernization as a world where individuals rely on each other to function, and each individual is assigned a role.

Next, Emile Durkheim stressed that modernization involves an increased division of labor (specialized economic activity), and a shift from mechanical to organic solidarity. This academic discusses division of labor as a necessary tool for a productive society, but it is also a natural occurrence. Durkheim proceeds from the concept that the division is an organic outgrowth of a society in which different people have different interests and skills. Therefore, a society in which individuals specialize in producing a good or service will be more efficient than a society that is generalized. Durkheim’s view of modernization explains that iindividuals no longer perform the same tasks, have the same interests, nor necessarily share the same perspectives on life. But, Durkheim makes it clear that this does not cause a society to fail or disintegrate, instead organic solidarity is formed. Similar to the organs within a body, individuals perform certain specific functions, but rely on the well-being and successful performance of other individuals. If one organ fails, the rest of them fail as well. A body, or in this case a society, cannot function at all if one part crumbles. This reliance upon each other for social (and even physical) survival is the source of organic solidarity and the modern world’s interdependency in a society.

Lastly, Max Weber analyzed modernization as the replacement of tradition with rationality. He felt that society will become more complicated, specialized, professionalized, and stratified in the modern world. Prayer and religion will no longer be aspects that fix and/or help solve problems. Science will be the rational way of thought and will be...
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