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Karl Marx

By nadachance Dec 05, 2012 529 Words
Marx’s work was devoted to explaining how capitalism
shaped society. He argued that capitalism is
an economic system based on the pursuit of profi t
and the sanctity of private property. Marx used a
class analysis to explain capitalism, describing capitalism
as a system of relationships among different
classes, including capitalists (also known as the bourgeois
class), the proletariat (or working class), the
petty bourgeoisie (small business owners and managers),
and the lumpenproletariat (those “discarded”
by the capitalist system, such as the homeless). In
Marx’s view, profi t, the goal of capitalist endeavors,
is produced through the exploitation of the working
class. Workers sell their labor in exchange for wages,
and capitalists make certain that wages are worth less
than the goods the workers produce. The difference
in value is the profi t of the capitalist. In the Marxist
view, the capitalist class system is inherently unfair
because the entire system rests on workers getting
less than they give.
Marx thought that the economic organization of
society was the most important infl uence on what
humans think and how they behave. He found that
the beliefs of the common people tended to support the
interests of the capitalist system, not the interests of
the workers themselves. Why? Because the capitalist
class controls not only the production of goods but
also the production of ideas. It owns the publishing
companies, endows the universities where knowledge
is produced, and controls information industries.
Marx considered all of society to be shaped by economic
forces. Laws, family structures, schools, and
other institutions all develop, according to Marx, to
suit economic needs under capitalism. Like other early
sociologists, Marx took social structure as his subject
rather than the actions of individuals. It was the system
of capitalism that dictated people’s behavior. Marx
saw social change as arising from tensions inherent in
a capitalist system—the confl ict between the capitalist
and working classes. Marx’s ideas are often misperceived
by U.S. students because communist revolutionaries
throughout the world have claimed Marx
as their guiding spirit. It would be naive to reject his
ideas solely on political grounds. Much that Marx predicted
has not occurred—for instance, he claimed that
the “laws” of history made a worldwide revolution of
workers inevitable, and this has not happened. Still,
he left us an important body of sociological thought
springing from his insight that society is systematic
and structural and that class is a fundamental dimension
of society that shapes social behavior.
Max Weber. Max Weber (1864–1920; pronounced
“Vay-ber”) was greatly infl uenced by Marx’s work
and built upon it. But, whereas Marx saw economics
as the basic organizing element of society, Weber
theorized that society had three basic dimensions:
political, economic, and cultural. According to Weber,
a complete sociological analysis must recognize the
interplay between economic, political, and cultural
Karl Marx analyzed capitalism as an
economic system with enormous
implications for how society is
organized, in particular how
inequality between groups stems
from the economic organization
of society.

Max Weber used a multidimensional
approach to analyzing society, interpreting
the economic, cultural, and
political organization of society as
together shaping social institutions
and social change.

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