Marx v Durkheim
31 January 2013
Sociology is a soft science that enables us to better understand the complex connections between the patterns of human behavior and the way each individual life changes (Dartmouth).1 During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, many theorists began to challenge this aspect of social structure as they watched the gap between the social classes grow. Rather than being concerned with the individuals of society, two theorists were interested in the characteristics of groups and their structures. These theorists were Karl Marx and Emile Durkheim. In this essay, the concepts and ideas of Marx and Durkheim will be discussed, compared and contrasted. Karl Marx
Marx was a conflict theorist of the late 1800s and viewed society as characterized by tension and struggle between two groups, the bourgeoisie or the owners of production, and the proletariat or the working class. Marx believed that the bourgeoisie imposed a “false consciousness” on the proletariat, taking advantage of the working class. The relationship between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat had the former exploiting the latter, developing a theory of labor value that explained this. A worker is paid money for his labor, but Marx theorized this was never truly what the worker contributed; the more the worker could produce for less money created higher profits for the bourgeoisie. This is called the surplus value and Marx believed that the bourgeoisie will try to impose wages so that surplus value is high, giving the worker lower wages. The bourgeoisie did nothing to earn that extra money except provide the capital to produce the product (Sociology).2
Durkheim was a functionalist during the late 1800s and early 1900s. One of the central themes of his work was to identify the relationship between the individual personality and wider society. This...
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