Dr. J Sedaitis
September 23, 2013
Marx and Durkheim: Ironically Separated Through Similarities
A multitude of significant comparisons and contrasts can be made when looking at the perspectives and theories of many Sociologists of the history. What seems to link yet at the same time disconnect these ideas and theories are the three levels of analysis in Sociology and the theoretical perspectives that are used and applied to multiple factors in society. Two Sociologists in the history that can clearly convey these comparisons and contrasts are Karl Marx and Emile Durkheim. A simple similarity between the two was that they both had the same analytical perspective. The two viewed situations from a “macro” point of view, in which is defined as looking at the society from a larger perspective. Marx and Durkheim both agree with the fact that society is one larger social institution made up of smaller structures located inside of that institution that govern the way the people behave. Those who look out of the macro perspective are known as materialists and believe that the world shapes the individual. Materialism can be separated into two groups: soft materialism and hard materialism. A simple difference between Marx and Durkheim is that one looks out of the soft materialism viewpoint and Marx looks out of the hard materialism viewpoint. They disagree on the fact that Marx sees this as a detrimental factor while Durkheim sees this as a beneficial factor. Despite the fact that Karl Marx and Emile Durkheim both looked at the world through the macro analytical point of view, they are differentiated by their perspectives of sociology, which has effects on their theories such as the economic and religious aspects.
The differences in the two materialisms each Sociologist believe in have effects on the economic viewpoints and ideas. Marx states that society and the classes that make up society will always be at conflict with one another because of the unequal class distribution of power. This unequal class distribution is separated by the ownership of means of production that separates the Bourgeoisie the Proletariats. Due to this unfair system, only half of society, the Bourgeoisie, benefits from the economy while exploiting the Proletariats for their own advantage. The proletariats disadvantage by this type of system is explained by the following... “These laborers, who must sell themselves like piecemeal, are a commodity, like every other article of commerce, and are consequently exposed to all the vicissitudes of competition, to all the fluctuations of the market.” (Marx, 47) This quote clearly explains the way Marx looked at the economy and his theories. The Bourgeoisie dominates these laborers by the fact that they must “sell themselves” which suggests how they lose their human value and become more object-like. This leaves society in a constant turmoil because this capitalism leaves once loving-relationships in revolved around money and success. All family values are thrown away when looking at Marx’s point of view on the economy.
On the other side of the Materialistic spectrum lays Durkheim and the fact that he believes in functionalism. Functionalism focuses on how the society as a whole comes together. When this happens it states that society is stable and works best when each part of society is interdependent upon another. Durkheim believes that as the society shifted from traditional to modern, the solidarity of the people changed as well. This solidarity shifted from mechanical to organic solidarity, which means that instead of the people having similar lifestyles, they now were all specialized with different values and lifestyles. Because all of the people in society were so different, they all needed each other to stabilize one another. The irony of Durkheim’s theory was that even though the people thought they were so independent, they were actually interdependent because of all of this self-ruling. Durkheim saw this as a very beneficial way of living because the people possessed free will, freedom, and social mobility: something the people in Marx’s society will never be able to obtain. Prof. Timothy Shortell states a simple quote that explains Durkheim’s overall meaning, “Since people are no longer producing all the things that they need, they must interact.” (Shortell) This dependent interaction between the people in society was the significant difference that drew the line between Marx and Durkheim.
Karl Marx and Emile Durkheim were brought together in similarities by the macro analytical perspective yet ironically, that branched out to many other different opinions based on the different perspectives of sociology each believed in. These differences were seen though their theories based on society factors and aspects.
Works Cited Page
Marx, Karl. (1848) Manifesto of the Communist Party in Macionis, J. J., & Benokraitis, N. V. (2009). Seeing ourselves. (Eighth ed.). Boston, MA: Prentice Hall.
Shortell, T. (n.d.). Durkheim's theory of social class. Retrieved from http://www.brooklynsoc.org/courses/43.1/durkheim.html