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A Comparison of Marx's and Weber's Theory on Class

By Maurice51 Aug 15, 2013 893 Words
A Comparison of Marx’s and Weber’s Theory on Class
by Mauricio I. Miranda Jr.

1.Marx’s Theory
Karl Max’s theory on class essentially is premised on the fundamental principle that human societies are divided into two classes: the bourgeoisie or the ownership class that controls production and the ploretariat or the working class that provides the labor for production. He said that human societies progress through class struggle between these two. He asserted that the system of capitalism or the “dictatorship” of the bourgeoisie is run by the wealthy classes just for their own interests. Eventually, he believed, the capitalist system would self-destruct and replaced by socialism. Under socialism, society will be governed by what he called “the dictatorship of the ploretariat or the working class in a “workers’ state” or a “workers’ democracy”. Eventually, socialism would be replaced by a “stateless” or “classless” society called communism in a process of socio-economic change, the aim of which is the toppling of capitalism through organized revolutionary action.(1) In a communist society, the concept of "..free development of each is the condition for the free development of all". A classless society will take place in which “human needs rather than profit would be motive for production. In a society with democratic control and production for use, there would be no class, no state and no need for money”. (2)

2.Weber’s Theory
Unlike Marx who viewed social class to be determined by a person’s relationship to the means of production, Weber believed that a person’s social standing is determined by his skills and education. Weber’s brand of social distinction is marked by his three-sided stratification model in which he saw political power as interplay amongst “class”, “status” and “group power”. Marx and Weber though were in the same page when it came to the idea of social stratification, which to both were undesirable. Marx believed that eventually, stratification would be gone along with capitalism and private property. On the other hand, Weber believed that the ideal situation for society is in providing “equal opportunity” within a competitive, capitalist system. (3) Weber, a German, got most of his ideas on social stratification when he studied the social structure of Germany. He realized that social distinction is more than simply ownership of capital or being a provider of labor. He saw many member of the German society who were not rich but were politically powerful. He observed too that there were many Germans who were wealthy but lacked prestige and power because they were Jewish. (4) To Weber, there are three independent factors that form his theory of stratification hierarchy: class, status and power. (5) •Class: A person’s economic position in society. Unlike Marx, Weber did not see this as the main factor of stratification. •Status: To Weber, political power is not anchored on capital value alone, but in one’s individual prestige, social honor or popularity in society. •Power: A person's ability to make people do what he or she wants. A good example is a politician or a government official who owns little property or status but hold power over others.

Theory That Best Describes Class in the U.S.
Of the two, the theory that best describes class in the U.S. is that of Weber’s. All the three independent factors that form his theory of stratification are present in the U.S. social structure namely, class, status and power. a.Class: Corporate America is peopled with top executives who control and hold power over industries and firms that they do not own. b.Status: There are many well-known writers, artists, educators, media personalities in America that hold great influence but not much economic worth. c.Power: The world’s most powerful person, the President of the United States, may have little property but has great power over the fate of people all over the world as Commander in Chief of the world’s mightiest armed forces.

Which Theory Works Best?
The position of this paper find the Weberian Theory works best in so far as American society is concerned. All the elements of Weber’s theory of stratification are present in America and are the norms when it comes to classifying its social structures. In the economic front for instance, investments, a form of capitalism, is what is sustaining the American way of life. Today, it appears to be the effective economic model in sustaining majority of other countries of the world. Even former die-hard communist countries such as China and Russia have embraced it as well. In conclusion, we are in agreement with the proponents of capitalism who attest that it is the greatest wealth-producing system known to man which benefits mainly the ordinary person. (6) References

1.Craig J. Calhoun (2002). Classical Sociological Theory Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 978-0-631-21348-2.
2.Marx, Karl and Engels, Friedrick. “Manifesto of the Communist Party”. Selected Works. Volume 1; London 1943
3.Jones, Helen (1997). Towards a classless society? Psychology Press. ISBN 978-0-415-15331-7 4.Leander, Anna (2001) “class, Weberian approaches to”. In Jones, R.J. Barry. Routledge Encyclopedia of International Political Economy, Entries A-F. Taylor and Francis. ISBN 978-0-415-24350-6 5.Stark, Rodney (2007). Sociology (Tenth Edition ed.) Thomson Wadsworth 6.Friedman, Milton. Capitalism and freedom. (Chicago): University of Chicago 1962.

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