Karl Marx vs. Max Weber: Their Contrasting Views on Sociology

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Sociology is a broad branch of social science that examines society and human behavior. It generally tackles social relationships and interactions that determine how people work and interact with each other. As a matter of fact, Karl Marx and Max Weber are known as significant sociological theorists in this day and age. On the one hand, Karl Marx was a German philosopher, economist, sociologist, political theorist, historian, revolutionary journalist, and socialist. Max Weber, on the other hand, was a German sociologist, philosopher, jurist, and political economist. Both are considered the founding fathers of interpretive sociology; therefore, their theoretical works have greatly influenced sociological development. Whereas Marx influenced sociology as a movement, Weber influenced sociology as a critical study. This leads us to the question: how do their ideas differ and coincide with each other? The following analysis will address both sides of this query.

Karl Marx’s Approach to Sociology

The concepts brought into sociology by Karl Marx have made profound impacts on how sociological studies are executed today. He introduced the ideas on relationships between classes, the capitalist system and social revolution, and eventually came up with the Marxist theory. Marx criticized the capitalistic society, and he believed economics was the cornerstone of social change. Consequently, he focused on the conflict of social classes, while emphasizing the different forms of production. In sociology, the means of production refers to the tools and materials used in manufacturing capital goods and services. Some examples include infrastructures and commodities. Marx believed that the relations of production led to economic development. The ownership and organization of the social means of production is a key factor in the classification and definition of various types of economic systems. In relation to these means of production, people work on labor matters by utilizing tools to produce commodities.

According to Marx’s theory of social class, society is divided solely into two parts: the bourgeoisie (the wealthy) and the proletariat (the working class). In addition, he focused on capitalism and its effects on the economy, particularly how it exploits the working class. In an industrial and capitalist society, private owners regulate their means of production by using their laborers as instruments to further increase their income by not equally distributing their profits, despite the fact that the hard work of these laborers is what power these corporations. Karl Marx concluded that this system broadens the wage gap between the rich and the poor and further promotes class division. He argued that this was unjust and the proletariat needed to do something about it. He wanted to emancipate the lower class to participate in social revolution, in an attempt to bring down capitalism and end elite rule. When put into layman’s terms, Karl Marx was simply concerned with freedom. He wanted the bourgeoisie to be held accountable. He believed that revolution was inevitable in industrial societies, which is why he had such idealistic views on how society should be represented as. Marxist theories act as a source of inspiration for sociologists interested in the research of the causes, structure, and essence of revolution within the capitalist system.

Max Weber’s Approach to Sociology

When it comes to Max Weber, his studies primarily focused on rationalization, disenchantment, and bureaucracy. While rationality means the ability of a person to align their views to their justification for thinking as well as their individual actions to their purpose for action; disenchantment refers to the cultural rationalization of religion within society. In addition, bureaucracy is a system of non-elected government officials. According to Weber, modern societies are defined by rationalization processes that cause the world to be ruled by rationality, wherein customs and forms of action are replaced by rational methods. As a result, disenchantment may be perceived as secularization, along with the removal of non-rational elements from all aspects of everyday life. He worried that this rationalizing process would gradually remove the natural compassion of social life, the very aspects that make humanity significant. In terms of bureaucracy, Weber believed that in order for industrial societies to function, the bureaucracy was necessary. Without bureaucracy, there would be no individuals administrating greater power than others within society.

On top of these studies, he also focused on the conflict of ideas; shedding light onto the scientific, historical, and philosophical causes of economic development. This includes his research about the economics of sociology and the sociology of religion, wherein he discussed the relevance of religion in the progress of capitalism. He argued that Protestant Ethics contributed to the rise of capitalism. With respect to Karl Marx’s theory of social change, Max Weber further elaborated the various parts of society, contradicting Marx’s views by evaluating that social class goes beyond the owners and the laborers. He introduced the concept of the middle class, which goes against Marx’s belief of impending revolution. Since Weber thoroughly studied the layers of society, he did not share the same sentiments as Marx. He didn’t think communist revolution was the answer. Instead, Weber’s wider concept allows for the discovery of the different elements that make up the social classes. As a result, he explained that the market value per worker varies depending on their skills, therefore causing differences in economic return, which results in the creation of various classes. Furthermore, he did not discover supporting details towards the distinct separation of both classes. Max Weber, while not entirely agreeing with capitalism, viewed it as a beneficial way for society to progress further.


All things considered, there are quite a lot of differences between these two sociologists. Although they both criticized similar ideas, they eventually came to contrasting conclusions. Now, let us consider how they are similar. For instance, both Karl Marx and Max Weber presented interesting ideas into the subject of capitalism. Through the decades, they’ve provided useful insights that sociological thinkers continue to utilize to this day. Another factor to consider is that both Marx and Weber identified conflict within society. More than that, they thoroughly examined social stratification.

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Karl Marx vs. Max Weber: Their Contrasting Views on Sociology. (2020, Nov 12). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/karl-marx-vs-max-weber-their-contrasting-views-on-sociology/

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