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Compare and Contrast Marx’s Idea of Class and Durkheim’s Division of Labour?

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Compare and contrast Marx’s idea of class and Durkheim’s division of labour? The essay will begin by providing a brief introduction into the two perspectives of Functionalism and Marxism, focusing on the theories of the French Sociologist Emile Durkheim and the German philosopher Karl Marx. Then it will give a brief discussion showing the transformation that took place from feudalism to capitalism, providing the reader with an insight into the dramatic change that took place during a time of revolution and revolt.

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Finally the essay will compare and contrast Marx’s idea of class and class conflict with Durkheim’s theory on the Division of labour. The Functionalist perspective is more commonly linked to the sociologist Emile Durkheim (1858-1917). Durkheim was born in France and was responsible for creating the European Department Of Sociology. It is through the many great theories constructed by Durkheim that sociology could be considered a social science. Functionalists analyse what needs must be adhered to in order for society to function, including the ways in which social institutions benefit and contribute to those needs.

Functionalists believe that society functions when all of its parts work in accordance with one another. It is believed that society is held together by a social consensus or a cohesion, meaning that members of a particular society work together to maintain the best for the society as a whole (Fulcher & Scott:1999). The Marxist perspective was created by Karl Marx (1828-1883) a German Philosopher. Marx highlighted the importance of class conflict and social change during the industrial era in England throughout the nineteenth century.

Marx was considered a conflict theorist who believed that conflict was a necessity for society to survive. Marx believed that due to the conflict created in capitalist society, two distinct classes would be created these include the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. Marx held that society will create much conflict amongst its members and power struggles will be visible amongst all. Individuals will achieve their goals at the expense of others, creating a struggle between these social classes (Cohen & Kennedy:2007). In was during medieval Britain that feudalism ruled the land.

The social hierarchy was labelled as estates and it was the private ownership of the land that differentiated the estates from one another. Those in the higher estates who controlled ownership of the land had more legal rights and luxuries than those from the lower estate. Those from the lower estates had a legal obligation by law to fulfil duties to those whom were above them. Any ownership of private land was ascribed at birth and there was very little social upward mobility. It was then that society went through a drastic and fast transformation.

The introduction of new machinery created a prominent industrial society which created a capitalist society. It was then for the first time that most of the work took place amongst factories. The work was then divided into specialised areas and overlooked by managers. Throughout this capitalist era societies were referred to as modern societies (Cohen & Kennedy: 2007). As capitalist societies expanded, Marx argued that exploitation amongst workers became more apparent. Marx believed that the only way to get rid of the exploitation, oppression and alienation was for a revolution amongst the proletariat workers.

Marx suggests that it is only when the means of production are communally owned, that class divisions among the masses will disappear. This would then bring an end to the exploitation and oppression of the workers which would establish a new system, a system of communism. Marx argued that it is the competitive nature that causes class conflict and alienation to occur. Marx claimed that alienation occurs as a result of the exploitation and oppression that the working class receive. It was during the era of capitalism that individuals became separated from private ownership.

Boring and repetitive tasks restricted the creativity of the worker and it was this that Marx claimed caused the alienation and separation amongst the workers. Marx referred to alienation as a socially constructed concept that separates individuals from one another. According to Marx alienation only became apparent during capitalism due to the reliance the proletariat had over the bourgeoisie (Jary & Jary: 1991). Emile Durkheim argued that in a “primitive” society, it is the collective consciousness of the individuals and the shared values amongst them that creates and helps to maintain social order.

Unlike Karl Marx, Durkheim did not believe that the division of labour would create alienation amongst the workers. For Durkheim the division of labour amongst society would create a new interdependence and this new interdependence would enable co-operation and harmony amongst the capitalist workers (www. sociologyguide. com:2010). Marx’s theory of class is based on two distinct classes; the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. These two classes are differentiated by whether or not they own the means of production. The bourgeoisie (ruling class) own the means of roduction and administer wages to the proletariat. The proletariat according to Marx only own their labour power which they sell to the bourgeoisie for a small wage. He believes they have nothing to lose other than the chains that oppress them. Marx argued that the bourgeoisie dominate and exploit the working class, by making huge profits from their labour and paying them an extremely low wage in comparison to the profits made. Marx called this difference in wages the ‘surplus value’ and it is what enables the company to benefit from the work provided by the worker (Fulcher & Scott: 1999).

The ruling ideas in society is what Marx called the dominant ideology, the law for example only protected the ruling class and it was the religious institutions that acted as the ‘opium for the people’, persuading the proletariat to accept the positions they had been given by promising a better after life. It seemed that the bourgeoisie had almost brainwashed the proletariat, Marx called this lack of attention made by the proletariat a ‘false consciousness’ (Browne: 1998) Durkheim opposes Marx’s idea of conflict among society and focuses primarily on the role of social actors.

Durkheim’s theories concentrate on the harmony that these actors provide rather than the conflict they cause each other. Durkheim focused his work on what hold people together in social institutions, he believed in solidarity amongst the masses. For Durkheim this was a necessity for society to function, Durkheim regarded Marx’s notion of conflict as pathological and rather abnormal (www. sociologyguide. com:2010). Durkheim identified two types of social integration, mechanical and organic solidarity. Those societies that are bound by organic solidarity are held by the economic interdependence and contribution of others.

Durkheim believes that it is once individuals become dependent upon one another that that common values and shared beliefs are replaced. It is the division of labour that promotes this type of solidarity. According to Durkheim those cultures that have a low division of labour are characterised by mechanical solidarity. Mechanical solidarity is based on a collective consciousness and shared system of norms; this is what helps maintain society and keep it in order. It is often that individuals bound together by mechanical solidarity often have the same occupations and shared experiences.

Violations of the social norms are often emphasized with a punitive punishment (Jary & Jary: 1991). Marx believed that social structures consist of unequal and un-advantaged groups. The interests of these groups are in constant conflict with one another. Inequalities result from the domination and exploitation of the disadvantaged groups made by the ruling classes in society. Marx is very critical in his response to capitalism; he believes that it is an unfair and unjust system, a system which works only to benefit both the bourgeoisie and middle classes.

He predicted that one day the working class would overcome the exploitation and oppression, by creating trade unions to help reduce the exploitation from the ruling classes (Fulcher & Scott: 1999). One of the major differences between Marx and Durkheim theories is that Marx believed in revolution and that one day the oppressed class in society would overrule the ruling class. He believed in power and change and that revolution was the only way to make this radical change happen.

Durkheim believed in evolution and that things would eventually change for the better. Durkheim believed in maintaining social order and that the only way for this to happen was to let things and adapt naturally. Karl Marx and Emile Durkheim both come from a structuralist, positivist approach they viewed society from a macro view point. They were both concerned with structures and groups rather than individuals among society (Fulcher & Scott: 1999). It is now clear that the transformation from feudalism to capitalism was a difficult time for many.

It was during this time that the separation of social classes and the division of labour were created. According to Marx the bourgeoisie exploited the proletariat, causing a conflict of interests among the two classes. Durkheim believed that the division of labour would create a new interdependence and new sense of cooperation amongst the workers. As one can now see by comparing and contrasting Marx’s ideas on class and Durkheim’s division of labour that these two theorists had very different ideas, almost on the opposite scale of one another.

Marx believed that societies and social classes operated by conflict and that without this conflict, society would not maintain social order. Durkheim argued that everything in society has a purpose and a function and works in accordance with one another. Durkheim believed that inequalities are overcome through a shared value consensus; Marx argued that the only way to bring to an end the oppression and exploitation; was to create a new system and allow communism to take over society.

Cite this Compare and Contrast Marx’s Idea of Class and Durkheim’s Division of Labour?

Compare and Contrast Marx’s Idea of Class and Durkheim’s Division of Labour?. (2017, Mar 25). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/compare-and-contrast-marxs-idea-of-class-and-durkheims-division-of-labour/

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