Posted: August 29th, 2013
BA in Community Development
BA in Community Development
When the word society is mentioned, many people will think of it as the relationship of individuals within a given community, in their economic, religious and political activities among other factors. This is true, but there cannot be a specific description of what a society is. However, several theorists such as Karl Marx and Weber have come up with theories that seek to analyze what is a society. These theories have gained a lot of influence in the way people view the society today, as well as how it works. These social theories also influence the way the community develops, considering it changes people’s views on what the society should be, as well as conduct its activities. For instance, the Marxist theory analyzes the society by viewing it from as a struggle of classes, the labor force, and the capitalists who own the means of production. This then influences people’s view of society, where every class has a role to play in development, where the capitalists, who are the owners of factories, control the resources, while the peasants, those without property, seek jobs for survival. On the other hand, Weber viewed the society from different perspectives. Though he recognized economic structures as a determination of different positions among the different communities, he recognized other structures such as their ideas, religion and status. For him, unlike Marx who viewed class struggle as the ultimate determinant, he viewed individual efforts as the most important factor (Weber, 1997). With such different ideas, there were several controversies, especially considering Marx raised different views at times. There were other theorists who contributed in seeking to understand what the society was as well as what drove it. Some of these include George Herbert, Hebert Blumer among others.
Marx viewed the society from two groups, those with the means of production and those without the means and property to survive, had to seek employment. He believed that life in the society was concerned with means of survival. He viewed it from a materialistic point of view where people competed to survive just like in the jungle. This was termed as survival for the fittest, where the fittest were able to survive. According to him, life is about fighting for materials things, starting from food, land, money amongst other material things. Hence, those who did not have property had to seek the means of acquiring wealth in order to survive, and the only way was through employment by the higher class with means of production.
According to his view, the society was shaped by their modes of productions, whether, capitalist, feudal or even tribal, all were characterized by the means its individuals held production. This was about how the individuals carried out production of goods and services they need for survival and material means of survival. In their production activity, the society produces a class that rules and one that is ruled in order for production to go smoothly, which he viewed as the production relationship. Among the different societies, the relationship was different with the feudal economy existing on small groups of high profile people or leaders, that become the landowners, and the other group was consisted of many landless peasants who needed to work to survive. The other economy is the capitalist economy where a small group of property owners had the production means that included machinery, factories, among other production means. This group was known as the capitalist or bourgeoisie class. Those without the means of production are seen as the large working class. The working class is held with the responsibility of production in the society, seen as the subordinate. He also saw this group, “as the agent of its own emancipation. It was precisely the working class, created and organized into industrial armies, which would destroy its creator and usher in a new society free from exploitation and oppression,” (Burke, 2000).
In his view, society worked this way, establishing different classes that were referred to the class struggle. He also viewed the capitalist as a means that would drive development where the capitalist in their quest to expand their markets, would alter the earth. He wrote that it would create more towns and cities, through a revolutionize means of production that would see them expand their markets. Encourage movement of people from rural work to factory jobs, and centralized rules and political structures. He also said that by using machinery and technology, there is massive production across all continents that will not only result in improvements of the society, but also create periodical crisis (Marx & Engels, 1848).
Later, as crisis came on and off affecting the working class, a revolution by the proletarians would end the rule by a minority. As an evolution of technology and factory society, the individual workers organized into disciplined armies within the factory, would suffer fluctuating wages, and technological advancement would lead to uncertain life. This would result in a big number of conflicts between the working class and the owners of production means, or capitalists. However, as the conflicts become more and more, the working class will become the self-sufficient majority aware of its independence and the power they hold considering without them there cannot be production. This would then result in the overthrow of the capitalist rule, and their victory would end the rule by a minority class with antagonistic relationship, which shall result to, “free development of each as the condition of the free development of all” (Burke, 2000). This would end the rule of classes where all men shall have an equal right to develop themselves.
His theory revolved around economic means as the determinant of the society, referring to what people thought all the time in their activities. To him, life was a matter of living every day in material activity, saying that human consciousness was determined by their activity, and not the vice versa, meaning that how we did things and organized them was determined by what we thought about issues and the kind of world we create. He cites that philosophies of a society, its ideologies, cultures and institutions that we stick on are determined by the economic structure of the society (Burke, 2000). He claimed that all political systems, family, legal systems, education systems and even press were to some extent entrenched in a class nature that was consequently a manifestation of an economic foundation.
Marx’s theory analyzes the society forms the economic perspective, claiming that the society is determined by its economic activities, under which the different classes interact. However, the capitalist has been overthrown where there is no longer a minority ruling class, and all people develop themselves from their efforts, just as he stipulated, although there still exists classes within the society of big property owners. Unlike in the previous centuries, all people can own property of any kind through purchasing unlike when it was only inherited by the higher rank class. However, Marx also recognizes that the society is also shaped by history in a big way, citing that history origins played a crucial role in what the society is today, and will continue to shape the future (Sociology Guide.Com, 2011). His theory suggested a future that would abolish the capitalism, which by now has almost been lost.
Weber was among the theorists that affirmed Marx’s theory, but also differed in some significant way. Weber did recognize that economic factors were among the first priority that shaped a society, but unlike Marx, he recognizes other factors such as the religion of the society, their ideas, and status. Weber differs from Marx by introducing another structural category that influences the society, the status. His theory is more interested in the individual role in the market. For Weber, an individual plays his own role in the market, which in turn determines his economic value within the market. More so, his economic value will be determined by his education, skills, and talent, amongst other factors. These factors further gave the person the chance to many opportunities such as today, where the more educated have better chances of good jobs that determine their income.
On to the centrally, Weber agreed partially to Marx’s theory on classes, but also recognize that status of people in particular groups (ozemail.com.au, n.d.). In his theory, a class was defined as a group of people without an equal source of income; while a status group was defined by the inequality of social recognitions that a person was accorded. A status group is one where people have an equal amount of social income and share a life style, as well as equal recognitions within the society. Weber was more concerned with the individual efforts of a person, which in his theory determined his status, but class was a generalized term for a group of people. This was one reason Weber did not completely agree with Marx, since his theory generalized all people equally into two groups, and failed to recognize the individual differences that also made a determination of classes. For instance, people in the same class such as working could have different economic income, creating a difference within the class. More so, Marx described people in terms of economic constraints, and left out their status. In addition, Marx theory was very rigid and not welcome to other factors that could be of significance. Weber did not believe in class interests leading to homogeny within the society. He did not either believe in communal or societal notion of social action (Shortell, n.d.). In this theory, he challenges the theory according to Marx, of primary materials or means of production being the basis upon which a society is based (ozemail.com.au, n.d.).
When it came to social mobility, the two theorists differed, where Marx’s theory recognized social mobility where a person could move to another class. However, according to him, only through an overthrow of the bourgeoisie or capitalists by the working class could make possible social mobility. On the other hand, Weber recognized that an individual, through his efforts such as in education, one could move from one social class to another. For instance, if a person is educated by his or her parents who are workers in a factory and becomes a doctor, he has moved from the social class to another through his efforts. His theory suggests that through acquiring skills needed by the market, one can have more opportunities through making choices concerning occupation. However, he cites that social mobility could move one upwards or downwards depending on their choices. With the Marx theory, class is defined rigidly and incapable of social mobility. On the other hand, Weber’s theory is much flexible allowing more social mobility through individual efforts of acquiring skills that increase opportunities (ozemail.com.au, n.d.).
Sociological theories play an important role in the development of communities considering it dictates how people interact within the society. Community development hereby means a process that seeks to build equitable communities where members can participate in economic and social development through sharing of economic rewards, and using the same for the benefit of the community. With the Marx theory, community development happened through the two classes interacting, where the capitalists bought labor from the proletarians. This way, both had their benefits, where the proletarians earned wages of their labor and the capitalists earned profits from their property. Through working and spending, people are building their community. However, this social theory did not make equal distributions. Weber’s theory suggests that each man should make his own effort to climb the social ladders, citing that those with property are at a better opportunity of gaining economically (Morrison, 2006). Nevertheless, in the same way as Marx
‘s theory, through employment and exploitation of resources, the community is developed as people develop themselves in Weber’s theory.
It is evident that Marx and Weber made a huge effort in analyzing the society and the way it works. Their theories are among the leading in terms of influence in the current world, considering they find a lot of relevance in the society. However, Weber’s theory seems more applicable today, since it considers the individual effort that result in social mobility.
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