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You will write an advanced critical and comparative analysis of three, selected socialtheorists’ ideas in order to make sense of a major conceptual issue in understanding contemporary society(e.g. the nature of power, the basis of knowledge, oppression/emancipation, sustainability, social change).

Karl Marx's Theory

The term sociology has a very broad conception. The understanding of social behaviors and the changes in the society, which accordingly affects the socio-economic and political scenarios of the society, is at the same time both complex and philosophical. When it comes to such philosophical and complex analysis of the modern day society, the works of three social thinkers have to be referred. They are namely, Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, and Max Weber. The unfathomable contributions of these social thinkers are so effective and strong that they have been considered among some of the greatest sociologists of all time. All of them had a different view of the society and the analysis and comparison of their views is the purpose of the discussion. Durkheim’s views stressed more on the social facts of a society, which would be able to highlight the social agendas more properly and ultimately establish social order. Max Weber, on the other hand, focused more on the human relations with the society and how it affected the social life. His views were more on the human experiences and views and how they contributed to the development of a better and sustainable society. Karl Marx’s theory however differed completely from both of them. His studies on the historical development of the society and his studies on capitalism and how it has affected the society and the suggested cure for the society became the pillar of his iconic Marxist theory which influenced every part of the world at one time or the other. Their contrary nature and ideas proved their similarity in one aspect, that is, a detailed understanding of the modern-day emerging society. The prime focus of this discussion is to understand their ideas of the modern society and how they have explained the transition from the existing society. The comparison of these analyses can lead to the conclusion who among them had the more appropriate theory about the modern day society. 

Karl Marx and the social views:

Karl Marx belonged to a society at a time when Europe was undergoing a massive industrial revolution. He was essentially moved by the transformation in the socio-political and economic systems of the time. His intensive study of the industrial impacts on the society and the influence of social theorists such as Hegel and Feuerbach, let him develop his own theory of dialectical historical materialism (Pradella, 2013). The main idea behind this theory was to study the transition from one society to another. Marx believed that the existence of society was primarily for the fulfillment of the social needs of the people according to the time period and that every society was only dependent on the production of entities. Analysing this fact with the concept of historical materialism, Marx came to the conclusion that with the passage of time and needs of the society makes the existing society create its own opposition and ultimately compels it to change. Such a process is not a natural process but requires a revolution to occur.

Emile Durkheim's Theory

Marx's concept asserts the modern industrialized society as an evolution from the feudal society of the middle ages, which has led to the wealth accumulation in the hands of a limited few, which is better known as the capitalist society (Banerjee and Duflo, 2014). The capitalist society is defined as a societal structure which consists of a large number of workers who have little of their own but produce huge quantities resulting in the profits of a relatively small number of capitalists who control the power and own almost everything that runs the society such as commodities, factories, and labour power. These capitalists have been termed as bourgeoisie and the working class as the proletariat (Nicolaievsky, and Maenchen-Helfen, 2015). The Marxist theory revolves around how injustice the society has been to the proletariat and how the bourgeoisie has been constantly exploiting them for personal gains. Marx does not see this as an example of a perfect society and recommends that this type of societal structure must change. The recommended change can only come when the oppressed class breaks free from the class barrier and undertakes a revolution to overthrow the capitalist class and establish a socialist system with a communist society (Tilly, 2017).

Society according to Emile Durkheim:

Shifting from the revolutionary ideas of Marx, French socialist and philosopher Emile Durkheim looks into the transition of the society through a more cohesive and harmonic view. The main theories of Durkheim focus on the theories of the explanation of social order and towards the better understanding of the social integration. Durkheim classifies the societies into two types, namely the primitive and the modern society. The basis of the societies lies in the evolution of workforce and the division of labour. The Division of Labour can be explained on the basis of the analysis the labour structure in a society (Durkheim, 2014). The specified task can be broken down into small fragments and task for each part is to be done by the specialized labour force. 

When discussing the labour force in the industrial revolution, Durkheim is of the idea that the society can be divided into two types, the primitive society, and the modern society. He also explains that similar labour division is a part of the societal structure from the primitive time (Bombardieri, 2013) and there have been no significant changes in the labour division of the modern society. However, amidst these similarities, Durkheim, expresses in his ideas that the primitive labour force was a combined unit of mechanical solidarity, or to be precise by the likeness of the people. The modern-day labour force, on the other hand, is more based on dependence on each other, known as organic solidarity (Alkin, 2014). Herein, he differentiates between the past and the modern societies by inferring the idea that an organized consciousness is the identifying factor of the modern society. This type consciousness allows more individual opinions which can create a weak structure, but at the same time, the consciousness of the modern society is a better example of a structure that allows the expression of freedom and integrity which leads the workforce to be interdependent for the development of the social structure.

Max Weber's Theory

However, Durkheim’s ideas led to the controversies about how a morally weak society, interdependent on each other, can increase the strength of a society. It ultimately weakens the society. Durkheim talks of three problems that could arise as the weakness of the modern division of labour. Firstly, the anomic division of labour (DiCristina, 2016). This theory focuses on the distancing of the labour force from the social acceptance and norms. The distance from the value system of the workforce makes them lose their behavioural identity and reflect an image of improper conduct in the modern society. The second concern is the forced division of labour. In this system of labour division, specialized works are endowed upon incapable or inappropriate workforce loosely based on personal or economic influence. The existing labour force might look down upon this tradition as an equality of their capacity or loyalty (Stevens, 2013). This can result in the growing isolation of a particular community and ultimately to a collision of the workforces. The third factor which is poorly coordinated division of labour addresses the similar issue of improper work allocation.

However, Durkheim also suggests the solutions to these problems on a more sustainable note, unlike Karl Marx. Durkheim suggests that proper child upbringing and education along with socialisations can help in the overall growth of the work population (Young and Muller, 2013). He also suggests the establishment of work associations which can look after the proper allocation of jobs, so that the specialized talent of the labour force is not wasted in the trial of improper jobs. It also safeguards the occupational opportunities from falling into wrong hands and put a stop to the labour exploitation. 

Max Weber and his social theory:

Unlike Marx and Durkheim, Max Weber presents a different theory describing his perspective about the transition from early society to the modern society. However, he was similarly concerned about the problems, which are present in the transition from the early to the modern society (Howell and Vera, 2016). Weber’s thoughts described the modern society as something, which is characterized by the rationality and is governed by the bureaucracy. Weber has divided the society into two parts, the pre-modern society, and the modern society. The pre-modern society was characterized by the rule of the traditional authority whereas in a modern society the rule is that of a rational authority. Weber describes the traditional authority as the type of authority, where the ruler’s authenticity is determined by the traditional beliefs of the people of the society (Clements, 2014). However, in a modern society, the rational mindset of the people determines a rational authority which is based on logical rules and legal procedures.

Weber, further describes that with the advancing age and modernity, every society undergoes the rationalization process wherein the thought process of the whole society tends to be more rationalized. This happens with the development of science, whose advancing knowledge slowly takes over the belief system and overshadows the legitimacy of the traditional beliefs such as religious or supernatural elements in the understanding of the social structure of the world. This type of advancement leads the modern day people to analyze daily activities in a more rational calculation and determine work structure based on efficiency and not traditional beliefs. Weber thinks that this type of rational development and realization of advanced thought process would lead to the weakening of the traditional authority and cause its ultimate damage. The society is then gradually taken over by a more rational authoritative system which would lead to the emergence of the highly efficient and rational authoritative structure known as the bureaucracy (Fukuyama, 2013).

With the advancement of bureaucracy, Weber thinks that the application of a legal set of rules devised in a rational manner, and a well-defined authoritative structure completes the circle of organizational efficiency. This system essentially puts an end to the dependence of the social structure on the traditional authoritative system. Moreover, Weber adds that the automatic evolution of bureaucracy is inevitable in the societal development pattern (Fukuyama, 2013), as the society needs a systematic organization and proper rational governance.

Weber, similar to Marx and Durkheim, reflects the problems of a traditional society and the requirement for an advanced and modern society, but at the same time, he is also concerned about the future of modernity. Weber thinks as the society advances in a rational thought process and is more rationalized in legal theories and rational ideas, the organized bureaucratic system can impose a rigid legal structure in the society which can ultimately bring back the authoritative dictatorial domination over the human race (Joosse, 2014). This type of domination can be regarded as the new iron cage for humanity. Moreover, he thinks that over rationalization can again weaken the governing system by crumbling and corrupting the legal set of rules for authoritative gains and in the process metamorphoses the efficient working organization into shattering pieces. Contrary, to the thought process of Marx and Durkheim who formulated their ideas for the development of the society, Weber’s ideas reflect a more pessimistic view of the transition from the traditional system to the rational system (Hayes, Wynyard, and Mandal, 2017). However, he points out that the rational advancement has hope amidst all its dark possibilities as rationality would develop new thought process. This would be helpful for the emergence of intellectuals, scientist, doctors, politicians, and bureaucrats who might be able to understand the corruption and rigidity, which the modern bureaucracy might lead to, and bring about the effective solutions to the bureaucratic oppression. 

Comparing Marx, Durkheim, and Weber:

The above discussion has vividly pointed out that Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, and Max Weber had differences in ideas and judgments when it comes to the determination of the true identity of the society and how it impacts the social transition from the early phases to modernity (Ritzer, and Stepnisky, 2017). A further analysis shows that when Marx described society, he figures out that the society is run and determined by the productive force of the society and by the distribution of wealth and power among the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. Durkheim determines that it is the division of labour and the understanding of the class structure that defines the development of the societal structure from the primitive to the modern one. Weber, on the other hand, stresses the importance of the development of rationality and advanced thought process which can help to break away from the rigid traditional system and build a more rational bureaucratic system authority.

The three philosophers also have different ideas when they come to the identification of the problems of the society. In Karl Marx’s view, the main problem facing the modern society is the alienation of the self on the basis of the inequality of wealth distribution and the dominance of the bourgeois on the proletariat. Durkheim identifies the problem as the anomie of the labour division which results in the loss of collective morality. Lastly, as for Weber, the bureaucratic authoritarianism and its rigidity which results in the creation of dictatorship and autocracy poses as the main threat to the modern society. Analysing these ideas it can be seen that the three philosophers differentiate in their views on the greater part of the conception but on a closer analysis, it can be seen that there are certain similarities also on which they discuss upon. Moreover, Marx, Durkheim and Weber, all three focus on the economic aspects of the society. Marx and Weber, both concentrate on the power distribution in the modern society (Tejerina Montaña and Perugorría, 2013) whereas, both Marx and Durkheim discussed the positivity of the modern societies and how it works on the improvement of the society.

The analysis of all the three thinkers has opened up broad aspects of the modern societies highlighting the different facts and possibilities of the modern society. However, among these three thinkers, if it to be determined whether their ideas are relevant in the modern society, Emile Durkheim’s ideas and assumptions reflect the present conditions of the modern society. The modern society is defined by the ideas of Durkheim’s classification of labour division on the increasing demand of specialization. The increasing division of labour as can be observed in the present society increases the sense of freedom and individuality in the people's mind as had been predicted by Durkheim in his theories (Moulaert, 2016). It can be observed in the modern societies that the anonymity of the population and the mixture of different people from different regions have created a diverse workforce which has led to the creation of different occupations. In this discussion, the state of anomie as discussed by Durkheim, which focuses on the feeling of alienation and rootlessness, can be identified in the modern societies.

The higher rates of suicides and stress all are part of the modern societies creating conflict and clash of priorities based on the high demands of the modern society (Berkman, Kawachi, and Glymour, 2014). However, this difficulties can be considered as a part of the collateral damage that occurs on the path of development. The gradual strengthening of the society and the growing sense of individuality promises hope for the modern societies, unlike Weber's pessimistic views of the society. Marx's idea of the proletarian revolution and the equal distribution of wealth is a very optimistic idea but considering the uncertainties of the human behaviour these ideas are highly utopian (Sutton, 2015) and not achievable whereas, Durkheim’s ideas are both optimistic and realistic considering the present conditions of the society.


The discussion on social theories is a broad aspect. However, it has been tried to briefly elaborate the ideas of the three iconic social thinkers of all time namely, Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim and Max Weber. Their views primarily focus on the transition of societies from the primitive ones to the modern ones. Karl Marx focuses on the ideas of unequal wealth distribution and power politics resulting in the suppression of the working class by capitalists who profit on the production done by the working class. He also discusses how a revolution can bring down the government and bring stability to the society. Emile Durkheim focuses on the division of labour and how it can help in the development of individuality and personal freedom in the modern society. Max Weber, believes that the development of the rational ideas and a legal set of rules and laws can cause the transition from the traditional society to the modern society. However, the analysis of the theories establishes Emile Durkheim's theory to be most relevant to the modern society. Karl Marx's theory seems to be too utopian while Max Weber's theory is too pessimistic considering the development of the modern society. 


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Pradella, L., 2013. Imperialism and capitalist development in Marx’s Capital. Historical Materialism, 21(2), pp.117-147.

Ritzer, G. and Stepnisky, J., 2017. Modern sociological theory. SAGE Publications.

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