Comparing Respective Contributions of Mark Durkheim and Weber on Understanding Society

Marx, Durkheim and Weber perception

Karl Marx and Max Weber are one of the popular as well as prominent theorist from the 19th century. Many scholars might argue that there were many similarities and differences among the sociologist theory, but still, Weber and Marx had many same ideas, but the two came to different conclusions. In this essay, a comparison and contrast is done, which is based on the thought process of two famous and influential sociologist, whether they had the similarities in their understanding of the society. This essay will try to collect facts for the purpose of drawing the conclusion, whether Weber, Max and Durkheim were different or same because it’s important to analyse them for understanding the comparability in the major ideas.

Marx inspiration was Hegel, and in the result of that, he came up with the thought of superstructure and base. The base is referred as the relationship that arose due to the production, and superstructure was the relationships and ideas, that relies on the relations (Cuff, Sharrock and Francis 1984). Marx was also profoundly influenced through the classical political economist, who brought the labour theory of value. This theory mentions that the actual price of the product is determined through how much labour was involved in it. From this theory and various other influences, Marx ideas were hugely influential about the entire economy.

On the other side, Weber was profoundly influenced by Kant, whose ideology says that, when one try to describe something, one can only receive interpretation of it. From both the sociologist, it is understood that in human science, one has to learn how to motivate people. Weber had mentioned that one should explore the historical context and try to ignore the universal laws, as most of the people will have the free will (Cuff, Sharrock and Francis 1984). Weber was highly influenced by the German model that’s based on motivating most of the people at work.

According to the opinion of Marx, the production mode is the one that tries to shape the history. Marx believes that the manner in which people comes with their products is a catalyst, which later on governs the western society. It’s recommended by Marx that as employees start losing their control from what they are making, they will be forced to sell their involved labour and later on it will exploit, what alienated the labour from their job (Cuff, Sharrock and Francis 1984). Marx had also argued that with the expansion of Capitalism, there will be an increase in competition that implies power will come in less minority that will, later on, create division among the property fewer employees and property owners (Cuff, Sharrock and Francis 1984).

On the other side, Weber has approved the exploitation and termed its significance for Capitalism and correlate the same with the Protestant faith. Weber views were based on the belief that fulfilling the duty is a global affair, and it’s the highest way towards attaining real activity (Emile 1933). Weber had interpreted that this can motivate the Protestants to do hard work and invest their money because later on, it will lead to the division of class and labor.

Durkheim went with the evolutionary approach, and he had considered society as the one, who is developing from traditional look towards modern society by designing and expanding the labour division. He had also compared that society with the organism, having various levels, which functions towards ensuring the orderly operation and lead to the evolution of society (Emile 1933). He had also considered structural functionalist, and refer society as the mixture of composed structures, which work together for constructing the approach, as it differentiates the function and structure. Durkheim considered society as the combination of individuals and their actions, behaviour as well as thoughts (Cuff, Sharrock and Francis 1984). He had even added that society and their structures often create influence, and barriers by their norms, social currents, similar sentiments and social facets (Emile 1933). While all these factors were developed from the present human actions, they are different from the individuals, and set up as the structure and institution and try to impact the people. Durkheim had even shown his concern about the problems of social order. And how the present society works together and how it’s composed of various people, which act as the independent way, having distinct interests.

Edward (1990) mentioned that Durkheim had emphasized on the issues related to reconciling morality and freedom in the present society. Their first book “The Division of Labour in Society,” was connected to the explanation and exploration of problems and through this book, he had tried to explore the answers about the concept associated with similar consciousness, types of laws, social solidarity and universal morality systems (Edward 1990). As all the structures and forces are usually not effective in maintaining the social order, due to the social changes taking place in the division of society and labour development, there could be disruption between the similar consciousness and social solidarity (Richard 1997).  

Similarities between sociologist thoughts on understanding the society

Marx, Durkheim, and Weber all had the differences in the thought regarding causes of alienation. That’s the issue with the old system, which tries to isolate the individuals from the humanity. For Marx, this problem was related to class barriers (Cuff, Sharrock and Francis 1984). For Durkheim, it relates with disorganizing the society, which they try to adapt, and for Weber, alienation occurred due to the legal rationality (George 1992). The fundamental concept of Marx was related to class conflict mainly that exist among the capitalist as well as working class. Durkheim considers that the class division was better as it helps in creating independent. Weber emphasizes the issues related to politics. The similarities among the three theories are that all the mentioned disconnectedness of man is with society and natural state (George 1992). 

Marx had viewed the separation among classes such as working class and capitalist and even among the workers and co-workers. Durkheim emphasizes over the lack of connection among the shared values and society. Weber also depicts the same in the context of separation and called it as an iron cage (Cuff, Sharrock and Francis 1984). As in iron cage, man is only moved by their emotions and follow the rules, and never connect the people, and focuses on passions, values, and emotions.

According to the similarities in the theories, the very first idea is related to individuals that are ruling by the abstractions, and it’s the base of all the theorist ideas. The example of this could be taken through the perception over feudalism (George 1992). The meaning of feudal economics is that people are not interested in making profits, instead of that they should sell the items at the reasonable cost for the value use. Weber had explained about the feudalism that means private property comes through the military violence in the political structure. Marx had also mentioned that feudalism comes through the ways of production in the format of the economy (George 1992). Other similarities, which are drawn by the sociologist believe about the concept of capitalism, which mainly relies on the irrationality. All the sociologist try to analyse this irrationality by way of religion, although this idea is variant of its importance (Cuff, Sharrock and Francis 1984).

The viewpoint of Weberian argues that the concept of religion is important for explaining the capitalism origin. In the Spirit of Capitalism and Protestant ethic, it is submitted by the Weber that the thoughts in the Protestant faith relate to the technology for shaping the society (Irving 1990). In contrast, the sociologist Marx believes that the concept of religion is nothing as a method that could be used for spreading the ideology ruling class towards working class. IT could be recommended that the arguments imposed by the sociology go parallel; the important variation that establishes them as different is the opinion of Weber that tries to dominate the individual actions, where else Marx argues that capital controls the operations (Irving 1990).

Differences between sociologist thoughts on understanding the society

While pointing to the differences, the most prominent one was presented by Marx that emphasizes o the economic influences and it’s noted that Weber focuses on the political front (Cuff, Sharrock and Francis 1984). It is argued by Marxist that at the time of capitalism, the Bourgeoisie had tried to exploit Proletariats to have the surplus value, which is the profit that is made after the Proletariat payment for labours (Irving 1990). Even Marx argues that power is usually concentrated in the bourgeoisie, that’s the ruling class, and it makes use of authority for the purpose of exploiting the proletariat. Marxism approves about the significance of state that, apparently argues that the state should work towards promoting the interest of ruling class for the purpose of keeping the rich people happy (Cuff, Sharrock and Francis 1984).

In contrast to this, Weber emphasizes over the politics and try to generalize the economics. He had even stress over the economic aspects that it alone cannot describe the system of class. Both Marx and Weber perception mentions about the variation when the question comes of stratification (Irving 1990). Weber also introduces the concept of a status group that clearly differs according to class as it relies on the communities. As per the perception of Weber, all the societies could be differentiated as per status groups. Weber also argues that due to the class centred understanding of Weber, predictions societies often get failed (Cuff, Sharrock and Francis 1984).

There are differences in the perception of all three sociologists over the social class. Firstly, Marx mentions about the huge focus on the structures that according to him govern the behaviour and it includes production mode, and believe that social class was explained by him (Cuff, Sharrock and Francis 1984). In contrast to this, it is argued by Weber that these structures are not so necessary while explaining about the social class and he believed that they might occur due to the changes in individual behaviour (Detlef 1989). Secondly, Marx also argues that the social groups are formed around the class. Weber had tried to criticize, as he believes that Marx perception was not able to explain about groups that are based on the inequality (Cuff, Sharrock and Francis 1984).

It is quite apparent to see that the theorist holds different viewpoints related to the division of labour. According to the opinion of Marx, during the period of industrialization, there were many changes in co-operation (Cuff, Sharrock and Francis 1984). Therefore, as per Marx the skills, who used to be individuals was related to division of labour, and that’s the reason, why people started losing the skills and got alienated from the work (Detlef 1989). However, all the sociologist holds conflicting viewpoints over the concept of alienation. According to the Marx theory, the close link could be seen towards enlightening. He thought that the socialism was quite inevitable, and he even argues over the pre-socialized own societies, which were alienated from work (Kenneth 1982).

On the other side, the theory of Weber related to alienation comes through the perception that both the concepts of socialism and capitalism are rationalization manifestation. He mentioned that the streamlining as the social value conversion along with relationships with necessary, natural as well as traditional shapes was previously held towards impersonal, large as well as bureaucratized form within the present society (Detlef 1989). Overall, it can be viewed that the opinions of three sociologists over the concept of class, religion, stratification, capitalism and division of labour was discussed. The same could be evaluated as the main ideas of a sociologist (Detlef 1989). 

Marx, Durkheim, and Weber view on religion

Marx, Durkheim, and Weber clearly depict the base of sociological traditions by addressing the religion (Cuff, Sharrock and Francis 1984). They stand on the outside and view the institution of religion. Just like any scientist regards the subjects, and its objectivity creates the requirement of a dispassionate examination of facts. These studies are quite variant from the journey of faith (Cuff, Sharrock and Francis 1984). While the concept of religion could be explained in the framework of psychology, history, and sociology; all these descriptions usually negate and reduces the believer’s journey (Detlef 1989). They clearly depict the attempt taken towards explaining the massive structures as well as patterns that could be seen in any culture all-around the history (Cuff, Sharrock and Francis 1984).

Marx, Durkheim, and Weber clearly depict the objectivist or either the modern tradition in sociology (Cuff, Sharrock and Francis 1984). There is various perspective that might be undertaken from the anthropologist that view the religion by the eye of the believer (Cuff, Sharrock and Francis 1984). Theologians follow the similar scientific approach, explored by the sociologist, still they view the religion from the believer’s perspective, having the objective of applying the faith challenges in the complexities of globe, and make sense in rituals, describe belief and place confidence in the vast context of experiences of church and believers (Gianfranco 1990). There is no such perspective, which is more superior as compared to others, and none of them seek towards dethroning either from the scientific credibility (Cuff, Sharrock and Francis 1984). Therefore, for studying the concept of institutions of religion, as undertaken by Marx, Durkheim, and Weber, there seems to be heretical of believers, and any other person can make use of building blocks of knowledge, which believers make use for analyzing the religious working in society (Gianfranco 1990).




Cuff, E. C., Sharrock, W. W., and Francis, D. W. 1984. Perspectives in Sociology, third edition. London: Routledge

Detlef, P. 1989. Max Webers Diagnose der Moderne. Göttingen

Edward, G. G. 1990. Theories of Social Inequality:  Classical and Contemporary Perspectives, second edition. Toronto, Holt: Rinehart and Winston

Emile, D. 1933. The Division of Labor in Society. New York: The Free Press

George, R. 1992. Sociological Theory, third edition. New York: McGraw-Hill

Gianfranco, P. 1990. The State: its nature, development and prospects. Cambridge

Irving, Z. M. 1990. Ideology and the Development of Sociological Theory, fourth edition. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall

Kenneth, T. 1982. Emile Durkheim. Chichester, E. Horwood

Richard, H. W. 1997. Sociological Theory: An Introduction to the Classical Tradition. Peterborough, Ontario: Broadview Press



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