Karl Marx, Marx Weber and Emile Durkheim View On Social Change and Order

Theorizing Social Life

We live in a society that is continuously transforming. Change has proven over time to take place on various facets during our lifetime. One common form includes social change which often has far-reaching consequences. In essence, it alters the prevailing social order condition found in the community in a bid to allow new circumstances to take precedence.  Furthermore, it has always been known to institute its effects on social relations, institutions, and nature. Human beings are still searching for better ways to solve their problems and living fuller lives, a primary factor in instituting social change. Progress is a typical goal of human beings, often responsible for the socio-cultural evolutions that are all too common in society (Williams & Arrigo, 2004, p. 43). Modernization, for instance, is a form of social change that also includes the economic structure present for a long time. From time immemorial, prominent theorists have given their intellectual takes on the issue with perspectives of why change is a regular part of a typical lifecycle. Karl Marx, Marx Weber and Emile Durkheim rank as some of the most vocal voices in matters of change in societies order. In this essay, I will compare the views of these three theorists concerning social change and order together with a critique of the opinions that they held.

Karl Marx was a firm believer in the existence of a social order and the changes that would always follow. Social change was central to his thinking to an extent that most of his writings were solely based on it. In his opinion, change was an unavoidable variable that was bound to affect man, one way or the other. Marx opined that man was in constant motion which explains why the change was always close by. In a bid to achieve his goals, humanity was known for manipulating the environment to serve its needs and therefore perpetuating change in the process. Moreover, man was lauded for creating a niche in society that would enable him to meet his needs and in the process find a suitable change that would benefiting of his life. These assertions are observable presently in man’s quest to transform his surroundings to suit his needs while seeking the best tools that would enable adaptation to take place. It was through this process that man was able to create a material life that was dependant on their progress. Marx saw man as the author of his destiny; always remaking his life and fashioning it in a way that would suit him best (Bratton & Denham, 2014, p. 294). Moreover, Marx introduces labor as a determining factor in social order and its morphing into a new form. It is remarkable how Marx points to the cooperation that results from a “productive force” that is subsequently responsible for the change.  A situation of servitude emerges where the holders of means of production, trapping the unsuspecting laborer. In Marx’s opinion, social change in a capitalistic society was inevitable as it would lead to a communist revolution.

Max Weber’s views on social change differed significantly from those held by Karl Marx. As a holistic believer, he opined that we all dwell in a system that was interconnected, one change leading to a chain reaction. Weber used atomism to describe society as a collection of different individuals who play an integral role in effecting change in social order (Weinstein & Weinstein, 2010, p. 56). As an idealist, he believes that the notions held by various individuals were responsible for shaping society and all those individuals in it. These ideas bordered on being creative while seeking ways that would go a long way in improving the lives that persons lived. Society was, therefore, a considerable collection that was more important than merely singling out individuals who would, later on, act as representatives of the whole.  One striking opinion held by Weber was that there were no laws in society that were put in place to effect change. It is surprising that he would hold such an opinion when it was a well-known fact that he was in rationalist. Rationalism is a complex disposition that holds that a plethora of forces does not drive life, but one that controls everything else. Weber also believed that human beings could use their intelligence to interrogate the world around them and make necessary changes rationally. It is only after this statement that human beings progress to logical rationality. In contrast to Karl Max’s opinion, Weber was a firm believer in private hands holding the means of production. A free market would then allow these individuals to sell their labor, creating changes in the social order.

Emile Durkheim had a holistic view of society and the change that was always bound to take place. To him, culture was an organism with different parts that were all dependent upon each other. Durkheim was a firm adherent of holism and saw the community as a mirror the individuals that were found in it. Society was, therefore, a positive construct that played an integral role in controlling people and ensuring all regulations are followed. Similarly,  Durkheim was critical of Karl Marx’s view that capitalism was a negative force in societal change and didn’t believe that it was capable of making people greedy (Marx & Stenning, 2012, p. 45). Through empirical analysis, he opined that cause and effect were the typical causes of all the changes that were taking place in society at any given moment. Furthermore, he believed in the presence of evolutionary shift in culture that would create the organic solidarity necessary in effecting social change. Durkheim is one of the few theorists who presented opinions that were more practical, especially his view that changes happening in society were not sustainable due to their rapid nature. One adverse effect of this abrupt change is that society becomes unequal. A wealth gap creates a situation where wealthy children readily get opportunities as their poor counterparts struggle.

In conclusion, an assessment of the opinions held by the three theorists reveals that they agree that the economy plays an integral role in societal change. Karl Marx believed that social change would come about as a result of the inequality that would be at odds with human nature. His criticism perhaps lies in the fact that the ruling classes in a capitalistic country were seen as the oppressors who would have to be removed by a communist revolution. In my opinion, Weber introduces a sophisticated point of view by involving an ideological viewpoint in assessing the causes of societal change. Durkheim also puts forth a viable disposition by linking economic factors to societal changes. He is wary of societal change, but for a good reason as it is apparent that he doesn’t want a situation where inequality would be rife, therefore requiring drastic societal changes.

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