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How did Max Weber define social class and in what ways did it differ from Marx and Engels approach - Essay Example

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How did Max Weber define social class and in what ways did it differ from Marx and Engels approach

How did Max Weber define social class and in what ways did it differ from Marx and Engels approach?

Parts of Weber’s theory depend on ideas about power and control that have some affinities with the Marxist concept of class structure. There are differences, however, between Weberian and Marxist theory which. Morrison (2006, p. 276) identifies these as occurring on two main fronts: “ on the nature and purpose of social theory; and second, on the understanding of history and social and economic development.” Very briefly this means that Weber disagreed with Marx’s view that social theory should be used to change society, preferring rather to see its role as a neutral one, observing and classifying what is happening. He also refused to be limited by the rather rigid analysis of economic matters that Marx engaged in, preferring again to reserve judgement on moral issues such as oppression of the poor and capitalist expansion.
Weber recognised the role of money in modern society as being one which involved the exercise of power, and he accepted that it was important, but he did not give it the same level of prominence as Marx did. Weber “took the view that there were other determinants of social life which derived from the political, religious and legal spheres of society” (Morrison, 2006, p. 277). The difference between Marx and Weber, then, is one of emphasis rather than any fundamental disagreement about the importance of economic and social forces. He took the ideas of Marx and Engels a step further and applied them to complex modern societies using tools of scientific observation to try and understand them.
One of Weber’s most useful contributions to the field of sociology has been his theorising of modern bureaucracy. Weber’s idea of bureaucracy was initially described in contrast to more traditional types of authority which are inherited, as for example a chief of a tribe or a modern day monarch. It is contrasted also with the charismatic type of authority that some great religious or ideological leaders have, based on their own individual powers of persuasion (Weber, 1958b, p. 83). According to Weber the basis for acquiring authority in a bureaucracy is rationality. Hierarchies exist in complex societal organisations on the basis of the different abilities that a person has and this explains why some jobs are plentiful and paid at a lower rate while others are much scarcer and paid at a higher rate. These hierarchies are made formal through written contracts, job titles and specifications, and routine systems which set down which functions are carried out at which points in the organisational structure. People have to be trained in order to take up bureaucratic roles, and they have to adhere to a set of complicated rules and procedures. This is because the power lies in the interpretation and dispensation of a system of justice that has been set down in advance. An example of this kind of structure can be observed in modern Britain in institutions such as the criminal justice system. In this field there are particular ...Show more
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Summary

Weber developed his ideas in the wake of Marxist thinking, and partly also as a reaction to it. This is seen for example in his description of “class” which is a great deal more nuanced than the pure Marxist binary divide between proletariat and bourgeoisie. For Weber a “class” is defined as “any group of persons occupying the same class status”…
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