Discuss And Compare The Ideas Of Karl Marx And Emile Durkheim
About The Division Of Labor In Society In The Emerging 18th Century European Industrial Society:
The debate surrounding the period of the 18th century in relation to the social structures prevalent at the time mainly centered around three theorists, two of whom shall be compared and contrasted in this essay. The Industrial revolution of the 18th century began a whole new social system characterized by class division, concentration of power in few people’s hands and oppression (Mcllelan: 1980). Money and wealth became the force behind society and production became the main means of achieving it. However, in the process of transition into production type societies, the already existing divisions in society widened, one side were the elite who owned most if not all the wealth, political power and social standing and on the other side, the middle and lower class who had little or nothing (Mcllelan:1980). In economic terms, there were divisions in the structure of labor and the conditions in which the workers were entitled to (Mcllelan: 1980). This period set the foundation for the prevalent structures in labor. Karl Marx and Emille Durkheim were two theorists who put forward theories to try to explain the labor structures and their link to society. However they differed in their views.
Karl Marx (May 5, 1818 – March 14, 1883) was a Prussian thinker during the 19th century (Fine: 2004). After attaining his doctorate in Berlin, he moved around Europe with his family living in many different places including London, Paris and Belgium so he was exposed to the different types of worker- employer relations and managed to get a firsthand experience of the changing socio0-economics (Fine: 2004). Marx began to believe that the Industrial revolution had brought about a social system that was oppressive to the not-so-privileged who were the middle and lower classes. He believed that the gap between the poor and the rich had been opened wider and that the rich manipulated the poor (Fine: 2004). He observed that the Industrial revolution occurred rapidly but Laws and Regulations regarding Labor relations had followed a while after and in this period, many human atrocities had been committed. The lower class had no say whatsoever in Politics (Mcllelan: 1980). He stated that these differences in which the lower class were forced to give up their labor at cheap levels and under horrendous conditions of working led to a stage whereby they were alienated from themselves (Mcllelan:1980). He described this as a process whereby one becomes sub-conscious but acts in a manner which society expects whilst being able to act differently (Mcllelan: 1980). Marx did not believe that all people worked the same way, or that how one works is entirely personal and individual. Instead, he argued that work is a social activity and that the conditions and forms under and through which people work are socially determined and change over time (Fine: 2004). Marx believed that this social setup would lead to conflict between the classes with the Lower class trying to remove the yoke of oppression while the upper bourgeoisie would want to maintain it (Mcllelan:1980). Marx foretold of a time whereby the conflict would lead to the emergence of a new society in which the state would be nothing else but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat. (Mcllelan: 1980)
Emile Durkheim (April 15, 1858 – November 15, 1917) was a French sociologist (Lukes: 1973). He was influenced by the works of writers such as Darwin, Herbert Spencer and August Comte (Lukes: 1973). He found interest in the prevailing social structures formed by the Industrial Revolution. He particularly believed that the social and moral phenomena of the industrial society should have been a theme in the study of sociology and he aimed to create laws regulating society at that period (Lukes: 1973). He argued that traditional societies were ‘mechanical’ and were held together by the fact that everyone was more or less the same, and hence had things in common(Lukes: 1973). However, the transition into the Industrial Revolution brought out a news system of Organic Solidarity in which people became dependant on each other(Lukes: 1973). He believed that the emplacing of laws would bring about a just system based on a fundamental base which was, “liberty, equity and fraternity” (Durkheim: 1933).
The main difference between Karl Marx and Emile Durkheim was the fact that Marx was a conflict theorist while Durkheim was a Functional theorist (Spartacus: 2008). Both theorists acknowledged the fact that pre-industrial societies were mainly composed of people who were in a state of Mechanical Solidarity, a state in which people are united but independent( Spartacus: 2008). Each person had their own piece of land and worked that hence the reason to be independent. This had changed with the occurrence of the Industrial Revolution because people were now in a state of Organic solidarity in which people now specialized in different things and now unable to fulfill their needs by themselves, depended on each other to survive( Spartacus: 2008). To Durkheim, Organic Solidarity was a good thing, he’s functionalist ideals were such that he stated that Organic solidarity put society in such a manner that individual would exercise individual conscience instead of collective conscience (Durkheim: 1933). He believed that the good that would come out of Organic solidarity would be Equal Opportunity (Lukes: 1973). He however acknowledged that Organic Solidarity was inadequate as a basis for social solidarity. He stated that this could lead to anomie in the Division of Labor whereby there would be a decline in the common morality characterized by insufficient moral constraint (Lukes: 1973).
Marx believed that society was in a state of conflict, on all levels of society beginning with the individual to society as a whole but his main focus was the conflict between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat (Mcllelan:1980). He claimed that society was based on this structure and the proletariats were constantly being oppressed. He did not like the idea of specialization as he observed that this widened the gap between the classes (Mcllelan:1980). He stated that the individual is estranged from his work because of the fact that he is in a state of sub consciousness. He also stated that the individual is estranged from the products being produced as they do not benefit him in anyway and usually the person is in that area of production not because of individual choice but the need to survive and make money thus being a source of cheap labor(Fine: 2004).. This stage, he called loss of identity (Mcllelan: 1980). He also stated that Division of labor would lead to de-skilling of individual workers (Mcllelan: 1980).
The Industrial Revolution brought about a significant change in the social setting of the 18th century. Capital became the force behind the society and its needs and the means to get it became essential (Spartacus: 2008). The rise of factories and the need for labor widened the already widening gap between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. The poor were exploited for cheap labor and the setting was place in such a manner that they were specialized to do certain things in the factories which were alien to them and in which they did not understand (Mcllelan: 1980). Emille Durkheim was a French theorist who propounded many theories concerning these events. He stated that the Industrial Revolution led to what he referred to as Organic Solidarity which had its advantages and disadvantages (Lukes: 1973). He supported by means of the fact that it could bring equal opportunity although he acknowledged the fact that it was inadequate as a basis for social standing (Lukes: 1973). Marx on the other hand believed that the Division of Labor would result in social conflict so much that there would rise a new society which was classless (Mcllelan: 1980). He stated that the division of labor led to de-skilling of the people and that the worker would be estranged from their profession.