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In the middle of the 19th century, the ideas of capitalism have been already spread across the whole world. There were a number of theorists, who were ready to analyze this economic system and define its role in society.
Due to the political instability that could be easily noticed in many European countries, there was a need to create a theory or a program according to which people could get a chance to improve their future and understand the conditions under which they had to live.
The point is that different countries faced a number of the same problems, still, they did not want to unite their efforts and knowledge to find one powerful solution. Instead, European theorists introduced a variety of ideas, which turned out to be weaker in comparison to the already established capitalism.
There were two prominent German political economists, whose ideas and approaches were recognized in the world. Max Weber and Karl Marx were both intrigued by the social development and changes that could not be understood by ordinary people.
The period of industrialization was not simple, this is why political experts like Marx and Weber wanted to prove that their individual understanding of such concepts like human nature, resistance, power, and society had to be accepted.
The peculiar feature of these two economists was the fact that they realized that changes, which happened to society, were not really appropriate. In other words, people were not ready to accept the changes and live in accordance with their own demands and desires.
Still, even such understanding of the living conditions made Marx and Weber took different positions and protected their theories in different ways. Weber did not want to believe that there was a possibility to change the situation, this is why it was necessary to evaluate the reasons of why capitalism became one of the most crucial systems within a short period of time, still, he did not see any hope to improve the situation.
Marx could not accept Weber’s fears and inabilities. What Marx offered was the revolutionary approach to solve the problems and encourage people.
Though the ideas of Marx and Weber may seem to be similar in some ways, it is wrong to believe that these theorists took the same positions; Marx found it obligatory to critique the activities of such people like Weber due to their inability to identify problems and offer the solutions, this is why Marx’s attitude to social change, human nature, and the desire to gain power as the means to survive turn out to be more interesting and provocative as for the society in the 19th century as well as for modern people.
Definition of Capitalism by Marx and Weber
Capitalism is the system according to which three main concepts such as power, society, and resistance are closely connected to each other and define the development of people from different classes and with different abilities.
Still, Weber and Marx define the essence of capitalism in different ways and prove that their approaches may help to understand the same ideas from different perspectives. Marx criticized Weber a lot as he admitted that power had to be understood as “the chance of a man or of a number of men to realize their own will in a communal action even against the resistance of others who are participating in the action” (Weber 180).
Marx mentioned that in addition to such explanation of the matter, Weber failed to add the importance of human decisions that contradicted human nature as it is. Marx, in his turn, said that capitalism is the opportunity for the workers to prove their own views.
The vast majority of their activities are victorious in nature, still, “the real fruit of their battles lies… in the ever-expanding union of the worker. This union is helped on by the improved means of communication that are created by modern industry” (Marx and Engels 481).
Taking into consideration the opinions of two theorists, it is possible to think that their differences lie in the nature of their understanding of such issue like human nature. According to Marx, people have enough powers and skills to protect their rights.
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Still, people are divided into classes, this is why it is correct to accept a man as a “species being, not only because in practice and in theory he adopts the species as his object… but also because he treats himself as the actual, living species; because he treats himself as a universal and therefore a free being” (Marx 71).
Human nature has to overcome certain changes from time to time, and labor is the reason of human nature’s dynamics. There is a tendency that people have to work in order to exchange the products and meet their needs. And labor has to be mutual as one man cannot achieve the required desire alone.
Labor is group activity, and human nature cannot resist this simple truth, this is why it is useless to search for other explanations like those, offered by Weber. This theorist explained human nature as the association of various impulses with the existing need to work and importance of religious preferences.
As people lived in the period of uncertainty, they could find some kind of support in religion, and human nature aimed at disclosing various possibilities. But Marx did not want to underline the role of God in human lives when the idea of capitalism was developed.
It was the time to forget about human dependency on some spiritual issues but focus on the activities, which were available to people. The question of human power and skills turned out to be important.
Marx explained that power had to be based on economics that promotes the possession of production and should always have certain roots. There are a number of classes, and their structure is organized in the way that one class could easily gain power over other class to achieve the desirable control.
In other words, Marx supported power as the means to control society and direct people accordingly. At the same time, Marx was ready to argue Weber, who defined power as the possibility for a man to achieve the goal regarding the resistance of society for his own sake.
This is why power cannot be stable because as soon people destroy the existing domination, there is no necessity of power, and Marx could not accept the world without power and the control body.
Political Resistance and Society
The evaluation of the development of human relations during the 19th century shows that capitalism became a crucial point in different types of relations between people. Resistance turns out to be a component of human life, still, its value may be defined in several ways.
For example, Weber believed in human ability to fight against the resistance in society. He offered to analyze the roots of human weaknesses and think about the ideas with the help of which it was possible to improve the future.
Unfortunately, Weber focused his investigations on the struggles within society when Marx underlined the role of class struggle against political resistance.
The point is that both theorists believed that the conditions under which people have to live were not the most successful for human beings, this is why it is useless to promote the conflicts in society but search for more powers to change the world without radical changes of society.
And the position of Marx seems to be more appropriate and stable in regards to the one offered by Weber. Society of the 19th century as well as people from the 21st century should believe in their own powers and create the conditions under which they could properly define their potential and control the development of the events in respect to their own demands.
The Role of Marx and Weber in Political History
The role of Karl Marx in human history remains to be important from a variety of perspectives. With the help of his studies, people got a chance to understand how rich their potential could be and how significant their decisions were.
During the whole century, Marx aimed at creating theories, which disclosed the main ideas of the relations in society. People’s needs and beliefs vary considerably, and if the changes that happened to society could not be defined as appropriate, people should not search for some errors in themselves but search for more powers to detect the errors in the system and improve it.
Still, the worth of the majority of Marx’s works could hardly be understood without the works of another prominent theorist, Max Weber. His controversial ideas and the attempt to criticize Marx were noticed and evaluated accordingly.
This man had another position and had a number of reasons to share his ideas with the others. This is why talking about the role of Karl Marx and his arguments for society, it is necessary to admit the role of his colleague, Max Weber, and try to compare their positions to gain the truth.
In general, the ideas of Karl Marx and Max Weber have a number of positive and negative aspects. The point is that different social backgrounds as well as different living principles promote the development of different theories.
Capitalism was the period, when people could hardly be sure of their own ideas. They did not even understand how to formulate their needs in a right way, and Marx as well as Weber helped to make the right decision and understand how it was possible to change the world.
Sometimes, some inspiration and stimulation are required for people, and the works of Marx and Weber may become the sources where certain help could be found. Though their works differ considerably, both of them had one goal indeed: to explain what went wrong with society and offer the solutions to prevent the destruction of safe future.
As their works were created at the end of the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th century, and it is the 21st century now, it is possible to believe that all their attempts to help society were successful indeed.
Marx, Karl and Engels, Friedrich. “Manifesto of the Communist Party.” In The Marx-Engels Reader by Tucker Roberts C. New York: W.W. Norton, 1978, p. 469-500.
Marx, Karl. “Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts (19844).” In People, Power, & Politics by Rod Wise. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000, p. 57-75.
Weber, Max. “The Concepts of Status Groups and Classes.” From Max Weber: Essay in Sociology by Hans Heinrich Gerth and Bryan S. Turner. New York: Routledge, 1991, p. 180-195.