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Explaining The Three Classical Approaches of Work: Marx, Durkheim, and Max Weber

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Words: 886 |

Page: 1|

5 min read

Published: Mar 14, 2019

Words: 886|Page: 1|5 min read

Published: Mar 14, 2019

“Sociologists of work have stated that work shapes not only the individuals’ social position and status within society but the character of society itself.” (Stewart and Zaaiman; 2015). By using the understanding of the previously mentioned quote this essay will fully elaborate on the three classical approaches of work from Marx, Durkheim, and Max Weber. Furthermore, the essay will conclude by mentioning the overall concept of what work is as defined by sociologists.

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In the first classical approach by Marx, the theme of Alienation is brought up. Marx defines alienation as the unfulfillment and discontentedness of an individual’s performance at work or the product of their work. It is the incapability of an individual to communicate real essence into their work and the sense of feeling estranged from oneself. The trade of merchandise in certain market systems is where alienation stems from, this then brings about the thought and practice of private property- the individual ownership for means of production. Once these objects are commodity objects it will leave a short step ahead to the idea of private ownership. The system of private property pours back into systems that created it which heightens levels of alienation. Alienation is then increased by the fact that workers do not own the goods that they produce because work cannot produce real fulfilment in that sense. For example: “In capitalist countries means of production is concentrated in the hands of a small minority.”

Marx argued that “the nature of work in society can only be understood by examining it in terms of the infrastructure. He believed a capitalist infrastructure inevitably produced a high level of alienation.” (Haralambos and Holborn; 2004). Workers become reduced to the level of commodity as they have no control over the products they produce, and a monetary value is placed on their work. Their employment is based on the law of supply and demand (wage labour). According to Marx capitalism can be self-destructive and therefore having a communist or socialist society (specialized division of labour is demolished) can act as a solution to the problem of alienated labour. Here individual and collective needs are met as workers simultaneously produce goods for themselves and the community.

According to Durkheim “the division of labour is in direct proportion with the dynamic or moral density of a society. This is defined as a combination of the concentration of people and the amount of socialization of a group or society”. (Durkheim; 1893). In the Pre-industrial society/ Mechanical solidarity the division of labour is unspecialised. The internal organization of the mechanical solidarity is very similar as it consists of juxtaposed political familiar groups, these are characterized by little social differentiation, similar beliefs and people who are involved in hunting and gathering. Industrial societies/ organic solidarity evolves with differences in the beliefs and actions of individuals- an increase in individualism but can only progress on the decline of the conscious collective. Here members of society depend on each other as their skills are all specialised, the interdependency then forms the basis of an organic solidarity.

The rapid expansion and specialization of labour creates anomie- a threat to social solidarity. Anomie arises with a decrease in normative behaviour “Durkheim saw a number of anomies in the 19th century industrial society; high rates of suicide, marital breakups and industrial conflict.” (Haralambos and Holborn; 2004). The rapid social change produced by the industrial society causes anomie as the norms governing behaviour are disrupted. Durkheim believes that occupational associations are the solution to anomie as they are the means to subject economic activity to moral regulations.

Weber defines bureaucracy as “a highly structured, formalized and impersonal organization that can control and direct human behaviour.” Weber believed that a bureaucracy is an organisation that consists of a hierarchical structure, clear rules, regulations, and lines of authority which govern it and can be used to illustrate views on relationship and social action. The goals of bureaucracies were achieved by individuals who saw development as a move to perform rational social action. Weber created an ideal type of rational legal authority (six key elements) which produced a particular kind of organizational structure that would be able to coordinate the work of many individuals to achieve administrative tasks and organisational goals.

Weber’s Protestant Ethic and Spirit of Capitalism looks at the emergence between the development of the spirit of Capitalism and the ethics of ascetic Protestantism. He argues that the creation of the capitalist spirit happened through the role that the religious groups (such as the Calvinist) played. For example, “China and India had technological knowledge, labour, and individuals engaged in business and lacked a religion that facilitated the development of capitalism.”  The Calvinist believed in Predestination- God has already determined who is saved and doomed. Weber’s Protestantism offers a concept of the worldly “calling” and offers worldly activity a religious character (work is representative of godliness).

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In conclusion Marx approaches the concept of work by looking at alienation and says that the solution to alienated labour would be a communist/socialist society. Durkheim addresses the division of labour in organic and mechanical societies and states that the solution to anomie is occupational associations. Durkheim gives a more cautiously optimistic approach to work whereas Marx’s approach was more pessimistic. Lastly, Weber addresses his approach to work by looking at the bureaucracy and protestant work ethic.

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Understanding The Key Issues In Classical And Neoclassical. (2022, December 01). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 21, 2024, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/understanding-the-key-issues-in-classical-and-neoclassical/
“Understanding The Key Issues In Classical And Neoclassical.” GradesFixer, 01 Dec. 2022, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/understanding-the-key-issues-in-classical-and-neoclassical/
Understanding The Key Issues In Classical And Neoclassical. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/understanding-the-key-issues-in-classical-and-neoclassical/> [Accessed 21 Jun. 2024].
Understanding The Key Issues In Classical And Neoclassical [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2022 Dec 01 [cited 2024 Jun 21]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/understanding-the-key-issues-in-classical-and-neoclassical/
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