Do the arguments of Karl Marx or Max Weber better represent society in the present moment?
If Max Weber and Karl Marx were alive today, no doubt both men would be astounded with the world's economic landscape. They would discover some of their ideas were valid, and others not. Yet in 2016, the theories of Karl Marx better represent our current society.
In his most famous work, The Protestant Work Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Max Weber argued that the beliefs of Protestantism, especially Calvinism, spurred individuals to work harder than their Catholic neighbors. More work created a stronger economy. In 2016, Weber would feel vindicated in his theories. The U.S., a predominantly Protestant country, has the strongest economy in the world. Other Protestant countries are not far behind, either.
Yet Weber's theories begin to fall apart when we look at the record economic growth achieved by China and other non-Protestant countries around the world. Though the reasons behind this growth are multi-faceted, we know now that many other factors besides ideology or religion play a key role in promoting economic growth within a society.
Though what Karl Marx envisioned as Communism never came to be, his theories hold up better when viewed in the context of current societal and economic trends. The 2008 financial crisis, the accumulation of wealth by the world's richest 1%, and Occupy Wall Street are only a few examples of what Marx would consider class conflict.
In fact, modern day 'Communist' China further bolsters Marx's ideas. Over the last 100 years China has evolved from a Feudalistic to a Capitalistic economy. In the case of China, members of the Communist Party are the Capitalists, as they control the country's largest economic enterprises. For the past 35 years China's proletariat have been placated by record economic growth. Yet as China's economy slows, the current government will need to resort to more repressive methods if hopes to prevent a revolution by the lower classes.