What are two major differences between Karl Marx’s and Max Weber’s views of the Industrial Revolution and its aftermath?

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Marx, a German who lived from 1818-1845, saw the industrial revolution as a force that reshaped individuals' relationship to the work setting, specifically separating the worker from his ultimate product. It reduced craft to labor by exploiting the worker as a cog, dehumanizing large percentages of humans.

Weber saw people as effected by economic realities, as responding to social position (prestige) but as harbingers of ideas that could affect their own behavior. He specifically felt that moral attributes such as a work ethic and frugality contributed to social movements.

Marx distinguished workers in the industrial revolution from pre-industrial worker (most agricultural) in which the working class had a full relationship to the product (or outcome) of his toil, in which workers had a steady interaction with their environment (as farmers or merchants). In other words, a farmer lived and worked on the same soil, raised animals from birth to maturity, and lived in a natural world where seasons governed his movements and responses.

This dehumanization posed by factory work changed society radically and exploited individuals economically. Marx viewed humanity both idealistically and realistically, acknowledging the reality of a capitalistic system but disparaging it for its ultimate inability to sustain itself. He essentially saw individuals as caught up in sweeping economic forces over which they had little control.

Weber, a sociologist who lived from 1864 to 1920, had a view of humanity that was based on moral imperative, viewing human behavior through the lens of ideas. Great ideas, such as Protestantism, combined with economic forces to drive changes in society. He trusted that human behavior was governed to a large extent by over arching ideas such as moral fortitude and frugality, governed by philosophies represented by symbols. People's response to symbols (such as their countries flag) was proof the individuals responded to forces beyond the economic.

Weber did not believe that governments had much effect on personal philosophy, but that class and status did, since people responded to ideas such as religious principles. Marx, on the other hand, saw humanity swept up in events in which dynamics of power and economic inequality exploited the weak. Thus, huge numbers of people had essentially no choice, as they lives were spent in servitude.

Marx's prediction that capitalism would ultimately fail due to the "withering of the state" was incorrect; however, his observation that capitalism is unsustainable is proving correct in the inability of human beings to solve environmental problems that may lead to worldwide collapse. He correctly viewed humans as efficient machines of production, which has led to overpopulation, which threatens their ability to sustain resources.

Weber's view of the industrial revolution—that it is governed by an idea, such as the promise of technology; the virtues of Protestantism—didn't fundamentally regard people's interactions with one another, or the state, as economic. Marx viewed a larger, sweeping arc of human development; to him, status was less important because most humans (workers) were exploited and even though some (the owners) had wealth—the system ultimately ruined (dehumanized) all classes. Status only mattered if you had power, or didn't—and even then, both sides were ultimately cogs in a machine meant simply produce and consume.

Marx saw the state as becoming more and more intrusive in people's lives. His analysis was correct but his solutions are flawed. Weber correctly interpreted individuals as acting in interests beyond the economic, and in predicting the rise of a middle class, but he failed to fully acknowledge the power of governments and economic structures to shape individual's beliefs through manipulation of information (media) and the inertia of maintaining the status quo (the tendency of the powerful to hold onto their power).

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Karl Marx was a sociologist of a sort before there was such a discipline. Max Weber was one of the first self-conscious sociologists. Marx studied history and economic forces and tried to determine what effects these forces had on society, as did Weber later.

Marx saw history as a materialistic process which followed inevitable rules. He called it dialectical materialism. He was influenced by Georg Hegel, who believed that history could be described as a continuous process of conflict, called a dialectic, between thesis (the present arrangement of society) against antithesis (new forces clashing with the old) and resolving into a synthesis, which then becomes the new status quo.

Marx applied this to economic and political systems, seeing the rising class of the burghers during the Renaissance as the antithesis to the feudal system and class of landed nobility. During the nineteenth century, the steam engine made it possible to build large factories. This made production easier and allowed for masses of people to be employed doing the same thing over and over to make cheap products. This new class of workers, different from the old and smaller class of apprentice and journeyman artisans, Marx called the proletariat. He saw this new class as the antithesis to the bourgeoisie, or capitalist class. Marx expressed optimism that society would eventually find a synthesis which would create the greatest good for all; he labelled this communism.

Max Weber, coming after Marx, was more strongly influenced in his thinking by Kant and even Nietzsche and was much less optimistic about an eventual end of struggle. He saw religious ideas, specifically Protestantism, as essential to the rise of capitalism. For example, deferred gratification allowed people to save money and accumulate enough to expand their businesses. Where Marx saw basically two classes in conflict, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, Weber postulated a rising middle-class between these two, which slowed any progress toward inevitable revolution.

Whereas Marx was a strict materialist, Weber's Neo-Kantian philosophy emphasized moral principles, self-discipline, and autonomy. Essentially, Weber believed we have choices, whereas Marx felt that our ideas and culture are the result of inevitable economic forces.

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