Marx’s work was devoted to explaining how capitalism shaped society. He argued that capitalism is an economic system based on the pursuit of profi t and the sanctity of private property. Marx used a class analysis to explain capitalism, describing capitalism as a system of relationships among different classes, including capitalists (also known as the bourgeois class), the proletariat (or working class), the petty bourgeoisie (small business owners and managers), and the lumpenproletariat (those “discarded” by the capitalist system, such as the homeless). In
Marx’s view, profi t, the goal of capitalist endeavors, is produced through the exploitation of the working class. Workers sell their labor in exchange for wages, and capitalists make certain that wages are worth less than the goods the workers produce. The difference in value is the profi t of the capitalist. In the Marxist view, the capitalist class system is inherently unfair because the entire system rests on workers getting less than they give. Marx thought that the economic organization of society was the most important infl uence on what humans think and how they behave.
He found that the beliefs of the common people tended to support the interests of the capitalist system, not the interests of the workers themselves. Why? Because the capitalist class controls not only the production of goods but also the production of ideas. It owns the publishing companies, endows the universities where knowledge is produced, and controls information industries. Marx considered all of society to be shaped by economic forces. Laws, family structures, schools, and other institutions all develop, according to Marx, to suit economic needs under capitalism. Like other early ociologists, Marx took social structure as his subject rather than the actions of individuals. It was the system of capitalism that dictated people’s behavior. Marx saw social change as arising from tensions inherent in a capitalist system—the confl ict between the capitalist and working classes.
Marx’s ideas are often misperceived by U. S. students because communist revolutionaries throughout the world have claimed Marx as their guiding spirit. It would be naive to reject his ideas solely on political grounds. Much that Marx predicted has not occurred—for instance, he claimed that he “laws” of history made a worldwide revolution of workers inevitable, and this has not happened. Still, he left us an important body of sociological thought springing from his insight that society is systematic and structural and that class is a fundamental dimension of society that shapes social behavior. Max Weber.
Max Weber (1864–1920; pronounced “Vay-ber”) was greatly infl uenced by Marx’s work and built upon it. But, whereas Marx saw economics as the basic organizing element of society, Weber theorized that society had three basic dimensions: olitical, economic, and cultural. According to Weber, a complete sociological analysis must recognize the interplay between economic, political, and cultural Karl Marx analyzed capitalism as an economic system with enormous implications for how society is organized, in particular how inequality between groups stems from the economic organization of society. Max Weber used a multidimensional approach to analyzing society, interpreting the economic, cultural, and political organization of society as together shaping social institutions and social change.