Compare and Contrast the Marxist and Weberian Theories of Social Class. Why Do You Think Marx Emphasises Relations of Production in the Formation of Classes Whilst Weber Suggests the Market and Consumption Are the Important Factors?

1752 Words Apr 17th, 2011 8 Pages
Compare and contrast the Marxist and Weberian theories of social class. Why do you think Marx emphasises relations of production in the formation of classes whilst Weber suggests the market and consumption are the important factors?

All human societies have been class based in some way, shape or form and, interpreting this in the most basic way, it can be said that in every known human society there has been a fundamental division between two broad social groups, the buorgeoisie that own and control the means of production, and the proletariat who own nothing but their ability to sell their labour power (that is, their ability to work) in return for wages. The anger and dissent over the differences in social classes has never wavered
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(v. Krieken, R., 2001, p. 80)
Weber and Marx can both be seen as constructing varieties of property-centered relational concepts of class in which material interests play a vital role in explaining class action, class structure and class struggle. Collective class action is enabled by class polarization, and the dynamic processes of capitalism create conditions favorable to class playing a omnipresent role in systems of social stratification. However while they seem to agree on all the above points their beliefs begin to differ when arguing the effects of class. For Weber, the pivotal issue is the ways in which classes determine the life chances of people within markets, whereas for Marx the central issue is the ways in which class determines both life chances and exploitation. The basic idea of the determination of life chances by class is laid out in Weber’s frequently cited passage (Max Weber: Essays in Sociology, Oxford University Press, 1958):
We may speak of a 'class' when (1) a number of people have in common a specific causal component of their life chances, in so far as (2) this component is represented exclusively by economic interests in the possession of goods and opportunities for income, and (3) is represented under the conditions of the commodity or labor markets....It is the most elemental economic fact that the way in which the disposition over material property

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