Karl Marx Vs Durkheim

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Karl Marx, unlike Durkheim, was not a sociologist by profession . He was a journalist but first and foremost a political activist around the time of the Industrial Revolution (Scott & Marshall, 2009:443). His political ideas were often rejected, but his work often had real sociological insight as his writing was based in the economics within society its’ social institutions (Giddens, 2009:18).

His work as a whole was focused on conflict, centered around class divisions and relations, and as such much of his work is based in capitalism, the division of labour and its effect on the individual. Marx saw two classes within society: the bourgeoisie as the ruling class that owned the means of production (that which can be legally owned, such as
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The key difference is that Durkheim was, in essence, a believer of society as a consensus- a society working together as a single organism to achieve a common goal and meet its own needs- while this did not always mean complete harmony (and he did recognise this), Durkheim saw that we were interdependent on each other to survive- and this created a consciousness under which we all agreed. Even deviance and crime played its part in that society, so there was no inherently “bad” or “wrong” part of society. This applied to society as a whole but also specifically to his theories on the division of labour in society- all parts vary in importance, but are all necessary to keep the organism that is society running. Marx, in stark contrast, envisioned society as exploitative and ultimately failing. Durkheim saw society as rich in cohesion, and without a common understanding and dependence society could not survive. Where he saw harmony, Marx saw division and conflict- classes separated by economic standings and the working class used for the capitalists gain.

Despite these differences, and the common conception that these two are polarities, there are several similarities. Both Durkheim and Marx identified the importance of the division of labour on changing society, though they vary on the detail, and that it is a characteristic of emerging capitalism and industrialisation. Both were structuralists, who studied the whole body of society rather than specific aspects of

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