A Story of Three Progressives

A Story of Three Progressives Three classic theorists, Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, and Max Weber have discussed and analyzed the complexity of modernization. Modernization is a broad concept that refers to major social changes which occur when a pre-industrial society develops economically and the workplace shifts from the home to the factory (industrialization), people move from farms into cities where jobs are available (urbanization), and large-scale formal organizations emerge (bureaucratization).

Each of these sociologists have developed major theoretical and methodological statements on the topic of modernization and many of their theories that were made a century or two ago still hold true today. Beginning with Karl Marx, an extreme revolutionary of the 19th century, he argued that modernization is an ascendancy of industrial capitalism. His idea of modernity was shaped by three developments in history: the French revolutions of 1789 and 1848, the industrial and agricultural revolutions in Britain, and the collapse of the church’s intellectual credibility.

Despite living his life when most of Europe was still agricultural and artisanal; most European states were still dominated by monarchical power; and most Europeans still went to church, Marx understood industrial labor and some of its future effects. Marx depicts modernization as a capitalist society working as a system, in which each group or individual works to fulfill the need of another. As soon as an individual enters a capitalist society, he is socialized into a certain role or behavior which fulfills the needs of that society (role meaning either a proletariat or a capitalist).

For instance, if an individual is a proletariat he must work for a capitalist to satisfy the needs of the society. (cite communist manifesto somewhere). This division between the proletarians and the capitalists are enforced for the benefit of the owners so that they can exploit the working class for their own means, but the working class does not resist because this system has become normalized. The two classes work as a “team” and through a hierarchy create a productive society. Overall, Marx thinks of modernization as a world where individuals rely on each other to function, and each individual is assigned a role.

Next, Emile Durkheim stressed that modernization involves an increased division of labor (specialized economic activity), and a shift from mechanical to organic solidarity. This academic discusses division of labor as a necessary tool for a productive society, but it is also a natural occurrence. Durkheim proceeds from the concept that the division is an organic outgrowth of a society in which different people have different interests and skills. Therefore, a society in which individuals specialize in producing a good or service will be more efficient than a society that is generalized.

Durkheim’s view of modernization explains that iindividuals no longer perform the same tasks, have the same interests, nor necessarily share the same perspectives on life. But, Durkheim makes it clear that this does not cause a society to fail or disintegrate, instead organic solidarity is formed. Similar to the organs within a body, individuals perform certain specific functions, but rely on the well-being and successful performance of other individuals. If one organ fails, the rest of them fail as well. A body, or in this case a society, cannot function at all if one part crumbles.

This reliance upon each other for social (and even physical) survival is the source of organic solidarity and the modern world’s interdependency in a society. Lastly, Max Weber analyzed modernization as the replacement of tradition with rationality. He felt that society will become more complicated, specialized, professionalized, and stratified in the modern world. Prayer and religion will no longer be aspects that fix and/or help solve problems. Science will be the rational way of thought and will be the dominate way of finding a solution.

Specialization will result in professionalism, which in turn will bring more order to the modern world as every segment of every job will have a “specialist”. In general, modernization to Weber meant society will be controlled by managers and experts, and rationality will dictate the way of life. Each of these theorists have strong opinions on modernization and developed what they believe will be the effects of it in the future. Between Marx, Durkheim, and Weber, various theoretical arguments have been made, each being extremely progressive thoughts for the time period they lived in.

Karl Marx thinks modernization leads to both good and bad outcomes. One outcome modernization leads to is alienation. Marx believed that alienation is a systematic result of capitalism, in which both the capitalist and proletariat become isolated. This theory is based upon his observation that, in emerging industrial production, under capitalism, workers inevitably lose control of their lives and selves in not having any control of their work. Thus, workers never become autonomous, self-realized human beings in any significant sense. Karl Marx attributes four types of alienation in labor under capitalism.

The first type is when the worker becomes alienated from his own human potential. The workplace is no longer a place of fulfillment, but instead where the worker feels the least human and the least like himself. Ultimately, the worker becomes a machine that is controlled. The next type of alienation occurs between workers. This happens because capitalism reduces labor to a commodity to be traded on the market, rather than a true social relationship. Even if a worker is side by side another worker, he is unlikely to communicate with him due to the nature of capitalism (e. . an assembly line using technology does not allow one to speak with a fellow worker). Thirdly, the worker becomes alienated from the product itself. This occurs because the capitalist class controls the worker and in turn owns the product. In fact, a worker must buy the product he makes for the same price as anyone else. Lastly, a worker becomes alienated from the entire production process. This means that the actual work becomes mindless, meaningless, and more than likely offers little or no intrinsic satisfactions.

Similarly, a worker who performs a very specialized task may not even know what the final product will be. Another outcome Marx believes modernization leads to is social stratification. Social stratification means that working class people are not likely to advance socioeconomically, while the wealthy people may continue to exploit the proletariat generation after generation. Marx identified that the social classes are stratified based on their connection to the means of production and therefore the ruling class, bourgeoisie, and proletarians, maintain their social positions by maintaining their elationship with the means of production. This maintenance of status quo is achieved by various methods of social control employed by the bourgeoisie within many aspects of social life (e. g. religion). Marx also strongly believed modernization would cause products and/or commodities to have exchange value. This meant that instead of products being used immediately, they would be exchanged in the market for money or other objects. This use value is connected to the relationship between human needs and tangible objects that can satisfy those needs.

For instance, shoes have the purpose of protecting ones feet and bread has the use value of satisfying hunger. If an individual chooses to trade one of these objects for the other than he has given each an exchange value. According to Marx, the various exchange values of commodities reflect the various amounts of labor, measured in time, that their production requires. Commodities and their use value lead to Marx’s idea on the “fetishism of commodities. ” This is when the commodity takes on its own form.

This can be something an individual produces or even one’s own labor. One’s own labor can even become a commodity, as it bought and sold and therefore requires an exchange value. This idea also relates to alienation mentioned above. A workers labor is used by the capitalist to make the objects that ultimately come to dominate the workers. Hence, commodities are the source of alienation because workers produce for the sake of others instead of for their own purposes and needs. Similarly, the fetishism of commodities can be interpreted into the concept of reification.

Reification is the process of coming to believe that humanly created social forms are natural, universal, and absolute things. This implies that people believe that social structures are beyond their control and unchangeable. Marx believed capitalism would cause reification to occur and create a self-fulfilling prophecy in which structures actually do become the character others believe they are. This concept demonstrates that capitalism will not only lead to objects given value, but people as well. Marx also feels that modernization leads to wants becoming needs, and needs reating more needs. In other words, the satisfaction of one’s needs can lead to the creation of new needs. Ritzers example for this is how the production of cars satisfied the need for long-distance travel, but led to a new need for highways. Also, at one time people did not feel they needed cars when the car was first invented, but nowadays most people feel they need them. Therefore, Marx concluded that labor occurs in response to needs, but the labor itself transforms needs, which can lead to new forms of productive activity.

One final thought Karl Marx thought capitalism would create was a proletariat revolution. Because the capitalist exploit the workers, Marx believed that sooner or later the proletarians would fight back. As capitalism progresses more and more people become workers, and less people become capitalists. Marx thought that with increasing numbers of workers, more resistance to exploitation and oppression would occur, ultimately leading to a confrontation and revolution. Despite these thoughts, Marx felt that capitalism was a step in the right direction.

The birth of capitalism opened up new possibilities for freedom of workers and provides possibility for freedom from the traditions from previous societies (pre capitalism). Though, Marx was an advocate of Communism and believed this was the answer to a change in mode of production. Next, Emile Durkheim has theories on the effects of modernization as well. First, Durkheim believes modernization leads to dynamic density. Over time, societies go through a transition from being more primitive/mechanical, to being more modern/organic; the difference lying in the source of their solidarity, or what holds them together (Ritzer, 2007).

The cause of this transition is an increase in dynamic density. One may think the solution to this problem is to have a growing or increasing population, but this is not sufficient enough to create change in the division of labor. The reason for this is that individuals and small groups of people can live in relative isolation from one another and still perform most of the tasks necessary for survival themselves, no matter how big the overall population gets (Ritzer, 2007).

Therefore, a growing population must also increase the frequency with which people interact within and between social groups. This increase in dynamic density is likely to cause a division of labor and the transformation of social solidarity. As mentioned above, Durkheim developed two terms: mechanical and organic solidarity. A society characterized by mechanical solidarity means a unified one in which every person is a generalist. This society is held together because each individual is engaged in a similar activity as the another, and can therefore relate with each other.

Contrasting, organic solidarity is held together by the differences among people and the fact that each individual has a different job or task. Durkheim believed that modern society was one in which there are a narrow range of tasks and many people must work in order to survive. Therefore, modern society is held together by the specialization of people and their need for the services of many others. Unfortunately, according to Durkheim, this means that modern societies have weaker shared understandings, norms, and beliefs than primitive ones, but are more likely to be cohesive from the division of labor.

Along with dynamic density, Durkheim was concerned about the moral “health”of modern society. He felt that morality was connected with society and therefore society could not be immoral, but it could possibly lose its moral force if the collective interest of society became nothing but self-interests of individuals. Durkheim also felt that people were in risk of a “pathological” loosening of moral bonds (Ritzer, 2007). Without this, people would be in search of more and more gratification, leading to more and more needs.

Every human being will want more and society will start to not limit these needs. Durkheim called this the “insatiable desire” that modernization would endure. In summary, Durkheim debates in The Division of Labor that moral solidarity has changed in modern society and that modern society allows for more interdependence and closer, less competitive relations. Lastly, Max Weber thinks modernization leads to a variety of outcomes. The first outcome of modernization is bureaucracy.

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