Marx and Durkheim’s View on the Benefits and Dangers of Modern Capitalism

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Karl Marx (1818-1883) and Émile Durkheim (1858-1917) were sociologists who both existed throughout similar time periods of the 19th and early 20th centuries, resulting in both Marx, and Durkheim to be concerned about similar effects and impacts among society (Appelrouth and Edles: 20, 77). Marx’s main focus was on class distinctions among the bourgeoisie and proletariat, forces and relations of production, capital, surplus value, alienation, labour theory of value, exploitation and class consciousness (Appelrouth and Edles: 20). Whereas Durkheim’s main focus was on social facts, social solidarity – mechanical solidarity and organic solidarity, anomie, collective conscience, ritual, symbol, and collective representations (Appelrouth and Edles: 77). For the purpose of this essay, we will be focusing on the concerns that arised among Karl Marx and Émile Durkheim towards the benefits and dangers of modern capitalism. Marx and Durkheim’s concepts are comparable in the sense that Marx focuses on alienation and classes, which is similar to Durkheim’s concepts of anomie and the division of labour. The beginning of the Industrial Revolution and technological advances can be seen as a key factor that gave emergence to modern capitalism, as the economic system was based on private ownership, mass production, and increased profits, resulting in people to be separated based on class and the division of labour, later giving rise to alienation and anomie. In this essay, I will explore Karl Marx’s and Émile Durkheim’s evaluation of the benefits and dangers that came about with the rise of modern capitalism. Through these two theorists and sociologists, we can analyze, discuss, compare, critique, and come to understand how modern cap...

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...fitting from modern capitalism as they increase profits through the labour theory of value, while exploiting the proletariats. On the other hand, the proletariats are at danger, as they become alienated through mass production and the labour theory of value does not work in their favour. Durkheim views the specialization of labour to be effective until it is pushed too far, resulting in a state of anomie. The division of labour can be seen as beneficial to society as it allows mass production, increased profits, and creativity and interests to be used among individuals, keeping their human identity. At the same time, the division of labour can be seen as dangerous, as over specialization leads to anomie. Through both Marx and Durkheim, we can conclude that modern capitalism has both its benefits and dangers towards individuals and societies in a capitalist economy.

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