6 Pages, Grade: 2.1 (B)
Both Marx and Weber articulated theories of social change, and advanced explanations for the origin of capitalism. Who was right? Or can the two be synthesised?
The study of capitalism is a predominant theme in both Marx’s and Weber’s writings. In conjunction with Marx’s “Capital”, “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism” by Weber constitutes one of the two great theories of capitalism. However, one has to note that both have written a great deal on the theories of capitalism. Both writers focus on the historical and causal forces shaping capitalist society, but where Marx believed in “economic determinism”, Weber also believed in so-called “non-economic” factors of capitalism. He based his analysis on a number of interconnections he saw between capitalist development and the influences of various spheres of society such as religion, law and political institutions. I am going to give an overview of the two different explanations for the origin of capitalism by Marx and Weber. Further I am going to investigate who of the two was right or whether the two theories can be synthesised.
Marx believed that history could be understood in terms of underlying laws of economic development, and he thought these laws shaped the material conditions of society. Some take the view that Marx advocated a kind of economic determinism in his approach to history and social causation. Economic determinism refers to the doctrine which holds that historical circumstances are determined by a sequence of economic events connected to the act of production. It includes the belief that history can be understood in terms of laws of economic development, and that the economic foundations of society act as historical determinants which place the economy at the centre of the development of society. Marx further reduced social life to economy, stating that political, legal and religious institutions exist on top of the underlying economic base. Marx’s economic writings make up one of the most comprehensive contributions to his social thought. His first major economic work entitled “A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy” was written in 1859. While this work served as an outline of his major economic study of capitalism, the most comprehensive contribution was the three volume work on the origin and history of capitalist society entitled “Capital”. (Morrison, 1995)
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