Comparing the Theories of Durkheim and Marx
Emile Durkheim and Karl Marx were two of history’s most influential theorists. While both of these classical theorists played a significant role in the development of social science, their views on social issues differed greatly.
Emile Durkheim was the first sociologist in France to hold an academic post. Much of his career was focused on promoting sociology as a “legitimate and significant academic discipline”. He was a French functionalist who looked at sociology in a scientific way. He related a functional society to the human body, with each part having a different job but as a whole, forming a functional organism. Durkheim believed that everyone and everything in society had a specific purpose/job that allowed everything to function. He stated that members of society essentially all had the same goals and attitudes (desired a nice job, to live comfortably, have children…etc) and that institutions such as marriage, education, government, politics, and religion all worked together to create a functional society based on a consensus of values. According to Durkheim, this consensus of values is what made cooperation possible. Durkheim believed that society was on a designated evolutionary path that couldn’t be changed or altered by any means. If an individual was unhappy with the current conditions of society, the best advice was to simply be patient, wait it out, and the circumstances would eventually change.
Durkheim greatly valued the division of labor in society, seeing it as a mechanism to connect members of society. He acknowledged that extreme individualism did indeed produce disruptive effects, but countered that popular concern with the potential cohesiveness of society that would result from a division of labor. He argued that the greater the individual specialization, the greater the individual’s dependence on society. For instance, as one person fills a specific roll (such as doctor,...