Structures Promoting Social Cohesion, Marx & Durkheim Comparison
In works by Durkheim and Marx, it is apparent that both believe social structures-- that have been reproduced throughout generations-- are controlling individuals' behaviors. Because of this idea of control and power, Marx and Durkheim similarly were concerned with the emergence and convergence of capitalism. However, Durkheim saw the division of labor as necessary for social cohesion, while Marx believed the division of labor contradicts social cohesion. Another difference is that Marx believed people were naturally good and society is naturally harmonious, while Durkheim believed people needed to be regulated. Although Durkheim seems to be apologetic to the status quo, and it seems that Marx was concerned about the well-being of society's members, both agreed that it is society's responsibility to assist the needs of all members.
Subsequently, both theorists believes that social structures-- that have been reproduced throughout generations-- are controlling individuals' behaviors. For example, Durkheim is quoted "I fulfill obligations which are defined in laws and custom and which are external to myself and my actions...I have received [duties] through education" (Longhofer & Winchester, 2012, pp. 7.) Durkheim believed the social facts, ways of thinking, acting, and feeling, that are external to us, making us capable of acting or restricting our action. These social facts include norms and values taught within school, language, religion, and law. Marx certainly agreed, and may call these social facts the "modes of production", and that these modes uphold the "the ideas of the ruling class" because the ruling class owns the material force of society. Thus, "the class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production" (Longofer & Winchester, 2012, pp. 118.) In other words, both theorists perceived the power of the capitalists to restrict our free will.
Another similarity between the two, is that Durkheim accepted social currents and movements as necessary when the division of labor no longer serves to function solidarity and cohesion. Marx similarly believed transformation of society was inevitable and necessary for social change. Marx thought that transformation was a response to the contradiction of society. This means, that although society is perceived as democratic, there are certainly contradictions within this democracy where inequality still persists. From this perspective, one other similarity, was that capitalism becomes alienating. For Durkheim, "the increase in division of labor is therefore due to the fact that the social segments losing their individuality" (Longofer & Winchester, 2012, pp. 27.) Marx said the exploitive nature of the modes of production, become alienating because the capitalist buys your productive capacity by calculating how much your labor is worth. From this, we lose the meaning of the product we produce, while we become the product or commodity ourselves. Instead, we are being sold. The theorists may also agree that we can be just as happy, if not happier within the working class rather than the capitalist.
To converge the similarities and their differences, Marx and Durkheim were both atheists and agreed that religion played an influential part within society; but had differing views of religion's purpose. For example, Durkheim believed religion to be "nothing more than the collective representations of a society" (Longofer & Winchester, 2012, pp. 5.) In other words, religion creates social solidarity and cohesiveness through the shared symbols and beliefs of society. Durkheim would say these groups are worshipping the social order or structure of society. It is this precisely, that Marx did not accept religion as a means of social solidarity and cohesiveness, because religious ideology was upheld and represented by the ruling class. In fact, when we look back at history, the Spanish Conquistadors and others used religion to justify enslavement and colonization. Although not mentioned in the text, Marx is famously quoted: "religion is the opiate of the masses."
Although Durkheim and Marx agree the shared norms, values, statuses, and roles are reinforced through institutions, Marx argues these institutions increase division of labor, which further upholds the capitalist ideology. To Durkheim, the division of labor is necessary for social cohesion, while Marx believed the division of labor contradicts social cohesion. Durkheim may argue, however, that if the division of labor does not produce solidarity, it is because the individual is in a state of anomie. Anomie to Marx, may instead be referred to as a conflict reaction between the individuals disconnection to the institutions.
Another difference, Marx believed the problem with capitalism was its instability, which could lead to a crises, alienation, fetishism, and material life. For example, Marx suggested work is alienating as mentioned above, and that capitalists are too incompetent for this to continue. But, Durkheim would ask: how did this division of labor continue to remain the derived action if it is unstable? Instead, Durkheim perceived capitalism (or division of labor) as a stable force. To add to this argument, Marx believed people were naturally good and society is naturally harmonious, while Durkheim believed people needed to be regulated. Durkheim wanted a regulative force to play the role to enforce the collective consciousness of authority or justice. From my own perspective, I would agree that individuals are inherently good and do not need regulation, and it is through education that we learn hate, crime, and the like. Also, from my perspective, the ruling class owns and creates the laws, thus the laws have become exploitative towards the working/poor class.