Karl Marx’s and Max Weber’s Ideas Case Study

September 29, 2020 by Essay Writer

Marx’s description of bourgeoisie’s Free Trade

Marx and Engels discuss that the bourgeoisie is the most important force in history. Marx’s reason is that the bourgeoisie has carried out more development than all other societies that ever lived before them. Marx and Engels (14) discuss that the developments made by the bourgeoisie are greater than those left behind by the Egyptians and the Romans during their revolutionary times. According to Marx & Engels (14), the bourgeoisie has invented many things, but they have not been able to eliminate class struggles. The class struggles have been clearly outlined between two groups, bourgeoisie and the proletariat, under the progress of the bourgeoisie. Free Trade has emerged as a dominant feature of the bourgeoisie that is more valued than all other freedoms that were pursued by ancient societies.

The bourgeoisie refers to a group of people who emerged from the working class to become owners of the factors of production. The groups that became the bourgeoisie once lived in cities, and other small-sized towns. They emerged to own workshops in the towns that they lived. According to Marx and Engels, the bourgeoisie came out of the “serfs of the Middle Ages, the chartered burghers of the earliest towns” (14). The dictionary meaning of a serf is a person who works for a lord under the feudal system. The feudal system is where an individual owns many acres of land and has many workers. The basis of the bourgeoisie’s power is mass production and large markets. The bourgeoisie’s initial markets were the towns in which they lived. Marx and Engels discuss that “the bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionizing the instrument of production” (15). They are constantly looking for new markets for their products. The bourgeoisie’s method of production has eliminated competition through changing production into more efficient methods.

Marx and Engels considered the bourgeoisie to be revolutionary because they find new solutions to old and new problems that they have encountered through their ‘Free Trade’ agreement. Marx and Engels (15) elaborate that the bourgeoisie has assigned a cash payment to most interactions between man and man. Man’s time is valued by generating cash.

The bourgeoisie is revolutionary because of how it responds to the crises. The bourgeoisie’s system is prone to periodic crises because of its symbolic feature known as over-production. The bourgeoisie produces massively and then looks for markets for its products. It has sought new markets or new ways to extract more from customers in old markets (Marx and Engel16). The bourgeoisie may have destroyed some productive forces to save its existence. However, Marx and Engels (16) consider the solutions to the crises as a delay that increases the extent of areas that will be affected by future crises.

Marx and Engels characterize the role of money as increasing the speed of exchange of cash and commodities. The increased speed of exchange gave rise to the rapid development of industries and cities. Commodities could be exchanged easily, which created increased demand in new and old markets. Old markets were areas where the bourgeoisie lived, and new markets were lands that were discovered for exchange. Money made over-production to be reasonable because money could be stored. Marx and Engels identify that over-production, also known as a glut of products, was considered irrational before the bourgeoisie engaged in mass production. The bourgeoisie exploits old and new markets to clear its over-production. The money provided a faster means to clear the stock of goods.

The proletariat was a new group of the lower working class. It was the group that was employed by the bourgeoisie after the bourgeoisie’s revolution. The bourgeoisie was initially the working class who worked for the lords. They used their expertise and savings to open workshops, which they advanced to mass production by innovating new and efficient methods of production. The proletariats were employed by the bourgeoisie after they had been pushed out of business by the bourgeoisie’s productive system. The bourgeoisie’s efficient methods of production were more competitive than the proletariats’ production.

The proletariats could not access better means of production to stay in business because the bourgeoisie paid them just enough to sustain their lives, and to feed their families. Marx and Engels describe that the wages of a workman “are restricted, almost entirely, to the means of subsistence that he requires for maintenance and the propagation of his race” (17). The low payment prevented the proletariat from advancing his trade. The proletariats were once isolated individuals who worked in their workshops without engaging in mass production.

Marx and Engels (17) explain that as soon as they are paid, other groups of the bourgeoisie arrived at their doorstep, demanding the payment of monthly bills. It left the proletariat with nothing for innovation, but to rely on providing the bourgeoisie with labor.

Marx and Engels describe that the bourgeoisie has advanced to almost all continents. They describe them by the spread of industrialization, transport, and communication networks. Marx and Engels state that “the discovery of America, the rounding of the Cape… the East-Indian and Chinese markets… opened up fresh grounds for the rising bourgeoisie” (14). The rounding of the Cape signifies that their influence had reached the furthest end of Africa. In another part, Marx and Engels elaborated that “in proportion as industry, commerce, navigation, railways extended, in the same proportion the bourgeoisie developed” (14). They use the expansion of industry, trade, and transport networks as a measure for the advancement of the bourgeoisie.

Weber gives credit to the Protestant sects for creating self-interest

Weber (1) describes that association with a Protestant sect was enough to assure the morality of an individual. Weber uses the Baptist Church and the Presbyterian Church to form his argument. He uses three examples of cases that association with a religious sect was considered creditworthiness. In one of the cases, Weber uses the situation where an individual who wanted to open a bank was baptized under the Baptism sect. His baptism gave him creditworthiness in the perception of the whole society because he had been baptized among the strictest of all sects. Baptism Church did a thorough review of an individual’s character before they endorsed him as their own.

Creditworthiness through the affiliation with a religious sect also came through the guarantees that the sect offered to their members. Weber uses a part of a verse found in Luke chapter 6: 35 which states that “lend to them without expecting to get anything back” as one of the core principles of the sects” (2). Sect members could bail out a member stuck in debt, which supported their creditworthiness.

The difference between membership in a Protestant sect and membership in the Catholic Church was the guaranteed moral character attributed to membership in a sect. Weber explains that a church “lets grace shine over the righteous and unrighteous alike” (3). Weber meant the Catholic Church and other churches when he said a ‘church.’ He further explains that “affiliation with the church is, in principle, obligatory and hence proves nothing about the member’s qualities” (Weber 3). It meant the Catholic Church by Weber calling it ‘the church.’ Weber emphasizes that the Catholic Church membership was available to everyone. As a result, it could not be used to ascertain that an individual has a principled moral character.

On the other hand, the sects based their membership on moral character. They verified an individual’s character by doing a background check of the individual’s behavior. Members of sects had to behave appropriately to the sects’ standard, or their membership could be nullified.

One’s status and moral standing were judged by how successful one were in business, and attaining higher levels of education. Weber explains that “the America tradition was to honor the self-made man more than the heir” (4). The sects honored those who succeeded in business as a form of grace they had received from a higher power. Success in business showed that an individual was intelligent in running it profitably. In America, people came to be recognized by the clubs in which they were members. The most recognized clubs were associated with distinguished colleges. Weber explains that honor came through “affiliation with a genteel fraternity in a distinguished college, formerly with a distinguished sect” (4). Weber explains that men of honor no longer shook hands with workers in the farms because they were not their equals. The men of honor were either successful businessmen or professionals associated with higher learning institutions.

Weber (4) explains that money can make individuals gain recognition not only in America but everywhere else in the world. However, he makes it clear that honor cannot be gained through acquiring riches in American society. Honor is gained through joining the renowned clubs in America.

The difference between Germany and America is that one can be respected for being born into an honorable family in Germany. In Germany, the person who gains wealth can purchase honor for his grandchildren. Himself, he will remain the person from a lower social class. In Germany, one has to purchase a feudal estate and transform it into a modern production system to gain honor for his grandchildren. In America, inherited wealth does not receive the same recognition (Weber 4). One has to acquire wealth by himself to gain recognition, although honor is gained through the professionals’ clubs.

In his comparison between the guilds and the sects of the Middle Ages, Weber (5) attempts to say that the Protestant sects were instrumental in shaping today’s way of looking at creditworthiness, and inspiring self-interests as the spirit of capitalism. According to Weber (5), the guilds did not like individual success, and because of that, they cannot be credited with the success of the self-interest drive of capitalism. The guilds were groups formed by people who engaged in a similar trade or production of similar commodities. The guilds are similar to modern boards that govern the standards in each industry. The guilds felt that individual success paid tribute to individuals instead of the guild who govern the industry. Capitalism honors individual success in a manner that had been started by the sects and later accepted by the clubs.

Works Cited

Marx, Karl, and Fredrick Engels. Marx/Engels Selected Works, Vol. One. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1969. Marxist Organization Archive. Web.

Weber, Max. The Protestant Ethics and the Spirit of Capitalism, New York: Routledge, 1930. Print.

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