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Karl Marx and Emile Durkheimcitizens - Essay Example

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Karl Marx and Emile Durkheim were both observers of their societies, having many ideas as to how societies evolve and how citizens fit into their surroundings. According to Marx, "People value objects that they can use, and most things people can use are produced through human labor" (Tucker)…
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Karl Marx and Emile Durkheim were both observers of their societies, having many ideas as to how societies evolve and how citizens fit into their surroundings. According to Marx, "People value objects that they can use, and most things people can use are produced through human labor" (Tucker). Marx believed that people do not value objects according to the amount of labor that it takes to create it. Instead they focus on how useful the object is in their society, making goods the basis for how their society is developed and run. On the other hand, Durkheim held to the belief that the individual himself does not create a society, but the way that they interact with one another does. He believes that the individual understands and fits into their society through "Their understanding of religious origin; they are social affairs and the product of collective thought" (Giddens). While the two philosophers had differing opinions on how a society is formed, they are similar in that they both studied how the individual fits into and reacts to their societies.
Marx's theory of "fetishism of commodities" first introduced in his main work Capital, focuses on the capitalist society's obsession with goods and its devaluing of labor. He believes, "Commodities are seen as having power over the people who produce them" (Tucker). Therefore members in a capitalist society begin to function in a cycle of laboring for goods. They strive for more and more commodities and work harder and harder to get them, losing focus on the true value of the commodities. This kind of society loses the relationship between the producer and the consumer because the producer only sees the commodity according to the work that he put in to produce it while the consumer values the commodity at face value since they are unaware of what kind of labor went into producing it. Marx's theory reveals a society that is formed out of and run by commodities. He believes that commodities are the reason why a society exists in the first place.
Durkheim holds the belief that individuals are not responsible for their society, but the way in which they interpret it and react to it creates the basis for how it functions and evolves. He holds the opinion that the way in which citizens react to their surroundings is dictated by fundamental religious beliefs. He says, "Religion is eminently social. Religious representations express collective realities. Religious rites are a manner of acting which arises from assembled groups and are destined to excite certain mental states in these groups" (Giddens). Therefore he believes that religion is the bases for an individual's morals and in turn how they will react to others and their society.
In short, Marx and Durkheim have different beliefs as to how a society functions and how its citizens affect it. Marx believes that citizens are ruled by commodities. He thinks that commodities are the grounding force behind a society's very existence. Durkheim believes that citizens play no active role in the development of their society, but that the way they react to what already exists is what keeps their society alive and what dictates how it evolves. Both philosophers offer up very thought provoking arguments, but with differing opinions as to how a society is formed and how citizens function within it.
Works Cited
1. Giddens, Anthony. Emile Durkheim: Selected Writings. Cambridge University Press. June 1972. New Yrok.
2. Tucker, R. The Marx Engels Reader. Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc. May 1978. Seattle. Read More
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