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Marx vs. Weber: Capitalism – Compare and Contrast Essay

Marx and Weber are two key figures of science. Their outstanding works on capitalism are popular even nowadays. The fascinating thing is that their views on capitalism differ to a great extent. Do you need to compare and contrast Karl Marx’s and Max Weber’s approach towards the understanding of capitalism? Take a look at the given essay. You will get the key features of Marx’s and Weber’s theories.

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Capitalism has a tremendous impact on society. Hence, it has always been the most favorite topic of discussion for Marx and Weber. Being famous scientists, they managed to develop theories on one issue. However, their objectives were different. Marx focused his study on the economy. In contrast, Weber explored capitalism from a cultural perspective. Thus, the essay will examine the battle of Max Weber vs. Karl Marx through the light of their views on this social system.

What Is Capitalism?

A lot of people firmly believe that capitalism is a narrow term. They use it to describe the economic system. However, it has a much broader sense. Capitalism is a social system that focuses on defending peoples’ rights and freedom.

The roots of capitalism come from the end of the XIX century. This period was full of significant improvements. Basically, these advancements occurred in social and economic sectors. The following changes created a perfect environment for the progress of capitalist ideas.

Gradually entering the XX century, those social and economic advancements were still occurring. At this time the classical theorists Marx and Weber appeared on the global arena. The book The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism by Weber saw the world during that period. Löwith claims that the book caused a lot of debates. It intensified the dispute between Weber’s ideas and Marx’s political views (Löwith & Turner).

Karl Marx vs Max Weber

Marx’s and Weber’s views on communism are essential explanations of capitalist theories. They provide a solid ground for various discussions and debates.

There is a common opinion that Marx’s theory has nothing in common with Weber’s perception. However, it is not correct. Finding Marx’s and Weber’s similarities on capitalism is quite a challenging process. Thus, it should start by exploring their arguments separately.

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Weber on Capitalism

Modern sociology is quite progressive. However, it would not be so dynamic without a tremendous contribution of Max Weber. He is a famous founder of sociological science. The primary field of Weber’s work was the evolution of the social classes.

To analyze Max Weber’s approach towards the understanding of capitalism, we need to find the fundamental principles of his logic. The academic scholars give their explanation of Weber’s theory. They assume that the scientist connects social progress with rationalization concept.

According to Löwith and Turner, Weber developed his view on capitalism as opposed to Marx’s theory. Weber claimed that Marx’s position is too objective.  It involves a large dose of personal beliefs (Löwith & Turner, 54). However, modern scientists consider Weber’s theory more inconsistent than the vision of Karl Marx. According to Löwy, Weber rejected all social ideas. Nevertheless, he sometimes provided supportive arguments for private capital.

Weber’s opinion regarding bourgeois society plays a crucial role in exploring his theory. His overall perception of this capitalist society had a negative connotation. Nevertheless, Weber believed that capitalism is a more robust social form than communism, for instance. He claimed that this social order focuses on a rational lifestyle. That is what makes this social system effective and influential. The key difference between Weber’s and Marx’s theories was the concept of bureaucratic rationalization. Weber assumed that bureaucratic reasoning does not depend on the structures of ownership. Moreover, does not affect the mechanism of production.

Another difference between the ideas of these two classical theorists is linked to the ethical approach. Weber aimed to persuade people in the moral nature of capitalism. He underlined the significance of the enterprise. Moreover, he claimed that the fathomless desire for richness has nothing to do with this social order. In comparison with Weber’s ideas, Marx’s position was somewhat unethical. He believed that the materialistic conception is essential for capitalism. So, in his theory, he highlighted the idea of gains and greed.

The feature that makes people question the rightness of Weber’s ides is the controversy of his theory. On the one hand, he believed in the power of reasoning. Weber suggested combining rational bureaucracy with capitalism. It could prevent people from making illogical social actions. On the other hand, Weber indicated low levels of personal freedom. It was a direct cause of an unstructured capitalist mechanism.

Marx on Capitalism

Marx’s opinion on capitalism is opposite to Weber’s. His remarkable book Capital clearly represents his position. Marx strongly believed that capitalism harmed society. Unequal social division, poverty, injustice, etc. were the results of capitalism on society.

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In his outstanding work Capital, Karl Marx pointed out the unethical nature of capitalism. He claimed that the producers benefited from the labor force in an immoral way. Besides, the book Capital offers a negative perception of the entire political economy. It critiques the miserable place for the working class in bourgeois society. Marx claimed the capitalist system maltreated people.

Karl Marx managed to figure out the mechanism of stratification of the population. He found out that capitalist order divided the society into two central branches. The first one – the bourgeois who violated human rights. The second one – the proletariat. The members of the second social group were dealing with unfair treatment to earn some money to survive.

Furthermore, Karl Marx introduced his concept of an “iron cage.” He explained that capitalistic society created an environment for the oppression of people.  The bourgeois implemented a rigorous control over the social and material life of working people. As a result, workers appeared in the “iron cage”. Therefore, the concentration of the majority of funds was happening in a social group of bureaucrats. They were enriching themselves by making ordinary people poor and oppressed.

Also, Karl Marx introduced a concept of historical materialism. He firmly believed that society’s progress is a direct result of materialistic aspects. The philosophic ideas had nothing to do with social advancement. Marx’s theory of historical materialism put him in conflict with liberals. They claimed that social development happens because of the increase in the levels of human consciousness.

Overall, Marx’s position regarding capitalism was pessimistic. He suggested that a more dynamic and enlightened social model will replace the capitalistic society.  People all over the world accepted Marx’s ideas. As a result, they formed a separate group of Marx’s followers – Marxists.


Karl Marx and Max Weber have a tremendous impact on the development of sociology as a science. Their prominent works on capitalism explore this social structure on a deep level. Both scientists agreed on the innovative nature of this system.

Nevertheless, the objectives of Marx and Weber on capitalism are radically distinctive. Karl Marx developed his position from a rather negative perspective. He stated that capitalism leads to the degradation of economics. In contrast, Max Weber enlightened capitalism as a tool for social and scientific advancement. Thus, Marx vs. Weber’s opposition creates a solid ground for the discussions and arguments about capitalism.


Löwith, Karl, Turner, B.S. Max Weber and Karl Marx. 1993, New York: Routledge.

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Löwy, Michael. Marx, Weber and the Critique of Capitalism.  2006, Web.


❓ How did Karl Marx and Max Weber differ?

Firstly, Marx and Weber focused on different sectors. Marx examined the political economy through the lens of capitalism. Weber explored cultural and scientific development caused by the given social structure. Secondly, in the battle of Weber vs. Marx, Weber took a positive side. Marx described capitalism as a cause of economic degradation.

❓ What did Karl Marx and Max Weber agree on?

Both scientists agreed that capitalism as a completely original form of social structure. Marx’s opinion on this structure was negative. Nevertheless, he still accepted the innovative nature of capitalism. So, Karl Marx and Max Weber agreed on a rational way of wealth growth.

❓ What did Weber say about capitalism?

Max Weber highlighted the innovative spirit of this social system. This spirit created a perfect environment for cultural advancement. Moreover, Weber argued in favor of the human rights defenders. That is why he enlightened it from a positive perspective.

❓ How to start Karl Marx and Max Weber compare and contrast essay?

The best suggestion is to grab the reader’s’ attention. So, you can comment on their tremendous contribution to social development. Also, try to demonstrate the opposition between Karl Marx and Max Weber. But do it in a creative and catchy way. The readers will become curious and interested in your essay.

❓ What are the main ideas of Karl Marx's theory?

Karl Marx stated that capitalism makes society immoral. He explained the capitalist structure focuses all the capital in the hands of bureaucrats. Thus, the workers suffer from unfair treatment and overuse of human resources. Marx suggested that this social structure leads to economic degradation.

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