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Perspectives on the Central Social Problem in Modern Society

Social ills plaguing modern society have been a basic concern for many prominent philosophers throughout the ages. Marx, Weber, and Durkheim provide unique outlooks on the central social problem, which will be further discussed in more detail and applied to the ongoing pandemic. Marx saw the history of humankind as the history of class struggle. The philosopher argued that the advancement of capitalism led to the inevitable formation and segregation of two classes: the bourgeoisie, or the capitalist class, and the majority, or the proletariat. The bourgeoisie took control over productive forces, which left the proletariat at their mercy. Now the majority had to sell their labor while becoming increasingly alienated from the process, its results, and other human beings.

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Like Marx, Weber criticized capitalism while investigating its role in social evolution. His philosophical musings mainly revolve around the rationalization of society. As observed by Weber, a rational society was a product of a paradigmatic shift when people drifted from traditional values. Instead, they became more concerned with efficiency, predictability, calculability, and dehumanization. For instance, achieving the maximum results with a minimum effort became normalized as well as controlling human behavior through technology and distilling achievements to numbers and figures. Weber opined that gradual rationalization of society led to disenchantment of the world. The philosopher does not consider disenchantment strictly positive or negative. On the one hand, it arguably led to the promotion of scientific knowledge and individual responsibility. However, on the other hand, disenchantment of the world meant the desacralization of many previously important institutions and traditions.

Durkheim’s views on the main social pathology are somewhat close to those of Weber. The scholar put forward the concept of anomie or “normlessness,” which to him, characterized modern society. Durkheim described the uprooting and breakdown of values and traditions that he saw as the cause behind the disappearance of healthy bonds between an individual and the community. Interestingly enough, he saw capitalism, and especially division of labor, as one of the contributing factors to the rise of anomie. According to him, the Industrial revolution led to the egotistical pursuit of one’s interests in lieu of complying with the group.

The Covid-19 pandemic proved to be an unprecedented event that exposed many social ills. From the Marxist standpoint, it showed the privilege gap between the classes and their access to goods, emergency services, and medical help. For instance, the American celebrity culture took a hard hit when the rich and famous were among the first to get tested. They could afford to stay at home as their million-dollar fortunes were tiding them over for months. In contrast, millions of Americans were losing their jobs, running out of savings, and applying for unemployment benefits.

Weber’s rationalization of society found a pessimistic reflection in how corporations treated their employees during the Covid-19 outbreak. The world’s largest e-commerce company, Amazon is known for its harsh working conditions. In the pursuit of profits, the US-based corporation uses a system of alerts if an employee stumbles and makes a quick pause in between mundane, repetitive tasks. During the pandemic, Amazon received a lot of backlash for failing to enforce health measures, essentially denying its workers their right to safety (Guendelsberger). Such policies are textbook rationalization that seeks efficiency, and calculability at the expense of workers’ well-being.

Lastly, during the pandemic, it is possible to observe the concept of Durkheim’s anomie in action. Social distancing and wearing masks have been the top two measures that were found to be efficient against the spread of the virus. However, almost every country that attempted to enforce them faced a great deal of reluctance. It is safe to conclude that many people are driven by their own interests and desires. While not wanting to give up their comfort, they endanger others and do not pull their weight in fighting against the virus.

Work Cited

Guendelsberger, Emily. “I Worked at an Amazon Fulfillment Center; They Treat Workers Like Robots.” Time, 2019, Web.

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StudyCorgi. 2022. "Perspectives on the Central Social Problem in Modern Society." June 29, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/perspectives-on-the-central-social-problem-in-modern-society/.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) 'Perspectives on the Central Social Problem in Modern Society'. 29 June.

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