What is the significance for economic anthropology of the work of Marx and Durkheim?
The works of Karl Marx and Emile Durkheim have proved that they were indeed the finding fathers of modern social theory during the late 19th to the early 20th century. Along with others (i.e. Weber, Simmel, Veblen etc.) they had laid down the foundations of our understanding of the relationships that are held between culture and society on one hand, and economic activity on the other hand. Marx saw economics in terms of conflicts between different interest groups, which he referred to as ‘classes’, over rights to various facets of the processes of production, and the effect that those conflicts had on determining other areas of culture. Durkheim for his part, was more interested in the division of labour, classifications organised around social distinctions and how economic activity might be understood in terms of various forms of social solidarity.
Karl Marx’s significance
Karl Marx lived from 1818 – 1883, during which he wrote on history, philosophy, politics and economics. His work is usually recognised through his several publications, including The Communist Manifesto (1848) and Das Kapital (Capital) (1867-1894). Marx’s work in economics laid the foundation for the recent understanding of labour and its relations to capitalist system, and previous economists and academics (Schumpeter, 1952; Hicks, 1974) believe that his work has influenced much of the consequent economic thought, as well as more recent academics (Unger, 2007). Marx’s theories about society, politics as well as economics encourage the notion that human societies progress through a conflict between an ownership of class that controls production and a dispossessed labouring class that provides the labour for production, often termed as the class struggle. The amalgamation of society, politics and economics is better known as Marxism, as he was of the first to appropriate such arenas into one Marx did not see these as progressive steps that each and every culture must progress through, but as being the advancement of historically dependent communities and their modes of production.
The modes of production mould the foundation or structure of a society. This foundation governs the superstructure (governments, laws and other political and legal apparatus), from which both determine the ideology (including religions, philosophies, and the ideals which conquer in a society at any given time). Class struggle is the crucial mover for such a scheme to progress in stages. Change is inevitable, which means that changes would occur and that the classes will be realigned. Although, the ruling classes have an assigned interest in continuing their power and will look to repel such change, though in the long run, by any means necessary. A key tool of the upper classes is to amplify mystification in ideology, which consequences in the false consciousness of the working class. Consequently,...