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To What Extent Does Weber's Account Of 'the Spirit Of Capitalism' Represent A Challenge To Marx's View Of History?

1077 words - 4 pages

To what extent does Weber's account of 'the spirit of capitalism' represent a challenge to Marx's view of history?It is often contended that Weber is 'debating with the ghost of Karl Marx' and this is no less true than on their views of history. Marx's view of history arose in opposition to the philosopher Hegel's view of history, who was interested in the history of ideas, so Marx developed what is now known as historical materialism. Writing around half a century later, Weber accounts 'the spirit of capitalism', developing the belief that unlike Marx, ideology does have a function in the development of history, rather than being 'independent of existence of any political or religious nonsense. '(1) In order to see to what extent Weber's account of the 'spirit of capitalism' challenges Marx's view of history, I will be focusing on the emergence of modern capitalism and the differing views of Marx and Weber. I will first be portraying how Marx viewed history, followed by showing how with the use of the specific ideology of Protestantism by Weber, challenge's Marx's view.In order to determine the extent that Weber challenges Marx's view of history with his account of the 'spirit of capitalism' we must first gain an understanding of Marx's view of history. Marx has often been labelled a historical materialist, but what is historical materialism? The basic idea of historical materialism can be found in the sentence: 'it is not the consciousness existence of men that determines their existence, but, on the contrary, their social existence that determines their consciousness.'(2) Man is defined by his mode of production, his life-process determining what he thinks. This principle means that the procession of history and changes in society is determined by changes in the economic superstructure through changes in the productive forces and thereby changes to the production relations. The productive forces being the way people organise themselves in order to gain their needs and the production relations, the frame of society in which they do this(3). Development of history has occurred through development of the division of labour and thereby ownership, through tribal ownership, ancient communal and state ownership, feudal ownership and now capitalism(1). Marx sees capitalism as another form of exploitation of labourers by the ruling class, whose ability to increase the productivity of labour is derived from the nature of the system forcing capitalists to reinvest in production(4). He sees capitalism as having developed from increasing division of labour and therefore private property, its 'identical expression'(1) with the social and political structure following as expressions of the changes in production.Weber does not deny that economic considerations play a role in the determination of history and the development of society into modern capitalism, but he does challenge Marx's one sided 'economic determination' view and dismisses historical...

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