* Compare and contrast Marx and Durkheim
Despite their ultimate dissimilarity, the theories of Marx and Durkheim share certain commonalities. Each expressed the perspective of a 19th century, western European intellectual observing society’s transition into the industrial age. As macro- structural theorists, Marx and Durkheim regarded the social structure itself as their unit of analysis, with social order and social change the focus of their observations. Both considered the division of labor to be central to those issues. Additionally, both used law as a lens through which to evaluate social dynamics. Finally, as engaged theorists, both Marx and Durkheim were not content simply to observe the trajectory of social change. They intended to affect it, as well.
Durkheim held society to be a natural condition, distinct from, and greater than, the sum of its parts. Indeed, society does not emerge from the interaction of individuals, he argued. Rather, it pre-exists the individual. It is the individual, in fact, that is constructed by society. It is only because society exists that the individual can emerge to distinguish himself from it.
Durkheim further believed that humans are, by nature, creatures of boundless and insatiable desire, who not only benefit from, but require the regulative influence of society in the form of the collective conscience to hold their rampant appetites in check. As Durkheim demonstrated in Suicide, a breakdown in social regulation can have catastrophic consequences. Absent the regulatory hand of the collective, man is adrift in a state of relatively normless anomie—lacking moral guidance—enslaved by all-consuming, insatiable and ultimately destructive desires. But, only insofar as he is both a part and a subject of the collective does man realize his higher self. In a Durkheimian nutshell then—man needs society.
Like Durkheim, Marx accepted the notion that human beings are born into and shaped by an on-going...