Difference Between Karl Marx and Max Weber: Ideologies

Karl Marx and Max Weber: Ideologies and examples

Karl Marx is a German Philosopher, economist, social scientist, and revolutionist. He made substantial contributions to the field of sociology also. Max Weber is also a German sociologist who has made great contributions to the field of sociology. Both Karl Marx and Max Weber were considered as pillars and founding fathers of sociology. Their contributions were also considered classical sociological theories. Both of them provide a scientific and systematic study to society. But their approaches and methodologies are different in various ways.

Basis of works: Karl Marx and Max Weber

Karl Marx believes that the economy is the base of everything or economy determines everything in the world. We can also term it as economic determinism. That is, the economy determines everything. Marx opines that economy is the substructure in society which is existed independently, on the other hand, all other matters or all other institutions, individual relationships and superstructure which depends on the substructure or the economic base. According to Marx, every society has modes of production and means of production and ownership of that production.  He applied it to all other social and this societies have two opposing and contradictory classes which are haves and have not’s.

Karl Marx vs Max Weber

On the other hand, Max Weber put a multidimensional view to understand and study society. He classified society not only by economic means but also through various other levels like life chances, market position, and consumption.


Marx and Weber also studied class structure but in different ways. As mentioned above, Karl Marx considers there are only two classes that exist in society. The haves and have not’s. He opines that every society has these two classes. He made a classification of capitalist society as Bourgeoisie and Proletariat. In which the bourgeoisies are the one who has wealth, control the means of production, and are also the owners of production. And the proletariats are the poor working class who only got minimum wages for their hard work. The capitalist exploits the working class to make more money and profit. Like that Karl Marx classified society into two. And he also said that these societies are always fighting each other and always an opposing class.

On the contrary, Max Weber provides us with a fourfold classification of class. There are propertied upper class, white-collar workers, petite bourgeoisie, and manual workers. This is the more diversified classification of class as compared to Marx.

Karl Marx suggests in capitalism relation between man and labour is perverted. That he believes the classes undergo revolutionary class struggle and might lead to polarization and ultimately it would result in a more classless society and later a socialist society will emerge.  He only believes this would happen. He also pointed out that a revolution is very necessary for society to break down the chains of capitalism. 

Weber has a different approach to the classless society. He opines that the proliferation of classes based on occupational differentiation is due to the division of labour in society. He is not considering that a revolution is inevitable to tackle down the class barriers of capitalist society.


As we know, Karl Marx took a conflict approach to study and view the societal structure. His methodology is widely known as dialectical materialism. This is also popularly known as Historical materialism. As mentioned above Marx seems the material factors that influence and shape the societal relationship, its function, and structure. And to explain his methodology, he put a classification of society or different stages of social progress based on economic organization. And the basis of his methodology was the whole society is an integrated whole, which means it is interdependent and interrelated. And every society is in a continuous state of progress and change, which means a change is inevitable for every society. And Marx explains that these changes or signs of progress are the results of quantitative or material aspects of society that ultimately transform our qualitative aspects (like family structure, institutions, relationships, organizations). And a society to progress the struggle or contradictions are necessary elements, without that the society will not progress. As mentioned before Karl Marx provides different stages of society. And he said that each society results in its destruction and leads to the formation of the next society. He believed that no matter what every society contain class contradiction to form the next society for its own sake. Hence, the material aspects or the economic activity is the central theme for Marx.

On the other hand, Max Weber took an interpretive methodology. He believes that we must look the society to explore its hidden meaning. That is to understand the societal relationships and meaning we have to interpret them. That is the meaning of the action of a person can be understood through interpretive grasp. He put forward a concept ideal type to help with interpretation. Weber believes that this ideal type said the sociologist to interpret and contrast the actual or real one in its common characteristics and attributes.

Verstehen is his revolutionary methodological tool. This is understood by its meaning. He tells that in social science we can understand a person’s activity or individual action and interpret the subjective motive of the actors. Simply put, we can understand the hidden motive of the actor who performs such action and secondly, it enables us to understand the subjective meaning of individual actions. 

From this, we can understand that Karl Marx and Max Weber have different methodologies to view society. In which Karl Marx has more conflict perspective to study society. On the other hand, Max Weber has an interpretive understanding of society. Karl Marx’s view is narrowed down to the economic perspective. On the other hand, Max Weber has a wide perspective to view society. His methodology includes all fields, like religion, political institution, social system, etc.


We know that the stratification that Karl Marx put forward is based on Class. In every society the intensity of stratification was increased due to the property ownership, incensing skill of people, production, profit, etc. Karl Marx said that this lead to stratification in society. In which the Haves will exploit the have not’s to get more profit by exploiting them. They will make the workers work more hours and make more money. On the other hand, the workers didn’t get enough money for their necessities. Economic inequality results in stratification according to Karl Marx. The structure of class stratification to him was haves and have not’s. He also believed in class polarization. Karl Marx also believed that the stratification will result in class conflict and lead to socialism and at last led to communism, a classless society.

On the other hand, Max Weber said that the basis of stratification is not only the economic activities. The classes which he means the people who have the same status in the workplace or the production process, the power which he means political power, and status groups, are the basis of stratification. The structure of class according to him was propertied class (who have the means of production like land), acquisition class (skilled and semi-skilled workers), petite bourgeoisie, and manual workers. Unlike Marx, Weber did not believe in Class polarization. From above we can understand that Max Weber focuses on political factors. He believes that the economy is not the only factor that determines class and stratification.

Views on religion

Both view religion differently. But the similarity is that both of them connected religion with capitalism. Karl Marx believes s that religion also has its underlying motive to serve capitalism. And religion is serving the needs of the capitalist. For him, religion indirectly spread the ideals of capitalism. He opines that religion does not serve the workers but intentionally help the capitalist to spread the ideology of the ruling class. By doing that the workers will never question their status, and exploitation, but continue to work for the capitalist. As in Karl Marx’s words religion is the opium for masses.

On the other hand, Max Weber believes that God is all above and it determines the actions of individuals. He had done this through his famous work ‘Protestant Ethic and Spirit of Capitalism’. He means that the ideology of Protestants helps to grow capitalism. They tend to develop capitalism by accumulating wealth. He also compares other religious communities to arrive at his conclusion.


From the above discussion, we can understand that their views are different. For Marx, the basis of all society was the economy. The economy is the structure where all others are dependent. And there will be always two opposing classes that fight for means of production. A person’s class is based on the position and function he had in the process of production. And there are two classes one is a Capitalist who owns the production and the other is a worker who sells their labour. And their conflict will change society.

On the other hand, Max Weber does not support Marx that there are always two classes in society. According to Max, there will be more than two classes. To Max Weber, Status is more important than class in society. He less concentrates on class consciousness. 

Also Read: Durkheim – Biography and Works




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