Powered by ProofFactor - Social Proof Notifications

Understanding the Theories of Karl Marx and Max Weber on Capitalism and its impact on Popular Culture.

May 28, 2023 | 0 comments

blog banner

May 28, 2023 | Essays | 0 comments


Classical sociological theories according to Weber & Parsons (1964) are theories of great ambition and scope that either has roots in the prevailing culture during that period or were created between 1800s and 1900s in Europe. Many classical theorists played significant roles in sociology development, and they include theorists like Karl Marx, Max Weber amongst others. Moreover, these theorists’ ideas continue being relevant to today’s sociological theory because contemporary sociologists refer to them. These sociological classical theories have become classics because they have vast application and centrally deal with important social issues. This essay will use two classical sociological theorists, Karl Marx, and Max Weber, and apply two problem to a social problem or issue. Specifically, the essay will focus on how capitalism dictates what is popular culture and how popular culture then supports capitalism in relation to the theories of Karl Marx and Max Weber.

The Class Theory by Karl Marx

The class theory proposed by Karl Max is founded on the premise that all existing society’s history is the class struggles history. According to Karl Marx’s view, ever since the society of the human race emerged from its relatively undifferentiated and primitive state, it has fundamentally remained divided between clashing classes in the pursuit of different class interests. That is, between buyers and sellers, exploiters and the exploited, instead of functional collaboration. The confrontation of power and class interest that they bring in their wake are to Karl Marx’s central determinant of historical and social process (Marx & Kamenka 1983).

The analysis of Marx centers continually on how the relationships between people are shaped by their positions in relation to their production means. That is, by their varied access to scarce power and resources. He noted that the unequal access should not under all conditions and at all times lead to active class struggles. However, Marx considered it axiomatic and that the class conflict potential in every differentiated society is inherent, since a society like that generates conflicts of interest systematically between groups and persons located differently within social stricture, and more specifically, in relation to production means (Marx & In Caute 1967). He was concerned with the manner in which particular social structure positions tended to shape incumbents social experiences and to predispose them to oriented actions to improve the fate collectively.

According to Marx & Kamenka (1983), class interest does not begin from the beginning but develop through people’s exposure to occupying certain positions in a society or to social circumstances. Therefore, in early industrial enterprises, personal interest of a group of people who are unknown to each other was divided by competition. However, their wages maintenance, which was a common interest they had against their employers brought them together. This implies that separate individuals come together to form a class as far as they have a common goal or battle against another class; otherwise these individuals are very hostile to each other as competitors.

To Marx’s class theory, the stratification systems basically rest on means of production to aggregates of men. The major modern classes according to Marx are the owners of capital, labor power, and the landowners whose respective income sources are profits, wages, and ground rent. Basically, classes are aggregate of individuals performing the same function in the production organization. However, self-conscious classes which is distinct from aggregate of individuals who share a common fate, their need for emergence depend on many conditions which includes communication network, some form of organization, a common enemy, and masses of people concentration (Marx & Caute 1967). Weber& Kalberg (2005) also echoed that classes that are self-conscious only arise when and if there is a convergence of material and ideal interests that is a combination of political and economic demands with ideological and moral quests.

Based on the same reasoning, Marx asserted that the working class was bound to develop consciousness of class once there were appropriate conditions. Moreover, he contended that the bourgeoisie was incapable of developing a general consciousness of their collective interests because of the competitive relations that are inherent between capitalist producers (Marx & Kamenka 1983).

Theory of Social Class by Max Weber

This only marginally differed from Marx in his definition of men who (i) “have specific causal component in common of their life chances as far as (ii) this component is exclusively represented by economic interests in the good possession and income opportunities, and (iii) it is represented under commodity’s conditions or labor market (Weber & Parsons 1964). Weber further argued that communal class action will come out only when and if the connections between the consequences and causes of the situation of the class become transparent.” Moreover, Weber’s stratification theory differs with that of Marx when he introduced the “status group” category.

Classification of men into the categories is based on their patterns of consumptions rather than their position in the process of production or in the market. According to Weber & Kalberg (2005), Marx had overlooked such categorization relevance because his attention was exclusive to the sphere of production. Contrary to the classes which may not or may be communal groupings, normally status groups are communities, held together by proper lifestyles notions and by honor and social esteem accorded by others to them. Associated with this are restrictions expectations on social intercourse with those not belonging to that circle and the social distance assumed towards inferiors. In his typology, sociological notion of Weber on social category is dependent on definitions of social relationships. That is, a status group can only exist to the extent the others accords its members degrading or prestige, which alienates them from the rest of the social actors and creates the social distance necessary between “us” and “them”( Weber & Parsons 1964).

There are high correlations empirically between standing in the status order and in the class. For instance, in the capitalist society, the class that is economically ascendant will also acquire high status in the course of time; yet in principle, the propertyless and the propertied people may be in the same status group. In the view of Weber & Kalberg (2005), every society is categorized into strata and groupings with lifestyles that are distinct and world views. While sometimes class groupings and status may conflict, in others their members may fairly accept stable subordination and superordination fairly.

Regarding the analysis of power in the society, he again introduced the notion of pluralism. Despite the fact that he agrees with Karl Marx in certain areas, Weber extends and refines analytical scheme of Marx. According to Karl Marx, power is always rooted in economic relations, implying that those owning the means of production exercise political power either indirectly or directly. Weber concurs that the quite often, for example, in the modern capitalist world, the predominant form is economic power. However, he objects that economic owner emergence may be an as a result of the power that exists on the grounds. For instance, men who are commanding large beaurocratic organizations may get control of great economic power even if they are salaried employees (Weber & Parsons 1964).

Popular Culture and Capitalism

The essay will apply the two of the two theorists, Karl Marx and Max Weber to a social problem of capitalism. Specifically, it will focus on how capitalism dictates what is popular culture and how popular culture then supports capitalism. An ideology is constructed belief system which is then embedded in the consciousness of the public through the media (Marx & Kamenka 1983). The information from the media to the world usually in support of the dominant ideology such as capitalism.

The dominant ideology the essay will discuss is capitalism which is capital production and surplus value consumption as a life goal. Marx & Caute (1967) indicated that Marxism is a socio-political and economic world view that contains political ideology within it for how to improve and change society by socialism implementation. Marx believed that in class struggles, social change takes place because of the struggles between different classes in a society who are competing constantly to improve their conditions. The analysis of Marxism leads to the conclusion that capitalism of workers, the dominant economic management form currently (proletariat), leads to the proletariat oppression who spend their lives working for the bourgeoisie benefit and also makes up the majority of the world population (Marx & Kamenka 1983).

Despite the fact, Marx lived a long time ago, before the emergence of the mass media of today, his ideas has helped in understanding the media theory.in the view of Marx, all cultural and social institutions such as the education system, family, the legal system and the mass media (newspaper during Marx time), are shaped by society’s economic basis. Therefore, it is significant to understand the economic sphere and the role being played by the mass media. This simply means that society should know more about capitalism (Marx & Caute 1967).

The first class system being dictated by capitalism is class systems, which later supports capitalism. According to Marx & Kamenka (1983), in capitalist economies, the bourgeoisie or the ruling class own the capital or the money to invest in machinery, factories, offices, land and new technology and in everything necessary in wealth production. However, the only thing the ruling class lack is labor that is sufficient to make products and services that are profitable. However, the second group (proletariat) which is the largest in the society owns the labor and they sell it to survive either intellectually or manually. Marx & Caute (1967) stated that however little or much the larger group in the society are paid for their labor, at all times there must be a margin of profit so that the workers true value is not returned to them. This is the reason why Marxists saw the conflict between the two classes in the material interests (Marx & Caute 1967).the capitalist class wants to pay for the labor as little as possible, while it is in the working class interest to have a full value for their hired labor.

The second culture is false consciousness which capitalism dictates and which in turn supports capitalism. According to Marx & Kamenka (1983), social institutions such as the mass media play a central role in ensuring that the working class in their situation remain happy despite the systems inherent unfairness. Marx gave the situation a description in which subordinate classes members cannot see that the ruling class is duping them as “false consciousness” ( Marx & Kamenka 1983). In the words of Marx, “the ideology can be identified ultimately as the misinformation, deceptions, and lies of the working class in order to maintain false consciousness state.”

Applying the sociological theory and ideology of Max Weber to the mass media today, they will argue that the mass media institutions are owned by the ruling class in the society. Moreover, these institutions are used in indoctrinating the masses into believing that to all people capitalism is good (Weber & Parsons 1964). The workers of the media industry are exploited similar to other worker, hence, the existence of the mass media is to serve the ruling class ideological interests.

Weber & Kalberg (2005) defined hegemony as the way in which the people in power continue maintaining control. Similarly, ideologies that are dominant are considered hegemonic. In society, power is maintained by creating ideologies that are then promoted by the mass media. Some of the hegemonic cultural innovations in advanced industrial societies include the mass media, compulsory schooling, and the false culture indoctrinating workers to false consciousness. Weber & Parsons (1964) explained that cultural hegemony is the sociological and philosophical concept that a society which is culturally diversified can be dominated or be ruled by one of the social classes. It is one social group dominance over the other for instance, the ruling class over the others. Max Weber in his class theory claimed that the ruling class ideas are seen as the norm, as universal ideologies and even perceived to be beneficial to everyone while, in reality, it only benefits the ruling class.

According to Weber & Kalberg (2005), hegemony more often tends to refer to a single group power in society to lead essentially and to dictate other societal groups. This can be achieved through communications, through leaders of government and through voter’s influence. Similarly, a single country can be regarded as a hegemony if it has the power enough to influence the behavior of other countries. Weber & Parsons (1964) explained that the controls that other hegemonies such as the 19th century British Empire had an influence over other countries in an extra ordinary manner. The total or partial control of other countries was obtained either through control of trade industries, and show of military force. Hegemony existing in a single country indicates that the most influential and dominant group often influences the policies to the greatest advantage of the dominant country or group. For instance, when it comes to tax laws, the wealthy have hegemony in the United States (Weber & Kalberg 2005).

According to Weber, the dominant ideas are the ruling class ideas in a society. This is because the ruling class membership allows access to leisure and education for one to be immersed in a cultures expression. Moreover, it is the capitalists that control the media through control means of mass productions and their dissemination (printing press, TV stations, art galleries, satellites), or through outright ownership. For instance, the biggest retailer in United States, Walmart, mas a significant impact on the popular culture by dictating the products and services it will stock or not stock. This forces the artists to tailor their creativity towards what Wal Mart will accept (Weber & Kalberg 2005).


In conclusion, the essay discussed classical sociological theories of Karl Marx and Max Weber. Specifically the essay focused on the class theories by Karl Max and the class theory by Max Weber. Based on Karl Marx, the class theory depicts a society divided into social classes which are in conflict in pursuit of different interests. On the other hand, class theory by Max Weber differed slightly with Karl Max. He claims in his theory that men have specific causal component in common of their life chances as far as this component is exclusively represented by economic interests in the good possession and income opportunities, and it is represented under commodity’s conditions or labor market. Lastly, the essay applied the two theories to a social problem of capitalism where t focused on how capitalism dictates what is popular culture and how popular culture then supports capitalism


Marx, K., & In Caute, D. (1967). Essential writings of Karl Marx. New York: Macmillan.

Marx, K., & Kamenka, E. (1983). The portable Karl Marx. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books.

Weber, M., & Kalberg, S. (2005). Max Weber: Readings and commentary on modernity. Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub.

Weber, M., & Parsons, T. (1964). The theory of social and economic organization. New York: Free Press.

5/5 - (3 votes)