Both Durkheim and Marx had their own theories regarding modern consciousness. Durkheim focused on social solidarity as one of the important functions of a social order: individuals had a defined place in the world that was created and reinforced by the social values of morality, religion, and patriotism. He observed that these elements of solidarity are stronger or weaker in different societies, and he also observed that some modern social forces tend to break down these moral strands of social cohesion. For example, the creation of large cities. In his theory of suicide, he highlights the situation of “anomie” to refer to the circumstance of individuals whose relationship to the social whole is weak. He explains differences in suicide rates across societies as the result of different levels of solidarity and its opposite, anomie.
Marx’s concept of alienation involves a somewhat different kind of division and breakdown. Alienation refers to the separation of the person from his/her nature as a free producer and creator, and separation of the person from his/her natural sociality. He sees the future capitalist society as one in which people are limited in their jobs and social lives.
It seems like both Durkheim and Marx are analyzing a similar feature of modernity. In Durkheim’s case there is an implicit contrast between the agricultural world in which individuals have a well-defined social and moral place, and the industrial world in which these components of solidarity are breaking down. Marx seems to be looking towards the future. He compares the present- the factory, with the future- a society of free, equal, social producers. Both theorists are drawing comparisons between present day and the past. They are both concerned with peoples happiness and self worth as a result of the constraints placed upon them in the societies they live.