Marx vs. Durkheim

Durkheim and Marx both held different opinions about Capitalism, specifically the modern division of labor. Marx was a conflict theorist and argued that the division of labor resulted in alienation, he mainly focused on the social inequalities between social groups. On the other hand, Durkheim claimed that the division of labor was not necessarily bad for the individual or society. Unlike Marx who claimed economic specialization produced alienation, Durkheim who was a functionalist, believed the division of labor was beneficial for society because it increases the worker’s skill and created a feeling of solidarity between people. He claimed the division of labor creates a certain balance and unites social systems, essentially making them more efficient. Although Marx and Durkheim were essentially basing their theories from the 19th century and the rise of industrialization, the division of labor theory can still be applied in today’s society.

 Durkheim disagrees with Marx on alienation, he believes only in rare circumstances do people actually become aliented. In todays society someone who agrees with Durkheim would argue that the worker who works in retail is constantly interacting with other people, whether it is other workers or the customers. Although their task is to sell or restock, they understand that they are part of a bigger picture, they are helping economy, therefore the worker remains consious of their humanity.  The worker sees they are part of a whole, as Durkheim says “he knows that his activity has a meaning.” 

 Based on the two arguments, I would agree with both. I believe workers do tend to get alienated from their work, for example my friends who work in retail always complain about how much they dislike their job. Similar to the workers becoming “the machine,” in todays society workers become “the dummies” in order to sell and make their wage or commission. Along the lines of Marx’s theory, employees work out of necessity, therefore they grow more and more resentful of their jobs. However I don’t believe alienation is the correct term, not every worker hates their job and my friends certainly do not feel isolated from their jobs. In other words I believe a better word for alienation is people feeling occasional discontent in their jobs. For example I am a waitress and bar tender, my hourly wage is very low because I get tips. There are days where I feel extremely discontent, days where it’s not busy, or days when customers are cheap; however, there are days where I have my regular customers or even new ones who always brighten up my day. Along the lines of Durkheim’s theory, I believe economic specialization is not necessarily bad, because I find that since I’ve been specializing in my job for so long, I am actually really good at it. But then again I am a bit biased, because I have great relationships with my boss and co-workers and actually enjoy my job. 

 Overall, I believe a combination of both theories is essentially the most accurate in today’s society. Although I just make drinks and serve them, I do not feel alienated from my job. Although my friends simply engage people to buy or work at the cash register, they do not necessarily feel alienated, especially in today’s society. However there are cases where people MUST work and do resent their jobs. 

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