Weber also made seminal contributions to neo-Marxist thought by rigorously studying the significance of bureaucracy in capitalist societies. And in the case of the government, it is through bureaucracy that it interacts with the general population. Bureaucracy can generally be said to contain the following key characteristics: efficiency, organization, procedures, protocols, laws, regulation, regimentation, specialization, etc. Weber added his own perspectives to the understanding of this construct. Firstly, Weber was not wholly critical of bureaucracy. To the contrary, he saw several positive attributes attached to the ideal type. While admitting that even the ideal type bureaucracy can be construed as ‘legal domination’, he goes on to say that it is an advancement over earlier forms such as ‘charismatic domination’ and ‘traditional domination’. (Bakker, 1999, p.289) In its ideal conception, bureaucracy brings efficiency, organization and concentration of the means of administration. There is also a spirit of egalitarianism seen in this type, whereby the institution helps level the social and economic differences of the general population. On the flip side, the bureaucratic experience can be impersonal and inhumane. It also does not lend itself for individual and special cases. Weber associated the rise of bureaucracy with the industrial revolution and the attendant flourishing of the capitalist system. Hence, he sees as connection between modernity, capitalism, urbanization and the ‘bureaucratic rationalization of society’. (Sayer, 1991, p.114)
Another area where Weber’s theories have added to neo-Marxist ideology is with respect to class. Weber’s conception of class can be said to differ from Marx’s in a few different ways. First, Weber thought of class analysis in terms of a “theory of social action”, whereas Marx saw class as a clear-cut economic stratification of society. Weber also added new dimensions to studying class relations by identifying that “class relations intersect with and are often outweighed by other (non-class) bases of association, notably status and party”. (Burris, 1987, p.1) The economic exploitation of the working classes by the bourgeoisie was the enduring preoccupation of Marx’s works. But Weber extended this theme by showing how ideological and political domination are an end in themselves. That is, for Weber, bourgeoisie domination in these domains is equally (if not more) important than economic exploitation. Finally, “for Marx, classes are an expression of the social relations of production, whereas Weber conceptualizes classes as common positions within the market.” (Burris, 1987, p.1)
In conclusion, the neo-Marxists discussed in this essay have all made their own unique contributions to the analysis, interpretation and expansion of traditional Marxist ideology. While Karl Marx will be remembered as the most influential political scientist of the modern era, neo-Marxists Max Weber, Antonio Gramsci and others will be remembered for adding new dimensions and interpretations to traditional Marxist ideology.
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Bakker, J. (1999). The Living Legacy of Marx, Durkheim and Weber: Applications and Analyses of Classical Sociological Theory by Modern Social Scientist. The Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology, 36(2), 286+.
Frankel, B. (1997). Confronting Neoliberal Regimes: the Post-Marxist Embrace of Populism and Realpolitik. New Left Review, a(226), 57-92.
Litowitz, D. (2000). Gramsci, Hegemony and the Law. Brigham Young University Law Review, 2000(2), 515+.
Maclellan, David, The thought of Carl Marx: An introduction, Trans-Atlantic Publications; 3rd edition (January 1995)
Mclellan, David, Marxism after Marx, Fourth Edition, Palgrave Macmillan, March 2007
Sayer, D. (1991). Capitalism and Modernity: An Excursus on Marx and Weber. New York: Routledge.
Val Burris, The neo-Marxist Synthesis of Marx and Weber on Class, The Marx-Weber Debate, Chapter 3, University of Oregon, Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications, 1987, retrieved from <pages.uoregon.edu/vburris/marxweb.pdf>