In our sociology class we were told to outline and compare an essay on the consensus model and the conflict model of society. We were also told to give examples of how components of each model can be applied to contemporary Irish society. Define Sociology? ‘Sociology is a social science, meaning it rejects superstitious explanations, common sense and stereotypes’ (class notes). Before we start this essay we must define the term consensus and conflict. Consensus is a concept of society in which the absence of conflict is seen as the equilibrium state of society based on general or widespread agreement among all members of a particular society. Conflict is a disagreement or clash between ideas, principles, or people.
In this essay we will focus on Emile Durkheim Consensus theory and Karl Marx Conflict theory. We will discuss how they both reacted to suicide and religion in their times. We will also compare both of their theories and how they can be applied to Irish society.
Emile Durkheim is the father of sociology. In 1896, around this time in Europe huge changes were made by the industrial revolution on how people lived their lives and how they organised their work. Durkheim wanted to examine these changes and to try and understand what was happening. He wanted to understand how society functioned. Durkheim said we all depend on eachother. His work focused on how modern and traditional society work and function.
According to Bernadette McDonald (2014, p.33), Durkheim believed that “by comparing statistics from different societies, he analysed them in terms of categories such as age, sex, and religion and family relationships”. From the evidence he found that, men, Protestants, wealthy people and the unmarried each had significantly higher suicide rates compared to women, Roman Catholics and jews, the poor and married people. Durkheim identified 4 types of suicide: egotistic suicide, Anomic suicide, Altruistic suicide, fatalistic suicide. Egotistic suicide occurs when an individual feels isolated or when their ties to a group are weakened or broken. Anomic suicide can occur when people feel lost or isolated, feel like they do not belong. Altruistic suicide occurs when an Individual is over integrated and values the society in which they live as more important than themselves. Fatalistic suicide mainly occurred in the slave societies. Durkheim believed “that social factor could force an individual to take their own life” (Bernadette McDonald, 2014, p 34)
Durkheim defined “religion as a ‘unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things set apart and forbidden”. (Bernadette McDonald, 2014, p 34) Bernadette McDonald (2014, p.34) wrote that Durkheim’s main aim was on “the level of social structure and how religious beliefs and rituals bring people together, giving them a sense of unity and shared values”. Durkheim argued that “religion helps to meet a society’s need for social solidarity” (James Fulcher and John Scott, 2011, p 34) Haralambos and Holborn (2013, p 432) explain that Durkheim believed that “social life was impossible without the shared values and moral beliefs that forms the collective conscience”
Karl Marx theories were mainly focused on the conflict between the bourgeoisie (Rich Owners) and the proletariat (poor owners) Marx used the term ‘class conflict’ to refer to conflict between entire classes over the distribution of wealth and power in society (pg 37 b.mcdonald) karl marx focucses on the struggles of social social classes to maintain dominance and power in social sysem. Marx said a person’s place in society depends on his/her relationship to the economy
Karl Marx did not study religion in any detail, and his ideas were derived mainly from several early nineteenth – century theological philosophical authors. In Marx’s view, “religion in its tradition form will, and should disappear, yet this is because the positive values embodied in religion can become guiding ideals for improving the lot of humanity on earth, not because those ideals and values are themselves mistaken.” (Anthony Giddens and Philip W. Sutton, 2013, p.723). Marx declared, in a famous phrase, that religion has been the ‘opiate of the people’. Marx said that the older form of religion is slowly disappearing.
According to Anthony Giddens and Philip Sutton (2013, P.723), Marx argued “that those who own a capital (capitalist) form a ruling class, while the mass of population make up a class of waged workers”. As industrialization spread, large number of peasants who used to support themselves by working the land moved to the expanding cities and helped to form an urban industrial working class which Marx called the proletariat. In Marx view, “capitalism is a class system in which relations between the two main classes are characterized by conflict, although owners of capital and workers are dependent on each other capitalist need labour, workers need wages”. (Anthony Giddens and Philip W. Sutton, 2013 p.723) In my opinion this dependency is unbalanced because the workers do not have much control over their labour and the employers are able to generate profit by appropriating the products of the workers labour. Anthony Giddens and Philip W. Sutton explained that (2013, p.16), “Marx theorized that a workers revolution would bring about a new society in which there would no large scale division between owners and workers, which he called communism”.
Both Marx and Durkheim are trying to explain how society works. Unlike Marx, Durkheim spent his later career studying religion. “Durkheim demonstrated that any subject could be approached from a sociological perspective but also that without sociology we are likely to misunderstand social life”. (Anthony Giddens and Philip W. Sutton p.724) Durkheim does not connect religion primarily with social inequality or power, instead he relates it to the overall nature of the institutions of a society. Marx mentions that there are different resources available to each class. The upper class have more access to wealth education and employment.Durkheim agrees with Marx that the older forms of religion are slowly disappearing. They are both trying to to explain what is wrong with society It is clear that in Irish society the upper classes have better education, hold better jobs and are healthier than those of the lower classes.
We can conclude that , Marx’s theory shows us that the upper class have more privileges which also stand in Irish society today. It was shown during the recession, we saw that the rich got richer and the poor got poorer. The lower classes are still the least educated in Irish society and the unhealthiest. Marx and Durkheim’s theory are still relevant
I have outline and compared Emile Durkheim consensus theory and Karl Marx conflict theory. At first when I read the question before writing this essay I really thought it was going to be difficult. I really enjoyed writing this essay and I now have a great knowledge of both of their theories.