The research field of sociology is larger than our mind can take. These three great thinkers, Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, and Max Weber are known as founding fathers of sociology. We must first focus on how they define society and what is at the root of change to compare the problems and similarities in the transition from traditional to modern society.

Traditional to Modern Society Review

Marx, Weber, and Durkheim contributed to build the base of sociological knowledge which is popularly known as classical sociological theory. Marx used historical materialist and dialectic approach but despite him Weber opposed Marx on the idea of historical materialism and defining social system by combining the factors of economy and religion. Weber identifies the process of rationalization, secularization and disenchantment are associated with rise of capitalism and modernity.

Transition to modern society from traditional society Marx and Durkheim says it was the shift from feudalism to capitalism, but Weber thinks the most important change wasn’t technical, economic, or political.

Marx thinks it is modes of production and Durkheim think it is social integration. These three thinkers know that the transition from traditional to modern society is in fact due to technological developments. What they tried to learn was what caused them. What are the most fundamental reasons? In this article, we will discuss in three of them their thoughts, what is the underlying reason and the positive and negative aspects of the transition.

In short, Marx modernization is based on production, capitalism, and Weber, on the other hand, is with the rationalization that comes after moving away from religious things. For Durkheim, however, it was capitalism that stems from the solidarity between the division of labor and the people, but again underpins it.

Weber’s Ideas for Modern Society


Firstly Weber, looking at society and history, he saw that people became rational day by day. So, he thinks, traditional society is the society of individual artisans, each with their own process, which is how it’s always been done. But modern society is the society of methodical, procedures which are always being reflected and improved. Religion has important role of the Weber’s thinking style when he explains the transition to modern society from traditional society.


Set off a series of new religious movements like Martin Luther in Germany caused the Protestant reformation. Weber saw bureaucracy is a key part of the transition from traditional to the modern state. Also Weber thinks when old times ı mean in the traditional society state was ruled by a traditional legitimacy (monarchy). He didn’t think that society was divided based on economic classes, or production like Marx thought.

Weber thinks the rationalization is good thing, but it is not easy to apply because it has three needs: calculability, methodical behavior, and reflexivity. He was worried about when it became a routine than people may not think and become do their job meaningless like robots. Simply the worried rationalization can go forward toward people’s ideas. He thought the modernization occurred because of the rationalization than it caused secularization which is a process through rationalization and where religion loses its supreme authority.


Then secularization caused disenchantment which is forward move towards cultural rationalization and scientific progress by opposing the traditional system. He thinks people come more rational in this transition but as ı mention above he have fears about this process.

Karl Marx Summarize the Society with Different Perspective


Karl Marx is one of the greatest sociological thinkers and has questioned on what basis the transition from traditional to modern society takes place and what are the positive or negative effects. First, he studied history to understand why and how this process took place and what the differences were. In ancient times everyone was socially equal because everyone was trying to earn their own food, but when Marx looked at the Middle Ages, he saw that different classis and some of them didn’t need anything to earn their food. He then decided that socially people were not equal and that there were class differences. In addition, he thought everything started from need of a production than it leads to developments in technology than they caused modernity.

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He believes that communism, feudalism, and capitalism are all modes of production. He knows that this transition is a process that takes humanity further, but in this system, in capitalism, people must sell their labor and work very high hours for very low wages, and since there are only two main classes, namely the boss and the working class, too much class difference and the difference in status and life among people emerges.

Karl Marx defines capitalism as a necessary evil. Weber basically states that religious things hinder humanity and that after the developments in religion, like the renaissance, people become more rationalized and consequently modernized. However, Karl Marx argued that this was due to production and economy. According to Karl Marx, people should be modernized, but this was a difficult and problematic process. And ultimately, he believed that modern societies would move to communism after capitalism.

What about Durkheim?

Unlike Weber and Marx, Durkheim thought that modernization came with solidarity and was shaped accordingly. he also thought it had an impact on people’s division of labor. He regards to conflict, chaos, disorder as a pathological phenomenon to modern society, unlike Marx who identifies class conflict. To outline the development of society from primitive to industrial capitalist, he acquires the terminology “solidarity”. Durkheim thinks that modernity brings anomie which is his term for a condition in which society provides little moral guidance to individuals.

He thought society is held by solidarity and there are two kinds of solidarity according to Durkheim, Mechanical and Organic solidarity. In mechanical solidarity, social bands based on common sentiments and shared moral values that the unite members of preindustrial societies. In Organic solidarity they are based on specialization and interdependence that unite members of industrial societies. Also, he thought the modernization lead getting rich to countries and people. But he thinks the economic system was doing something to people’s mind, it was suicide. This idea led him to make his most important work: Suicide, published in 1897.Getting richer means more suicide when he looked the economies of countries, he saw this connection.


Because in traditionalism peoples are closed to each other and ties are stronger compared to modernization. And, like Marx, he thought that capitalism ı mean modernization brings a lot of social classes and division of labor to people so people can suddenly get rich or get poor, so it brings anomie that’s why suicide rates increase. He believes modernity brings more freedom but leads to losing values and morals. Like relationships in people. Durkheim believed that modernization would alienate people and lead to chaos. he also feared that religion, although atheist, would lose its unifying effect. He saw modernization as totally alienation and chaos.

Weber, Marx, and Durkheim’s Traditional to Modern Society


In summary, Marx, Weber, and Durkheim questioned what lay the basis of the transition from traditional to modern society in three different ways. Marx thought that it was resistant to production, and Weber thought that modernization was mainly caused by our rationalization, free from religious things. According to Marx, modernization was carried out by capitalism, which for him was a necessary evil. But he argued that modernization was a good thing, hoping that ultimately it would lead to communism, because for him people lived on more equal terms before modernization.


Weber argued that modernization was a good thing, but it was a dangerous and difficult process because people could become ordinary by doing ordinary things. So, he was afraid they’d stop thinking. According to him, the basis of modernization was the spread of Protestantism and the leading to capitalism.

Unlike Weber and Marx, Durkheim thought that modernization came with solidarity and was shaped accordingly. he also thought it had an impact on people’s division of labor. Modernization is simply a necessary evil for Marx. According to Weber, it is dangerous and difficult but beautiful. According to Durkheim, it was a total chaos and something that severed people’s ties.