Marx described modern society in terms of alienation. Alienation refers to the condition in which the individual is isolated and divorced from his or her society, work, or the sense of self. Marx defined four specific types of alienation. An industrial worker does not have the opportunity to relate to the product he labors on.
Instead of training for years as a watchmaker, an unskilled worker can get a job at a watch factory pressing buttons to seal pieces together. The worker does not care if he is making watches or cars, simply that the job exists.
In the same way, a worker may not even know or care what product to which he is contributing. A worker on a Ford assembly line may spend all day installing windows on car doors without ever seeing the rest of the car.
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A cannery worker can spend a lifetime cleaning fish without ever knowing what product they are used for. A worker does not control the conditions of her job because she does not own the means of production. If a person is hired to work in a fast food restaurant, she is expected to make the food the way she is taught. All ingredients must be combined in a particular order and in a particular quantity; there is no room for creativity or change. Everything is decided by the bourgeoisie who then dictate orders to the laborers.
Alienation from others. Workers compete, rather than cooperate. Employees vie for time slots, bonuses, and job security. Even when a worker clocks out at night and goes home, the competition does not end. A final outcome of industrialization is a loss of connectivity between a worker and her occupation.
Because there is nothing that ties a worker to her labor, there is no longer a sense of self. Instead of being able to take pride in an identity such as being a watchmaker, automobile builder, or chef, a person is simply a cog in the machine.
Taken as a whole, then, alienation in modern society means that an individual has no control over his life. Even in feudal societies, a person controlled the manner of his labor as to when and how it was carried out. But why, then, does the modern working class not rise up and rebel?
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Indeed, Marx predicted that this would be the ultimate outcome and collapse of capitalism. Another idea that Marx developed is the concept of false consciousness.
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In fact, it is the ideology of the dominant class here, the bourgeoisie capitalists that is imposed upon the proletariat. Ideas such as the emphasis of competition over cooperation, or of hard work being its own reward, clearly benefit the owners of industry. Therefore, workers are less likely to question their place in society and assume individual responsibility for existing conditions. An assembly line worker installs car parts with the aid of complex machinery. Has technology made this type of labor more or less alienating? Only once society entered this state of political consciousness would it be ready for a social revolution.
While Karl Marx may be one of the best-known thinkers of the nineteenth century, Max Weber is certainly one of the greatest influences in the field of sociology. Like the other social thinkers discussed here, he was concerned with the important changes taking place in Western society with the advent of industrialization. And, like Marx and Durkheim, he feared that industrialization would have negative effects on individuals.
Similar to Marx, Weber saw class as economically determined. Society, he believed, was split between owners and laborers. Status, on the other hand, was based on noneconomic factors such as education, kinship, and religion. Unlike Marx, Weber believed that these ideas formed the base of society. A rational society is one built around logic and efficiency rather than morality or tradition.
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To Weber, capitalism is entirely rational. Although this leads to efficiency and merit-based success, it can have negative effects when taken to the extreme. In some modern societies, this is seen when rigid routines and strict design lead to a mechanized work environment and a focus on producing identical products in every location.
Weber was also unlike his predecessors in that he was more interested in how individuals experienced societal divisions than in the divisions themselves.
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For Weber, the culmination of industrialization, rationalization, and the like results in what he referred to as the iron cage , in which the individual is trapped by institutions and bureaucracy. Indeed a dark prediction, but one that has, at least to some degree, been borne out Gerth and Mills In a rationalized, modern society, we have supermarkets instead of family-owned stores.
We have chain restaurants instead of local eateries. Superstores that offer a multitude of merchandise have replaced independent businesses that focused on one product line, such as hardware, groceries, automotive repair, or clothing. Shopping malls offer retail stores, restaurants, fitness centers, even condominiums. This change may be rational, but is it universally desirable? Cubicles are used to maximize individual workspace in an office. Such structures may be rational, but they are also isolating. In a series of essays in , Max Weber presented the idea of the Protestant work ethic , a new attitude toward work based on the Calvinist principle of predestination.
In the sixteenth century, Europe was shaken by the Protestant Revolution. While Catholic leaders emphasized the importance of religious dogma and performing good deeds as a gateway to Heaven, Protestants believed that inner grace, or faith in God, was enough to achieve salvation. John Calvin in particular popularized the Christian concept of predestination, the idea that all events—including salvation—have already been decided by God.
Because followers were never sure whether they had been chosen to enter Heaven or Hell, they looked for signs in their everyday lives. If a person was hard-working and successful, he was likely to be one of the chosen. If a person was lazy or simply indifferent, he was likely to be one of the damned. Weber argued that this mentality encouraged people to work hard for personal gain; after all, why should one help the unfortunate if they were already damned? Over time, the Protestant work ethic spread and became the foundation for capitalism. For Karl Marx, society exists in terms of class conflict.
With the rise of capitalism, workers become alienated from themselves and others in society.
Sociologist Max Weber noted that the rationalization of society can be taken to unhealthy extremes. This is a common thread in science fiction and supernatural horror movies and books. In this type of conflict, the protagonist battles against an entity that isn't entirely known or comprehensible, whether it is extraterrestrial or metaphysical. On the science fiction side, H. Wells' novel The War of the Worlds is an example of a group humankind clashing with an alien race Martians.
The popularity of this genre has risen steadily over the last hundred years, and in the face of increasing mechanization and improving artificial intelligence, it's not hard to see why. This type of conflict focuses on a person or group of people fighting to overcome unemotional and unsympathetic machinery that believes it no longer requires humanity.
Arthur C. Clarke's A Space Odyssey , for example, pits astronaut Dave Bowman against the super-intelligent HAL , which believes Dave's shortcomings as a human being mean he must be forcibly removed from the mission. Whether you're enjoying literature, analyzing it, or writing it yourself, knowing these seven types of conflict will help you gain a greater understanding of what makes a story so compelling.
Hopefully, while reading this short list, you will have thought of your own examples, too. If so, let us know on Facebook or Twitter! By bending grammar rules in your fiction writing, you can give insight into characters and evoke feelings within readers. Here are some ways to do it. These writing websites will provide you with the inspiration and information you need at every stage of the writing process.
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