Political Economy: Roles of Ideas and Interests

2305 WordsJun 20, 201810 Pages
This essay aims to examine the roles of ideas and interests in the political econ-omy by mainly drawing on theories developed by Karl Marx and Max Weber. The two authors have very different views on the drivers of historical development, the establishment of capitalism and the structure of modern society. Marx’s no-tion of historical materialism emphasizes the role of material interest in con-structing the boundaries and structure of the political economy. Max Weber’s notion of the Protestant Ethic emphasizes the role of ideas and norms in shaping rational action and modern society. This essay will explore, contrast and discuss these two authors and their views. Initially, I will give brief definitions of the concepts of interests and…show more content…
(Singer, 1980) For example, one could argue that the establishment of industrialization was due to development of new technological ideas. In this case the superstructure influenced the base and ideas played an important role in establishing capitalism. While Engels denied that Marx had said that the economic factor was the only determining one, Marx him-self switched positions on this matter during his life. (Singer, 1980) In Grundisse (1973, p. 99), Marx stated that society should be regarded as an organic totality, which implies that he accepted factors of interaction. According to Habermas (1975) Marx makes it clear by context that it is only during the critical transfor-mation period of social revolution that the superstructure is dependent on the base. One might argue, as Marx possibly did, that there are chain interactions between material interests and ideas during periods of exploitation, but society began with and changes by material interests. This view is more realistic, however most people would agree that humans began with satisfying basic material needs. Subsequently, the question of what determines change in society becomes the interesting one. The immediate problem for Marx’s argument is to distin-guish between the influence of interests and ideas when reaching the endpoint in which social revolution occurs and the forces of production changes. One could argue that if we don’t give any
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