For Marx, society exists primarily to fulfil the needs of the people, nothing that the process of material production is the base of all human societies. The process of material production, according to Marx entails two important components: the forces of production which include tools, technology and human skills, and the relations of production refer to the social relations of individuals in the production process.
In his concepts of materialism, Marx argue that a “given society or economic system generates its own opposition and is forced, ultimately, to change”.
This is generally driven by the changes in the forces of production, thus, promoting also the change in social relations. Social change, however, is not generally smooth and easy, for it always entail disruptive revolutions.
Marx’s view, the modern industrial society, which emerged from the feudalism, is essentially a capitalist society. Capitalism, according to Ritzer, is an economic system by which “great numbers of workers who own little produce commodities for the profit of small numbers of capitalists who own all of the following: the commodities, the means of producing the commodities, and the labor time of the workers, which they purchase through wages”. Capitalist societies are composed of the bourgeoisie, those who own the means of production, and the working class which Marx termed as the proletariat.
Marx argues that capitalism establishes, as Ritzer and Goodman put it, “barriers between an individual and the production process, the products of that process, and other people; ultimately, it even divides the individual himself or herself”.
He called this process of estrangement of the individual from other people, his work, and the society as alienation. In capitalist societies, the proletariats were alienated from their own labor since their work was appropriated by the bourgeoisie and the work itself was obligatory. Another problem that lies in capitalist societies, according to Marx, is the exploitation of the workers. In the words of Ritzer, “the ability of capital to generate profit rests on the exploitation of the proletariat”. Exploitation generally occurs through the extraction of the capitalists of the profits produced from the labor of the workers for further accumulation of capital. These conditions under capitalism, as Marx pointed out, ultimately leads to class conflict between the capitalists and the proletariats.
Marx claimed that the only way to put an end to the problems of modern industrial society – alienation, exploitation, and class conflict, is to overthrow the capitalist system, progressed to socialism, and to establish a communist type of society.
Max Weber saw class as based on three important factors, namely, wealth, power, and prestige. Weber’s society has several layers in it. The perception of different layers of the society eased out tensions between certain groups such as owners and workers according to the philosophy of Weber.