Free «How Max Weber and Karl Marx Theories Relate to an Ivy League Education» Essay Sample

An Ivy League education is generally considered to be a head-start in life for whoever manages to get one. Thus getting admission into an Ivy League University is both a highly desirable, and very competitive. This then sets up the question of how the admission criteria is used to gauge who qualifies and who does not. I will look at the University of Pennsylvania in particular, and how the theories of Max Weber and Karl Marx regarding communism and capitalism compare to each other in regards to this university.


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The Ivy League

The Ivy League started out as a sports conference in the American Northeast, comprised of teams from the Universities of Brown, Cornell, Columbia, Dartmouth, Princeton, Yale, Harvard and Pennsylvania. The term gained official recognition in 1954 after the formation of a Division 1 NCAA athletic conference, though its usage now has gone beyond athletics. The term implies academic excellence, selectivity and social elitism. (Wikipedia)


According to its foremost proponents Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, communism is the doctrine of the condition of the liberation of the proletariat, or the working class (Engels, 1947). Simply put, Communism envisioned an ideal world where each person gave according to their wealth and abilities, and received according to the extent of their needs.

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Max Weber sought to understand and define the spirit of capitalism by following how a particular form of religious spirit, combined with basic forms of economic activity in the past was the foundation of Western capitalism, which featured voluntary labour, division of said labour and market trade (Weber, 1905).

Comparative analysis

Being a member of the Ivy League, the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) would naturally fall under the category of elitist universities that only admit a “certain type of person”, sometimes given the acronym WASP (White Anglo Saxon Protestant). This may well have been okay back in the days of founder Benjamin Franklin, himself a Protestant who was quoted extensively by Weber as he considered Franklin’s writings to be the founding ethic of capitalism.

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Weber would probably look at achieving admission into UPenn as a desirable goal, and that any person that attained the benchmark was entitled to the reward of this education. Capitalism does, however, not address the situation where, due to concentration of factors of production, the opportunity to apply for admission remains out of reach to some.

Marx, on the other hand would see UPenn as a bastion of the oppressors, an instrument used to enrich the bourgeois and keep the labour force ignorant. The vision of education in the Communist Manifesto provides for an education for all at national cost, an introduction of alternative modes of education to help citizens acclimatize to a more social structure. There would be, as a result, more well-rounded individuals in a more harmonious and co-operative society.

However this view envisions all people as wanting and desiring the same things, while the truth is that we are individuals, each with particular ambitions and desires. Many advances in all fields of medicine, art, science and others have been as a direct result of individual brilliance or persistence. Would we as a society progress? If there was no place where specialists can innovate in their fields, if there was no reward for excellence, what would the motivation to get up tomorrow be?


No pure view of the above philosophies would be a good thing. A pure capitalist ideology would risk the equality and opportunity to all that is a driving force in society, while a purely communist ideology would hamper the pace of progress and take the edge of creativity and individuality, without which the quality of our lives would be reduced.

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