Marxism Theory in The Corporate World Analysis Paper

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Students will be required to write one standard format, five-page paper. This theory application assignment will ask you to select and apply ONE theoretical perspective (e.g., Durkheim or Exchange Theory) to an empirical case of your choosing.

The application papers are intended for you to examine one specific theoretical concept introduced in the reading and lecture and “apply” or “use” them to understand a “real world” social issue found in contemporary society. In writing each application paper you will be expected to demonstrate:

(1) an accurate understanding of your chosen concept and (2) an ability to use the concept to “frame” the

social issue being presented. Basically, you’ll demonstrate how your concept helps us to gain new insight into something that’s happening in the world today. These papers are to no more than 5 pages long. They must be typed (double-spaced, 1-inch margins, 11 or 12 point New Times Roman /Calibri font) and follow correct citation and referencing procedures (APA).

Paper content and organization


Please begin your analysis with a brief summary the concept of interest to you and link it to the appropriate theorist or theoretical perspective. The concept should be taken from assigned class reading. Be sure to cite the source of your concept following the citation format instructions. Examples of the types of concepts I’m referring to here might be: solidarity, anomie, alienation, surplus value, Protestant ethic, habitus, cultural capital, etc. In addition to providing a definition/description of the concept, provide an example to further illustrate your understanding.


Once you have clearly explained the concept, move onto a few paragraphs that describe or summarize the key parts of the contemporary societal phenomenon. Just tell us about the most important facets of the social phenomenon for a better understanding of what it is and why it might be important. These paragraphs should merely summarize the information presented (wait until the next section to “apply” the concepts).


In the next part of the paper show how each part of the theoretical concept manifests itself. What part of the social phenomenon made you think about each theoretical concept? The type of experience I’m referring to here is of the sort: “Hey! That sounds just like what we were reading about in theory last week.” Explain the connection. What made you see this link and help us to see it like you did? This takes some real critical thinking skill and is what is meant by“application.” You are using theoretical concepts to help us solve (or “frame”) a particular sociological “puzzle” that may have arisen in contemporary society. Note: Using specific descriptions will really help you to clearly demonstrate the connection to your theoretical concept. This can help you to explain what specifically made you think that the theoretical concept was being illustrated in this particular facet of contemporary society.


Conclude the paper with a summary of your main points. What insights do you want the reader to take away from your paper? What should the reader really remember about what you’ve said in the paper?


At the end of the paper, include a reference page.


Ø Explain the theory.

Before you critique a theory, you need to “discover” it, and bring it into being in the context of your paper. Establish its context and purpose, and delineate its main argument. Consider the questions you asked yourself while reading.

One way this can be done is to define the theory using an aside:

Marx’s theory of historical materialism—the notion that history is a result of material conditions rather than ideas—characterizes his approach to societal change.

Ø Define terminology.

Even though the professor knows the terminology being used by the author of the text you are analyzing, it is important to introduce these terms and bring them from the theorist’s world to our own.

The idea that catalyzes and gives way to the core of Durkheim’s argument is “anomie.” Anomie is the condition in which society provides little moral guidance to individuals

Ø Use the active voice.

Not only is it more interesting, but using the passive voice also seems inherently not sociological, as it eliminates a main actor of the situation.

It has been suggested by Weber that bureaucracies have become the dominant form of social organization in modern society.

Might turn into...

Weber suggests that bureaucracies have become the dominant form of social organization in modern society.

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SAGE was founded in 1965 by Sara Miller McCune to support the dissemination of usable knowledge by publishing innovative and high-quality research and teaching content. Today, we publish more than 750 journals, including those of more than 300 learned societies, more than 800 new books per year, and a growing range of library products including archives, data, case studies, reports, conference highlights, and video. SAGE remains majority-owned by our founder, and on her passing will become owned by a charitable trust that secures our continued independence. Los Angeles | London | Washington DC | New Delhi | Singapore Copyright © 2015 by SAGE Publications, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. Printed in the United States of America. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Edles, Laura Desfor. Sociological theory in the classical era : text and readings / Laura Desfor Edles, Scott Appelrouth.— Third edition. pages cm Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-1-4522-0361-4 (pbk. : alk. paper) 1. Sociology—History. 2. Sociology—Philosophy. 3. Sociologists—Biography. I. Appelrouth, Scott, 1965– II. Title. HM461.E35 2015 301.01—dc23 2014031195 This book is printed on acid-free paper. 14 15 16 17 18 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 FOR INFORMATION: SAGE Publications, Inc. 2455 Teller Road Thousand Oaks, California 91320 E-mail: SAGE Publications Ltd. 1 Oliver’s Yard 55 City Road London EC1Y 1SP United Kingdom SAGE Publications India Pvt. Ltd. B 1/I 1 Mohan Cooperative Industrial Area Mathura Road, New Delhi 110 044 India SAGE Publications Asia-Pacific Pte. Ltd. 3 Church Street #10-04 Samsung Hub Singapore 049483 Acquisitions Editor: Jeff Lasser Editorial Assistant: Nick Pachelli Production Editor: David C. Felts Copy Editor: Pam Suwinsky Typesetter: C&M Digitals (P) Ltd. Proofreader: Jeff Bryant Indexer: David Luljak Cover Designer: Anthony Paular Marketing Manager: Erica DeLuca CONTENTS Preface About the Authors 1. Introduction What Is Sociological Theory? Why Read Original Works? Who Are Sociology’s Core Theorists? How Can We Navigate Sociological Theory? Discussion Questions 2. Karl Marx A Biographical Sketch Intellectual Influences and Core Ideas Marx’s Theoretical Orientation Readings Discussion Questions 3. Émile Durkheim A Biographical Sketch Intellectual Influences and Core Ideas Durkheim’s Theoretical Orientation Readings Discussion Questions 4. Max Weber A Biographical Sketch Intellectual Influences and Core Ideas Weber’s Theoretical Orientation Readings Discussion Questions 5. Charlotte Perkins Gilman A Biographical Sketch Intellectual Influences and Core Ideas Gilman’s Theoretical Orientation Readings Discussion Questions 6. Georg Simmel A Biographical Sketch Intellectual Influences and Core Ideas Simmel’s Theoretical Orientation Readings Discussion Questions 7. W. E. B. Du Bois A Biographical Sketch Intellectual Influences and Core Ideas Du Bois’s Theoretical Orientation Readings Discussion Questions 8. George Herbert Mead A Biographical Sketch Intellectual Influences and Core Ideas Mead’s Theoretical Orientation Readings Discussion Questions Glossary and Terminology References Index PREFACE very semester, we begin our sociological theory courses by telling students that we love sociological theory, and that one of our goals is to get each and every one of them to love theory too. This challenge we set for ourselves makes teaching sociological theory exciting. If you teach “sexy” topics like the sociology of drugs, crime, or sex, students come into class expecting to be titillated. By contrast, when you teach sociological theory, students tend to come into class expecting the course to be abstract, dry, and absolutely irrelevant to their lives. The fun in teaching sociological theory is in proving students wrong. The thrill in teaching sociological theory is in helping students to see that sociological theory is absolutely central to their everyday lives—and fascinating as well. What a reward it is to have students who adamantly insisted that they “hated” theory at the beginning of the semester be “converted” into theorists by the end! E In teaching sociological theory, we use original texts. We rely on original texts in part because every time we read these works we derive new meaning from them. Core sociological works tend to become “core” precisely for this reason. However, using original readings requires that the professor spend lots of time and energy explaining issues and material that is unexplained or taken for granted by the theorist. This book was born of this process—teaching from original works and explaining them to our students. Hence, this book includes the original readings we use in our courses, as well as our interpretation and explanation of them. Thus, this book is distinct in that it is both a reader and a text. It is unlike existing readers in several ways, however. First and foremost, this book is not just a collection of seemingly disconnected readings. Rather, in this book we provide an overarching theoretical framework within which to understand, compare, and contrast these selections. In our experience, this overarching theoretical framework is essential in explaining the relevance and excitement of sociological theory. In addition, we discuss the social and intellectual milieu in which the selections were written, as well as their contemporary relevance. Thus, we connect these seemingly disparate works not only theoretically, but also via concrete applications to today’s world. Finally, this theory book is unique in that we provide a variety of visuals and pedagogical devices—historical and contemporary photographs, and diagrams and charts illuminating core theoretical concepts and comparing specific ideas—to enhance student understanding. Our thinking is, Why should only introductory-level textbooks have visual images and pedagogical aids? Most everyone, not just the youngest audiences, enjoys—and learns from—visuals. The third edition of this book is distinct in that it includes even more visual elements, contemporary applications, and examples. It also includes additional discussion questions as well as a glossary to assist students in familiarizing themselves with the key terms. As is often the case in book projects, this turned out to be a much bigger and thornier project than either of us first imagined. And, in the process of writing this book, we have accrued many intellectual and social debts. First, we especially thank Jerry Westby of SAGE for helping us get this project started. It is now more than a decade ago since Jerry walked into our offices at California State University, Northridge, and turned what had been a nebulous, long-standing idea into a concrete plan. Diana Axelsen, who oversaw the first edition of this book through its final stages of production, made several critical suggestions regarding the layout of the book that we continue to appreciate. In the production of this third edition, we are grateful to the reviewers who provided important ideas for improving the book and the members of the SAGE production team: Jeff Lasser, David Felts, Nicki Pachelli, and Pam Suwinsky, all of whom made the process of finalizing this edition extraordinarily smooth. We thank them for their conscientiousness and hard work. We thank the following reviewers for their comments: For the First Edition Cynthia Anderson University of Iowa Jeralynn Cossman Mississippi State University Lara Foley University of Tulsa Paul Gingrich University of Regina Leslie Irvine University of Colorado Doyle McCarthy Fordham University Martha A. Myers University of Georgia Riad Nasser Farleigh Dickinson University Paul Paolucci Eastern Kentucky University Chris Ponticelli University of South Florida Larry Ridener Pfeiffer University Chaim Waxman Rutgers University For the Second Edition James J. Dowd University of Georgia Alison Faupel Emory University Greg Fulkerson SUNY Oneonta Gesine Hearn Idaho State University Jacques Henry University of Louisiana at Lafayette Gabe Ignatow University of North Texas David Levine Florida Atlantic University E. Dianne Mosley Texas Southern University For the Third Edition David Arditi University of Texas at Arlington Meghan Ashlin Rich University of Scranton William J. Haller Clemson University Ting Jiang Metropolitan State University of Denver Jeanne Lorentzen Northern Michigan University Robert Shelby University of Louisville George Wilson University of Miami Finally, we both thank our families—Amie, Alex, and Julia; and Mike, Benny, and Ellie—for supporting us while we spent so much time and energy on this project. ABOUT THE AUTHORS Laura Desfor Edles (PhD, University of California, Los Angeles, 1990) is Professor of Sociology at California State University, Northridge. She is the author of Symbol and Ritual in the New Spain: The Transition to Democracy after Franco (1998) and Cultural Sociology in Practice (2002), as well as various articles on culture, theory, race/ethnicity, and social movements. Scott Appelrouth (PhD, New York University, 2000) is Professor at California State University, Northridge. His interests include sociological theory, cultural sociology, and social movements. He has taught classical and contemporary theory at both the graduate and undergraduate levels, and has published several articles in research- and teaching-oriented journals on social movements, theory, and the controversies over jazz during the 1920s and rap during the 1980s. His current research focuses on political discourse in American party platforms. 1 INTRODUCTION SOURCE: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, by Lewis Carroll; illustration by John Tenniel. (1960) New York: Penguin. Used by permission. Key Concepts Theory Order Collective/individual Action Rational/nonrational Enlightenment Counter-Enlightenment “But I’m not a serpent, I tell you!” said Alice. “I’m a—I’m a—” “Well! What are you?” said the Pigeon. “I can see you’re trying to invent something!” “I—I’m a little girl,” said Alice, rather doubtfully, as she remembered the number of changes she had gone through that day. “A likely story indeed!” said the Pigeon, in a tone of the deepest contempt. “I’ve seen a good many little girls in my time, but never one with such a neck as that! No, no! You’re a serpent; and there’s no use denying it. I suppose you’ll be telling me next that you never tasted an egg!” “I have tasted eggs, certainly,” said Alice, who was a very truthful child; “but little girls eat eggs quite as much as serpents do, you know.” “I don’t believe it,” said the Pigeon; “but if they do, why, then they’re a kind of serpent: that’s all I can say.” —Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865/1960:54) n the passage above, the Pigeon had a theory: Alice is a serpent because she has a long neck and eats eggs. Alice, however, had a different theory: she was a little girl. It was not the “facts” that were disputed in the above passage, however. Alice freely admitted she had a long neck and ate eggs. So why did Alice and the Pigeon come to such different conclusions? Why didn’t the facts “speak for themselves”? I Alice and the Pigeon both interpreted the question (What is Alice?) using the categories, concepts, and assumptions with which each was familiar. It was these unarticulated concepts, assumptions, and categories that led the Pigeon and Alice to have such different conclusions. Likewise, social life can be perplexing and complex. It is hard enough to know “the facts,” let alone to know why things are as they seem. In this regard, theory is vital to making sense of social life because it holds assorted observations and facts together (as it did for Alice and the Pigeon). Facts make sense only because we interpret them using preexisting categories and assumptions, that is, “theories.” The point is that even so-called facts are based on implicit assumptions and unacknowledged presuppositions. Whether or not we are consciously aware of them, our everyday life is filled with theories as we seek to understand the world around us. The importance of formal sociological theorizing is that it makes assumptions and categories explicit, hence makes them open to examination, scrutiny, and reformulation. To be sure, some students find classical sociological theory as befuddling as Alice found her conversation with the Pigeon. Some students find it difficult to understand and interpret what classical theorists are saying. Indeed, some students wonder why they have to read works written more than a century ago, or why they have to study sociological theory at all. After all, they maintain, classical sociological theory is abstract and dry and has “nothing to do with my life.” So why not just study contemporary theory (or, better yet, just examine empirical “reality”), and leave the old, classical theories behind? In this book, we seek to demonstrate the continuing relevance of classical sociological theory. We argue that the theorists whose work you will read in this book are vital: first, because they helped chart the course of the discipline of sociology from its inception until the present time, and second, because their concepts and theories still permeate contemporary concerns. Sociologists still seek to explain such critical issues as the nature of capitalism, the basis of social solidarity or cohesion, the role of authority in social life, the benefits and dangers posed by modern bureaucracies, the dynamics of gender and racial oppression, and the nature of the “self,” to name but a few. Classical sociological theory provides a pivotal conceptual base with which to explore today’s world. To be sure, this world is more complex than it was a century ago, or for that matter, than it has been throughout most of human history, during which time individuals lived in small bands as hunter-gatherers. With agricultural and later industrial advances, however, societies grew increasingly complex. The growing complexity, in turn, led to questions about what is distinctively “modern” about contemporary life. Sociology was born as a way of thinking about just such questions; today, we face similar questions about the “postmodern” world. The concepts and ideas introduced by classical theorists enable us to ponder the causes and consequences of the incredible rate and breadth of change. The purpose of this book is to provide students not only with core classical sociological readings, but also with a framework for comprehending them. In this introductory chapter, we discuss (1) what sociological theory is, (2) why it is important for students to read the original works of the “core” figures in sociology, (3) who these “core” theorists are, and (4) how students can develop a more critical and gratifying understanding of some of the most important ideas advanced by these theorists. To this end, we introduce a metatheoretical framework that enables students to navigate, compare, and contrast the theorists’ central ideas as well as to contemplate any social issue within our own increasingly complex world. WHAT IS SOCIOLOGICAL THEORY? Theory is a system of generalized statements or propositions about phenomena. There are two additional features, however, that together distinguish scientific theories from other idea systems such as those found in religion or philosophy. Scientific theories 1. explain and predict the phenomena in question, and 2. produce testable and thus falsifiable hypotheses. Universal laws are intended to explain and predict events occurring in the natural or physical world. For instance, Isaac Newton established three laws of motion. The first law, the law of inertia, states that objects in motion will remain in motion and objects at rest will remain at rest, unless acted on by another force. In its explanation and predictions regarding the movement of objects, this law extends beyond the boundaries of time and space. For their part, sociologists seek to develop or refine general statements about some aspect of social life. For example, a long-standing (although not uncontested) sociological theory predicts that as a society becomes more modern, the salience of religion will decline. Similar to Newton’s law of inertia, the secularization theory, as it is called, is not restricted in its scope to any one time period or population. Instead, it is an abstract proposition that can be tested in any society once the key concepts making up the theory—“modern” and “religion”—are defined, and once observable measures are specified. Thus, sociological theories share certain characteristics with theories developed in other branches of science. However, there are significant differences between social and other scientific theories (i.e., theories in the social sciences as opposed to the natural sciences) as well. First, sociological theories tend to be more evaluative and critical than theories in the natural sciences. Sociological theories are often rooted in implicit moral assumptions that contrast with traditional notions of scientific objectivity. In other words, it is often supposed that the pursuit of scientific knowledge should be free from value judgments or moral assessments, that the first and foremost concern of science is to uncover what is, not what ought to be. Indeed, such objectivity is often cast as a defining feature of science, one that separates it from other forms of knowledge based on tradition, religion, or philosophy. But sociologists tend to be interested not only in understanding the workings of society, but also in realizing a more just or equitable social order. As you will see, the work of the core classical theorists is shaped in important respects by their own moral sensibilities regarding the condition of modern societies and what the future may bring. Thus, sociological theorizing at times falls short of the “ideal” science practiced more closely (though still imperfectly) by “hard” sciences like physics, biology, or chemistry. For some observers, this failure to conform consistently to the ideals of either science or philosophy is a primary reason for the discipline’s troublesome identity crisis and “ugly duckling” status within the academic world. For others, it represents the opportunity to develop a unique understanding of social life. A second difference between sociological theories and those found in other scientific disciplines stems from the nature of their respective subjects. Societies are always in the process of change, while the changes themselves can be spurred by any number of causes including internal conflicts, wars with other countries, scientific or technological advances, or through the expansion of economic markets that in turn spread foreign cultures and goods. As a result, it is more difficult to fashion universal laws to explain societal dynamics. Moreover, we must also bear in mind that humans, unlike other animals or naturally occurring elements in the physical world, are motivated to act by a complex array of social and psychological forces. Our behaviors are not the product of any one principle; instead, they can be driven by selfinterest, altruism, loyalty, passion, tradition, or habit, to name but a few factors. From these remarks, you can see the difficulties inherent in developing universal laws of societal development and individual behavior, despite our earlier example of the secularization theory as well as other efforts to forge such laws. These two aspects of sociological theory (the significance of moral assumptions and the nature of the subject matter) are responsible, in part, for the form in which much sociological theory is written. Although some theorists construct formal propositions or laws to explain and predict social events and individual actions, more often theories are developed through storylike narratives. Thus, few of the original readings included in this volume contain explicitly stated propositions. One of the intellectual challenges you will face in studying the selections is to uncover the general propositions embedded in the texts. Regardless of the style in which they are presented, however, the theories (or narratives) you will explore in this text answer the most central social questions, while revealing taken-for-granted truths and encouraging you to examine who you are and where we, as a society, are headed. WHY READ ORIGINAL WORKS? Some professors agree with students that original works are just too hard to decipher. These professors use secondary textbooks that interpret and simplify the ideas of core theorists. Their argument is that you simply cannot capture students’ attention using original works; students must be engaged in order to understand, and secondary texts ultimately lead to a better grasp of the covered theories. However, there is a significant problem with reading only interpretations of original works: The secondary and original texts are not the same. Secondary texts do not simply translate what the theorist wrote into simpler terms; rather, in order to simplify, they must revise what an author has said. The problems that can arise from even the most faithfully produced interpretations can be illustrated by the “telephone game.” Recall that childhood game where you and your friends sit in a circle. One person thinks of a message and whispers it to the next person, who passes the message on to the next person, until the last person in the circle announces the message aloud. Usually, everyone roars with laughter because the message at the end typically is nothing like the one circulated at the beginning. This is because the message inadvertently is misinterpreted and changed as it goes around. In the telephone game, the goal is to repeat exactly what has been said to you. Yet, misinterpretations and modifications are commonplace. Consider now a secondary text in which the goal is not to restate exactly what originally was written, but to take the original source and make it “easier” to understand. Although this process of simplification perhaps allows you to understand the secondary text, you are at least one step removed from what the original author wrote.1 At the same time, you have no way of actually knowing what was written in the original work. Moreover, when you start thinking and writing about the material presented in the secondary reading, you are not one, but two steps removed from the original text. If the purpose of a course in classical sociological theory is to grapple with the ideas that preoccupied the core figures of the field—the ideas and analyses that would come to shape the direction of sociology for more than a century—then studying original works must be a cornerstone of the course. To this end, we provide excerpts from the original writings of those we consider to be sociology’s core classical theorists. If students are to understand Karl Marx’s writings, they must read Marx, and not a simplified interpretation of his ideas. They must learn to study for themselves what the initiators of sociology have said about some of the most fundamental social issues, the relevance of which is timeless. Yet, we also provide in this book a secondary interpretation of the theorists’ overall frameworks and the selected readings. Our intent is to provide a guide (albeit simplified) for understanding the original works. The secondary interpretation will help you navigate the different writing styles often resulting from the particular historical, contextual, and geographical locations in which the theorists were rooted. WHO ARE SOCIOLOGY’S CORE THEORISTS? Our conviction that students should read the core classical sociological theorists raises an important question: Who are the core theorists? After all, the discipline of sociology has been influenced by dozens of philosophers and social thinkers. Given this fact, is it right to hold up a handful of scholars as the core theorists of sociology? Doesn’t this lead to the canonization of a few “dead, white, European men”? In our view, the answer is yes, it is right (or at least not wrong) to cast a select group of intellectuals as the core writers in the discipline; and yes, this is, to an extent, the canonization of a few dead, white, European men. On the other hand, it is these thinkers from whom later social theorists (who are not all dead, white, European, or male) primarily have drawn for inspiration and insight. To better understand our rationale for including some theorists while excluding others, it is important first to briefly consider the historical context that set the stage for the development of sociology as a discipline. The Enlightenment Many of the seeds for what would become sociology were first planted during the Enlightenment, a period of remarkable intellectual development that originated in Europe during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries (see Figure 1.1). The development of civil society (open spaces of debate relatively free from government control) and the quickening pace of the modern world enabled a newly emerging mass of literate citizens to think about the economic, political, and cultural conditions that shaped society. As a result, a number of long-standing ideas and beliefs about social life were turned upside down. The Enlightenment, however, was not so much a fixed set of ideas as it was a new attitude, a new method of thought. One of the most important aspects of this new attitude was an emphasis on reason, which demanded the questioning and reexamination of received ideas and values regarding the physical world, human nature, and their relationship to God. Figure 1.1 Historical Eras: A Partial Timeline Before this period, there were no institutionalized academic disciplines seeking to explain the workings of the natural and social worlds. Aside from folklore, there were only the interpretations of nature and humanity sanctioned by the Catholic Church. Based on myth and faith, such explanations of the conditions of existence took on a taken-for-granted quality that largely isolated them from criticism (Lemert 1993; Seidman 1994). Enlightenment intellectuals challenged myth- and faith-based truths by subjecting them to the dictates of reason and its close cousin, science. Scientific thought had itself only begun to emerge in the fifteenth century through the efforts of astronomers and scientists such as Copernicus, Galileo, and Bacon (see Figure 1.1). Copernicus’s discovery in the early sixteenth century that the Earth orbited the sun directly contradicted the literal understanding of the Bible, which placed the Earth at the center of the universe. With his inventive improvement to the telescope, Galileo confirmed Copernicus’s heliocentric view the following century. Galileo’s contemporary, Sir Francis Bacon, developed an experimental, inductive approach to analyzing the natural world for which he has come to be known as the “father of the scientific method.” In advocating the triumph of reasoned investigation over faith, these early scientists and the Enlightenment intellectuals who followed in their footsteps rebuked existing knowledge as fraught with prejudice and mindless tradition (Seidman 1994:20–21). Not surprisingly, such views were dangerous because they challenged the authority of religious beliefs and those charged with advancing them. Indeed, Galileo was convicted of heresy by the Catholic Church, had his work banned, and spent the last ten years of his life under house arrest for advocating a heliocentric view of the universe. It is important to bear in mind, however, that Enlightenment thinkers did not set out to disprove the existence of God; with few exceptions, there were no admitted atheists during this period of European history. But though they did not deny that the universe was divinely created, they did deny that God and his work were inscrutable. Instead, they viewed the universe as a mechanical system composed of matter in motion that obeyed natural laws that could be uncovered by means of methodical observation and empirical research. Thus, when Newton developed his theory of gravity, a giant leap forward in the development of mathematics and physics, he was offering proof of God’s existence. For Newton, only the intelligence of a divine power could have ordered the universe so perfectly around the sun as to prevent the planets from colliding under forces of gravity (Armstrong 1994:303). Similarly, Rene Descartes was convinced that reason and mathematics could provide certainty of God whose existence could be demonstrated rationally, much like a geometric proof. Faith and reason for these individuals were not irreconcilable. The heresy committed by the Enlightenment thinkers was their attempt to solve the mystery of God’s design of the natural world through the methodical, empirical discovery of eternal laws. Miracles were for the ignorant and superstitious. Later Enlightenment thinkers, inspired by growing sophistication within the fields of physics and mathematics, would begin to advance a view of science that sought to uncover not God’s imprint in the universe but, rather, the natural laws of matter that ordered the universe independent of the will of a divine Creator. Scientific inquiry was no longer tied to proving God’s existence. Belief in the existence of God was becoming more a private matter of conviction and conscience that could not be subjected to rational proof, but rested instead on faith. Some of the most renowned physicists, mathematicians, and philosophers of modern Western societies, from Pascal and Spinoza to Kant, Diderot, and Hume, would come to see God as a comforting idea that could offer certainty and meaning in the world or as a way to represent the summation of the causal laws and principles that ordered the universe. God, however, was not understood as a transcendent, omniscient Being who was responsible for the design of the universe and all that happens in it. And if the existence of God could not be logically or scientifically proven, then faith in his existence mattered little in explanations of reality (Armstrong 1994:311–15, 341–43). There was no longer any room left in reason and science for God. The rise of science and empiricism ushered in by the Enlightenment would give birth to sociology in the mid-nineteenth century. The central idea behind the emerging discipline was that society could be the subject of scientific examination in the same manner as biological organisms or the physical properties of material objects. Indeed, the French intellectual Auguste Comte (1798–1857), who coined the term “sociology” in 1839, also used the term “social physics” to refer to this new discipline and his organic conceptualization of society (see Significant Others box in chapter 3). The term “social physics” reflects the Enlightenment view that the discipline of sociology parallels other natural sciences. Comte argued that, like natural scientists, sociologists should uncover, rationally and scientifically, the laws of the social world.2 For Enlighteners, the main difference between scientific knowledge and either theological explanation or mere conjecture is that scientific knowledge can be tested. Thus, for Comte, the new science of society—sociology—involved (1) the analysis of the central elements and functions of social systems, using (2) concrete historical and comparative methods in order to (3) establish testable generalizations about them (Fletcher 1966:14).3 However, it was the French theorist Émile Durkheim (1858–1917), discussed in chapter 3, who arguably was most instrumental in laying the groundwork for the emerging discipline of sociology. Durkheim emphasized that while the primary domain of psychology is to understand processes internal to the individual (e.g., personality or instincts), the primary domain of sociology is “social facts”: that is, conditions and circumstances external to the individual that nevertheless determine that individual’s course of action. As a scientist, Durkheim advocated a systematic and methodical examination of social facts and their impact on individuals. Interestingly, sociology reflects a complex mix of Enlightenment and counter-Enlightenment ideas (Seidman 1994). In the late eighteenth century, a conservative reaction to the Enlightenment took place. Under the influence of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778), the unabashed embrace of rationality, technology, and progress was challenged. Against the emphasis on reason, counter-Enlighteners highlighted the significance of nonrational factors such as tradition, emotions, ritual, and ceremony. Most important, counterEnlighteners were concerned that the accelerating pace of industrialization and urbanization and the growing pervasiveness of bureaucratization were producing profoundly disorganizing effects. In one of his most important works, The Social Contract (1762), Rousseau argued that in order to have a free and equal society, there must be a genuine social contract in which everyone participates in creating laws for the good of society. Thus, rather than being oppressed by impersonal bureaucracy and laws imposed from above, people would willingly obey the laws because they had helped make them. Rousseau also challenged the age of reason, echoing Blaise Pascal’s view that the heart has reasons that reason does not know. When left to themselves, our rational faculties leave us lifeless and cold, uncertain and unsure (see McMahon 2001:35). In a parallel way, as you will see in chapter 3, Durkheim was interested in both objective or external social facts and the more subjective elements of society, such as feelings of solidarity or commitment to a moral code. Akin to Rousseau, Durkheim believed that it was these subjective elements that ultimately held societies together. Similarly, Karl Marx (1818–1883), who is another of sociology’s core figures (though he saw himself as an economist and social critic), fashioned an economic philosophy that was at once rooted in science and humanist prophecy. As you will see in chapter 2, Marx analyzed not only the economic dynamics of capitalism, but also the social and moral problems inherent to the capitalist system. Additionally, as you will see in chapter 4, another of sociology’s core theorists, Max Weber (1864– 1920), combined a methodical, scientific approach with a concern about both the material conditions and idea systems of modern societies. Economic and Political Revolutions Thus far, we have discussed how the discipline of sociology emerged within a specific intellectual environment. But of course, the Enlightenment and counter-Enlightenment were both the cause and the effect of a host of social and political developments that also affected the newly emerging discipline of sociology. Tremendous economic, political, and religious transformations had been taking place in Western Europe since the sixteenth century. The new discipline of sociology sought to explain scientifically both the causes and the effects of such extraordinary social change. One of the most important of these changes was the Industrial Revolution, a period of enormous change that began in England in the eighteenth century. The term “Industrial Revolution” refers to the application of power-driven machinery to agriculture, transportation, and manufacturing. Although industrialization began in remote times and continues today, this process completely transformed Europe in the eighteenth century. It turned Europe from a predominantly agricultural to a predominantly industrial society. It not only radically altered how goods were produced and distributed but galvanized the system of capitalism as well. Before the advance of modern industrialization, social life in Europe revolved around the family and kinship networks defined by blood and marriage relations. The family served as the fundamental unit for socializing individuals into the moral codes that reinforced expected patterns of behavior. In addition to its educational role, the family was also the center of production and thus responsible for the material well-being of its members. Family members grew their own food, managed their own livestock, built their own shelters, welled their own water, and made their own clothes. In short, the family depended on the skills and ingenuity of its members, and those in the broader kinship network of which it was a part, for its survival. The family as a separate private sphere, distinct from and dependent on external economic and political institutions, did not yet exist. Likewise, the idea that one may embark on a “career” or envision alternative futures such that “anything is possible,” was inconceivable (Brown 1987:48). Figure 1.2 London Population, 1600–1901 The rise of industrialization, however, dramatically reshaped the organization of society. Most of the world’s population was rural before the Industrial Revolution, but by the mid-nineteenth century, half of the population of England lived in cities. As shown in Figure 1.2, the population of London grew from less than a million in 1800 to more than six and a half million in 1901. So too throughout Europe the population was becoming increasingly urban. By the end of the nineteenth century, half of the population of Europe lived in cities. Moreover, while there were scarcely any cities in Europe with populations of 100,000 in 1800, there were more than 150 cities that size a century later. This massive internal migration resulted from large numbers of people leaving farms and agricultural work to become wage earners in factories in the rapidly growing cities. The shift to factory production and wage labor meant that families were no longer the center of economic activity. Instead of producing their own goods for their own needs, families depended for their survival on impersonal labor and commodity markets. At the same time, states were establishing public bureaucracies, staffed by trained “functionaries,” to provide a standardized education for children and to adjudicate disputes, punish rule violators, and guarantee recently enshrined individual rights. As a result of these transformations, the family was becoming increasingly privatized; its range of influence confined more and more to its own closed doors. The receding sway of family and community morality was coupled with the decline of the Church and religious worldviews. In their place came markets and bureaucratic organizations speaking their language of competition, profit, individual success, and instrumental efficiency. With the reorganization of society around the twin pillars of mass production and commerce, the “seven deadly sins became lively capitalist virtues: avarice became acumen; sloth, leisure; and pride, ambition” (Brown 1987:57). The shift from agricultural to factory production had particularly profound effects on individuals. Technological changes brought ever-more-efficient machines and a growing routinization of tasks. For instance, with the introduction of the power loom in the textile industry, an unskilled worker could produce three and a half times as much as could the best handloom weaver. However, this rise in efficiency came at a tremendous human cost. Mechanized production reduced both the number of jobs available and the technical skills needed for work in the factory. Workers engaged in increasingly specialized and repetitive tasks that deprived them of meaningful connections with other workers, with the commodities they produced, and even with their own abilities. As work became more uniform, so did the workers themselves who were as interchangeable as the mass-produced commodities they produced. A few profited enormously, but most worked long hours for low wages. Accidents were frequent and often quite serious. Workers were harshly punished and their wages were docked for the slightest mistakes. Women and children worked alongside men in noisy, unsafe conditions. Most factories were dirty, poorly ventilated and lit, and dangerous. From the 1760s onward, labor disputes began to result in sporadic outbreaks of violent resistance. Perhaps most famously were the episodes of machinebreaking that occurred in England in what has since become known as the Luddite disturbances (see Photo 1.1). As you will read in chapter 2, Karl Marx was particularly concerned about the economic changes and disorganizing social effects that followed in the wake of the Industrial Revolution. Marx not only wrote articles and books on the harsh conditions faced by workers under capitalism, but also was a political activist who helped organize revolutionary labor movements to provoke broad social change. Émile Durkheim, whose work we discuss in chapter 3, likewise examined the effects brought on by a growing division of labor that simultaneously led to increasing individuality and the erosion of family and community bonds. © Mary Evans Picture Library/Alamy Photo 1.1 This publicly distributed illustration shows frame-breakers, or Luddites, smashing a Jacquard loom in the 19th century. Machine-breaking was criminalized by Parliament as early as 1721, but Luddites met a heated response, and Parliament passed the Frame Breaking Act of 1812 which enabled the death penalty for machine-breakers. As you will read in chapter 4, Max Weber also explored the social transformations taking place in European society in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In contrast to Marx, however, Weber argued that it was not only economic structures (e.g., capitalism), but also organizational structures—most importantly bureaucracies—that profoundly affected social relations. Indeed, in one of the most famous metaphors in all of sociology, Weber compared modern society to an “iron cage.” Weber also examined the systems of meaning or ideas, particularly those associated with the growing rationalization of society, that both induced and resulted from such profound structural change. The Enlightenment ignited political reverberations as well. For instance, the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes called into question the authority of kings whose rule was justified by divine right. In his masterpiece of political philosophy, Leviathan (1651), he subscribed to a then-radical view that championed the natural equality of all individuals and insisted that individuals’ rights, social cooperation, and prosperity were best ensured through a strong central government that ruled through the consent of the people. His compatriot, John Locke, the “father of liberalism,” advocated the overturning of arbitrary, despotic monarchies, by revolution if necessary. Replacing them would be governments based on rational, impersonal laws designed to protect free and equal citizens’ rights to “life, liberty and estate.” Locke’s views on human nature, reason, equality, and rule by popular consent would inspire many of the leading figures of the American Revolution. Consequently, the eighteenth century ushered in tremendous political transformations throughout Europe. One of the most significant political events of that time was the French Revolution, which shook France between 1787 and 1799 and toppled the ancien régime, or old rule, that for centuries had consolidated wealth, land, and power in the hands of the clergy and a nobility based on heredity. Inspired in large part by Rousseau’s Social Contract (1762), the basic principle of the French Revolution, as contained in its primary manifesto, “La Déclaration des Droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen” (“The Declaration of Rights of Man and of the Citizen”), was that “all men are born and remain free and equal in rights.” The French revolutionaries called for “liberty, fraternity, and equality.” Spurred by the philosophies of the Enlightenment, they sought to substitute reason for tradition, and equal rights for privilege. Political order could no longer be justified on the basis of a sacred, inviolable relation between rulers and subjects. Because the revolutionaries sought to build a constitutional government from the bottom up, the French Revolution stimulated profound political rethinking about the nature of government and its proper relation to its citizens, and set the stage for democratic uprisings throughout Europe. However, the French Revolution sparked a bloody aftermath, making it clear that even democratic revolutions involve tremendous social disruption and that heinous deeds can be done in the name of freedom. The public beheading of King Louis XVI in the Place de la Révolution (“Revolution Square”) ushered in what would come to be called the “Reign of Terror.” Led by Maximilien Robespierre, radical democrats rounded up and executed anyone—whether on the left or right of the political spectrum—suspected of being opposed to the revolution. In the months between September 1793 (when Robespierre took power) and July 1794 (when Robespierre was overthrown and executed), revolutionary zealots, under the auspices of the newly created ”Committee of Public Safety,” arrested about 300,000 people, executed some 17,000, and imprisoned thousands more. It was during this radical period of the Republic that the guillotine, adopted as an efficient and merciful method of execution, became the symbol of the Terror. While the years following the French Revolution by no means drew a straight line to creating a democratically elected government guaranteeing the rights and equality of all, its effects nevertheless reverberated across the continent. The legitimacy of monarchial rule and inherited privilege that had undergirded European societies for centuries was now challenged by a worldview that sought to place the direction of political and economic life into the hands of individuals armed with the capacity to reason. The Ins and Outs of Classical Canons Thus far, we have argued that the central figures at the heart of classical sociological theory all sought to explain the extraordinary economic, political, and social transformations taking place in Europe in the late nineteenth century. Yet, concerns about the nature of social bonds and how these bonds can be maintained in the face of extant social change existed long before the eighteenth century and in many places, not only in Western Europe. Indeed, in the late fourteenth century, Abdel Rahman Ibn-Khaldun (1332–1406), born in Tunis, Tunisia, in North Africa, thought and wrote extensively on subjects that have much in common with contemporary sociology (Martindale 1981:134–36; Ritzer 2000:10). And long before the fourteenth century, Plato (ca. 428–ca. 347 bc), Aristotle (384–22 bc), and Thucydides (ca. 460–ca. 400 bc) wrote about the nature of war, the origins of the family and the state, and the relationship between religion and the government—topics that have since become central to sociology (Seidman 1994:19). Aristotle, for example, emphasized that human beings were naturally political animals—zoon politikon (Martin 1999:157). He sought to identify the essence that made a stone a stone or a society a society (Ashe 1999:89). For that matter, well before Aristotle’s time, Confucius (551–479 bc) developed a theory for understanding Chinese society. Akin to Aristotle, Confucius maintained that government is the center of people’s lives and that all other considerations derive from it. According to Confucius, a good government must be concerned with three things: sufficient food, a sufficient army, and the confidence of the people (Jaspers 1957/1962:47). These premodern thinkers are better understood as philosophers, however, and not as sociologists. Both Aristotle and Confucius were less concerned with explaining social dynamics than with prescribing a perfected, moral social world. As a result, their ideas are guided less by a scientific pursuit of knowledge than by an ideological commitment to a specific set of values. Moreover, in contrast to modern sociologists, premodern thinkers tended to see the universe as a static, hierarchical order in which all beings, human and otherwise, have a more or less fixed and proper place and purpose, and they sought to identify the “natural” moral structure of the universe (Seidman 1994:19). Our key point here is that, while the ideas of Marx, Weber, and Durkheim are today at the heart of the classical sociological theoretical canon, this does not mean that they are inherently better or more original than those of other intellectuals who wrote before or after them. Rather, it is to say that, for specific historical, social, and cultural as well as intellectual reasons, their works have helped define the discipline of sociology, and that sociologists refine, rework, and challenge their ideas to this day. For that matter, Marx, Weber, and Durkheim have not always been considered the core theorists in sociology. On the contrary, until 1940, Weber and Durkheim were not especially adulated by American sociologists (Bierstedt 1981). Until that time, discussions of their work were largely absent from texts. Marx was not included in the canon until the 1960s. Meanwhile, even a cursory look at mid-century sociological theory textbooks reveals an array of important “core figures,” including Sumner, Sorokin, Sorel, Pareto, Le Play, Ammon, Veblen, de Tocqueville, Cooley, Spencer, Tönnies, and Martineau. Although an extended discussion of all of these theorists is outside the scope of this volume, we provide a brief look at some of these scholars in the Significant Others boxes of the chapters that follow. In the second half of this book, we focus on several writers who for social or cultural reasons were underappreciated as sociologists in their day. Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860–1935), for example, was well known as a writer and radical feminist in her time, but not as a sociologist (Degler 1966:vii). It was not until the 1960s that there was a formalized sociological area called “feminist theory.” Gilman sought to explain the basis of gender inequality in modern industrial society. She explored the fundamental questions that would become the heart of feminist social theory some 50 years later, when writers such as Simone de Beauvoir and Betty Friedan popularized these same concerns. Georg Simmel (1858–1918), a German sociologist, wrote works that would later become pivotal in sociology, though his career was consistently stymied both because of the unusual breadth and content of his work and because of his Jewish background.4 Simmel sought to uncover the basic forms of social interaction, such as “exchange,” “conflict,” and “domination,” that take place between individuals. Above all, Simmel underscored the contradictions of modern life. For instance, he emphasized how individuals strive both to conform to social groups and, at the same time, to distinguish themselves from others. Simmel’s provocative work is gaining more and more relevance in today’s world, in which contradictions and ironies abound. While anti-Semitism prevented Simmel from receiving his full due, and sexism impeded Gilman (as well as other women scholars) from achieving hers, the forces of racism in the United States forestalled the sociological career of the African American intellectual W. E. B. Du Bois (1868–1963). Not surprisingly, it was this very racism that would become Du Bois’s most pressing scholarly concern. Du Bois sought to develop a sociological theory about the interpenetration of race and class in America at a time when most sociologists ignored or glossed over the issue of racism. Although underappreciated in his day, Du Bois’s insights are at the heart of contemporary sociological theories of race relations. We conclude this book with the work of the social philosopher George Herbert Mead (1863–1931). Mead laid the foundation for symbolic interactionism, which has been one of the major perspectives in sociological theory since the middle of the twentieth century. Mead challenged prevailing psychological theories about the mind by highlighting the social basis of thinking and communication. Mead’s provocative work on the emergent, symbolic dimensions of human interaction continue to shape virtually all social, psychological, and symbolic interactionist research today. HOW CAN WE NAVIGATE SOCIOLOGICAL THEORY? Thus far, we have (1) explained the imperativeness of sociological theory, (2) argued that students should read original theoretical works, and (3) discussed the theorists whom we consider to be at the heart of classical sociological theory. Now we come to the fourth question: How can we best navigate the wide range of ideas that these theorists bring to the fore? To this end, in this section we explain the metatheoretical framework or “map” that we use in this book to explore and compare and contrast the work of each theorist. The Questions of “Order” and “Action” Our framework revolves around two central questions that social theorists and philosophers have grappled with since well before the establishment of sociology as an institutionalized discipline: the questions of order and action (Alexander 1987). Indeed, these two questions have been a cornerstone in social thought at least since the time of the ancient Greek philosophers. The first question (illustrated in Figure 1.3) is that of order. It asks what accounts for the patterns or predictability of behavior that leads us to experience social life as routine. Or, expressed somewhat differently, how do we explain the fact that social life is not random, chaotic, or disconnected, but instead demonstrates the existence of an ordered social universe? The second question (illustrated in Figure 1.4) is that of action. It considers the factors that motivate individuals or groups to act. The question of action, then, turns our attention to the forces held to be responsible for steering individual or group behavior in a particular direction. Figure 1.3 Basic Theoretical Continuum as to the Nature of Social Order Figure 1.4 Basic Theoretical Continuum as to the Nature of Social Action Similar to how the north−south, east−west coordinates allow you to orient yourself to the details on a street map, our analytical map is anchored by four coordinates that assist you in navigating the details of the theories presented in this volume. In this case, the coordinates situate the answers to the two questions. Thus, to the question of order, one answer is that the patterns of social life are the product of structural arrangements or historical conditions that confront individuals or groups. As such, preexisting social arrangements produce the apparent orderliness of social life because individuals and groups are pursuing trajectories that, in a sense, are not of their own making. Society is thus pictured as an overarching system that works down on individuals and groups to determine the shape of the social order. Society is understood as a reality sui generis that operates according to its own logic distinct from the will of individuals. This orientation has assumed many different names— macro, holistic, objectivist, structuralist, and the label we use here, collective (or collectivist). By contrast, the other answer to the question of order is that social order is a product of ongoing interactions between individuals and groups. Here, it is individuals and groups creating, re-creating, or altering the social order that works up to produce society. This position grants more autonomy to actors, because they are seen as relatively free to reproduce the patterns and routines of social life (i.e., the social order) or transform them. Over time, this orientation has earned several names as well—micro, elementarism, subjectivist, and the label we adopt here, individual (or individualist). (See Figure 1.3.) Turning to the question of action, we again find two answers, labeled here nonrational and rational.5 Specifically, if the motivation for action is primarily nonrational, the individual takes his bearings from subjective ideals, symbolic codes, values, morals, norms, traditions, the quest for meaning, unconscious desires, or emotional states, or a combination of these. While the nonrationalist orientation is relatively broad in capturing a number of motivating forces, the rationalist orientation is far less encompassing. It contends that individual and group actions are motivated primarily by the attempt to maximize rewards while minimizing costs. Here, individuals and groups are viewed essentially as calculating and strategic as they seek to achieve the “selfish” goal of improving their positions. Here, actors are seen as taking their bearings from the external conditions in which they find themselves rather than from internal ideals. Intersecting the two questions and their answers, we can create a fourcelled map on which we are able to plot the basic theoretical orientation of the social thinkers featured in this book (see Figure 1.5). The four cells are identified as collective–nonrational, collective–rational, individual– nonrational, and individual–rational. We cannot overemphasize that these four coordinates are “ideal types”; theorists and theories are never “pure,” that is, situated completely in one cell. Implicitly or explicitly, or both, theorists inevitably incorporate more than one orientation in their work. These coordinates (or cells in the table) are best understood as endpoints to a continuum on which theories typically occupy a position somewhere between the extremes. Multidimensionality and ambiguity are reflected in our maps by the lack of fixed points. In addition, it is important to note that this map is something you apply to the theories under consideration. Although each theorist addresses the questions of order and action, they generally did not use these terms in their writing. For that matter, their approaches to order and action tend to be implicit rather than explicit in their work. Thus, at times you will have to read between the lines to determine a theorist’s position on these fundamental questions. Although this may pose some challenges, it also expands your opportunities for learning. Consequently, not everyone views each theorist in exactly the same light. Moreover, even within one major work a theorist may draw from both ends of the continuum. In each chapter, we discuss the ambiguities and alternative interpretations within the body of work of each theorist. Nevertheless, these maps enable you to (1) recognize the general tendencies that exist within each theorist’s body of work, and (2) compare and contrast (and argue about) thinkers’ general theoretical orientations. (For further examples as to the flexibility of this framework, see the discussion questions at the end of the chapter.) Figure 1.5 Theorists’ Basic Orientation NOTE: This diagram reflects the basic theoretical orientation of each thinker. However, every theorist in this volume is far more nuanced and multidimensional than this simple figure lets on. The point is not to fix each theorist in a predetermined box, but rather to provide a means for illuminating and discussing each theorist’s orientation relative to one another and within their various works. *Our placement of Du Bois on the nonrational side of the continuum reflects the excerpts in this volume that were chosen because of their theoretical significance. In our view, it is his understanding of racial consciousness that constitutes his single most important theoretical contribution. However, he continually underscored the intertwined, structural underpinnings of race and class that, in the latter part of his life, led him to adopt a predominantly rationalist, Marxist-inspired orientation. In our view, however, Du Bois’s later work has more empirical than theoretical significance. Put another way, when navigating the forest of theory, individual theorists are like trees. Our analytic map is a tool or device for locating the trees within the forest so you can enter and leave having developed a better sense of direction or, in this case, having learned far more than might otherwise have been the case. By enabling you to compare theorists’ positions on two crucial issues, their work is likely to be seen less as a collection of separate, unrelated ideas. Bear in mind, however, that the map is only a tool. Its simplicity does not capture the complexities of the theories or of social life itself. In sum, it is essential to remember that this four-cell table is an analytical device that helps us understand and compare and contrast theorists better, but it does not mirror or reflect reality. The production and reproduction of the social world is never a function of either individuals or social structures, but rather a complex combination of both. So too, motivation is never completely rational or completely nonrational. To demonstrate this point as well as how our analytical map on action and order works in general, we turn to a very simple example. Table 1.1 Why Do People Stop at Red Traffic Lights? Basic Approaches to Order and Action Consider this question: Why do people stop at red traffic lights? First, in terms of action, the answer to this question resides on a continuum with rational and nonrational orientations serving as the endpoints. On the one hand, you might say people stop at red traffic lights because it is in their best interest to avoid getting a ticket or having an accident. This answer reflects a rationalist response; it demonstrates that rationalist motivations involve the individual taking her bearings from outside herself. (See Table 1.1.) The action (stopping at the red light) proceeds primarily in light of external conditions (e.g., a police officer that could ticket you, oncoming cars that could hit you). A nonrationalist answer to his question is that people stop at red traffic lights because they believe it is good and right to follow the law. Here, the individual takes his bearings from morals or values from within himself, rather than from external conditions (e.g., oncoming cars). Interestingly, if this moral or normative imperative is the only motivation for action, the individual will stop at the traffic light even if there is no police car or oncoming cars in sight. By contrast, if one’s only motivation for action is rationalist and there are absolutely no visible dangers (i.e., no police officers or other cars in sight and hence no possibility of getting a ticket or having an accident), the driver will not stop at the red light: instead, she will go. Another nonrationalist answer to the question “Why do people stop at red traffic lights?” involves “habits.” (See Table 1.1.) By definition, habits are relatively unconscious: that is, we do not think about them. They come “automatically” not from strategic calculations or external circumstances, but from within; that is why they are typically considered nonrational. Interestingly, habits may or may not have their roots in morality. Some habits are “folkways” or routinized ways people do things in a particular society (e.g., paying your bills by mail rather than in person, driving on the right side of the road), while other habits are attached to sacred values (e.g., putting your hand over your heart when you salute the flag). Getting back to our example, say you are driving in your car on a deserted road at 2:00 in the morning and you automatically stop at a red traffic light out of habit. Your friend riding with you might say, “Why are you stopping? There’s not a car in sight.” If your action were motivated simply from habit and not a moral imperative to follow the law, you might say, “Hey you’re right!” and drive through the red light. Of course, actions often have—indeed, they usually have—both rational and nonrational dimensions. For instance, in this previous example, you might have interpreted your friend’s question, “Why are you stopping? There’s not a car in sight,” to mean, “Don’t be a goody-goody—let’s go!” In other words, you may have succumbed to peer pressure even though you knew it was wrong to do so. If such was the case, you may have wittingly or unwittingly believed your ego, or your sense of self, was on the line. Thus, it was not so much that rational trumped nonrational motivation as it was that you acted out of the external pressure from your friend and internal pressure to do the “cool” thing and be the particular type of person you want to be. If such were the case, your action is a complex combination of conditions both outside and within yourself. Indeed, a basic premise of this book is that because social life is extremely complex, a complete social theory must account for multiple sources of action and levels of social order. Theorists must be able to account for the wide variety of components (e.g., individual predispositions, personality and emotions, social and symbolic structures) constitutive of this world. Thus, for instance, our rationalist response to the question as to why people stop at red traffic lights—that people stop simply because they don’t want to get a ticket or get into an accident—is, in fact, incomplete. It is undercut by a series of unacknowledged nonrational motivations. There is a whole host of information that undergirds the very ability of an individual to make this choice. For example, before one can even begin to make the decision as to whether to stop for the red light, one must know that normally (and legally) “red” means “stop” and “green” means “go.” That we know and take for granted that “red” means “stop” and “green” means “go” and then consciously think about and decide to override that cultural knowledge (and norm) indicates that even at our most rationalist moments we are still using the tools of a largely taken-for-granted, symbolic, or nonrational realm (see Table 1.1). Now let’s turn to the issue of order. If we say “People stop at red lights because they don’t want to get a ticket,” this can be said to reflect a collectivist approach to order if we are emphasizing there is a coercive state apparatus (e.g., the law, police) that hems in behavior. If such is the case, we are emphasizing that external social structures precede and shape individual choice. If we say “People stop because they believe it is good and right to follow the law,” we might be taking a collectivist approach to order as well. Here we assume individuals are socialized to obey the law. We emphasize that specific social or collective morals and norms are internalized by individuals and reproduced in their everyday behavior. Similarly, if we emphasize it is only because of the preexisting symbolic code in which “red” means “stop” and “green” means “go” that individuals can decide what to do, then we would be taking a collectivist approach. These versions of order and action are illustrated in Table 1.1. On the other hand, that people stop at red traffic lights because they don’t want to get into an accident or get a ticket also might reflect an individualist approach to order, if the assumption is that the individual determines his action using his own free will, and that from this the traffic system is born. Another important individualist albeit nonrationalist answer to this question emphasizes the role of emotions. For instance, one might fear getting a ticket, and—to the extent the fear comes from within the individual rather than from the actual external circumstances—we can say this fear represents a nonrational motivating force at the level of the individual. In this book, you will see that the core sociological theorists hold a wide variety of views on the action/order continuum even within their own work. Overall, however, each theorist can be said to have a basic or general theoretical orientation. For instance, Marx was interested above all in the collectivist and rationalist conditions behind and within order and action, while Durkheim, especially in his later work, was most interested in the collectivist and nonrationalist realms. Thus, juxtaposing Figure 1.3 and Table 1.1, you can see that if we were to resurrect Marx and Durkheim from their graves and ask them the hypothetical question, “Why do people stop at red traffic lights?” Marx would be more likely to emphasize the rationalist motivation behind this act (“They seek to avoid getting a ticket”), while Durkheim would be more likely to emphasize the nonrational motivation (“They consider it the ‘right’ thing to do”). Both, however, would emphasize that these seemingly individualist acts are actually rooted in collective social and cultural structures (i.e., it is the law with its coercive and moral force that undergirds individual behavior). Meanwhile, at the more individualist end of the continuum, Mead would probably emphasize the immediate ideational process in which individuals interpret the meanings for and consequences of each possible action. (Note, though, that obviously each of these theorists is far more complex and multidimensional than this simple example lets on.) Of course, the purpose of this book is not to examine the work of core sociological theorists in order to figure out how they might answer a hypothetical question about red traffic lights. Rather, the purpose of this book is to examine the central issues these theorists themselves raise and to analyze the particular theoretical stances they take as they explore these concerns. It is to this task that we now turn. Discussion Questions 1. Explain the difference between “primary” and “secondary” theoretical sources. What are the advantages and disadvantages of reading each type of work? 2. The metatheoretical framework we introduce in this chapter is useful not only for navigating classical sociological theory, but also for thinking about virtually any social issue. Using Table 1.1 as a reference, devise your own question, and then give hypothetical answers that reflect the four different basic theoretical orientations: individual/rational, individual/nonrational, collective/rational, and collective/nonrational. For instance, why do 16-year-olds stay in (or drop out of) high school? Why might a man or woman stay in a situation of domestic violence? What are possible explanations for gender inequality? What are possible causal explanations for the Holocaust? What are the various arguments for and against affirmative action? What are the central arguments for and against capital punishment? Why are you reading this book? 3. Numerous works of fiction speak to the social conditions that early sociologists were examining. For instance, Charles Dickens’s Hard Times (1854) portrays the hardships of the Industrial Revolution, while Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables addresses the political and social dynamics of the French Revolution. Read either of these works (or watch the movies or play), and discuss the tremendous social changes they highlight. 4. Consider the alleged conversation between F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway: F. SCOTT FITZGERALD: “The rich are different than you and me.” E. HEMINGWAY: “Yes, they have more money.” How does this brief exchange relate to the metatheoretical framework used in this book? Use concrete examples to explain. 5. Consider the following famous quote attributed to John Stuart Mill: “One person with a belief is equal to a force of 99 who have only interests.” How does this quote relate to the metatheoretical framework used in this book? Use concrete examples to explain. To what extent do you agree or disagree with Mill? How so? 1Further complicating the matter is that many of the original works that make up the core of sociological theory were written in a language other than English. Language translation is itself an imperfect exercise. 2Physics is often considered the most scientific and rational of all the natural sciences because it focuses on the basic elements of matter and energy and their interactions. 3Of course, the scientists of the Enlightenment were not uninfluenced by subjectivity or morality. Rather, as Seidman (1994:30–31) points out, paradoxically, the Enlighteners sacralized science, progress, and reason; they deified the creators of science such as Galileo and Newton and fervently believed that science could resolve all social problems and restore social order, which is itself a type of faith. 4Durkheim was also Jewish (indeed, he was the son of a rabbi), but anti-Semitism did not significantly impede Durkheim’s career. In fact, it was Durkheim’s eloquent article, “Individualism and Intellectuals” (1898) on the Dreyfus affair (a political scandal that emerged after a Jewish staff officer named Captain Alfred Dreyfus was erroneously court-martialed for selling secrets to the German Embassy in Paris) that shot him to prominence and eventually brought Durkheim his first academic appointment in Paris. In sum, German anti-Semitism was much more harmful to Georg Simmel than French anti-Semitism was to Durkheim. 5The terms “rational” and “nonrational” are problematic in that they have a commonsensical usage at odds with how theorists use these terms. By “rational” we do not mean “good and smart” and by “nonrational” we do not mean irrational, nonsensical, or stupid (Alexander 1987:11). Despite these problems, however, we continue to use the terms “rational” and “nonrational” because (although it is outside the scope of this discussion) the semantic alternatives (subjectivist, idealist, internal, etc.) are even more problematic. 2 KARL MARX (1818–1883) Courtesy of the Library of Congress Key Concepts Class Bourgeoisie Proletariat Forces and relations of production Capital Surplus value Alienation Labor theory of value Exploitation Class consciousness Commodity fetishism The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles. (Marx and Engels 1848/1978:473) ave you ever worked at a job that left you feeling empty inside? Or that you were “just a number,” that even though you do your job, you might be easily replaced by another worker or a machine? Perhaps you have worked as a telemarketer, reading a script and selling a product that, in all likelihood, you had never seen or used. Or perhaps you have worked in a fast-food restaurant, or in a large factory or corporation. Or maybe you are one of the millions of “crowdworkers” who perform piecework “microtasks” on your home computer for CrowdFlower, CloudCrowd, or Amazon’s Mechanical Turk virtual assembly lines. While you may earn as little as $2 an hour and have no connection to the finished product, for Lukas Biewald, founder and CEO of CrowdFlower, this modern, utopian “workplace” represents an escape from the Dark Ages, when, “Before the Internet, it would be really difficult to finds someone, sit them down for ten minutes and get them to work for you, and then fire them after those ten minutes. But with technology, you can actually find them, pay them the tiny amount of money, and then get rid of them when you don’t need them anymore” (Biewald 2014:28). H This is precisely the type of situation that greatly concerned Karl Marx. Marx sought to explain the nature of the capitalist economies that came to the fore in Western Europe in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. He maintained that the economic deficiencies and social injustices inherent to capitalism would ultimately lead to the breakdown of capitalist societies and the creation of a communist society in which, freed from all exploitation, individuals could reach their full potential. Yet Marx was not an academic writing in an ivory tower: he was an activist, a revolutionary committed to the overthrow of capitalism. And as you will see shortly, Marx paid a personal price for his revolutionary activities. Though Marx’s prediction that capitalism would be replaced by communism has not come true (some would say, “not yet”), his critique of capitalism continues to resonate with contemporary society. His discussions regarding the concentration of wealth, the growth of monopoly capitalism, business’s unscrupulous pursuit of profit (demonstrated, for instance, by the recent scandals surrounding Barclays, UBS, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, and Bernard Madoff, to name but a few), the relationship between government economic policy and the interests of the capitalist class, and the alienation experienced in the workplace, all speak to concerns that affect almost everyone, even today. Indeed, who has not felt at one time or another that his job was solely a means to an end—a paycheck, money—instead of an avenue for fulfilling his aspirations or cultivating his talents? Who has not felt as though she were an expendable commodity, a means, or tool in the production of a good or the provision of a service where even her emotions must be manufactured for the sake of the job? Clearly, Marx’s ideas are as relevant today as they were more than a century ago. A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Karl Marx was born on May 5, 1818, in Trier, a commercial city in southwestern Germany’s Rhineland.1 Descended from a line of rabbis on both sides of his family, Marx’s father, Heinrich, was a secularly educated lawyer. Though Heinrich did not actively practice Judaism, he was subject to antiSemitism. With France’s ceding of the Rhineland to Prussia after the defeat of Napoleon, Jews living in the region were faced with a repeal of the civil rights granted under French rule. In order to keep his legal practice, Heinrich converted to Lutheranism in 1817. As a result, Karl was afforded the comforts of a middle-class home. Following in his father’s footsteps, Marx pursued a secular education. He enrolled as a law student at the University of Bonn in 1835, then transferred the following year to the University of Berlin. In addition to studying law, Marx devoted himself to the study of history and philosophy. While in Berlin, Marx also joined the Young Hegelians, a group of radical thinkers who developed a powerful critique of the philosophy of Georg W. F. Hegel (1770– 1831), the dominant German intellectual figure of the day and one of the most influential thinkers of the nineteenth century. Marx constructed the basis of his theoretical system, historical materialism, by inverting Hegel’s philosophy of social change. (See pp. 36–38 for a brief sketch of Hegel’s philosophy and its relation to Marx’s theory.) In 1841, Marx earned a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Jena. However, his ambitions for an academic career ended when the Berlin ministry of education blacklisted him for his radical views.2 Having established little in the way of career prospects during his student years, Marx accepted an offer to write for the Rheinische Zeitung, a liberal newspaper published in Cologne. Marx soon worked his way up to become editor of the newspaper. Writing on the social conditions in Prussia, Marx criticized the government’s treatment of the poor and exposed the harsh conditions of peasants working in the Moselle wine-producing region. However, Marx’s condemnation of the authorities brought on the censors, and he was forced to resign his post. Soon after, Marx married his childhood love, Jenny Von Westphalen, the daughter of a Prussian baron. The two moved to Paris in the fall of 1843. At the time, Paris was the center of European intellectual and political movements. While there, Marx became acquainted with a number of leading socialist writers and revolutionaries. Of particular importance to his intellectual development were the works of the French philosopher Henri de Saint-Simon and (1760–1825) and his followers. Saint-Simon’s ideas led to the creation of Christian Socialism, a movement that sought to organize modern industrial society according to the social principles espoused by Christianity. In their efforts to counter the exploitation and egoistic competition that accompany industrial capitalism, Saint-Simonians advocated that industry and commerce be guided according to an ethic of brotherhood and cooperation. By instituting common ownership of society’s productive forces and an end to rights of inheritance, they believed that the powers of science and industry could be marshaled to create a more just society free from poverty. Marx also studied the work of the seminal political economists Adam Smith (1723–1790) and David Ricardo (1772–1823). Smith’s book An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776) represents the first systematic examination of the relationship between government policy and a nation’s economic growth. As such, it played a central role in defining the field of political economy. (See p. 26 for summary remarks on Smith’s views.) For his part, Ricardo, building on Smith’s earlier works, would further refine the study of economics. He wrote on a number of subjects, including the condition of wages, the source of value, taxation, and the production and distribution of goods. A leading economist in his day, Ricardo’s writings were influential in shaping England’s economic policies. It was from his critique of these writers that Marx would develop his humanist philosophy and economic theories. During his time in Paris, Marx also began what would become a lifelong collaboration and friendship with Friedrich Engels, whom he met while serving as editor of the Zeitung. Marx’s stay in France was short-lived, however, and again it was his journalism that sparked the ire of government authorities. In January 1845, he was expelled from the country at the request of the Prussian government for his antiroyalist articles. Unable to return to his home country (Prussia), Marx renounced his Prussian citizenship and settled in Brussels, where he lived with his family until 1848. In Brussels, Marx extended his ties to revolutionary working-class movements through associations with members of the League of the Just and the Communist League. Moreover, it was while living in Brussels that Marx and Engels produced two of their most important early works, The German Ideology (see reading that follows) and The Communist Manifesto (see reading that follows). In 1848, workers and peasants began staging revolts throughout much of Europe. As the revolution spread, Marx and Engels left Brussels and headed for Cologne to serve as coeditors of the radical Neue Rheinische Zeitung, a paper devoted to furthering the revolutionary cause. For his part in the protests, Marx was charged with inciting rebellion and defaming the Prussian royal family. Though acquitted, Marx was forced to leave the country. He returned to Paris, but soon was pressured by the French government to leave the country as well, so Marx and his family moved to London in 1849. In London, Marx turned his attention more fully to the study of economics. Spending some 60 hours per week in the British Museum, Marx produced a number of important works, including Capital (see reading that follows), considered a masterpiece critique of capitalist economic principles and their human costs. Marx also continued his political activism. From 1851 to 1862, he was a regular contributor to the New York Daily Tribune, writing on such issues as political upheavals in France, the Civil War in the United States, Britain’s colonization of India, and the hidden causes of war.3 In 1864, Marx helped found and direct the International Working Men’s Association, a socialist movement committed to ending the inequities and alienation or “loss of self” experienced under capitalism. The International had branches across the European continent and the United States, and Marx’s popular writing and activism gave him an international audience for his ideas. Yet, the revolutionary workers’ movements were floundering. In 1876, the International disintegrated and Marx was barely able to support himself and his wife as they struggled against failing health. Jenny died on December 2, 1881, and Marx himself died on March 14, 1883. INTELLECTUAL INFLUENCES AND CORE IDEAS The revolutionary spirit that inflamed Marx’s work cannot be understood outside the backdrop of the sweeping economic and social changes occurring during this period. By the middle of the nineteenth century, the Industrial Revolution that began in Britain 100 years earlier was spreading throughout Western Europe. Technological advances in transportation, communication, and manufacturing spurred an explosion in commercial markets for goods. The result was the birth of modern capitalism and the rise of middle-class owners of capital, or the bourgeoisie, to economic and political power. In the wake of these changes came a radical reorganization of both work and domestic life. With the rapid expansion of industry, agricultural work declined, forcing families to move from rural areas to the growing urban centers. It would not take long for the size of the manufacturing labor force to rival and then surpass the numbers working in agriculture. Nowhere were the disorganizing effects of the Industrial Revolution and the growth of capitalism more readily apparent than in Manchester, England. In the first half of the nineteenth century Manchester’s population exploded by 1,000 percent as it rapidly became a major industrial city.4 The excessive rate of population growth meant that families had to live in makeshift housing without heat or light and in dismal sanitary conditions that fueled the spread of disease. The conditions in the mechanized factories were no better. The factories were poorly ventilated and lit and often dangerous, and factory owners disciplined workers to the monotonous rhythms of mass production. A 70-hour workweek was not uncommon for men and women, and children as young as six often worked as much as 50 hours a week. Yet, the wages earned by laborers left families on the brink of beggary. The appalling living and work standards led Engels to describe Manchester as “Hell upon Earth.” Courtesy of the Library of Congress; photographer Lewis Wickes Hine Photo 2.1 1910 Sordid Factory Conditions: A Young Girl Working as a Spinner in a U.S. Textile Mill, circa Although it may no longer be in Manchester, Hell upon Earth has by no means disappeared. In a 2012 Pulitzer Prize−winning series, the New York Times brought to light the working conditions in the Chinese manufacturing plants that produce Apple’s iPad and iPhone. Apple’s overseas suppliers are allowed only the slimmest of profits, forcing them to speed up their employees’ work pace and extend their working hours, while substituting substandard chemicals and equipment for more expensive alternatives. Many of the 70,000 workers at the Foxconn plant in the Chengdu province live in three-room company dorms crammed with 20 people. The overcrowded living conditions are exacerbated by harsh working environments that include excessive overtime, seven-day shifts, constant standing that swells workers’ legs until they could hardly walk, and the use of child laborers. Faced with such dire conditions, at least 18 Foxconn workers attempted suicide over a two-year period, some by leaping from facility buildings. Ventilation systems that were known to be substandard failed to properly filter the accumulation of aluminum dust in factories, directly contributing to two explosions within seven months at iPad factories that left 4 dead and 77 injured. In a separate incident, 137 workers at an Apple supplier were injured from using n-hexane —a toxic chemical that can cause nerve damage and paralysis—to clean iPhone screens. The chemical was used because it evaporates three times faster than rubbing alcohol, thus allowing employees to clean more iPhone screens per minute. National Labor Committee Photo 2.2 Workers’ Dormitory in a Chinese Tech Factory Tech factories typically run 24 hours a day and employ thousands of workers who sleep in shifts in overcrowded rooms. Although Apple’s revenue in 2011 exceeded $108 billion, earning the company more than $400,000 in profit per employee, many workers in its Chinese factories earn less than $17 a day for their grueling shifts; those with a college degree and overtime pay can earn as much as $22 a day. Yet, its top employees have reaped the biggest rewards. In 2010, Apple CEO Timothy Cook was granted a compensation package with a total value of $59 million. In 2011, after the explosions, suicide attempts, and revelations of multiple labor and environmental violations, Apple’s board of directors gave Cook a pay raise and stock options that after vesting over a 10-year period will be worth $427 million at their then-current value. How is it that such conditions continue to persist? One answer may be found in a national survey conducted by the New York Times in 2011, in which 56 percent of the respondents were unable to think of anything negative about Apple. Fourteen percent remarked that the worst thing about Apple was that its products were too expensive. Only 2 percent mentioned overseas labor practices. As long as “customers care more about a new iPhone than working conditions in China,” things won’t get much better (China 2012). It was in reaction to such dire economic and social conditions that Marx sought to forge a theoretical model intended not only to interpret the world but also to change it. In doing so, he centered his analysis on economic classes. For Marx, classes are groups of individuals who share a common position in relation to the means or forces of production. These refer to the raw materials, technology, machines, factories, and land that are necessary in the production of goods. Each class is distinguished by what it owns with regard to the means of production. Marx argued, “Wage labourers, capitalists and landowners constitute [the] three big classes of modern society based upon the capitalist mode of production.” Thus, under capitalism, there are “the owners merely of labour-power, owners of capital, and landowners, whose respective sources of income are wages, profit, and ground-rent” (Marx 1867/1978:441).5 Private ownership of the means of production leads to class relations based on domination and exploitation. Although wage earners are free to quit or refuse a particular job, they nevertheless must sell their labor power to someone in the capitalist class in order to live. This is because laborers have only their ability to work to exchange for money that can then be used to purchase the goods necessary for their survival. However, the amount of wages paid is far exceeded by the profits reaped by those who control the productive forces. As a result, classes are pitted against each other in a struggle to control the means of production, the distribution of resources, and profits. For Marx, this class struggle is the catalyst for social change and the prime mover of history. This is because any mode of production based on private property (e.g., slavery, feudalism, capitalism) bears the seeds of its own destruction by igniting ongoing economic conflicts that inevitably will sweep away existing social arrangements and give birth to new classes of oppressors and the oppressed. Indeed, as Marx states in one of the most famous passages in The Communist Manifesto, “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles” (Marx and Engels 1848/1978:473; see reading that follows). Marx developed his theory in reaction to laissez-faire capitalism, an economic system based on individual competition for markets. It emerged out of the destruction of feudalism, in which peasant agricultural production was based on subsistence standards in the service to lords, and the collapse of merchant and craft guilds, where all aspects of commerce and industry were tightly controlled by monopolistic professional organizations. The basic premise behind this form of capitalism, as outlined by Adam Smith, is that any and all should be free to enter and compete in the marketplace of goods and services. Under the guiding force of the “invisible hand,” the best products at the lowest prices will prevail, and a “universal opulence [will] extend itself to the lowest ranks of the people” (Smith 1776/1990:6). Without the interference of regulations that artificially distort supply and demand and disturb the natural adjusting of prices, the economy will be controlled by those in the best position to dictate its course of development: consumers and producers. Exchanges between buyers and sellers are rooted not in appeals to the others’ “humanity but to their self-love . . . [by showing] them that it is for their own advantage to do for him what he requires of them” (ibid.:8). The potentially destructive drive for selfishly bettering one’s lot is checked, however, by a rationally controlled competition for markets that discourages deceptive business practices, because whatever gains a seller can win through illicit means will be nullified as soon as the market uncovers them. According to Smith, a “system of perfect liberty” is thus created that both generates greater wealth for all and promotes the general well-being of society. Marx shared much of Smith’s analysis of economics. For instance, both viewed history as unfolding through evolutionary stages in economic organization and understood the central role of governments to be protecting the privilege of the wealthy through upholding the right to private property. Nevertheless, important differences separate the two theories. Most notable is Marx’s insistence that, far from establishing a system of perfect liberty, private ownership of the means of production necessarily leads to the alienation of workers. They sell not only their labor power but also their souls. They have no control over the product they are producing, while their work is devoid of any redeeming human qualities. Although capitalism produces self-betterment for owners of capital, it necessarily prevents workers from realizing their essential human capacity to engage in creative labor. Indeed, in highly mechanized factories, a worker’s task might be so mundane and repetitive (e.g., “Insert bolt A into widget B”) that she seems to become part of the machine itself. For example, a student once said she worked in a job in which she had a scanner attached to her arm. Her job was simply to stand by a conveyer belt in which boxes of various sizes came by. She stuck her arm out and “read” the boxes with her scanner arm. Her individual human potential was completely irrelevant to her job. She was just a “cog in a wheel” of mechanization. Marx maintained that when human actions are no different from those of a machine, the individual is dehumanized. Moreover, according to Marx, capitalism is inherently exploitative. It is the labor power of workers that produces the products to be sold by the owners of businesses. Workers mine the raw materials, tend to the machines, and assemble the products. Yet, it is the owner who takes for himself the profits generated by the sale of goods. Meanwhile, workers’ wages hover around subsistence levels, allowing them to purchase only the necessities—sold at a profit by capitalists—that will enable them to return to work the next day. One of Marx’s near-contemporaries, Thorstein Veblen (1857–1929), an American sociologist and economist, held a similar view on the nature of the relationship between owners and workers. (See the Significant Others box that follows.) From the point of view of the business owner, capitalism is a “dog-eat-dog” system in which he can never rest on his laurels. Business owners must always watch the bottom line in order to compete for market dominance because someone can always come along and create either a better or newer product, or the same product at a lower price. Thus, a business owner must constantly think strategically and work to increase her market share or reduce her costs, or both. One of the basic truths of capitalism is that it takes money to make money, and the more money a business owner has at her disposal, the more ability she has to generate profit-making schemes. For instance, a capitalist might invest in the development of a new product (Apple’s iPad is but one example) or invest in cost-saving technologies in the form of machines or advanced software that can increase profit either directly (by keeping more money for herself) or indirectly (by enabling the her to lower the price and sell more of her products). A wealthy capitalist might choose to temporarily underprice her product (i.e., sell it below the cost of its production) in an effort to force his competitors out of business. (For example, Amazon’s dominance in the book-selling industry has played a major role in the demise of independent and chain bookstores.) Once the competition is eliminated and a monopoly is established, the product can be priced as high as the market will bear. © Bettmann/Corbis Photo 2.3 Many of Charlie Chaplin’s silent films during the 1920s and 1930s offered a comedic—and quite critical—look at the industrial order. Here, in a scene from Modern Times (1936), Chaplin is literally a “cog in a machine.” Figure 2.1 Wealth in the United States SOURCE: U.S. Census Bureau. Though competition between capitalists may lead to greater levels of productivity, it also results in a concentration of wealth into fewer and fewer hands. Since 1980, labor productivity (defined as the amount of goods and services produced by one hour of labor) in the United States has increased nearly 80 percent, while average annual wages have increased by only 10 percent. In fact, the past decade has witnessed a decline in median income by some 12 percent. Meanwhile, the average income of the top 1 percent has increased by a whopping 275 percent! (U.S. Department of Labor; Bureau of Labor Statistics; Congressional Budget Office, 2011) The wealthiest 1 percent of US households now accounts for nearly 36 percent of the nation’s wealth (see Figure 2.1). This is roughly equal to the combined wealth of the bottom 95 percent. Consider another astounding statistic: the combined wealth of America’s richest 400 individuals is now more than the combined wealth of the poorest 150 million individuals—that is nearly half the country’s entire population ( The business owners who are unable to compete successfully for a share of the market find themselves joining the swelling ranks of propertyless wage earners: the proletariat. This adds to the revolutionary potential of the working-class movement in two ways. First, the proletariat is transforme...
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Marxism in the corporate world

The corporate world
Different corporations
Karl Max
Marxist theory
corporate activities

10 Once-Dominant Businesses that Ended Up Declaring Bankruptcy. (n.d.). Retrieved December




Edles, L. D., & Appelrouth, S. (2015). Sociological theory in the classical era: text and readings.
Los Angeles: SAGE.

Reader's Digest to Settle Sweepstakes Claims. (2001, March 9). Retrieved December 2, 2019, from

Rinkesh. (2019, January 26). 17 Top Companies That are Going Green in 2019. Retrieved
December 2, 2019, from


Marxism in the corporate world
Author’s Name

Institutional Affiliation





Marxism in the corporate world

The corporate world has undergone a lot of changes since the times of the industrial
revolution. While more corporations have been spurred to success and taken over, many others
have also crumbled to ashes either in the hands of other corporations that have taken over or
through mass resistance from consumers of the products that they offer. The dynamism in the
corporate world has maintained that no single corporation has stood the test of time or rather no
single product or service has remained the same just like Karl Marx asserts in his theory about

The changes in the corporate world have been influenced by politics and disagreements
between the social classes. According to “10 Once-Dominant Businesses that Ended Up Declaring
Bankruptcy,” (n. d.) companies like Kodak which was once a leading corporation for film and
photograph development has been overtaken by other digital photography companies, and others
like Readers Digest ha...

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