Competitive Exams: Sociological Theoretical Concepts

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Karl Marx

Karl Marx has distinguished between different types of societies on basis of economic system. These are primitive communism, ancient slave production, feudalism and capitalism, socialism and communism. A man is both the producer and product of society.

Marx՚s analysis of history is based on his distinction between the means/forces of production literally those things, such as land, natural resources, and technology, that are necessary for the production of material goods, and the relations of production in other words, the social and technical relationships people enter into as they acquire and use the means of production. Together these comprise the mode of production.

Marx observed that within any given society the mode of production changes, and that European societies had progressed from a feudal mode of production to a capitalist mode of production. Marx did not understand classes as purely subjective. He sought to define classes in terms of objective criteria, such as their access to resources. For Marx, different classes have divergent interests, which is another source of social disruption and conflict.

Marx was especially concerned with how people relate to that most fundamental resource of all, their own labour power. Marx wrote extensively about this in terms of the problem of alienation. For Marx, the possibility that one may give up ownership of one՚s own labour-one՚s capacity to transform the world-is tantamount to being alienated from one՚s own nature; it is a spiritual loss.

Marx described this loss in terms of commodity fetchism, in which the things that people produce, commodities, appear to have a life and movement of their own to which humans and their behavior merely adapt. This disguises the fact that the exchange and circulation of commodities really are the product and reflection of social relationships among people.

Under capitalism, social relationships of production, such as among workers or between workers and capitalists, are mediated through commodities, including labor, that are bought and sold on the market. According to Marx, a capitalist mode of production developed in Europe when labor itself became a commodity-when peasants became free to sell their own labor-power, and needed to do so because they no longer possessed their own land or tools necessary to produce.

People sell their labor-power when they accept compensation in return for whatever work they do in a given period of time (in other words, they are not selling the product of their labor, but their capacity to work) . In return for selling their labor power they receive money, which allows them to survive. Those who must sell their labor power to live are “proletariat. The person who buys the labor power, generally someone who does own the land and technology to produce, is a” capitalist “or” bourgeoise. The capitalist mode of production is capable of tremendous growth because the capitalist can, and has an incentive to, reinvest profits in new technologies. Marx considered the capitalist class to be the most revolutionary in history, because it constantly revolutionized the means of production.

Max Weber

Max Weber formulated a three component theory of social stratification with social clas, status class and party class (or political class) as conceptually distinct elements. Social class is based on economically determined relationship to the market (owner, employee etc.) . Status class is based on non-economical qualities like honour, prestige and religion. Party class refers to affiliations in the political domain. All three dimensions have consequences for what Weber called “life chances” According to Weber there are two sources of power. One is derived from constellation of interests that develop in a free market and the other is from an established system of authority that allocates the right to command and the duty to obey.

Emile Durkheim

Emile Durkheim sees division of labour in terms of social process. He has tried to determine the social consequences of the division of labour in the modern societies. He has made a fundamental difference between pre-industrial and industrial societies and also made difference between two types of solidarity-mechanical solidarity and organic solidarity. Mechanical solidarity prevails in simple folk societies where division of labour is restricted to family, village or small region.

Here individuals do not differ much from one other and follow the same set of norms, beliefs etc. Organic solidarity holds the moden societies together with a bond. Here societies are large and people are engaged in variety of economic activities. They hold different values and socialize their children in varying patterns. The conditions of the modern society compel division of labour to reach the extreme level. This extreme form of division of labour leads to feeling of individualism or anomie.

Anomie according to Durkheim refers to a state of normlessness in both the society and the individual. It is a social condition characterised by the breakdown of norms governing social interaction. People feel detached from their fellows having little commitment to shared norms people lack social guidelines for personal conduct. They are inclined to pursue their private interests without regard for the interests of society as a whole.

Karl Polyani

According to economist Karl Polanyi, the three principles of exchange are market principle, redistribution, and reciprocity. The market principle describes the buying and selling of goods and services based on the laws of supply and demand (things cost more the scarcer they are and the more people want them) , and often involves bargaining. It is associated with industrial societies and involves a complex division of labor and central government.

In redistribution, products move from the local level to a hierarchical center, are reorganized, and sent back down to the local level. Redistribution is the main form of exchange in chiefdoms and some industrial states, and works with the market system. Polyani identifies reciprocity of three kinds: Generalized, balanced, or negative. Generalized reciprocity involves an exchange between closely related people in which the giver expects nothing concrete or immediate in return.

It is not necessarily classified as altruism, but resembles sharing by social contract. Generalized reciprocity is demonstrated by most egalitarian forager groups including the! Kung people, who do not say thank you upon receiving gifts because it is expected that at a later time, the act of goodwill will be reciprocated. It is also shown in most cases between parents and children.

Another form of reciprocity is balanced reciprocity, in which the social distance between giver and recipient increases relative to generalized reciprocity. It involves an exchange outside the immediate family, and the giver expects something in return in the future, but not immediately. If there is no reciprocation, the relationship between the two parties will be strained.

The third kind of reciprocity is negative reciprocity, which is an exchange relationship in which parties do not trust each other and are strangers. The giving must be reciprocated immediately and there is very little communication, if any, between groups. Each group is trying to maximize its economic benefit, but eventually friendly relationships between the groups may develop.

An example of negative reciprocity is the Mbuti Pygmy foragers of Africa, who exchange with villagers in neighboring groups in silent trade in which they place the items for exchange on the ground, then hide at a distance and wait for the other group to make an offer of their goods. Bartering may continue back and forth, but no direct contact is made between groups. Potlatching among the Kwakitul of Washington and British Columbia can be classified in the category of redistribution.

Things to Remember

  • R. K Merton coined the concept of the Bureaucratic Personality.
  • W. Rostow identified stages or the categories within which all societies could be placed economically.
  • Berger and Luckmann hold that there is a reciprocal interdependence of individuals and society in creating social reality.
  • Karl Marx and Frederich Engels have put forward materialist variant of the evolutionary theory.
  • Parsons has given the theory of leisure class. He has given Functional Imperatives comprising of adaptation, goal attainment, integration and latency.
  • Weber has given the concept of booty capitalism meaning a system in which wealth was acquired by the financing of wars in the expectation of booty.
  • Seeman isolated the concept of alienation into powerlessness, meaninglessness, isolation and self-estrangement.
  • Lenin has said that state is a special repressive force of the proletariate by the bourgeoisie of millions of workers by handful of rich.
  • Weber wrote the book-The Economy and Society.
  • Veblen gave the concept of conspicuous consumption.
  • Karl Marx wrote the book-First Indian War of Independence.
  • Simmel wrote the book-the philosophy of money in 1900.
  • Karl Polyani gave the concepts of embedded economy and the principles of exchange.
  • Max Weber in his concept of protestant ethic wrote that it was the decisive factor in the emergence of modern capitalism.
  • According to Emile Durkheim division of labour in modern society is the principal source of social cohesion or social solidarity.
  • Mitchell remarked that both material rewards and prestige are accorded differentially so that both integrative and functions are served.
  • Lambert and Hoselitz commented that the sum spent on marriage and death ceremonies in India could have increased investment by more 50 % .
  • Hobhouse observed that property is to be conceived in terms of the control of men over things.
  • According to Mckee economic activity is closely involved in the distribution of status and prestige.