Modern Social Theory
Should not be thought of as complete separate from classical theories
Drawn on the work that has come before
Theme of power and how power is used runs through modern theories
o Western Marxism
o Feminist theories
o Post structuralism
o Queer theory
Post colonial theory
o Anti racist theories
More independent and critical form of Marxism
Forms of Marxism that emerged after the 1920s
Helped found communist party of Italy
How do we all comply and buy into a system in which most of us are victimized?
Diverged from Marx in his analysis of how the ruling class rules
o Marx said the ruling class ruled through force and coercion.
o Gramsci focused more on the ideological control and manipulation
According to Gramsci, two different forms of political control: domination and hegemony.
o Domination: direct physical and violent coercion exerted by police and military to maintain
boundaries and enforce rules
o Hegemony: ideological control and consent. Means a society's dominant ideas reflect
interests of the ruling class and help mask social inequalities.
**Note: must involve consent; no regime is able to maintain rule by relying on an
organized state and armed force. Regime must have allegiance of the people to have
Separates Marx's superstructure into the state (coercive institutions like police, military,
government), and civil society (schools, media, religion).
o Focused on role civil society plays in establishing hegemony. Through the civil society,
consciousness becomes internalized by population and appears as common sense
Believed hegemony was not static, is constantly negotiated and renegotiated. Consent secured by
ruling class is an active consent. Ruling class must constantly incorporate elements of the
subordinates’ class' culture so the subordinate class never feels wholly oppressed by ruling class
culture. Feminist Theories
Didn’t show up until 1970s to 1980s
Concern is for gender oppression. Some are radical and see inequality everywhere, some don't, but
all believe men have engineered society to control women
o Theories vary in explanation of women's oppression, the nature of gender and ideas of
Argue that women and men should be equal in every way: rights, job opportunities, roles
Men have social power and this interest in maintaining their social privilege over women. Feminist
theories offer view of the world from a position of a socially disadvantaged group.
Canadian sociologist, produced for women
Sociology was developed by men. In order to understand the social life of women, a sociological
approach must be developed for women
Believed classical sociological theories were androcentric. Interested in a sociology that can explain
to anyone, man or woman, how their lives take the form they do.
Wanted sociology to provide an understanding of how an individual's everyday world is organized
and determined by social relations within that world and beyond it.
The Everyday World As Problematic
o Begins in the 'actualities' of people's lives and addresses problems or how we are influence by
"extra local" relations
o Extra local relations: relations that extend beyond the local, immediate setting.
o Must understand what is going on in people's everyday lives. Reality is constituted through
discourse (socially organized activity among people).
Must look at the standpoint: understand their world through their eyes, subject is an active,
experiencing person that cannot be removed from relations with others.
o Believes the everyday world is the starting point of inquiry, it is the world we experience
directly. It is organized by social relations neither entirely apparent nor contained within it.
Argued that educational system exploits women:
o Children go home and have to do homework, mom usually reminds the child to do their
homework and help their child.
If you add up the hours that moms spend supplementing what the school is supposed to do it
adds up to hours of unpaid labour
Her concept of ruling is a socially organized exercise of power that shapes peoples’ lives.
o Ruling relations are abstract, conceptual and extra locally organized relations of state,
professions, corporations etc
o Ruling relations exist in a generalized form and works to coordinate what people do
World is constructed by complex and extended social relations that are connections between
o The social is the sum of complex relationships among people in multiple sites.
Approach is neither macrosociological nor microsociological. Wants to show people how the
relations of ruling shape their lives bell hooks
Real name is Gloria Jean Watkins
Critical figure in black feminist thought, also called antiracist feminism and multicultural feminism
Believes race is inextricable from gender and they are not two separate issues.
Argued that no one in the 1960s civil rights or women's movements paid attention to realities of
black women's lives. Believed they were not recognized as a group separate from black men and
were not a present part of the group of 'women' in the culture.
o When people talk about blacks, they focus of black men; when people talk about women, they
focus on white women.
Writings were focused on black women but goal was liberation for all
She criticised feminist theories that automatically position the house as a place of patriarchal
oppression for women.
o Theories like this that position houses as oppression for women assume that gender
segregation exists in labour market. According to these theories, because women and men are
divided in the labour force and women earn less, the financial dependency leads to their
subjection and exploitation in the house.
hooks argues against these universal assumptions and point to historical reality that many
households have been spaces of refuge, resistance and solidarity from racism, including racism
of the labour force.
Argues that scientific knowledge, or the idea about absolute truths, cannot stand outside power
relations. Means that to study the underlying structures of a cultural object is to analyse it from the
perspective of social relations that already exist (structuralism view)
Concerned how knowledge is socially produced
Post Structuralism influenced feminist theory, queer theory, post colonial theory, and anti racist
Interested in ways power and knowledge work together.
Critiqued Marxism for emphasising class and political economy as being key principles in social
Repressive hypothesis: truth is opposed to power and plays a liberating role. Truth is produced
outside power relations and therefore can be objective
Power is not possessed by one individual over another; power relations are created within social
o Power relations can produce particular forms of behaviour. We have ability to resist power,
o Understands individuals as having a sense of agency (capacity for self directed action) because
they have the ability to resist power relations and change them
Truths and facts are contextual and can never be separated from relations of power from which they
are produced. To know something is to exercise power.
o Think doctors, who have the power to label us sick or healthy because of their knowledge
Truth and fact come together in systems of discourse. o Discourses guide how we think, act, speak about a particular thing, as well as who is
authorized to speak.
Medical discourse is a system of facts that organize how we think about medicine, how we
understand human body, view doctors as skilled and rightful people to practise medicine.
o Discourses also tell us what the world ought to be. Tell us about the need to be healthy, what
a healthy body looks like, healthy eating practices are, importance of being healthy