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Lecture 3

SOC231H5 Lecture Notes - Lecture 3: Social Change, Economic Determinism, French Revolution

Course Code
Zaheer Baber

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Lecture 3
September 23, 2013
Historical Materialism
Method/perspective for understanding social change
o Understanding how structures are created in society and how they change
Not a formula for predicting the future
Marx (1859):”the mode of production of material life determines the general character of the
social, political and spiritual processes of life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines
their being, but, on the contrary, their social being determines their consciousness. At a certain
stage of their development, the material forces of production in society come in conflict with
the existing relations of production. From forms of development of the forces of production
these relations turn into their fetters. Then occurs a period of social revolution”
o Abstract formulation that can help us understand how social change happens
Material context is important
o i.e. listening to ideas in a lecture but it becomes material when you write it down
Key Concepts
mode of production: ancient, tribal, Asiatic, feudalism, capitalism
o Marx- humans only species that produces what they need
forces of production (means of production): land, capital, technology, tools, later knowledge etc.
o elements without which production is not possible
o knowledge becomes a force of production- without this, we cannot have high end
o struggles over intellectual property rights- about knowledge
relations of production: social relationships; who owns or does not own the forces/means of
o Humans connected to each other in certain kinds of relations
o i.e. slave’s mode of production- slave vs. slave master
o who owns and does not own the forces of production
Class: relationship to the “forces/means of production”
o Refers to relationships of groups of people to means of production
o Things without which you cannot engage in any production activity at all
Slaves vs. slave-owners; lords vs. serfs; capitalist class vs. working class etc.
Structure  Agency Dialectic
Why are these concepts important? The heart of sociology
Marx: men make history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it
under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered,
given and transmitted from the past…circumstances make men as much as men make
“society does not consist of individuals, but expresses the sum of the relationships and
conditions in which these individuals stand to one another”
“above all we must avoid postulating “society” again as an abstraction vis-à-vis the individual.
The individual is the social being”
“structure”…. “agency”- the key of sociological enterprise
Production, marketing---consumption/desires
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