Self, Culture and Society
November 6, 2013
“ The institutions of your country are not your piece-work, and the only thing you have got to do, is, to mind
your piece-work: (Mr. Bounderby, Hard Times)
“Give me that which I want, and you shall have this which you want” (Smith)
▯ act of change/ offer
“ The specific economic form, in which unpaid surplus-labour is pumped out of direct producers, determines the
relationship of rulers an ruled … it is always the direct relationship of the owners of the conditions of
production to the direct producers … which reveals the innermost secret, the hidden basis of the entire social
structure” (Marx, Capital Vol. III)
▯ Who is the laboring class under feudalism?
▯ Who is non laboring class under feudalism?
▯ What do these classes have on the means of labour?
▯ Marx is saying how if you want to figure out how a society functions, you must first understand the soceities
class system. There is an economic system to the class system.
▯ Economy is key to Marx.
▯ Political + Ideological = Economy.
• We can understand the present better if we can understand the past: see how non- capitalist/past societies
have solved the ‘economic problem’
• Heilbroner: traditional and command
▯ how to produce and allocate production
• Polanyi: reciprocity, redistribution and house holding
▯ these three principles in some combination have governed economic systems for most of human
history. The market, capitalism is a fairly relevant experiment. th
▯ The closest society ever came to approximating the ideal self-regulating market was in the 19 century,
but even then, it didn’t last long. It didn’t last long because society itself, would have been destroyed.
• Capitalism represents a “break” (Giddens: discontinuous) not an evolution from the past
▯ Adam smith makes a revolutionary view that Giddens is against.
▯ Capital represents a break from the past and not an evolutionary from the past.
• “Capital is wealth whose value does not inhere in its physical characteristics, but in its use to create a
larger amount of capital” (p.30).
▯ Capital is not just about money and commodities.
Contradictions of Capitalism:
• Lies in “the tendency of the growth process to generate both wealth and misery simultaneously” (p.40).
▯ Enclosures (Marx on ‘primitive accumulation’)
▯ “Immiseration”, the dehumanizing effect of work (Smith and Marx)
- Both Smith and Marx recognizes. Smith recognizes the dehumanizing effect on individuals.Alienation
is the big thing for Marx, which is generated by capitalism.
▯ The lived environment: “Satanic Mills”, pollution and urban slums
▯ Accumulation ▯ success and failure: crises
• A“Society of perfect liberty” or Alienation? Lecture Outline:
• Dickens: image of industrial life in the 19 century
• Smith’s Theory of Capitalism and his Critique of Mercantilism
▯ His conception of the division of labour (D of L)
▯ Social Consequences D of L
• Marx’s theory of capitalism: a historically unique ‘mode of production’
▯ Transition between feudalism and capitalism
▯ The commodification of labour power: Wage – labour and Exploitation
• ‘Materialist Conception of History’: Economic ‘Base’ and ‘Superstructure’.
Charles Dickens (1812-1870)
• Prolific English novelist of the Victorian Era
• Advocated social reform against the horrors of industrialization and the indifference of politicians and
Reading for the Literal:
• Four levels of interpretation: literal, formal and expository andANALYTICAL
• What are we reading about?
• Life in a fictional English manufacturing town, Coketown, “a town of red brick that would have been
red if the smoke and ashes had allowed it”
• Cecilia Jupe: abandoned by her father (who worked in a circus) taken in by Mr. Gradgrind
• Stephen Blackpool: a power-loom weaver in mill (or ‘factory’) owned by Mr. Bounderby.
Reading for the Formal:
• Look at the name of this fictional town: Coketown. Does anyone know what ‘coke’ is?
• “It was a town of machinery and tall chimneys, out of which interminable serpents of smoke trailed
themselves for ever and ever, and never got uncoiled. It had a black canal in it, and a river that ran
purple with ill-smelling dye”
• Name of the town, and metaphors like ‘serpents of smoke’, tell us that the triumph of capitalism also has
this tragic side: produces squalid, overcrowded, polluted cities (externalities).
Expository Level: Dickens’ Sociological Imagination:
• ‘Sissy’s Progress’:At a literal level, it just sounds like she’s having trouble at school
• But Dickens is presenting a critique of a particular way of looking at things l