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Chapter 8 Summary - pg. 253 305.docx

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SOC 3310
Reza Barmaki

VARIETIES OF NEO-MAXIAN THEORY: Chapter 8 Summary: pg. 253 – 305 ECONOMIC DETERMINISM  Marx argued that the economic system determined all other sectors of society – politics, religion, idea systems – he desires to integrate theory and practice  Because the dialectic is characterized by the notion that there‟s continual feedback and interactions among various sectors of society, Marx couldn‟t take a deterministic position  Agger argued that economic determinism reached its peak as an interpretation of Marxian theory during the period of the Second Communist International, between 1889 and 1914 – seen as the apex of early market capitalism  Friedrich Engels led the way in this interpretation of Marxian theory, and discussed capitalism as unavoidable because of inventors improvement, and the capitalists desire for profit – the workers fight the capitalist class  Crucial element = economic structures of capitalism that determine individual thought/action HEGELIAN MARXISM  Sought to restore the dialectic between the subjective & objective aspects of social life  Interest in subjective factors laid the basis for the later development of critical theory, which focused exclusively on subjective factors GEORG LUKACS  Lukacs major work emphasized the subjective side of Marxian theory  Major contributions to Marxian theory – reification and class consciousness REIFICATION  Embedded in Marxian theory  Lukacs didn‟t reject Marxists on reification, but sought to broaden and extend their ideas  He characterized commodities as “the central, structural problem of capitalist society”  A commodity is a relation among people that takes on the character of something and develops an objective form – occurs in capitalist society and production  Value is seen as being produced by a market that is independent of the actors  The fetishism of commodities is the process by which commodities and the market are granted the fetishism of commodities – the basis for Lukacs concept of reification  The former version is restricted to the economic institution  The latter is applied by Lukacs to all of society – the state, the law, and economy  Lukacs integrated insights from Weber and Simmel, but Weber and Simmel referred for to human kind versus the problem of capitalism CLASS & FALSE CONSCIOUSNESS  Class consciousness = the belief system shared by those who occupy the same class position in society, property of people who share a similar place in the productive system  In Lukacs work there‟s a clear link between objective economic position, class consciousness, and the “real, psychological thoughts of men about their lives”  Class consciousness implies false consciousness – classes in capitalism don‟t have a clear sense of their true class interests  Most social classes throughout history have been unable to overcome false consciousness and thereby achieve class consciousness  The structural position of the proletariat gives ability to achieve class consciousness  The ability to achieve class consciousness is unusual to capitalist societies  Prevents development of class-consciousness: the state, economy, social stratus, status  As a result, Lukacs concluded, “there is therefore no possible position within such a society from which the economic basis of all social relations could be made conscious”  Argued that the bourgeoisie and the peasants can‟t develop class consciousness because of the ambiguity of their structural position within capitalism, but the proletariat can  The bourgeoisie can develop class consciousness due to understanding the development of capitalism as something external, subject to objective laws  Lukacs viewed the actor as an active creator of its own fate, not through external forces  When consciousness is sought, the proletariat is capable of the action that can overthrow the capitalist system  Lukacs perspective provides an important bridge between the economic determinists and more modern Marxists ANTONIO GRAMASCI  Critical of Marxists who are “deterministic, fatalistic, and mechanistic”  Rejected the idea of automatic or inevitable historical developments  Believed that the masses had to act in order to bring about a social revolution  Although Gramasci recognized the importance of structural factors in the economy, he didn‟t believe that they led the masses to revolt – the masses couldn‟t be self-conscious on their own, they needed help of other social elites – which led to social revolution  Like Lukacs, he focused on collective ideas rather than social structures, and both operated within traditional Marxian theory  Gramasci‟s central concept reflects Hegelianism – hegemony  According to Gramasci, “the essential ingredient of the most modern philosophy of praxis (linking of thought and action) is the historical philosophical concept of hegemony” – defined as cultural leadership exercised by the ruling class CRITICAL THEORY  The product of a group of German neo-Marxists who were dissatisfied with the state of Marxian theory THE MAJOR CRITIQUES OF SOCIAL & INTELLECTUAL LIFE  Critical theory is composed of criticisms of various aspects of social and intellectual life  Ultimate goal is to reveal more accurately the nature of society CRITCISMS OF MARXIAN THEORY  The critical theorists are most concerned with economic determinists  Mainly focus on the neo-Marxists since they interpreted Marx‟s work too mechanistically CRITICISMS OF POSITIVISM  Related to the criticism of economic determinism, because some of those who were determinists accepted part or all of the positivistic theory of knowledge  Positivism = the idea that a single scientific method is applicable to all fields of study  Positivists believe that knowledge is inherently neutral and is seen as a natural process  Critical theorists focus on human activity as well, but positivism loses sight of the actors  Critical theorists wouldn‟t accept the idea that the general laws of science can be applied without question to human action  Positivism is inherently conservative, incapable of challenging the existing system CRITICISMS OF SOCIOLOGY  Sociology is attacked for its “scientism”–for making the scientific method an end in itself  Accused of accepting the status quo  Critical of sociologists‟ focus on society as a whole rather than on individuals in society  Sociologists ignoring the individuals are seen as being unable to say anything meaningful about political changes that could lead to a “just and humane society” CRITIQUE OF MODERN SOCIETY  The critical school still retains its interest in domination, although in the modern world it‟s likely to be domination by cultural rather than economic elements  The critical school seeks to focus on cultural repression of individuals in modern society  Critical thinkers have been shaped by Marxian theory and Weberian theory  Trent Schroyer made clear that the view of the critical school, is that in modern society, the repression produced by rationality has replaced economic exploitation as the dominant social problem  To the critical theorists, formal rationality is concerned with the question of the most effective means for any given purpose – “technocratic thinking” – In contrast to reason, with the goal to simply find the most efficient means for achieving any given purpose  “Irrationality of rationality” – It‟s irrational that the rational world is destructive of individuals & their needs & abilities–peace is maintained through a constant threat of war  The critical school focuses on one form of formal rationality – modern technology  Marcuse saw technology in modern capitalist society as leading to totalitarianism - Most effective form of external control  Marcus rejected the idea that technology is neutral in the modern world, and saw it as a form of domination  The actors inner freedom has been “invaded and whittled down” by modern technology  Result = one sided dimensional society  Marcus retained Marx‟s original view that technology is not inherently a problem and that it can be used to develop a “better” society CRITIQUE OF CULTURE – the “cultural industry”  The rationalized, bureacraticized structures that control modern culture  Reflects Marxist “superstructure” rather than with the economic basis  Concerned about its falseness – they think of it as a prepackaged set of ideas mass-produced and disseminated to the masses by the media  Critical theorists are disturbed by its pacifying repressive effect on people  Douglas Kellner has self-consciously offered a critical theory of television – he critiques the critical school because it “neglects detailed analysis of the political economy of the media, conceptualizing mass culture merely as an instrument of capitalist ideology” - He looks at dangers in television  The critical school is also interested in the “knowledge industry” – refers to knowledge production – ex: universities – they have become oppressive structures interested in expanding their influence throughout society  Critics see the future as an “iron cage” of increasingly rational structures THE MAJOR CONTRIBUTIONS SUBJECTIVITY  Represents a strong contribution to subjective elements at the individual & cultural levels  The Hegelian roots of Marxian theory are the major source of interest in subjectivity  Interest in culture, with a shift to the superstructure  False consciousness is nearly universal: all social classes, including the working class, appear to be beneficiaries and ardent supporters of the capitalist system  Frankfurt school’s concerns = rationality, the culture industry, and the knowledge industry – an interest of ideology (idea systems produced by societal elites)  The modern world has reached a stage of unsurpassed domination individuals due to a shift in the 1930s and 1940s  The control is internalized in the actor & then dominated in the larger social structure  Domination is no longer seen as damaging and alienating  Critical school is concerned with Habermas legitimations – defined as systems of ideas generated by the political system to support the existence of the system  Critical school is concerned with actors and their consciousness and what happens to them in the modern world – the consciousness of the masses came to be controlled by external forces, so they failed to develop a revolutionary consciousness  Marcuse is important as he attempts to integrate Freud’s insights at the level of consciousness into the critical theorists interpretation of culture  Critical theorists derive three things from Freud’s work – a psychological structure for developing theories, a sense of psychopathology that allows them to understand the negative impact of modern society, and the possibilities of psychic liberation - Benefit = it offers a useful corrective to the pessimism of the critical school and its focus on cultural constraints – although they‟re controlled, they have a basic source of energy for creative action and domination DIALECTICS  Critiqued from the viewpoint of analytical Marxism  A dialectical approach = a focus on the social totality – aspects of social life must be related to the historical whole  Involves rejection of a focus on any aspect of social life, especially the economic system  Related to individual consciousness, the cultural superstructure, and economic structure  Methodological: one component of social life can‟t be studied in isolation from the rest  Diachronic and synchronic components – synchronic leads us to be concerned with the interrelationship of components of society, and a diachronic view is concerned with historical roots  One dimensional society is the result of historical development – society is second nature  Critical theorists refuse to be utopian – they focus on criticizing and changing contemporary society – concentrate on cultural structure  Most of critical theory has failed to integrate both theory and practice – it‟s usually written in a way that‟s inaccessible to the mass of people  In its commitment to studying culture and superstructure, critical theory addresses esoteric topics and has little to say about the pragmatic, daily concerns of most people Knowledge & Human Interests  One of the best known dialectical concerns is Jurgen Haberma’s interest in the relationship between knowledge and human interests  To Haberma‟s, knowledge systems exist at the objective level whereas human interests are more subjective phenomena  He differentiated among three knowledge systems and corresponding interests thatcritical theorists must uncover  1 – analytic science or classical positivistic scientific systems – underlying interest is technical prediction and control which can be applied to the environment  2 – humanistic knowledge – interests lies in understanding the world – interest in self-understanding – neither oppressive nor liberating  3 – critical knowledge – human emancipation interest – it was hoped that critical knowledge would raise self-consciousness and lead to a social movement that would result in emancipation CRITICISMS OF CRITICAL THEORY  Critical theory has been accused of being ahistorical – examining events without paying attention to historical context  They ignore the economy  They tend to argue that the working class has disappeared as a revolutionary force THE IDEAS OF JURGEN HABERMAS – COMPARING MARX & HABERMAS  Habermas takes Marx starting point, but he argues that Marx failed to distinguish between two analytically distinct components of species – work and social interaction  Haberma‟s is prone to use the terms purposive-rational action (work) and communicative action (interaction)  Purposive-rational action – Habermas distinguished between instrumental action and strategic action  Instrumental = a single actor rationally calculating the best means to a given goal, and Strategic = two or more individuals coordinating purposive-rational action in the pursuit of a goal – objective = instrumental mastery  Haberma‟s is most interested in communicative action – actors pursuit goals under condition that they can harmonize their plans of action based on similarities  Haberma‟s key difference: he argues that communicative action, not purposive-rational action is the most distinctive and most pervasive human phenomenon  Whereas Marx was led to focus on work, Haberma‟s is led to focus on communication  Habermas is concerned with social structures that distort communication, just as Marx examined structural sources of the distortion of work  Both of their baselines represent analytical starting points and political objectives  Marx goal = a communist society in which undistorted work would exist for the first time  For Marx, elements of species-being are found in work in capitalist society  Habermas goal = a society of undistorted communication  For Habermas, elements of undistorted communication are found in every act of contemporary communication RATIONALIZAATION – Habermas is influenced by both Marx and Weber  The problem is rationalization of purposive-rational action, not rationalization in general  For Habermas, the problem of the rationalization of purposive rational action lies in the rationalization of communicative action  The rationalization of communicative action leads to communication free from domination, free and open communication – “removing restrictions on communication”  At the level of social norms, such rationalization would involve decreases in normal repressiveness and rigidity leading to increases in individual flexibility and reflectivity - Leads to a less distorting normative system  Thus, rationality means removal of the barriers that distort communication COMMUNICATION – Habermas distinguishes between communicative action and discourse  Whereas communicative action occurs in everyday life, discourse is a form of communication that is removed from contexts of experience and action  In discourse and the hidden communicative actions the better argument wins  The weight of evidence and argumentation determine what is considered valid or true - Arguments that emerge from discourse are true  Consensus arises theoretically in discourse when four types of validity claims are raised and recognized by interactants  1 – the speaker‟s utterances are seen as understandable, comprehensible  2 – the propositions offered by the speaker are true – there‟s reliable knowledge  3 – the speaker is truthful and sincere  4 – it is right and proper for the speaker to utter such propositions CRITICAL THEORY TODAY – Habermas and Kellner are both prominent social thinkers that are struggling to develop a critical theory TECHNO-CAPITALISM – Kellner  Based on the premise that we haven‟t moved into a postmodern or postindustrial age, but rather that capitalism continues to reign supreme  Kellner‟s techno-capitalism = a configuration of capitalist society in which technical and scientific knowledge play a role in the process of production parallel to the role of human labour power, while producing new modes of societal organization  He resists the idea that technology determines the “superstructure” of society  Refuses to see techno-capitalism as a new stage in history, but views it as a new configuration or constellation within capitalism  A key role in capitalism for Kellner = not just to criticize it, but to “attempt to analyze the emancipatory possibilities unleashed by techno-capitalism”  He doesn‟t endeavor to develop a full scale theory of techno-capitalism  Main point = although capitalism has changed dramatically, capitalism remains predominant in the contemporary world  Techno-culture = a configuration of mass culture and the consumer society in which consumer goods become a dominant form of culture throughout the developed world – technology plays a fundamental role LATER DEVELOPMENT IN CULTURAL CRITIQUE  Kellner and Lewis see the Frankfurt school as part of a tradition of work that involves “cultural critique” which is part of the “cultural turn” and cultural studies  Center of this tradition = the Frankfurt school  Center for contemporary cultural studies = the Birmingham school (1964 – 1988) BIRMINGHAM SCHOOL – Richard Hoggart and Stuart Hall  Valued and focused on popular culture and lower classes – seen as mechanisms of social control, resisted by lower classes  Hegemonic ideas  Populists who sided with the people against the power elite  Moved away from economic determinism and a base superstructure perspective and toward the superstructure, especially culture  At the cultural level, the focus was on ideology and hegemony and on the ways that power and control manifested itself and was resisted  Interested in analyzing a variety of texts/media reflecting structuralism and semiotics – in order to show how they were hegemonic products and how meanings were produced  Major difference between Frankfurt and Birmingham = the power of the lower classes to redefine culture in oppositional ways – the Birmingham school has a more positive view of culture and lower classes NEO-MARXIAN ECONOMIC SOCIOLOGY  Marxists who have returned to a focus on the economic realm – their work constitutes an effort to adapt Marxian theory to the realities of modern capitalist society  Two bodies of work = broad issues of capital and labour, and narrow contemporary work on the transition from Fordism to post-Fordism CAPITAL & LABOUR MONOPOLY CAPITAL – PAUL BARAN & PAUL SWEEZY  Began with a criticism of Marxian social science for repeating familiar formulations and failing to explain important recent developments in capitalistic society  In their view, a modern Marxian theory must recognize that competitive capitalism has been replaced by monopoly capitalism  In monopoly capitalism, one or a few capitalists control a given sector of the economy  Less competition in monopoly capitalism that in competitive capitalism  In competitive capitalism, organizations competed on a price basis – capitalists tried to sell more goods by offering lower prices  Progressive rationalization = the movement from price to sales competition  Price competition is irrational, as offering lower prices may lead to chaos in the market, maybe even bankruptcy – Sales competition is less risky – prices can be kept high  Crucial aspect is the rise of the giant corporation, with a few corporations controlling sectors of the economy (stockholders) – mangers exercise actual daily control though  Managers are crucial in monopoly capitalism, whereas the entrepreneurs were central in competitive capitalism  Managers are viewed as a rational group oriented to maximizing the profits of the organization – they aren‟t inclined to take risks like the early entrepreneurs – they have a longer time perspective in maximizing profits - The manager will forgo some profits in the short run to maximize long-term profitability  Baran and Sweezy have been criticized for overemphasizing the rationality of mangers  Many argue that it‟s the large stockholders who really control the capitalistic system LABOUR AND MONOPOLY CAPITAL – Harry Braverman  The labour process and the exploitation of the worker = the heart of Marxian theory  Intended to update Marx‟s interest in manual workers and examine what has happened to white-collar and service workers  Argued that the concept “working class” is an expression of buying/selling labour power  In his view, capitalist control and exploitation is being extended to white collar and service occupations Managerial Control  Braverman recognized economic exploitation too, but concentrated on the control issue  His answer was through managers – defined management as “a labour process conducted for the purpose of control within the corporation”  A central concern was the utilization of specialization to control workers – he differentiated between the division of labour in society as a whole and specialization of work within the organization  He believed that the division of labour at the societal level may enhance the individual, whereas specialization in the workplace has the disastrous effect of subdividing human capabilities  Specialization in the workplace involves the continual division of tasks or operations into minute and highly specialized activities, which are then assigned to a different worker  “Detail workers” – the capitalist first breaks down the work process and then “dismembers the worker” by requiring them to use a small proportion of his or her skills  This increases the control of management, productivity, and specialization allows the capitalist to pay the least for the labour power needed (employing low-paid, unskilled workers) – “simple labour”  Scientific management contributed to control through “the dictation to the worker of the precise manner in which work is to be performed”  Management used its monopoly over work-related knowledge to control each step of the labour process – craftsmanship was destroyed  Braverman argued that through mechanisms such as the specialization of work, scientific management and machines, management has been able to extend its control over its manual workers  Argued that white-collar and service workers are now subjected to the same processes of control that th were used on manual workers in the 19 century – ex: clerical work  Criticized for overestimating the degree of similarity between manual work and clerical work, and devoting little attention to the dynamics of economic exploitation OTHER WORK ON LABOUR AND CAPITAL Richard Edwards th  To Edwards, control lies at the heart of the 20 century transformation of the workplace  Sees the workplace both past and present, as an arena of class conflict  Simple control has tended to be replaced by impersonal and more sophisticated technical and bureaucratic control  Modern workers can be controlled by the technologies with which they work, and by the impersonal rules of bureaucracies rather than the personal control of supervisors Michael Burawoy  Interest in why workers in a capitalist system work so hard – to Burawoy, workers consent to work hard in the capitalist system  Rejects Marx‟s explanation that such hard work is a result of coercion  Coercion alone can‟t explain what workers did once they arrive at work  Management participates in the organization of the game & in the enforcement of rules  Playing the games of informal practices creates consent among the workers about the rules that the game is based – social relations that defines the rules of the game  Mangers and workers both are involved in the game, the system of antagonistic social relations to which the game was supposed to respond is obscured  Burawoy argues that methods
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