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Chapter 10 neo marxian theory.docx

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Department
Sociology
Course
Sociology 2240E
Professor
Charles Levine
Semester
Fall

Description
Chapter 10 Varieties of Neo-Marxian Theory Economic Determinism • Marx considered the economic system of importance and argued that it determined all other sectors of society – politics, religion, idea systems, etc. • He could not have taken a deterministic position, because the dialectic is characterized by the notion that there is continual feedback and mutual interaction among the various sectors of society • Politics, religion, etc., affect the economy just as they are affected by it • Marx is still interpreted as an economic determinist • Those Marxists who believed in economic determinism saw the breakdown of capitalism as inevitable • An analyst examines the structures of capitalism, especially the economic structures o Build into those structures was a series of processes that would bring down capitalism, and so it was up to the economic determinist to discover hoe these processes worked • Marx’s theory seemed to short-circuit the dialectic by making individual thought and action insignificant o The economic structures of capitalism that determined individual thought and action were the crucial element Hegelian Marxism • One group of Marxists returned to the Hegelian roots of Marx’s theory in search of a subjective orientation to complement the strength of the early Marxists at the objective, material level • The early Hegelian Marxists sought to restore the dialectic between the subjective and the objective aspects of social life Georg Lukacs • he emphasized the subjective side od Marxian theory • Lukac’s major contribution to Marxian theory lies in his work on two major ideas – reification and class consciousness Reification • Lukacs made it clear from the beginning that he was not totally rejected the work of the economic Marxists on reification, but simply seeking to broaden and extend their ideas • Lukacs commenced with the Marxian concept of commodities, which he characterized as “the central, structural problem of capitalist society” • Acommodity is at base a relation among people that, they come tp believe, takes on the character of a thing and develops an objective form • People in their interaction with nature in capitalist society produce various products or commodities (cars, bread, etc.) • People tend to lose sight of the fact that they produce these commodities and give them their value • Value comes to be 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 for them are granted independent objective existence by the actors in capitalist society • The crucial difference between the fetishism of commodities and reification lies in the extensiveness of the two concepts o Whereas the former is restricted to the economic institution, the latter is applied by Lukacs to all of society – the state, the law,AND the economic sector Class and False Consciousness • Class consciousness refers to the belief systems shared by those who occupy the same class position within society • Lukacs made it clear that class consciousness is neither the sum nor the average of individual consciousness; rather it is a property of a group of people who share a similar place in the productive system • There is a clear link between objective economic position, class consciousness, and the “real, psychological thoughts of men about their lives” • The concept of class consciousness implies the prior state of false consciousness o That is, classes in capitalism generally do not 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 • Avariety of factors prevented the development of class consciousness o The state affected social strata while status (prestige) consciousness tended to mask class (economic) consciousness • Lukacs compared the various classes in capitalism on the issue of class consciousness o He argued that the bourgeoisie and the peasants cannot develop class consciousness because of the ambiguity of their structural position within capitalism o the bourgeoisie can develop class consciousness, but at best it understands the development of capitalism as something external, subject to objective laws, that it can experience only passively o the proletariat has the capacity true class consciousness • he is concerned with the dialectical relationship among the structures (primarily economic) of capitalism, the idea systems (especially class consciousness), individual thought, and, ultimately, individual action Antonio Gramsci • Recognized that there were historical regularities, he rejected the idea of automatic or inevitable historical developments o Thus, the masses had to act in order to bring about a social revolution o The masses had to become conscious of their situation and the nature of the system in which they lived o Recognized the importance of structural factors, especially the economy, he did not believe that these structural factors led the masses to revolt • The masses could not become self-conscious on their own; they needed the help of social elites o However, once the masses had been influenced by these ideas, they would take the actions that lead to social evolution • He like, Lukacs, focused on collective ideas rather than on social structures like the economy, and both operated within traditional Marxian theory • His central concept, one that reflects his Hegeliansim, is hegemony o Hegemony is defined by Gramsci as cultural leadership exercised by the ruling class • He wanted to know how some intellectuals, working on behalf of the capitalists, achieved cultural leadership and the assent of the masses • Hegemony help us understand domination within capitalism, but it also serves to orient Gramsci’s thoughts on revolution, necessary to gain cultural leadership over the rest of society CRITICALTHEORY The Major Critiques of Social and Intellectual Life • Critical theory is composed largely of criticisms of various aspects of social and intellectual life, but its ultimate goal is to reveal more accurately the nature of society Criticisms of Marxian Theory • The critical theories do not say that economic determinists were wrong in focusing on the economic realm but that they should have been concerned with other aspects of social life as well Criticisms of Positivism • Critical theories also focus on positivism • The criticism of positivism is related, at least in part, to the criticism of economic determinism, because some of those who were determinists accepted part or all of the positivistic theory of knowledge • Positivism is depicted as accepting the idea that a single scientific method is applicable to all fields of study • They feel that they can keep human values out of their work • Science is not in the position of advocating any specific form of social action • Positivism is opposed by critical school on various grounds, it tends to reify the social world and see it as a natural process • The critical theorists prefer to focus on human activity as well as on the ways in which such activity affects larger social structures • Positivism loses sight of the actors, reducing them to passive entities determined by “natural forces” • Critical theorists would not accept the idea that the general laws of science can be applied without question to human action • Positivism leads the actor and the social scientist to passivity • Marx himself was often guilty of being overly positivistic Criticisms of Sociology • Sociology is attacked for its “scientism”, that is, for making the scientific method an end in itself • Sociology is accused of accepting the status quo • The critical school maintains that sociology does not seriously criticize society or week to transcend the contemporary social structure • Sociology has surrendered its obligation to help people oppressed by contemporary society • They focus on society as a whole rather than on individuals in society, and are accused of ignoring the interaction of the individual and society Critique of Modern Society • Most of the critical school’s work is aimed at a critique of modern society and a variety of its components • The locus of domination in the modern world shifted from the economy to the cultural realm o Although in the modern world it is likely to be dominated by the culture rather than economic elements • The critical school thus seeks to focus on the cultural repression of the individual in modern society • 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 • The critical school clearly has adopted Weber’s differentiation between formal rationality and substantive rationality, or what the theorists
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