Sociology Readings 01/10/2014
During the middle ages, work was viewed as the inevitable hardship imposed on humankind for
its original sin.
Work was Gods will and humankind must bend to it in order to find salvation.
The enlightenment and its progress are seen in the work ofAdam smith
Smith argues that through the invisible hand of the market, each person is pursuing their own
particular interest with contribute to the wealth of the nation.
The free movement of investment and productive labour to areas of the market where there is
higher demand led to a regulation of production.
The most important for the sociology of work, Smith argued that the wealth of nations ultimately
rests on the productivity gains one finds with the division of labour.
Division of labour if a productive strategy and the foundation for economic surplus.
Aggregating wealth and progress could only be done at the expense of individual jobs because of
the shift toward improved technology
There were two sources of criticism that came from early industrialization of labour
1. Religiously based – focusing on the naked pursuit of profit at the expense of workers welfare
and the mistreatment of women and children
2. Came from socialist groups – which stated that those who own capital benefit from the labour
produced by the workers.
Progress for socialists focused on the length and quality of the working day as they wanted to
end the oppressive conditions
Marx believes that the employer/employee relationship, scientific management, and mass
production create the framework for workers unions and the struggle by workrs to increase their
power at the bargaining table.
Marx: The Potential for Work versus its Reality
Labour is a process between humankind and nature
He focused on the ontological nature of labour (meaning that labour is one of the most
fundamental components of human existence because that is the only way human kind is able to
survive as a species) Marx believes that even in the high-tech world which we live, it is people that create and unleash
the potential of technology.
The creative work of humans move society forward
Work is central to the essence of being human
By the mid-twentieth century work was oppressive and alienating rather than creative and
Alienation – the unfulfilled promise of work.
Human History, Human Action and Alienate Existence
Four elements of Hegel’s philosophical understanding were important to Marx:
1. His conception of history
2. The creativity of human action
3. Overcoming a historically imposed state of alienation
4. the conception of totality.
Instead of mastering and controlling nature humanity was dependent on it
However through knowledge this would change, and humanity would become the dominating,
controlling force over nature.
According to Hegel, through generations of philosophical inquiry, humankind solved specific
problems of knowledge as they arose and created newer more complex understandings of the
The key for Marx was material labour.
He believe that the work sinks down to the level of a commodity, and the whole of society much
split into two classes (owners of property and workers)
The worker becomes an increasingly cheaper commodity the more commodities he produces.
Smith argued that the division of labour increased production and was the source of social
Actualization of labour means bringing labour into the real material world, the production of
some object or product.
However Marx believed that instead of bringing out the full creative potential of the worker, it
diminished the worker because the tasks were so repetitive and mundane.
Marx detailed four ways in which the worker was alienated under the conditions of the political
economy: 1. The worker was separated from the product of his or her own labour.
2. The worker was separated from and had no control over the production process.
3. The creative dimensions of labour were completely removed from production.
4. The competitive nature of capitalist production separated the worker from all other workers
society was driven by the needs of profit rather than the needs of human creativity
Humankinds full potential can be reached through the creative self-expression it can actualize in
the way it manipulates nature with its hands.
One can reach its full potential by overcoming the ways they are alienated by the market and
retains the goals of labour
The Employee/Employer Relationship
The struggle of wages is the most important features of employee/employer relationships
Other important implications are: self-actualization, production and reproduction of social
inequality and the distribution of power as a whole.
Major enterprises are: the machinery, the raw or partially raw materials that were transformed
into something more, and the live work that is put in to produce these products.
Employer’s purchase a workers capacity to work (labour-power)
On the employees side, there is the employee who possesses specific resources of skill,
knowledge and ability along with the motives and interests.
On the other hand the employer possesses capital and resources and offer the worker money, and
The tension in the employee/employer relationships is an ongoing conflict, both the worker and
the employer will try to improve their position by drawing on personal and systematic resources
The power of capital is easy to mobilize, withdraw or reinvest.
Employees however, have far less mobility and less flexible resources.
This causes an inequity of power between the employee and the employer and provides them
with a differential type of power of capital over workers.
Production and Scientific Management
An employee must give up a certain measure of his or her personal freedom and autonomy, put
forth a certain amount of effort to accomplish their tasks, and measure fatigue.
Frederick Winslow Taylor’s approach to scientific management was based on three basic
premises. 1. Believed in the fundamental principles of utilitarianism, which suggests that each person acts
in a manner that best meets their wants and needs.
2. All people resist change and innovation until they can be convinced that this change will
maximize their utilities
3. Finally he believed that a scientific management approach would be best for workers, owners
Taylor believed that workers would not expend their energy any more than necessary, they would
maximize their utilities by earning their wages, and saving their energy for non-work activities,
this is known as soldiering
Under scientific management, the initiative to work is obtained with absolute uniformity and to a
greater extent than is possible.
This approach represented the interests of management and labour, scientific analysis, workers
would be scientifically trained, and management would cooperate with one another to ensure that
all of the work is being done in accordance with principles produced, and there would be an
equal division of labour.
The most prominent single element in modern scientific management is the task idea.
Scientific management was designed to strike the balance between capital’s interests in profit,
and the appropriate incentive to encourage high output from workers
accelerated the reduction size of the industrial workforce because machinery facilitated more
efficient production and less mental process of what workers need to do next.
His principles also emphasize the deskilling of production, and the removal of creative
challenging aspects of production.
Lastly, they led to the growing white collar labour force because more executives were needed to
‘plan for future tasks’
Henry Ford and ‘Fordism’
At the end of WWI, Ford revolutionized industrial production with automated assembly lines and
mass production technologies.
Each product was individually produced to meet the buyer’s exact needs.
Until mass production came into play.
Ford wanted to control the enterprise that he owned and wanted to rationally plan, coordinate,
and control car production so that he could produce multiple cars in the exact same way.
Interchangeability, simplicity, and standardization allows Ford to eliminate expensive assemblers
Instead of one assembler assembling an automobile, Ford required his workers to perform one
single task, and creating the vehicle as a whole. Concise Encyclopedia
Influenced sociologists in the areas of crime and deviance, gender and sexuality, health and
illness, organizational theory, and social welfare.
Themes in Foucault’s Work
Established the power-knowledge theory
This states that man becomes enslaved in the production of knowledge.
This dynamic challenges linear narratives that regard advances in knowledge as a type of
Concept of normalization
Afield of study functions to enact a normative divide between one half of a binary
Example: healthy or sick
Panopticon is a prison design that showed the maximum number of people that can be observed
at a minimum cost
People internalize the force of an authoritative gaze.
This power has been replicated in all institutions.
Most critiques towards Foucault are directed at his account of power and agency.
He sees power as something that circulates, never in anybody’s hands, never appraised as a
commodity. It is a field which we are all implicated.
The second critique is that his work challenges social science
He claims that the era of ‘man’ will eventually disappear because man knows himself as the
empirical object and the transcendental subject Social Order
People do not regularly live in chaos, and usually accept ritual and routine.
Built a theory of social order through synthesis of previous attempts to grasp the totality of
He stated that social order was already problematic
Social order is an equilibrium that can be achieved when subsystems adapt to meet a priori
Parson’s critics believed he was overarching social order, as a theory highlighting empirically
disconnected quality for specific faults of the USA
Some also rejected his ‘airy’ approach in favour of empirical analysis of everyday rules, which
actors use in creating social order.
The 21 century is destined to challenge the achievement of social order on terms as particular
and general as human experience provides.
Asocial system is defined by two or more people engaged in on-going social interaction.
Herbert Spencer drew on an analogy between the social system and biological organisms
All social systems evolved, and he then established a three-fold scheme for categorizing societies
based on complex or simple structures and their degree of stability.
Asimple system is undifferentiated by groups or sections.
Acompound system has many communities with a hierarchy and division of labour.
Doubly compound systems are more complex and united under one authority.
Talcott Parsons was the main contributor to structural-functionalism
For Parsons, the social system was constituted by interacting function ‘parts’ Parsons established a four-fold system of functional prerequisites that paved the way to universal
structural arrangements (AGIL)
2. Goal attainment
3. Integration (adjustment of potential conflict)
4. And latent pattern of maintenance (kinship structures) (maintenance of values)
Parsons identified cultural values as the key to stability because it integrates various institutions
and creates common goals.
Change in one part of the social structure, was bound to bring changes in another part.
Parsons outlined five variables which he referred to as cultural patterns “A” and “B”
‘A’is synonymous with simple forms, and ‘B’ with more complex
1. The change from assigned to, to achieved status allowed social mobility.
2. The move from the organic nature of social relationships towards utilitarian relationships
3. Particularism is transformed into social acts according to universal principles
4. The change from immediate gratification to delayed gratification
5. The evolution from collective orientation towards self-orientation
Structural Functional Theory
Society is best understood as a complex system with various independent parts that work
Few basic elements that generally hold for all functionalist approaches:
Social systems are composed of interconnected parts, the parts can be understood in terms of
how each contributes to meeting the needs of the whole, and social systems remain an
equilibrium (changes in one part, lead to changes in another)
Historical Development Talcott Parsons
Constructed a theory that argued that individual actions are rooted in the norms of society and
constrained by its values.
Also, all societies must meet certain needs to survive.
Robert K. Merton
laid out a strategy of how to distinguish between manifest and latent functions.
Sociologists can examine the functional or dysfunctional elements of a structure and determine
the net balance between the two.
The theory focuses on the functions of various structures.
This theory treats society as an integrated whole with a series of interconnected parts.
Society rests on the consensus of its members, and there is a wide agreement on what is good,
and just for society.
The theory deemphasizes social conflict and doesn’t address social change.
It emphasizes integration among various parts of society, and fails to pay attention to social
Any changes are seen as being disruptive on the entire system
Neofunctionalism gives greater weight to social action and specifying the role it should play in
the production of knowledge.
Emphasizes the contributions made by social structures, to the reproduction of society.
Emphasize the scientific nature of their work and adopt a positivist philosophical standpoint. Emile Durkheim
Believed the division of labour produced organic solidarity.
He also thought that deviant behavior led to the expression of the collective consciousness
After world war two, Talcott Parsons created a theory focusing on four functional problems:
1. Adaption to ones environment
2. Goal attainment
4. Cultural pattern maintenance
these together created an equilibrium.
Lack of equilibrium explained social change.
Robert K Merton
Merton compared functional analysis with empirical applications
Argued for the idea of functional equivalence, emphasizing both positive and negative
consequences for a society
Critics believe that functionalism avoids political power, class conflict, and bureaucratic
Parsons addressed the issue of power as a communication medium in response.
Symbolic interactionism was used as an attack on functionalism
Functionalism has been linked to neo-functionalism by addressing conflict theory, systems
theory, social evolutionism and political theorizing.
Seen as a rivalry to functionalism Randall Collins
Conflict theory is a functionalist analysis of the role of conflict in social life
It presupposes conflict between individuals and groups who have opposing interests.
It also shows competition and conflict over many resources, but power and economic resources
are the principal sources of conflict.
Conflict usually results in some individuals or groups dominating over another.
Dominant social groups influence on the distribution of resources and the structure of society
social class is the source of conflict in all societies.
Class struggle is the foundation of capitalism and the root cause of all other forms of conflict
A metatheory is two broad perspectives that overarch two or more theories.
Sociology should involve the study of social facts that are external to individuals.
The two major theories under this are structural functionalism and conflict theory
The social definition of ‘paradigm’ is derived from the definition of the situation.
Symbolic interactionism is a theoretical component of the social definition paradigm
Finally there is social behavior paradigm adopting a focus on behavior from the psychological
Metatheorizing examines sociological theory, and attempts to make sense of sociological
Three varieties of metatheorizing
1. Metatheorizing (MU) – means of attaining a deeper understanding of theory
2. Metatheorizing (Mp) as a prelude to the theory of development
3. Metatheorizing (Mo) as a source of overarching theoretical perspectives.
Post modern social theory is another example of challenging metatheory. 01/10/2014
Contemporary Sociology 01/10/2014
Ford manipulated low-waged, hard working immigrants to be part of the assembly line. This was
a form of task simplification.
He used his assembly line to ensure consistent output and sacrificed some of his profit to make a
commitment to his workers.
Labour leaders made three calculations of the growing control over the labour process through
Scientific Management and assembly line production
1. Technology increases productive capacity, but not force workers out of work.
2. As the economy expanded, it would create new jobs and increase the size of the work force.
3. Labour leaders thought that there would be stronger incentives to form unions to enjoy the
profits collectively, as the size and value of the workforce grew
Ford began expanding, by setting up his own assembly lines for parts that he needed to produce
the cars. This was the beginning of mass production.
The Phases of mass production
First phase consists of eliminating the skilled worker, and introducing machines and tools that
provide one function, and that is to create the same car time in and time out.
The second phase that came with mass production was a hierarchy, or known as a division of
labor. Those who were successful gained a promotion, those who failed to do their duties were
This provided an incentive for hard work.
The white collared sectors that were responsible for planning, coordinating, shipping and selling
the finished products, grew substantially
Alfred Sloan worked at General Motors, and developed the second phase of mass production.
Sloan developed a five-model product range that ran from the inexpensive Chevrolet to the top
end Cadillac, allowing GM to meet every level of purchaser.
He was also the first to introduce annual changes to the external appearance of each of his
Employers, Employees and the Logic of Collective Action
Unions are used by workers in response to the owners of capital to ensure that they get treated
fairly and just.
Unionized workers are on a global decline because of globalization and technological
Many capital owners are against unionization because it collectively creates better compensation
packages especially for women 01/10/2014
Regardless of unionization of collective actions, social and political power remain in the hands
of the large corporations.
Workers unions are required to find unity across the entire population of people involved with a
The central dynamic to negotiations is that the employer is concerned with cost, the employee is
concerned with wages because of personal wants.
The second element is the presence of a management team in a negotiation process.
The third key element is that one side can make up a compromise if it can make up for any losses
through increased efficiency.
The question of power is central to collective action
Power is related to the control of resources (material and ideological) as well as organization of
The larger an association/union gets, it has to adopt greater structures to ensure equity in all
There must be a balance between mobilization of activity and mobilization of resources.
When this occurs there is an increase in power, for a short period of time.
Problems with unions:
There are many members that have different interests that come together and are required to
come to a c