Sociology 2240E Chapter 4-6: Soc Theory Midterm Chapters 4-6

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Published on 7 Feb 2017
School
Western University
Department
Sociology
Course
Sociology 2240E
Chapter 4: Karl Marx
- For many people Marx has become more of an icon than a thinker deserving of serious study
- Marx is the only theorist that has had political movements within social systems named after him
- The opiu of the people o the ditatoship of the poletaiat
- Never actually completed his social theory
- Vilfredo Pareto made the classic critique of Marx by comparing his worlds to a fable about bats
(whatever interpretations one makes about Marx, others can offer alternative interpretations)
- Died in 1883 people ee so iflueed  his theoies, itis sa that e ae all Maists
now
- Thinking about Marxist theories help us clarify what sociology and our society has taken for
granted
- Discoveries of Marxist theories have opened up new perspectives on issues such as: alienation,
globalization, and most recently the environment
- Main interest: was in the historical basis of inequality, especially the unique form that takes place
under capitalism
- A theory about how society works would be partial, because he mainly thought about was a
theory about how to change society
- Ma’s theo is a aalsis of ieualit ude apitalis ad ho to hage it
- Capitalism has come to dominate the globe and the most significant communist alternatives have
disappeaed, soe ight ague that Ma’s theoies have lost their relevance BUT Marx proves
this with an analysis of capitalism which makes it more relevant than ever
The Dialectic:
- Vladimir Lenin said that o oe ould full udestad Ma’s ok ithout a prior
understanding of the German philosopher Hegel.
- Dialectic Philosophy- believes that contradictions exist in reality and that the most appropriate
way to understand reality is to study the development of those contradictions
- Hegel said that contradictions can be used to determine historical change
- Unlike Hegel, Marx did not believe that these contradictions could be worked out in our
understanding, that is, in our minds
- Such contradictions are not resolved by the philosopher sitting in an armchair BUT by life and
death struggles that change the social world
- Marx moved dialect out of philosophy and into the material world
- One of the contradictions within capitalism is the relationship between the workers and the
capitalists who own the factories and other means of production with the work is done
- The apitalists ust eploit the okes i ode to ake a pofit fo the okes’ lao
- The workers (in contradiction to the capitalists) want to keep at least some of the profit for
themselves
- HOWEVER, Marx believed that this contradiction was the heart of capitalism, and that it would
grow to become worse and worse as capitalists drove more and more people to become workers
by forcing small firms out of business and as competition between the capitalists forced them to
further exploit the workers to make a profit
- As capitalism expands, the number of workers exploited, as well as the degree of exploitation
increases
- More exploitation = more resistance = confrontation between 2 classes
The Dialectical Method:
Ma’s fous oeal eistig otaditios led to a patiula ethod fo studig soial pheoeo’s
that has also come to be called dialectical
- Many sociologists believe that value and facts should be separate but NOT dialectical theory
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- The dialectical thinker believes that it is not only impossible to keep values out of the study of
the social world by also undesirable, because it produces a dispassionate, inhuman sociology that
has little to offer to people in search of answers to the problems they confront
- Facts and values are intertwined
- Does not see a simple one way cause for situations (not cause and effect)
- Never simply flow in one direction as they often do for cause and effect thinkers
Reciprocal Relations:
- One factor may have an effect on another, but it is just as likely that the latter will have a
simultaneous effect on the former
- Ex. Increasing exploitation of workers dissatisfaction and violence from workers capitalists
become more exploited to crush the workers resistance
- Whenever the dialectical thinker thinks about causality they are always thinking back to
reciprocal relationships among social factors as well as the dialectical totality of social life in
which they are embedded
Past, Present, Future:
- Dialecticians are interested not only in the relationships of social phenomena in the
contemporary world, but also the relationship of those contemporary realities to both past and
present and future social aspects
- Need to study both historical roots and modern day capitalism
- Dialectical thinkers are attuned to current social trends in order to understand the possible
future directions of society
- Interested in the encouragement of practical activities that would bring new possibilities into
existence
No Inevitabilities:
- The dialectical view of the relationship between the past, present and future doesn't exactly
mean that the future is determined by the present
- “oial pheoeo’s ae ostatl eatig ad hagig
- Marx believed that society was based on a class struggle and that people could choose to
participate either in the revolutionary reconstitution of society at large or in the common ruin of
the contending classes
- Marx wanted to believe that their was a future to be found in communism but he did not believe
that the workers could simply wait passively for it to arrive
- Communism would come only through their choices and struggles
- The dialectician is interested in the study of real relationships rather than grand abstractions
Actors and Structures:
- Dialectical thinkers are also interested in the dynamic relationship between actors and social
structures
- Main concept of Marx: the relationship between people and the large scale structures they
create
- On the one hand these large scale structures help people fulfill themselves; on the other hand
they represent a grave threat to humanity
*SEE FIGURE 6.1 IN TEXTBOOK FOR DIAGRAM
Human Nature:
- Macrosociology
- Macrostructures on capitalism
- Ma’s thoughts o the iosoiologial aspets of soial ealit.
- Built critical analysis of the contradictions of capitalist society and his premises on human nature.
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- Human beings are an ensemble of social relations
- Species being- the potentials and powers that are uniquely human and that can distinguish us
from other species
- Some critics (Louis Althusser) say that Marx did not believe in human nature.
- However it makes no sense to say that we don't have human nature because we are all made out
of something (we all came from somewhere)
- Our concept of human nature dictates how society can be sustained and how it CAN be changed,
but for Marx it dictates how society SHOULD be changed.
Labour:
- Our species being and our human nature are related to labour
- Both men and nature participate in the aspect of labour
- The architect raises his structure in imagination before he shows it to reality
- At the end of every labour process we get a result that existed in the form of imagination
- This not only effects a change of form in the material on which he works on, but he then realizes
that it has a purpose
- Our production reflects a purpose
- Objectification: process where we create external objects out of our internal thoughts
- Labour is material it works with material nature in order to satisfy our material needs
- Marx believed that this labour does not just transform nature but it transforms us (including our
needs, consciousness and our human nature)
OVERALL LABOUR IS:
1. The objectification of our purpose
2. The establishment of an essential relation between human need and the material objects of our
need
3. The transformation of our human nature
- The satisfaction of our needs can lead to the creation of new needs
ex. The production of cars satisfies our need to travel long distances which then led to our new need of
highways
- Generations ago not everyone needed cars or computers o eeoe eeds the
- We labour in the response to our needs, but the labour itself transforms our needs, which leads
to new forms of productive activity
- Ma sas it is this tasfoatio of our needs through labour that is the engine of human
histo
- Labour is the development of our human power and potentials
- Labour is a social activity (working with other people to produce a product)
- Transform not only the individual but society as a whole
- The emergence of an individual depends on society
Alienation:
- Inherent relation between labour and human nature coming from capitalism
- Individuals feel alienated in capitalist societies
- Alienated from our labour therefore from our human nature
- Alienation has major effects on capitalist production and on the human beings of society
- In order to survive, workers are forced to sell their labour to capitalists the sociological basis
of alienation
- Alienation is seen in 4 components:
1. Alienated form their productive activity: don't produce objects that our their own ideas, work for
capitalists who pay them minimum wage, many workers perform highly specialized tasks as have
little sense of their role in the production process
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Document Summary

For many people marx has become more of an icon than a thinker deserving of serious study. Marx is the only theorist that has had political movements within social systems named after him. Never actually completed his social theory (cid:862)the opiu(cid:373) of the people(cid:863) o(cid:396) (cid:862)the di(cid:272)tato(cid:396)ship of the p(cid:396)oleta(cid:396)iat(cid:863) Vilfredo pareto made the classic critique of marx by comparing his worlds to a fable about bats (whatever interpretations one makes about marx, others can offer alternative interpretations) Died in 1883 people (cid:449)e(cid:396)e so i(cid:374)flue(cid:374)(cid:272)ed (cid:271)(cid:455) his theo(cid:396)ies, (cid:272)(cid:396)iti(cid:272)s sa(cid:455) that (cid:862)(cid:449)e a(cid:396)e all ma(cid:396)(cid:454)ists(cid:863) now. Thinking about marxist theories help us clarify what sociology and our society has taken for granted. Discoveries of marxist theories have opened up new perspectives on issues such as: alienation, globalization, and most recently the environment. Main interest: was in the historical basis of inequality, especially the unique form that takes place under capitalism.