Introduction to Sociological Theory
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Introduction to Sociological Theory

Theorists, Concepts, and their Applicability to the Twenty-First Century

Michele Dillon

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eBook - ePub

Introduction to Sociological Theory

Theorists, Concepts, and their Applicability to the Twenty-First Century

Michele Dillon

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Über dieses Buch

The extensively revised and updated second edition combines carefully chosen primary quotes with wide-ranging discussion and everyday illustrative examples to provide an in-depth introduction to classical and contemporary sociological theory.

  • Combines classical and contemporary theory in a single, integrated text
  • Short biographies and historical timelines of significant events provide context to theorists' ideas
  • Innovatively builds on excerpts from original theoretical writings with detailed discussion of the concepts and ideas under review
  • Includes new examples of current social processes in China, South Korea, India, Latin America, the Middle East, and other non-Western societies
  • Additional resources, available at, include multiple choice and essay questions, PowerPoint slides with multimedia links to content illustrative of sociological processes, a list of complementary primary readings, a quotation bank, and other background materials

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KARL MARX (1818–1883)

mode of production
means of production
private property
historical materialism
class relations
class consciousness
dialectical materialism
species being
commodification of labor power
false consciousness
surplus value
division of labor
alienated labor
alienation from products
alienation in the production process
alienation from our species being
alienation of individuals from one another
standpoint of the proletariat
fetishism of commodities
economic base
ruling class
ruling ideas


Expansion of Capitalism
Capitalism as Structured Inequality
Marx’s Theory of History
Dialectical Materialism
Marx’s Vision of Communism
The Millennium’s Greatest Thinker
Human Nature
Material and Social Existence Intertwined
Capitalism as a Distinctive Social Form
Private Property
The Production of Profit
The Commodification of Labor Power
Professional Sports: The Commodification of Labor Power in Action
Work: Life Sacrifice
Wage-Labor and Surplus Value
The Gap Between Exchange-Value and Use-Value
The Division of Labor and Alienation
The Production Process
Alienated Labor
The Oppression of Capitalists
Economic Inequality
Income Disparities
Maintaining the Status Quo
Ideology and Power
Everyday Existence and the Normality of Ideas
Freedom to Shop
Ideology of Consumption
The Mystical Value of Commodities
The Capitalist Superstructure
The Ruling Power of Money in Politics
Points to Remember
Questions for Review
Timeline 1.1 Major events in Marx’s lifetime (1818–1883)
1818First steamship (the Savannah) to cross the Atlantic Ocean, taking 26 days
1819British Factory Act prohibiting employment of children under 9 in the cotton industry; and 12-hour days for those ages 10–16.
1821US population: 9.6 million
1830Revolution in France, fall of Charles X and Bourbons
1833Britain abolishes slavery in its empire
1837US Congress passes a “gag” law to suppress debate on slavery
1840Railway-building boom in Europe
1841First university degrees granted to women in America
1842Depression and poverty in England
1842British Mines Act forbids underground employment for women and girls and sets up inspectorate to supervise boy labor
1843Skiing becomes a sport
1845Engels, The Condition of the Working Class in England
1845Florida and Texas gain statehood
1846Height of potato famine in Ireland
1848Revolutions against monarchy/aristocracy in Europe (Paris, Berlin, Prague, Budapest)
1848Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto
1848California Gold Rush
1850Sydney University established
1854Charles Dickens, Hard Times
1859Peaceful picketing during a strike legalized in Britain
1862Abraham Lincoln issues Emancipation Proclamation declaring slaves free
1862Lincoln issues the first legal US paper money
1862Victor Hugo, Les Misérables
1866National Labor Union (crafts union) established in the US
1867Marx, Capital (Das Kapital)
1871Trade Union Act in Britain secures legal status for trade unions, but picketing illegal
1872Penny-farthing bicycle in general use
1876Alexander Graham Bell invents the telephone
1877US railroad strike; first major industrial dispute in US
1879Thomas Edison produces incandescent electric light
1882Standard Oil Company controls 95 percent of US oil-refining capacity
Karl Marx was born in Germany (in Prussia, in 1818) into a middle-class family and completed several years of university education studying law, history, languages, and philosophy. Rather than pursuing an academic career, he turned to journalism and devoted his attention to business and economics, writing about labor conditions during this era of rapid industrialization. The year 1848 was the “Year of Revolutions” in Europe, as workers and ordinary people rose up against the ruling monarchies in Germany, Italy, Austria, Hungary, and France. Marx himself had participated in the German revolutionary movement, and that same year he and Friedrich Engels published their famous treatise The Communist Manifesto. Marx was expelled from Germany and subsequently too from France because of his revolutionary views. He eventually settled in England in 1849, with his German wife, Jenny von Westphalen. For many years subsequently, they and their six children suffered abject poverty, relying on money from Engels and small fees from Marx’s political articles for the American radical newspaper the New York Daily Tribune. He died in 1883, predeceased by his wife and three of their children (Tucker 1978: xvii; Kimmel 2007: 170).
Marx’s Writings
1844a: “Alienation and Social Classes,” ASC
1844b: Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, EPM
1846: The German Ideology (with Engels), GI
1847: Wage Labour and Capital, WLC
1848: The Communist Manifesto (with Engels), CM
1852: “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte,” Bru
1858: The Grundrisse: Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy, Gru
1859: “Preface to ‘A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy,’ ” Preface
1867: Capital (Das Kapital), Cap


When you hear the name Karl Marx it is tempting to wonder why you should be studying his ideas. Marx has been dead for well over one hundred years, and communism, the political system with which his theoretical vision is associated, has all but disappeared around the world. The dominant communist power of the twentieth century, the Soviet Union, collapsed – an event captured literally by the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989. Today, the largest ex-Soviet republic, Russia, is in the throes of adopting capitalism, crystallized by the development of shopping malls even in Siberia, and by the expanding global economic reach of Russian millionaires and billionaires. One, for example, owns the world-famous Chelsea (England) Football (soccer) Club, another was an early capital investor in Facebook, another paid $88 million for a luxury Manhattan penthouse in 2012, another owns the Brooklyn Nets, the NBA professional basketball team who have recently made their home in the spectacular Barclays arena in Brooklyn, a venture in which Jay-Z is also an investor. Such developments would have been unimaginable 20 years ago. Capitalism is steadily expanding too in China (see Topic 1.1); China occupies a major role in the global economy and it is expected to be the world’s number one economy by 2030, displacing the US.
Lest you think that this capitalist expansion is all the more reason not to study Marx, you might be surprised to know that Marx, in fact, predicted it:
The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie [the capitalist ownership class] over the whole surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connections everywhere 
 The bourgeoisie, by the rapid improvement of all instruments of production, by the immensely facilitated means of communication, draws all, even the most barbarian, nations into civilization. The cheap prices of its commodities are the heavy artillery with which it batters down all Chinese walls, with which it forces the barbarians’ intensely obstinate hatred of foreigners to capitulate. It compels all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeois mode of production; it compels them to introduce what it calls civilization into their midst, i.e., to become bourgeois themselves. In one word, it creates a world after its own image. (CM 83–84)1
Thus writing in the mid-nineteenth century, Marx envisioned today’s global economy! The expansion of capitalism and its need to have bigger and bigger global markets for its commodities create capitalist societies whose progress is defined by the extent of their bourgeois capitalist culture, i.e., their adaptability to meeting the demands of capitalism by producing commodities for domestic and global consumption. Western capitalism has expanded to create a globalizing capitalist world in which consumer goods are the common global cultural currency. This is a theme we will discuss further in chapter 15.
Topic 1.1 China: Consumer capitalism in a state-controlled society
The successful summer Olympics in Beijing, China, in 2008 showcased a highly modern and resourceful city well able to blend old cultural traditions with hyper-modern architecture and technologically sophisticated art forms. The Olympics provided the world with a sustained look at the new China as it weaves together authoritarian state control and core elements of market capitalism. Its economy has grown steadily since the 1980s, and with western societies in the doldrums of economic recession, the Chinese economy emerged in the last few years as the new global juggernaut highlighted by high levels of economic growth, strong export flows, strong domestic spending, and booming demand within China for such staples of capitalist consumption as cars, real estate, and the latest household appliances. Consumer demand for personal technology items is intense, making China the fastest growing market for Apple products. Demand for Apple’s iPhone far exceeds supply and the scalper market is vibrant and aggressive; scalpers hire groups of migrant workers to stand in line to buy new phones. Indeed, wary of the large crowd of shoppers waiting in line outside Apple’s flagship store in Beijing the day the iPhone4 was supposed to go on sale (January 13, 2012), the shop remained closed for business and many of the approximately 1,000 people outside reacted “by pelting the store’s gleaming glass walls with eggs” (LaFraniere 2012: B2).
The Chinese economy is not immune to the volatility of market capitalism. It is currently experiencing a marked slow-down in its economic growth though still remarkably strong with approximately 7.5 percent growth in its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for 2013, compared to the US (1.9 percent growth in GDP), Britain (1.0 percent), and countries in the Eurozone (–0.06 GDP). Today, more than 87 percent of Chinese families own or partially own property, and more than one-tenth own more than one property (Wong 2013b: A9). Income inequality is, however, a growing problem: in 2012, “households in the top 5 percent income bracket earned 23 percent of China’s household income” (Wong 2013b: A9). Recent high-profile political controversies underscore the huge gap in economic and social inequality between the privileged lives of its political and business elites and the middle class and the poor, many of whom are denied even the most basic of human freedoms. But despite the strong-armed and well-funded domestic security forces that police everyday life, China seems to have its own version of the Occupy movement. There were, for example, an estimated 180,000 “mass incidents” of protest in China in 2010 (Wong 2012: A12), as crowds in various cities and provinces mobilized against the blatant inequality and corruption that pervade Chinese society as it hungrily competes to devour the spoils of capitalism. Environmental pollution from large manufacturing and chemical plants is also increasingly visible across China’s cities and provinces, and increasingly too, a source of mass demonstrations. Indeed a study conducted by Chinese scientists using official Chinese data sources indicates that people in the south of China live approximately five years longer than their counterparts in the north of the country where coal-generated air pollution levels are particularly high (Wong 2013a: A6).


But while many people enjoy the wide range of cons...