Summary of Max Weber: The city

Summary of Max Weber: The city

City consists of collection of relatively closed settlement of one or more separate dwellings. In modern times, in city personal acquaintance of inhabitants is less and there is high degree of impersonality. City has high density and large population. But size of population alone can be sufficient to define a city.

In city, inhabitants primarily live trade and commerce i.e. non agricultural, as a result a market exists. Market settlement should be regular rather than occasional exchange of goods. Urban markets satisfy the needs of local population, non urban people and sometime even foreign market. The market is medieval times was controlled by prince or lord, but in now it need not have any physical attachment to prince. City can also be an intersection point where transportation and exchange of goods takes place and thus encourages entrepreneurs and thus city could be a pure market place with a few highly specialized entrepreneurs. Elites depend on market for more want of goods and thus lead to growth of markets and thus city has presence of large consumers who have special economic interests. A city can also have large industries, factories etc which can produce goods at a very large scale. Urban markets supply a normal flow of goods, but they need not be sole providers of goods. In today’s times, most of earnings of an organization flow to places other than place of earning due to globalization. Thus it is difficult to classify a place solely based on economic condition.

In modern times, occupation of habitants in city is non agricultural and they get food from outside of city in general. In general, habitants of city also don’t own a large acre of land for cultivation of food. City has its own regulatory system i.e. landed property and a budget of receipt and expenditure. Due to presence of dynamic market condition, government makes ‘urban economic policies’ in order to stabilize conditions of market by means of regulation and standardization. This leads to better economic opportunities and occurs in certain political conditions. Thus a need for political-administrative arrangements arises. Regulation of economy thus becomes counterpart of organization of urban city and sometimes leads to friction between inhabitants. Urban regulations of land ownership, taxes etc are quite different from rural and thus become an important criteria to classify a place as urban city.

Due to presence of market, city has to be guarded by fortress, military or defense system to protect from external aggression. These were closely located to places of market in olden times. But they need not be spatially separated. In modern times, electronic/IT world, where transaction of money occurs online, need have to inbuilt security mechanism and software for defense against external attack. Therefore because of increased security of a city attracts traders, entrepreneurs, investors etc and thus increases economic conditions. Thus both are interrelated.

Due to above various criteria to define city it becomes necessary to standardize the definition. Weber did this for 1st time and gave the following criteria to define a place as city. To constitute a full urban community a settlement must have trade and commercial relations with a) Fortification b) market c) a court of its own ,autonomous law d) related form of association e) At least partial autonomy of government, also administration by authorities.

In city, market may often lead to conflicts and to regulate these we need political-administrative authorities and courts to enforce the autonomous laws related to market defined for a particular urban city and fort or defense system to avoid any attacks. City has administrative boundaries, city wards, streets etc. City has different kinds of land use pattern and segregation of people based on region, language, caste, culture, income, occupation etc leads to formation of association. Therefore all these 5 criteria are logically connected.

Sociology Notes


According to Karl Marx in all stratified societies there are two major social groups: a ruling class and a subject class. The ruling class derives its power from its ownership and control of the forces of production. The ruling class exploits and oppresses the subject class. As a result there is a basic conflict of interest between the two classes. The various institutions of society such as the legal and political system are instruments of ruling class domination and serve to further its interests. Marx believed that western society developed through four main epochs-primitive communism, ancient society, feudal society and capitalist society. Primitive communism is represented by the societies of pre-history and provides the only example of the classless society. From then all societies are divided into two major classes – master and slaves in ancient society, lords and serfs in feudal society and capitalist and wage labourers in capitalist society. Weber sees class in economic terms. He argues that classes develop in market economies in which individuals compete for economic gain. He defines a class as a group of individuals who share a similar position in market economy and by virtue of that fact receive similar economic rewards. Thus a person’s class situation is basically his market situation. Those who share a similar class situation also share similar life chances. Their economic position will directly affect their chances of obtaining those things defined as desirable in their society. Weber argues that the major class division is between those who own the forces of production and those who do not. He distinguished the following class grouping in capitalist society:

The propertied upper class
The property less white collar workers
The petty bourgeoisie
The manual working class.


Talcott Parsons believe that order, stability and cooperation in society are based on value consensus that is a general agreement by members of society concerning what is good and worthwhile. Stratification system derives from common values it follows from the existence of values that individuals will be evaluated and therefore placed in some form of rank order. Stratification is the ranking of units in a social system in accordance with the common value system. Those who perform successfully in terms of society’s values will be ranked highly and they will be likely to receive a variety of rewards and will be accorded high prestige since they exemplify and personify common values. According to Kingsley Davis and Moore stratification exists in every known human society. All social system shares certain functional prerequisites which must be met if the system is to survive and operate efficiently. One such prerequisite is role allocation and performance. This means that all roles must be filled. They will be filled by those best able to perform them. The necessary training for them is undertaken and that the roles are performed conscientiously. Davis and Moore argue that all societies need some mechanism for insuring effective role allocation and performance. This mechanism is social stratification which they see as a system which attaches unequal rewards and privileges to the positions in society. They concluded that social stratification is a device by which societies insure that the most important positions are conscientiously filled by the most qualified persons.


Caste is closely connected with the Hindu philosophy and religion, custom and tradition .It is believed to have had a divine origin and sanction. It is deeply rooted social institution in India. There are more than 2800 castes and sub-castes with all their peculiarities. The term caste is derived from the Spanish word caste meaning breed or lineage. The word caste also signifies race or kind. The Sanskrit word for caste is varna which means colour.The caste stratification of the Indian society had its origin in the chaturvarna system. According to this doctrine the Hindu society was divided into four main varnas – Brahmins, Kashtriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras.The Varna system prevalent during the Vedic period was mainly based on division of labour and occupation. The caste system owns its origin to the Varna system. Ghurye says any attempt to define caste is bound to fail because of the complexity of the phenomenon. According to Risely caste is a collection of families bearing a common name claiming a common descent from a mythical ancestor professing to follow the same hereditary calling and regarded by those who are competent to give an opinion as forming a single homogeneous community. According to Maclver and Page when status is wholly predetermined so that men are born to their lot without any hope of changing it, then the class takes the extreme form of caste. Cooley says that when a class is somewhat strictly hereditary we may call it caste.M.N Srinivas sees caste as a segmentary system. Every caste for him divided into sub castes which are the units of endogamy whose members follow a common occupation, social and ritual life and common culture and whose members are governed by the same authoritative body viz the panchayat.According to Bailey caste groups are united into a system through two principles of segregation and hierarchy. For Dumont caste is not a form of stratification but as a special form of inequality. The major attributes of caste are the hierarchy, the separation and the division of labour.Weber sees caste as the enhancement and transformation of social distance into religious or strictly a magical principle. For Adrian Mayer caste hierarchy is not just determined by economic and political factors although these are important.

  • Main features of caste system

  • Functions of the caste system

  • Dominant caste

  • Purity and Pollution

  • Sanskritization

  • Main features of caste system

  • Caste system hierarchically divides the society. A sense of highness and lowness or superiority and inferiority is associated with this gradation or ranking. The Brahmins are placed at the top of the hierarchy and are regarded as pure or supreme. The degraded caste or the untouchables have occupied the other end of the hierarchy. The status of an individual is determined by his birth and not by selection nor by accomplishments. Each caste has its own customs, traditions practices and rituals.It has its own informal rules, regulations and procedures. The caste panchayats or the caste councils regulate the conduct of members. The caste system has imposed certain restrictions on the food habitats of the members these differ from caste to caste. In North India Brahmin would accept pakka food only from some castes lower than his own. But he would not accept kachcha food prepared with the use of water at the hands of no other caste except his own. As a matter of rule and practice no individual would accept kachcha food prepared by an inferior casteman.The caste system put restriction on the range of social relations also. The idea of pollution means a touch of lower caste man would pollute or defile a man of higher caste. Even his shadow is considered enough to pollute a higher caste man. The lower caste people suffered from certain socio-religious disabilities. The impure castes are made to live on the outskirts of the city and they are not allowed to draw water from the public wells. In earlier times entrance to temples and other places of religious importance were forbidden to them. Educational facilities, legal rights and political representation were denied to them for a very long time. If the lower castes suffer from certain disabilities some higher caste like the Brahmins enjoy certain privileges like conducting prayers in the temples etc.There is gradation of occupations also. Some occupations are considered superior and sacred while certain others degrading and inferior. For a long time occupations were very much associated with the caste system. Each caste had its own specific occupations which were almost hereditary. There was no scope for individual talent, aptitude, enterprise or abilities. The caste system imposes restrictions on marriage also. Caste is an endogamous group. Each caste is subdivided into certain sub castes which are again endogamous.Intercaste marriages are still looked down upon in the traditional Indian society.

Functions of the caste system

The caste system is credited to ensure the continuity of the traditional social organization of India. It has accommodated multiple communities including invading tribes in the Indian society. The knowledge and skills of the occupations have passed down from one generation to the next. Through subsystems like Jajmani system the caste system promoted interdependent interaction between various castes and communities with in a village. The rituals and traditions promoted cooperation and unity between members of the different castes.

The dysfunctions

Caste system promoted untouchability and discrimination against certain members of the society. It hindered both horizontal and vertical social mobility forcing an individual to carry on the traditional occupation against his or her will and capacity. The status of women was affected and they were relegated to the background. The caste system divided the society into mutually hostile and conflicting groups and subgroups.

Dominant caste

This concept given by M.N Srinivas holds that a caste is dominant when it is numerically higher than the other castes. In the Mysore village he described the peasant Okkalinga composed of nearly half of the population made up of nineteenth jati group. The Okkalinga were the biggest land owner. The chief criteria of domination of a caste are

  1. Economic strength

  2. Political power

  3. Ritual purity

  4. Numerical strength

The dominant caste also wields economic and political power over the other caste groups. It also enjoys a high ritual status in the local caste hierarchy. The dominant caste may not be ritually high but enjoy high status because of wealth, political power and numerical strength. The presence of educated persons and high occupation rate also play an important role in deciding its dominance over other caste groupings. Sometimes a single clan of dominant caste controls a number of villages in areas. The dominant caste settle dispute between persons belonging to their own and other jati.The power of the dominant caste is supported by a norm discouraging village from seeking justice from area,govt official, court or police located outside the village. The members of the dominant caste particularly those from the wealthy and powerful families are representative of this village in dealing with the officials.

Purity and Pollution

The notions of purity and pollution are critical for defining and understanding caste hierarchy. According to these concepts, Brahmins hold the highest rank and Shudras the lowest in the caste hierarchy. The Varna System represents a social stratification which includes four varnas namely- Brahmans, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas and Shudras.The Shudras were allocated the lowest rank of social ladder and their responsibilities included service of the three Varnas. The superior castes tried to maintain their ceremonial purity

Dumont holds the notion of purity and pollution interlinked with the caste system and untouchability.The hierarchy of caste is decided according to the degree of purity and pollution. It plays a very crucial role in maintaining the required distance between different castes. But the pollution distance varies from caste to caste and from place to place.

Dipankar Gupta observes that the notion of purity and pollution as Dumont observed is integrally linked with the institution of untouchability .But unlike untouchability the notion of purity and pollution is also a historical accretion. Over time this notion freed itself from its specific and original task of separating untouchables from the others and began to be operative at different planes of the caste system.

The concept of purity and pollution plays a very crucial role in maintaining the required distance between different castes. But the pollution distance varies from caste to caste and from place to place.


Prof M.N Srinivas introduced the term sanskritization to Indian Sociology. The term refers to a process whereby people of lower castes collectively try to adopt upper caste practices and beliefs to acquire higher status. It indicates a process of cultural mobility that is taking place in the traditional social system of India.M.N Srinivas in his study of the Coorg in Karnataka found that lower castes in order to raise their position in the caste hierarchy adopted some customs and practices of the Brahmins and gave up some of their own which were considered to be impure by the higher castes. For example they gave up meat eating, drinking liquor and animal sacrifice to their deities. They imitiated Brahmins in matters of dress, food and rituals. By this they could claim higher positions in the hierarchy of castes within a generation. The reference group in this process is not always Brahmins but may be the dominant caste of the locality.Sanskritization has occurred usually in groups who have enjoyed political and economic power but were not ranked high in ritual ranking. According to Yogendra Singh the process of sanskritization is an endogenous source of social change .Mackim Marriot observes that sanskritic rites are often added on to non-sanskritic rites without replacing them. Harold Gould writes, often the motive force behind sanskritisation is not of cultural imitation per se but an expression of challenge and revolt against the socioeconomic deprivations.


Class System

The class system is universal phenomenon denoting a category or group of persons having a definite status in society which permanently determines their relation to other groups. The social classes are de facto groups (not legally or religiously defined and sanctioned) they are relatively open not closed. Their basis is indisputably economic but they are more than economic groups. They are characteristic groups of the industrial societies which have developed since 17th century. The relative importance and definition of membership in a particular class differs greatly over time and between societies, particularly in societies that have a legal differentiation of groups of people by birth or occupation. In the well-known example of socioeconomic class, many scholars view societies as stratifying into a hierarchical system based on occupation,economic status, wealth, or income.According to Ogburn and Nimkoff a social class is the aggregate of persons having essentially the same social status in a given society. Marx defined class in terms of the extent to which an individual or social group has control over the means of production.In Marxist terms a class is a group of people defined by their relationship to the means of production.Classes are seen to have their origin in the division of the social product into a necessary product and a surplus product. Marxists explain history in terms of a war of classes between those who control production and those who actually produce the goods or services in society (and also developments in technology and the like). In the Marxist view of capitalism this is a conflict between capitalists (bourgeoisie) and wage workers (proletariat). Class antagonism is rooted in the situation that control over social production necessarily entails control over the class which produces goods — in capitalism this is the exploitation of workers by the bourgeoisie. Marx saw class categories as defined by continuing historical processes. Classes, in Marxism, are not static entities, but are regenerated daily through the productive process. Marxism views classes as human social relationships which change over time, with historical commonality created through shared productive processes. A 17th-century farm labourer who worked for day wages shares a similar relationship to production as an average office worker of the 21st century. In this example it is the shared structure of wage labour that makes both of these individuals “working class.”Maclver and Page defines social class as any portion of the community marked off from the rest by social status.Max Weber suggest that social classes are aggregates of individuals who have the same opportunities of acquiring goods, the same exhibited standard of living. He formulated a three component theory of stratification with social, status and party classes (or politics) as conceptually distinct elements.

  • Social class is based on economic relationship to the market (owner, renter, employee, etc.)

  • Status class has to do with non-economic qualities such as education, honour and prestige

  • Party class refers to factors having to do with affiliations in the political domain

According to Weber a more complex division of labour made the class more heterogeneous.In contrast to simple income–property hierarchies, and to structural class schemes like Weber’s or Marx’s, there are theories of class based on other distinctions, such as culture or educational attainment. At times, social class can be related to elitism and those in the higher class are usually known as the “social elite”.For example, Bourdieu seems to have a notion of high and low classes comparable to that of Marxism, insofar as their conditions are defined by different habitus, which is in turn defined by different objectively classifiable conditions of existence. In fact, one of the principal distinctions Bourdieu makes is a distinction between bourgeoisie taste and the working class taste.Social class is a segment of society with all the members of all ages and both the sexes who share the same general status.Maclver says whenever social intercourse is limited by the consideration of social status by distinctions between higher and lower there exists a social class.

Characteristics of Social Class

A social class is essentially a status group. Class is related to status. Different statuses arise in a society as people do different things, engage in different activities and pursue different vocations. Status in the case of class system is achieved and not ascribed. Birth is not the criterion of status. Achievements of an individual mostly decide his status. Class is almost universal phenomenon. It occurs in all the modern complex societies of the world. Each social class has its own status in the society. Status is associated with prestige. The relative position of the class in the social set up arises from the degree of prestige attached to the status. A social class is relatively a stable group. A social class is distinguished from other classes by its customary modes of behaviour.This is often referred to as the life-styles of a particular class. It includes mode of dress, kind of living the means of recreation and cultural products one is able to enjoy, the relationship between parent and children. Life-styles reflect the specialty in preferences, tastes and values of a class. Social classes are open- groups. They represent an open social system. An open class system is one in which vertical social mobility is possible. The basis of social classes is mostly economic but they are not mere economic groups or divisions. Subjective criteria such as class- consciousness, class solidarity and class identification on the on hand and the objective criteria such as wealth, property, income, education and occupation on the other hand are equally important in the class system. Class system is associated with class consciousness. It is a sentiment that characterizes the relations of men towards the members of their own and other classes. It consists in the realization of a similarity of attitude and behavior with members of other classes.

Sociologists have given three-fold classification of classes which consists of – upper class, middle class and lower class.Sorokin has spoken of three major types of class stratification -they are economic, political and occupational classes. Lloyd Warner shows how class distinctions contribute to social stability.Veblen analyzed the consumption pattern of the rich class by the concept of conspicuous consumption. Warner has classified classes into six types- upper-upper class, upper-middle class, upper-lower class, lower-upper class, the lower middle class and lower class. Anthony Giddens’s three class model is the upper, middle and lower (working) class.

Jajmani system

William H Wiser introduced the term Jajmani system in the vocabulary of Indian sociology through his book The Hindu Jajmani system where he described in detail how different caste group interact with each other in the production and exchange of goods and services. In different parts of India different terms are used to describe this economic interaction among the castes for example in Maharashtra the term Balutadar is used. However in sociological literature jajmani system has come to be accepted as a general term to describe the economic interaction between the castes at the village level. This system is also a ritual system concerned with the aspects of purity and pollution as with economic aspects. It functions so that the highest caste remains pure while the lowest castes absorb pollution from them. Villages are composed of number of jatis each having its occupational speciality.Jajmani system is essentially an agriculture based system of production and distribution of goods and services. Through jajmani relations these occupational jatis get linked with the land owning dominant caste. The jajmani system operates around the families belonging to the land owning dominant caste the numbers of which are called jajmans.The land owning caste occupy a privileged position in the jajmani relations. The interaction between occupational castes and the land owning castes take place within the framework of non-reciprocal and asymmetrical type of relations. The land owning castes maintain a paternalistic attitude of superiority towards their occupational castes that are called Kamins in North India. The term Kamin means one who works for somebody or serves him.

In terms of Karl Polanyi’s classification of exchange system -Jajmani exchange can be termed as redistributive system of exchange. The Functionalist view of jajmani system regards it as the basis of self-sufficiency, unity, harmony and stability in the village community. However the Marxist scholars hold a very different opinion. They regard the jajmani system as essentially exploitative, characterized by a latent conflict of interest which could not crystallize due to the prevalent social setup. Thus if in future the conditions of the lower caste improve an open conflict between the lower and upper caste is inevitable. Oscar Lewis who studied Rampur village near Delhi and Biedelmn has been critical of the Jajmani system which they regard as exploitative. According to them the members of occupational jatis are largely landless labourers and have no resources to wage a struggle against the dominant caste out of the compulsion of the need for survival. They succumb to all injustice perpetuated by the landowning dominant caste who enjoy both economic and political power. Scholars like Berreman, Harold Gould and Pauline Kolenda etc accept that there is an element of truth in both the functionalist and Marxist views of the jajmani system. They believe that consensus and harmony as well as conflict and exploitation are prevalent in the village society. According to Dumont jajmani system makes use of hereditary personal relationships to express the division of labour.This system is a ritual expression rather than just an economic arrangement.S.C Dube refers to the system as corresponding to the presentation and counter presentation by which castes as a whole are bound together in a village which is more or less universal in nature. Leach believes that the system maintains and regulates the division of labour and economic interdependence of castes.

Karl Marx

Karl Marx’s (1818- 1883) thought was strongly influenced by:

The dialectical method and historical orientation of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel;

The classical political economy of Adam Smith and David Ricardo;

French socialist and sociological thought, in particular the thought of Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

The most important concepts of Karl Marx

The following concepts of Marx have aided sociological thought significantly;

Dialectical Materialism

Materialistic Interpretation of History i.e Historical Materialism

Class and Class conflict


Marx believed that he could study history and society scientifically and discern tendencies of history and the resulting outcome of social conflicts. Some followers of Marx concluded, therefore, that a communist revolution is inevitable. However, Marx famously asserted in the eleventh of his Theses on Feuerbach that “philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point however is to change it”, and he clearly dedicated himself to trying to alter the world. Consequently, most followers of Marx are not fatalists, but activists who believe that revolutionaries must organize social change.

Marx’s view of history, which came to be called the materialist conception of history (and which was developed further as the philosophy of dialectical materialism) is certainly influenced by Hegel’s claim that reality (and history) should be viewed dialectically. Hegel believed that the direction of human history is characterized in the movement from the fragmentary toward the complete and the real (which was also a movement towards greater and greater rationality). Sometimes, Hegel explained, this progressive unfolding of the Absolute involves gradual, evolutionary accretion but at other times requires discontinuous, revolutionary leaps – episodal upheavals against the existing status quo. For example, Hegel strongly opposed the ancient institution of legal slavery that was practiced in the United States during his lifetime, and he envisioned a time when Christian nations would radically eliminate it from their civilization. While Marx accepted this broad conception of history, Hegel was an idealist, and Marx sought to rewrite dialectics in materialist terms. He wrote that Hegelianism stood the movement of reality on its head, and that it was necessary to set it upon its feet. (Hegel’s philosophy remained and remains in direct opposition to Marxism on this key point.)

Marx’s acceptance of this notion of materialist dialectics which rejected Hegel’s idealism was greatly influenced by Ludwig Feuerbach. In The Essence of Christianity, Feuerbach argued that God is really a creation of man and that the qualities people attribute to God are really qualities of humanity. Accordingly, Marx argued that it is the material world that is real and that our ideas of it are consequences, not causes, of the world. Thus, like Hegel and other philosophers, Marx distinguished between appearances and reality. But he did not believe that the material world hides from us the “real” world of the ideal; on the contrary, he thought that historically and socially specific ideologies prevented people from seeing the material conditions of their lives clearly.

The other important contribution to Marx’s revision of Hegelianism was Engels’ book, The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844, which led Marx to conceive of the historical dialectic in terms of class conflict and to see the modern working class as the most progressive force for revolution.The notion of labour is fundamental in Marx’s thought. Basically, Marx argued that it is human nature to transform nature, and he calls this process of transformation “labour” and the capacity to transform nature labour power. For Marx, this is a natural capacity for a physical activity, but it is intimately tied to the human mind and human imagination:A spider conducts operations that resemble those of a weaver, and a bee puts to shame many an architect in the construction of her cells. But what distinguishes the worst architect from the best of bees is this, that the architect raises his structure in imagination before he erects it in reality. (Capital, Vol. I, Chap. 7, Pt. 1) Karl Marx inherits that Hegelian dialectic and, with it, a disdain for the notion of an underlying invariant human nature. Sometimes Marxists express their views by contrasting “nature” with “history”. Sometimes they use the phrase “existence precedes consciousness”. The point, in either case, is that who a person is, is determined by where and when he is – social context takes precedence over innate behavior; or, in other words, one of the main features of human nature is adaptability. Marx did not believe that all people worked the same way, or that how one works is entirely personal and individual. Instead, he argued that work is a social activity and that the conditions and forms under and through which people work are socially determined and change over time.Marx’s analysis of history is based on his distinction between the means / forces of production, literally those things, such as land, natural resources, and technology, that are necessary for the production of material goods, and the relations of production, in other words, the social and technical relationships people enter into as they acquire and use the means of production. Together these comprise the mode of production; Marx observed that within any given society the mode of production changes, and that European societies had progressed from a feudal mode of production to a capitalist mode of production. In general, Marx believed that the means of production change more rapidly than the relations of production (for example, we develop a new technology, such as the Internet, and only later do we develop laws to regulate that technology). For Marx this mismatch between (economic) base and (social) superstructure is a major source of social disruption and conflict. Marx understood the “social relations of production” to comprise not only relations among individuals, but between or among groups of people, or classes. As a scientist and materialist, Marx did not understand classes as purely subjective (in other words, groups of people who consciously identified with one another). He sought to define classes in terms of objective criteria, such as their access to resources. For Marx, different classes have divergent interests, which is another source of social disruption and conflict. Conflict between social classes being something which is inherent in all human history:The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles. (The Communist Manifesto, Chap. 1)

Marx was especially concerned with how people relate to that most fundamental resource of all, their own labour-power. Marx wrote extensively about this in terms of the problem of alienation. As with the dialectic, Marx began with a Hegelian notion of alienation but developed a more materialist conception. For Marx, the possibility that one may give up ownership of one’s own labour – one’s capacity to transform the world – is tantamount to being alienated from one’s own nature; it is a spiritual loss. Marx described this loss in terms of commodity fetishism, in which the things that people produce, commodities, appear to have a life and movement of their own to which humans and their behavior merely adapt. This disguises the fact that the exchange and circulation of commodities really are the product and reflection of social relationships among people. Under capitalism, social relationships of production, such as among workers or between workers and capitalists, are mediated through commodities, including labor, that are bought and sold on the market.

Commodity fetishism is an example of what Engels called false consciousness, which is closely related to the understanding of ideology. By ideology they meant ideas that reflect the interests of a particular class at a particular time in history, but which are presented as universal and eternal. Marx and Engels’ point was not only that such beliefs are at best half-truths; they serve an important political function. Put another way, the control that one class exercises over the means of production includes not only the production of food or manufactured goods; it includes the production of ideas as well (this provides one possible explanation for why members of a subordinate class may hold ideas contrary to their own interests). Thus, while such ideas may be false, they also reveal in coded form some truth about political relations. For example, although the belief that the things people produce are actually more productive than the people who produce them is literally absurd, it does reflect the fact (according to Marx and Engels) that people under capitalism are alienated from their own labour-power. Another example of this sort of analysis is Marx’s understanding of religion, summed up in a passage from the preface to his 1843 Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right: Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people. Whereas his Gymnasium senior thesis argued that the primary social function of religion was to promote solidarity, here Marx sees the social function as a way of expressing and coping with social inequality, thereby maintaining the status quo. Marx argued that this alienation of human work (and resulting commodity fetishism) is precisely the defining feature of capitalism. Prior to capitalism, markets existed in Europe where producers and merchants bought and sold commodities. According to Marx, a capitalist mode of production developed in Europe when labor itself became a commodity – when peasants became free to sell their own labor-power, and needed to do so because they no longer possessed their own land or tools necessary to produce. People sell their labor-power when they accept compensation in return for whatever work they do in a given period of time (in other words, they are not selling the product of their labor, but their capacity to work). In return for selling their labor power they receive money, which allows them to survive. Those who must sell their labor power to live are “proletarians.” The person who buys the labor power, generally someone who does own the land and technology to produce, is a “capitalist” or “bourgeois.” (Marx considered this an objective description of capitalism, distinct from any one of a variety of ideological claims of or about capitalism). The proletarians inevitably outnumber the capitalists.

Marx distinguished industrial capitalists from merchant capitalists. Merchants buy goods in one place and sell them in another; more precisely, they buy things in one market and sell them in another. Since the laws of supply and demand operate within given markets, there is often a difference between the price of a commodity in one market and another. Merchants, then, practice arbitrage, and hope to capture the difference between these two markets. According to Marx, capitalists, on the other hand, take advantage of the difference between the labor market and the market for whatever commodity is produced by the capitalist. Marx observed that in practically every successful industry input unit-costs are lower than output unit-prices. Marx called the difference “surplus value” and argued that this surplus value had its source in surplus labour.

The capitalist mode of production is capable of tremendous growth because the capitalist can, and has an incentive to, reinvest profits in new technologies. Marx considered the capitalist class to be the most revolutionary in history, because it constantly revolutionized the means of production. But Marx argued that capitalism was prone to periodic crises. He suggested that over time, capitalists would invest more and more in new technologies, and less and less in labor. Since Marx believed that surplus value appropriated from labor is the source of profits, he concluded that the rate of profit would fall even as the economy grew. When the rate of profit falls below a certain point, the result would be a recession or depression in which certain sectors of the economy would collapse. Marx understood that during such a crisis the price of labor would also fall, and eventually make possible the investment in new technologies and the growth of new sectors of the economy.

Marx believed that this cycle of growth, collapse, and growth would be punctuated by increasingly severe crises. Moreover, he believed that the long-term consequence of this process was necessarily the enrichment and empowerment of the capitalist class and the impoverishment of the proletariat. He believed that were the proletariat to seize the means of production, they would encourage social relations that would benefit everyone equally, and a system of production less vulnerable to periodic crises. In general, Marx thought that peaceful negotiation of this problem was impracticable, and that a massive, well-organized and violent revolution would in general be required, because the ruling class would not give up power without violence. He theorized that to establish the socialist system, a dictatorship of the proletariat – a period where the needs of the working-class, not of capital, will be the common deciding factor – must be created on a temporary basis. As he wrote in his “Critique of the Gotha Program”, “between capitalist and communist society there lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. Corresponding to this is also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.”

In the 1920s and ’30s, a group of dissident Marxists founded the Institute for Social Research in Germany, among them Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, Erich Fromm, and Herbert Marcuse. As a group, these authors are often called the Frankfurt School. Their work is known as Critical Theory, a type of Marxist philosophy and cultural criticism heavily influenced by Hegel, Freud, Nietzsche, and Max Weber.The Frankfurt School broke with earlier Marxists, including Lenin and Bolshevism in several key ways. First, writing at the time of the ascendance of Stalinism and Fascism, they had grave doubts as to the traditional Marxist concept of proletarian class consciousness. Second, unlike earlier Marxists, especially Lenin, they rejected economic determinism. While highly influential, their work has been criticized by both orthodox Marxists and some Marxists involved in political practice for divorcing Marxist theory from practical struggle and turning Marxism into a purely academic enterprise.Other influential non-Bolshevik Marxists at that time include Georg Lukacs, Walter Benjamin and Antonio Gramsci, who along with the Frankfurt School are often known by the term Western Marxism. Henryk Grossman, who elaborated the mathematical basis of Marx’s ‘law of capitalist breakdown’, was another affiliate of the Frankfurt School. Also prominent during this period was the Polish revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg.In 1949 Paul Sweezy and Leo Huberman founded Monthly Review, a journal and press, to provide an outlet for Marxist thought in the United States independent of the Communist Party.In 1978, G. A. Cohen attempted to defend Marx’s thought as a coherent and scientific theory of history by reconstructing it through the lens of analytic philosophy. This gave birth to Analytical Marxism, an academic movement which also included Jon Elster, Adam Przeworski and John Roemer. Bertell Ollman is another Anglophone champion of Marx within the academy


How to use Current Affairs in Sociology

Credit goes to my group of online friends


  • Marx’s alienation –  It is true, however, that some young workers have bought into this rhetoric of “freedom” and “liberation” peddled by the capitalists at the head of the on-demand economy. But this does not prove the strength of bourgeois libertarian ideas. Rather, the embracement of the freelance lifestyle reflects the opposite: the alienation from work that many experience as a result of their experiences toiling away in mind-numbing jobs within giant, faceless capitalist corporations.

  • How thin political markets undermine democracy in Capitalist society –

  • Class struggle  – Workers’ strike in Munnar tea plantation, Maruti, Toyota, Air France worker’s strike as 2900 jobs to go. Women sidelined the trade unions, which are male dominated, to get their demands sanctioned.  Dalit women breaking away from their trade unions, joining the struggle, and representing themselves in a bold rebellion against capitalism and patriarchy, including a male-dominated trade union structure.  The ‘Pompilai Orumai,’ in protest against the system of gender segregation practised in the plantations, kept at bay not only the male trade union leaders, but also the men in their own family during the struggle. ‘Pombilai Orumai’ is now busy building its own union on its own terms; it has also fielded candidates in the local government elections to be held in early November. The struggle also reminds us that even within the laudable Kerala model of social development, the Dalit experience leaves much to be desired. Dalit families have lived in two-room tenements (layams) for generations and their conditions do not reflect the much-applauded social welfare indicators of the State.

  • Durkheim Suicide –

    • Altruistic suicide – Suicide bomber,

    • Fatalistic suicide – farmers’s suicide in Marathwada, suicide by a couple in Delhi after their kid died of dengue.

    • Anomic suicide – During 2008 recession, after stocks tumbled.

    • Egoistic suicide –

  • In Jharkhand’s Singhbhum, religion census deepens divide among tribals- hindus and non hindus


  • Merton

    • Deviance – drug addiction in Punjab,

    • Reference groups –

    • Latent functions –

    • Manifest functions –

  • Deprivation -The common thread linking pervasive violence in sub saharan Africa is not just a shared religious ideology characterised by extreme violence and intolerance. The appeal of Islamist militancy to populations in the Sahel, northern Nigeria and the Horn of Africa is underpinned by a lack of inclusive political systems or credible attempts by central governments to address the needs of alienated minorities. Naxal problem,

  • Gender stratification –   Female workers in California will get new tools to challenge gender-based wage gaps under legislation signed into law Tuesday that supporters say offers the strongest equal-pay protection in the nation.  “The stratification and the pay disparities in California and in America, probably in the world, are something that really eats away at our whole society,” Brown said. He called the legislation a “milestone.”  It also protects workers from discrimination and retaliation if they ask questions about how much other people earn, though it doesn’t require that employers provide that information. Workers also will gain the right to sue if they are paid less than someone with a different job title who does “substantially similar” work.

  • Social mobility -Working-class graduates will be given special consideration for jobs at leading firms above affluent applicants.The move aims to improve social mobility in professions dominated by privately educated graduates, such as law and accountancy.

        More young graduates in London now live with their parents than on their own because they are unable to afford the cost of renting or buying a home, while those from outside the capital are finding themselves locked out of the city altogether.   London School of Economics

  • Power Elite –  A study in the psychology of why the average Nigerian wants to be president or governor should be interesting and revealing but one can make an educated guess here that the power and prestige the position confers would be right at the top. Such power and prestige, of course, include predominantly economic advantages. Such economic advantages, the looting of the treasuries as we know it to be, are essentially about the greed of the power elite and the empowering of family members and cronies. In some societies where people are quite capable of linking their collective poverty to the corruption and greed of the power elite, and they resent it, the fight against corruption cannot be the fight of President Muhammadu Buhari, but that of ordinary Nigerians.

  • Power Elite –  Intimately linked to the power elite within the US government, United Fruit extracted huge profits and rejected any reforms that challenged its control of the land. It was the largest landholder and employer in Guatemala. It owned railroads and discouraged the building of highways. It had long controlled Guatemala’s politicians. It’s power was so extensive that one historian compares it to the Dutch East India Company in its influence. It’s shareholders and supporters were amply distributed throughout the foreign policy establishment in the US.

    • How power elites in villages of Bihar remove posters aimed at spreading awareness among the underprivileged.

    • How village elites allocated land to the poor to escape land reform laws.

  • Pressure groups –  The National People’s Party (NPP) which had been formed to look after the interest of the tribals has earned the wrath of several pressure groups from Garo Hills for deciding to field a non-tribal candidate in the upcoming GHADC polls.

    • On whether India should have formed a pressure group of Germany, Japan, Brazil and India to put up a united front for each of the four countries to get permanent seats on the Security Council there are two opinions. Only time will tell whether that was a good move. The detractors contend that by doing that we have endangered the support of Russia which has been a bulwark of support to India in the UN for decades. The Chinese too could shy away from supporting India for working in tandem with Japan with which the Chinese have major differences.

  • Political parties-

    • RTI No doubt, there are already provisions under the Representation of the People’s Act and the Income Tax Act to bring transparency in the financial aspects of political parties yet the excuse of being kept out of the purview of RTI speaks of their double standards. What is the harm if the political parties too are brought under the provisions of the RTI Act to ensure more transparency? Everybody is equal before law and political parties are no exception. There are numerous organizations and agencies which don’t hesitate to be accountable before the people. Therefore, on priority political parties should be brought under the ambit of the provision of RTI Act.The Central Information Commission (CIC) in 2013 had declared all the six parties (BJP, Congress, CPM, BSP, CPI & NCP) as public authorities.There are certain organizations like Hurriyat Conference in Jammu and Kashmir which indulge in anti-national activities. No doubt, existing laws deal with such criminals who work against the country and indulge in other unlawful activities but the outreach of RTI Act will empower the people to know real faces of those who flourish on their miseries.The Law Commission in its 170th report had also made recommendation for transparency in functioning of political parties, especially on internal democracy, financial transparency and accountability in their working.Apprehension that political rivals might file RTI application with malicious intentions should not come in the way of politicians being made liable to scrutiny.

    • Govt. decision to grant citizenship to Hindu refugees from Pakistan and Bangladesh

  • Civil Society –

    • Namma Bengaluru Foundation-Citizen Partnership (NBF-CP), a citizen and civil society led partnership have launched Citizens Charter for Bangalore to rid the city of corruption, vested interests and to ensure that the recently formed Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) Council delivers on its promises to the citizens.

    • Terming Civil society as oxygen of democracy, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in his message for International Day of Democracy to be observed on September 15, said that the Civil society acted as a catalyst for social progress and economic growth by keeping Governments accountable by representing the diverse interests of the population, including its most vulnerable groups

    •  Civil society groups from Nagaland and Assam have decided to come together for thrashing out solution to the festering disputes and help building trust between communities in the two states.Christened as ” Naga-Assamese Round Table Talk”, representatives from both the states will take part in a dialogue here on October 9.

  • Protest –

    • Kurds protested and went on strike in northern Iraq on Wednesday in a show of growing discontent that threatens to further undermine stability at a time when their region is at war with ISIS.Teachers, hospital workers and other public sector employees have taken to the streets for nearly a week demanding their wages from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), which is three months in arrears. The demonstrations are the most sustained unrest in the autonomous region of Kurdistan since the start of an economic crisis compounded by the conflict with ISIS and a drop in oil prices that has pushed the region to the verge of bankruptcy.

  • Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs) took out a rally here on Tuesday seeking regularisation of their services and increased wages.Their demands include setting up of a corpus fund of Rs. 5 crore for their welfare, immediate release of matching incentive from the State government, online payment, health and life insurance facilities with the government paying half the premium amount, and additional payment when workers provide extra services.ASHA Workers Union, led the protest.

    • FTII protest declared unwarranted by Khan committee

    • Tea plantation workers

    • Lala lajpat rai died during lathi charge while protesting against Simon commission

    • OROP protests

    • protest against app based cabs

    • protest against walmart

    • Protest held over proposed hike in Delhi MLAs’ salaries

  • Agitation-

    • Agitation by rain hit farmers in Punjab

    • Agitation by Gujjars for reservation on train tracks

    • Quota agitation by Patidars

  • Collective action-

    •  He observed that the main limitation of rural producers in villages was lack of access to markets. He also noticed the positive role co-operatives played in rural economies through collective action. “Besides lack of access to markets, another issue weavers faced was managing the supply chain which was quite complex considering that most of these producers are quite small and are in rural parts of the country,” says the founder and MD GoCoop.

    • Surendra Manan’s film The Battle Begins highlights this collective action to stop pollution of river and water bodies.\

  • Revolution –

    • Arab spring

  • Religion and science –

    • Vegetarian and non vegetarian debate

    • Religion inspires science – space craft, guided missiles in hindu mythology

    • Science inspires religion – online puja, sms, online arti, online darshan

  • Secularization –

    • Growing secularization has only enhanced our obsession with money and toys. Even honestly pursuing the American Dream (however that is defined) throws us into an endless cycle of competition, consumption, comparison and stress. Social media, despite its benefits, keeps us ever aware of what others have that we don’t.- USA

    • There is a unique type of secularization at the core of the Islamic segment of society’s adventure of change in Turkey. People personalized their religiosity while they protected it. Thus, different religiosities had a chance to coexist in the Islamic community. While pluralism created the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), it was also naturally encouraged by the party. Thanks to this, the AK Party’s voter base expanded and many different Islamic groups came to be represented under the umbrella of the AK Party.  Secularization was needed to protect the religion.

  • Religious revivalism-

    • The evidence would pretty much demonstrate that this was wrong. Religion seems in the 21st century to be enjoying a global revival that was absent in the 20th and downplayed in the 19th.

    • More broadly, as an agnostic and a sceptic, I would be suspicious of the phenomenon of religious revival per se. Having said that, the force and beauty of spirituality must be welcome in an otherwise excessively materialist world.

    • Religious revivalism in China is by no means limited to Christianity; there have been considerable developments in Taoism and Buddhism, some approved, some forcefully disapproved and persecuted, notably the Falun Gong.

  • Fundamentalism

    • Fundamentalist beliefs have driven countless beheadings, bombings, and execution-style murders by terrorist groups like ISIS and al Qaeda in the last year alone.

    • At age 78, writer M.M. Kalburgi remained hard at work at his home in southern India. He was putting the final touches on a lengthy introduction to a volume of ancient Kannada-language verse, which was due to be translated into Mandarin, Japanese, French and Spanish.But one morning late last month, two young men knocked at his door and introduced themselves to his wife as his students. Without warning, they shot Kalburgi twice in the forehead and fled on a motorbike.

    • Attacks on bloggers in Bangladesh

  • Family

    • Single parent and dual-income families have become the norm, and now are more common than the once prevalent two-parent, single-earner households of the mid-20th century.

  • As male involvement in family life increases, now younger men are expected to share in the care and raising of children, often creating dissonance between work expectations and family life.

    • Creating even more pressure on families is the fact that in an increasingly globalized world, many working women and men are continually at risk of losing their jobs to downsizing, or to individuals in other countries where labor is cheaper.

  • we must alter the fundamental assumption that employee and employer interests are mutually exclusive, and in opposition to one another.

    • This scenario becomes even more complex when we factor in social class. Frequently in the U.S., the highest-paid workers tend to receive the best benefits packages (for instance, increased workplace flexibility and paid family leave) while the employees who may have the greatest need for family-support assistance from their employers, may be the least likely to receive them.

  • Patriarchy-

    • Decades ago, feminist philosopher Mary Daly claimed that patriarchy is the religion of the planet.

    • the Church still forbids the ordination of women to the priesthood. Catholic women are still not allowed control of their own reproductive lives. Same with other religions.

    • Hindu women are subject to dowries that amount to extortion payments to take women off of families’ hands;

    • We know that ISIS kidnaps and rapes women–with a ready religious justification built from their misreadings of the Qur’an and some Islamic scholars, while Boko Haram kidnaps and rapes girls in Nigeria.

    • The recently released documentary, The Hunting Ground, documents the epidemic of sexual assault on college campuses

    • An important message Kangana delivers while talking about gender-discrimination, sexism and patriarchy is that women should stop seeking other people’s approval or caring about what the society expects them to be. She says that she never does films for anybody’s approval as people’s opinion of her always shifts and keeps changing. She says ,”you got to be confident” and “as women we can’t hope to get our due. We need to get up and get it ourselves!”

    • Kangana’s sister is an acid attack victim.

    • I believe in addition to religious and traditional patriarchy, there is now capitalist patriarchy like pornography, and cosmetics. This thing of women to look pretty, is another patriarchy, item numbers in movies, toy industry — guns for boys and Barbie for girls. Today Teej for me is a form of patriarchy happening in five star hotels, it is the same with Karva Chaudh in India.”

    • One Billion Rising or OBR is a global campaigning against violence against women and girls, started three-four years ago.

  • In the 1980s a new approach, gender and development (GAD), was introduced. GAD focused on gendered division of labour within the home and in waged work, access to and control over resources and benefits, and the material and social position of women and men in different developmental contexts. GAD advocates argued that empowering women and transforming unequal relationships were the solution to gender inequality both within and outside of the family.

  • Sexual division of labour

    • Hollywood’s gender bias is a subject that has been gaining conversational momentum in recent years.  And, as proof that someone is actually listening to this important dialogue, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has taken steps to interview female filmmakers

    • The technology giant is being sued by a former female employee for alleged gender bias that resulted in lower salaries and lack of promotions for women at the company.

  • Family –

    • Single parent family

    • Family trends in US

    • October 12 marks the fourth anniversary of when the United States became a “no-fault nation.” On that date in 2010, New York, the last holdout, finally joined the 49 other states in eliminating the need for divorcing couples to state that the dissolution of their marriage was the “fault” of one or the other.“no-fault divorce has been a disaster,” leading to record numbers of divorces and plummeting rates ofmany researchers have found that although every state that adopted no-fault divorce saw a burst of pent-up divorces in the first few years after passage, divorce rates leveled off thereafter and have actually fallen since no-fault became the norm.Many studies have shown that job loss and financial strain raise the risk of divorce. But divorce rates fell during the Great Depression of the 1930s, and some observers have claimed that “the silver lining” of this more recent economic crisis has been a similar dip in divorce.Regardless of educational attainment, the divorce rate for couples aged 50 and older has doubled since 1990, and it has more than doubled for married individuals aged 65 and older.the recession inhibited many couples from divorcing, leading to about 150,000 fewer divorces between 2009 and 2011 than might have been expected in view of previous trends.However, the divorce rate has ticked up again since then.

    • shift from consanguine to conjugal family.There is a decline in social roles in families with socialisation roles being shared by other agencies such as peer groups, schools and media.There are changes in the internal structure of families too. The relationships among the family members have also changed with changes in family obligations, decision-making power, socialisation practices and child-rearing practices. The central authority of the eldest male is weakening and there is a reworking of power and authority among family members.he wife now has a greater power in affairs of her home and in decision-making. Parental authority over children has reduced. Children enjoy more freedom to choose their lives, and are consulted in decision-making process. The change is vivid in urban areas. There are simultaneous changes in the traditional value system too.Values like respect for the old and the elderly, care and concern for the weak and the needy, co-operation, service etc, are being replaced by modern values of individual freedom, personal lives, non­-interference and so on.

  • Social change

    • Preethi Herman, country lead of India’s, said: “Launching Hindi on Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary is the biggest tribute to the concept that every person can create positive social change.

    • The Ferguson Commission won’t bring social change. Black Lives Matter will

  • Universities should serve as agents of social change and development

    • SSA

    • Cycle distribution in Bihar among girls

    • Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed inaugurated two J&K Bank-developed model schools equipped with state-of-the art Smart Class facilities in South Kashmir on Tuesday, an official spokesman said.

    • Science Express begins 7-month journey to ignite minds

    • Oregon gun menace – volunteers to keep an eye on emotionally unstable students, metal detectors,  reduce access to gun, why only campuses targetted? India – unlicensed arms with robbers, police verification perfunctory, US – misuse of licence

  • Women empowerment – Siswa village in Anand district. All women panchayat elected through consensus.

  • Women MPs refused to go out for a walk with Smriti Irani

  • Mumbai – minority lady in borivali went to hospital to deliver – her husband was in office – hospital turned her away – she tried going to other side of borivalli – delivered on railway track – the infant died