Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Discussion Plan

On this blog, we will discuss theoretical ideas in sociology, including key points, critiques, etc.


  1. Blog Assignment
    January 28, 2009

    I am always of two minds after reading Marx. His words are powerful and his analysis is mostly right, yet the theory has its shortcomings, as does any theoretical lens that one uses to study the social world. First of all, the analysis is completely structural; individuals are determined by their material existence. Agency theorists suggest, however, and I do believe that human actors engage structures at the micro-level; such analyses are missing from Marx’s theory on capitalism.

    Further, Marxian analysis depicts society as divided into two classes. These classes engage in conflict or a dialectical exchange. Because the system of capitalism contains its “own seeds of destruction,” the system eventually falls as the ranks of the proletariat become swollen with displaced bourgeoisie who can no longer compete. From Marx’s perspective this leads to the ripening of a revolution. However, Marx underestimated two factors in my opinion.

    First, Marx, in turning Hegel on his head, dismisses (although not totally, but rather dramatically) the importance of ideas in social life. Second, Marx fails to see the depth and diversity of power, particularly in terms of using a middle class to stabilize and secure the status quo economic and political system.

    For instance, Johnson (2006) writes about the ways that Americans hold deeply to the myth of American meritocracy and refuse to analyze how wealth can actually be transferred through families in various, tacit ways: cultural/political/social capital and through financial support that is taken for granted. When considered cumulatively, these transfers of wealth provide real advantages to children of middle-upper/middle class families, yet Johnson finds that families/parents refuse to come to terms with these advantages. Instead, families often credit themselves, the “system” that equal opportunity and the free market provides to any individual who is willing to work hard enough…Johnson (2006) and Lareau (2003), in a somewhat similarly oriented study, point to several venues that reinforce these families’ mythic ideologies, including schools, social circles, media, and other institutions like the political/government bureaucracy and banks. The middle class that holds fast to these ideas is a tool, a protector of the capitalist system because they believe that it is a system that has served them well as it could serve others – if they are willing to work at it.

    Johnson, H.B. (2006). The American dream and the power of wealth: Choosing schools and inheriting inequality in the land of opportunity. NY: Routledge - Taylor and Francis Group.

    Lareau, A. (2003). Uneqal Childhoods: Class, race, and family life. CA: University of California Press.

  2. I believe that Marx’s theories do serve a purpose, though not the purpose that he imagined. His theories have proven profitable for capitalism. Capitalism has survived through its critique of Marxism. Communism may not be an operable alternative to capitalism, but it has been useful in its reform. Capitalism can only survive through adopting some measures of socialism. The welfare state is an essential government intervention providing social programs as a safety net for capitalism. While the welfare state has many structural problems today, government intervention is necessary to assist the poor and buffer the economy. Businesses cannot be solely relied upon to provide for the welfare of their workers, as profit is the bottom line. What would Marx say about our current system of welfare capitalism?

  3. I've noted Marx critiquing the inequality inherent within capitalism. For example, Marx states how capitalists prosper through the exploitation of their workers. However, Marx does not discuss the unequal labor women complete for minute or no recompense (or wage). Is it possible to view women as a subdivision of workers who are exploited by 1) the capitalists and 2) family members, specifically their husbands?
    By the by, considering Marx desired revolution, that is, the overthrow of capitalism, would he have achieved his goal by encouraging equality between men and women?

    Attentively, LeNa.

  4. I agree with Marx’s point of view on the fetishism of commodities. We all pursue happiness by getting materialistic commodities. These commodities judges who you are and how “successful” you have been. We are all alienated because very few people own a business and most of us work for someone else. I work for a company that just got sold and now with the merger we have job uncertainty. Another reason why employers are laying people off is because they just need to make more money and they blame the “economy”. Then, we have everything that is built like luxury homes, cars and electronics that are made by the exploitation of the laborer yet sold to the rich. I can see socialism taking over as a form of communism here in the US under the Obama admistration and how he is trying to help our economy. I think a major change needs to happen for our world to continue to operate without the greed and selfishness that brought us to this point were we are today.