Social and Cultural Theory Study Guide Essay

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Social and Cultural Theory Study Guide

Karl Marx

Karl Marx was a prolific German social philosopher who is renowned for his exceptional theories related to modern socialism and communism. Marx strongly believed that the recent times have changed the value of man. According to Marx, people are no longer valued for who they are, but they are categorized assessing their importance and participation in the production of products/goods. In the present time, money has become so much more important than it was in the past.

His economic theory of labor refers to the value of money as compared to the value of laborers who use up their energies in generating it. Marx's labor theory of value and the idea of surplus value hold significant importance in social science studies. According to Marxism, it is supposed that the value of a product is eventually derived by the amount of labor that is required for the manufacturing of that product. He suggests that the working class is being exploited by the bourgeois class since they do not produce the commodities for themselves but for those whom they work for. He also says that the wages given to the workers are far less than the worth of product they manufacture with their hard work and manual effort. For instance, if the workers work for six hours, they are paid for the value of three hours which is total exploitation by the capitalists. The masters keep the value of the three additional hours of work which is in fact a surplus value. Surplus value can be defined as the difference between the value of the product at the time of sale and the amount of material, especially labor, used in the production of the commodity ("Marxism," 2009).

The value of money always increases with the passage of time and the clever capitalists know this fact too. This is why money has immense value in the present capitalistic times.

Herbert Spencer

Herbert Spencer, the famous English philosopher, has categorized society into militant and industrial. He suggests that an industrial type of society is founded on the basis of preferred collaboration and mutual aid along with individual self-restrain. Alternatively, compulsion is the basic factor that gives birth to a militant society.

England can be characterized as an industrial society where every individual enjoys same level of freedom. The society in England is based on voluntary cooperation through the utilization of which all the multiform activities of the society are carried out. The structure of state in England is decentralized. The dominant function of this society is to carry out individual service via peaceful mutual cooperation. Thus, England can be truly acknowledged as an industrial society because the state exists for the benefit of its citizens and not for its own good. On the other hand, Iraq, Mexico and Haiti are the examples of militant societies they represent a governmental structure where all the units are forced to complete various combined actions. The citizens of these three mentioned countries are to surrender their wills before government just as a soldier is bound to become an agent of his officer's will in every matter. In a militant society, the government overrules the private and public transactions of the individual. A militant society does not exist on the basis of mutual cooperation but on compulsory cooperation (Coser, 1977).

The societies were classified by Spencer due to their different social organizations. He suggests that the industrial and militant societies bring specific changes in the life of individuals through various forms of social regulation. According to him, a militant society's life is always on the brink of war whereas an industrial society is always anxious about advancement and prosperity by means of peaceful production.

Emile Durkheim

Emily Durkheim, the famous French sociologist, has done extensive research and study on suicide and has shown the importance of anomie, the loss of self-esteem. He suggests that the loss of morale decline one's social identity and such an individual is very likely to be a victim of deviance. Durkheim considers suicide as a sociologically determined act. He emphasizes that too much or too little integration or regulation makes an individual to decide to commit suicide (Krey, 2002).

There are four different types of suicide that have been described by Durkheim. They are altruistic suicide, egoistic suicide, fatalistic suicide and anomic suicide. If an individual is too strappingly integrated into his/her group, he can easily give up his life for the sake of that group. Such a sacrifice of life is known as altruistic suicide. On the other hand, if a person spends a lonesome life where he has no integration with any group and has no social support in the time of need, he sacrifices his life as a result and this is called egoistic suicide. Fatalistic suicide occurs when an individual is unable to influence the social norms and regulations under which he/she is forced to live. The excessive social regulation makes him to attempt suicide. Alternatively, when there is no influential regulation in the society, the individual is likely to attempt anomic suicide. The weak or inadequate social regulations give birth to unreasonable desires, fears and unclear futuristic thoughts which result in the bewilderment and puzzlement of an individual and thus lead him/her to anomic suicide (Krey, 2002).

The mentioned types of suicide can be combined and related with the society's affects on the individual. Suicidal attempts are sometimes the results of problematic personal affairs but in most of the cases, the individual attempting it is disheartened by the society's unequal treatment.

Max Weber

Weber was a famous German economist, political scientist and sociologist who developed a theory relating to the close association between the Calvinistic abstinent ideal and the rise of industrialist organizations. Weber has been successful in tracing the foundation of the capitalistic work ethic back to Protestant religious convictions and to the medieval Reformation movement in Europe. He argues that it is not human greed that has given rise to a materialistic approach. Instead, the capitalist enterprises are driven toward material gains because of "the outcome of a force of internal disciplining peculiar to the secularizing West" (Chow, 2002, p. 43).

Weber has observed a correspondence between being a Protestant and being drawn in business. By implicating Protestantism, Weber has investigated religion as a likely origin of the contemporary economic conditions. He suggests that modern spirit of capitalism has given profit the status of a closing stage of business and the capitalists consider pursuing profit as an honorable and upright act (Weber & Parsons, 2003). The Protestant Ethic can still be observed in the workplaces today as the people have developed a linkage with this trait to display hard work and self-discipline. The socialization today depends on the materialistic progress of an individual or institution. However, the Protestant ethic has been strongly endorsed by the middle-class who is more vulnerable to this ethic than the other classes of the modern society.

The middle-class has been able to practice and preach the Protestant ethic to the fullest and has maintained its presence by following the ethics that help to advance and progress socially in an assiduous, respectable and virtuous manner.

Thorstein Veblen

Thorstein Veblen, an American economist and social critic is popularly known for his sociological understanding of relative deprivation in industrial society. Relative Deprivation is the "tendency among people to compare their situation adversely with another group which results in a feeling of deprivation" (Subberwal, 2009). This relative deprivation affects all the different classes of the society i.e. upper, middle and lower individually. Not only this, it also affects the relationships between these classes.

Relative deprivation affects the behaviors of the classes towards each other. The social inequality that prevails in the society gives rise to changing attitudes towards each other. For instance, when a person from upper or middle class has a certain valuable thing that cannot be possessed by a person belonging to the lower class, this person feels socially deprived as he doe not have enough financial means to own that thing. In the same way, people belonging to middle class feel the same 'socially deprived' feeling when they see an upper-class-related-individual enjoying the valuable material things that they could not have. This means that people do not compare themselves with the whole society. Instead, they compare their lifestyles with some other groups present in the same society. The income is the main source of possessing commodities. People who earn low incomes always compare themselves with people who earn a lot more than them. This relative deprivation results in negative feelings towards a certain group existing in the society (Yitzhaki, 1979).

In short, people always measure their satisfaction level with their income. When they see someone earning more than them, they generally feel dissatisfied with their monetary conditions instead of being grateful by observing those who are poorer than them.

Charles Horton Cooley

The American sociologist, Charles Horton Cooley, presented the idea of the "looking-glass self."…[continue]

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