Tuesday, February 3, 2009

First Exam: Marx and Industrial Capitalism

Exam One

Instructions: Answer ONE of the two following questions, limiting your answer to no more than 10 (ten) pages excluding footnotes, references and appendices and using standard 12-point type and 1.5 line spacing throughout. How you allocate the pages is your concern. It is due no later than 2:10 on Tuesday, February 17, 2009.

Question #1. After the fall of the Soviet Union in the late 20th century and the apparent triumph of capitalism as the only remaining world economic system, many argue that Marx’s theory of capitalism is obsolete while others believe that Marx’s theory of capitalism as a dynamic social structure remains profoundly important. Assess the continuing relevance of Marx’s thought in our time. In your answer, address:
a. the role of the concepts of positivism and progress in Marx’s thought and
whether 21st Century sociologists still buy into either of these

b. the sociological concepts of Marxist origin that are most important (or impotent) in the twenty first century; and

c. how we might differentiate or tease out Marx’s use of individual level concepts (his very social-psychological use of alienation, for example) from his structural or
society-level effects and what difference it makes.

Question #2. Using the Theoretical Yardstick (see WebCT and handouts), evaluate where Marx rates in terms of the Yardstick criteria. In passing, use a sociology of knowledge[1] approach, (and being aware that Marx is the ultimate very dead, very white and irredeemably male theorist) and elaborate what the Sociology of Knowledge approach tells us about Marx that one would not glean from simply reading his writings .
[1] Sociologists, using the older sociology of knowledge perspective and newer post-modernist form, tend to assume that social factors such as the social class and social milieu such as social class (post-modernists add “…and gender”), while not predictive, make it possible to explain the perspectives and values of a writer. The name most connected to this view is Karl Mannheim who wrote Ideology and Utopia (written in 1929 and translated into English in 1936). Wikipedia does not do a shabby overview here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sociology_of_knowledge but bear in mind we are looking at the older, Mannheimian form of the SOK and not the later phenomenological (ala Husserl, Shutz and Berger and Luckmann) perspectives which are a whole other ball of wax entirely.

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