Life and Works

Hegel was born in Stuttgart, Germany in 1770. His father was a revenue officer and was devout protestant. He was taught Latin by his mother in his early childhood but she died when he was eleven. His sister, Christiane, who was very attached with him committed suicide just after few months after his death.
He entered in a seminary at University of Tübingen as his father wanted him to become a clergyman. He met Friedrich Hölderlin and Friedrich Schelling who later had a great influence on Hegel’s philosophic life. He was inspired from Goethe’s philosophic ideas.
Germany was a backward country during Hegel’s time but the revolutionary ideas in other European countries were nurtured in Germany. He profoundly studied Rousseau and was great supporter of French Revolution. He also witnessed Napolean’s invasion in Jena at the time when Hegel was finishing his Phenomenology of Mind.
He decided not to join to join clergy when he completed his studies in philosophy and theology. He wrote The First Programme for a System of German Idealism in 1976 in collaboration with Schelling. He went to University of Jena in 1801 again, by that time Schiller and Schelling have left Jena but Hegel’s partnership with Schelling continued. He continued his unpaid work till 1806 when Jena was captured by Napoleon army and he flee from there.

He became editor of Catholic daily Bamberger Zeitungi as he did not have any other source of income and finally moved to Nurmberg and served there as headmaster of a Gymnasium for eight years.
During that period, he got married to Marie Tucher and blessed with three children but his daughter died at very early age. He also had a child from his landlady when he was living in Jena, he later joined Hegel’s family when his mother died.
The Science of Logic was published when he was living in Nurmeberg. Later he was offered professorship at University of Heidelberg and he published the summary of Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences. The document was regularly revised until its final version was published in 1830. It was later translated in English in 1959.
He finally joined University of Berlin in 1818 and remained there till death. He died in Berlin on November 14, 1831, during a cholera epidemic.

The last full-length work published by Hegel was The Philosophy of Right (1821). His lectures and student’s notes were posthumously published which include The Philosophy of Fine Art (1835-38), Lectures on the History of Philosophy (1833-36), Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion (1832), and Lectures on the Philosophy of History (1837).


G. W. F. Hegel (1770-1831). Hegel-by-HyperText Resources

http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/hegel/help/hegelbio.htm retrieved on 04/06/09.


Hegel: Bibliographic Annotation

Hegel, though is a great philosopher, but is very hard to grasp and difficult to interpret. His philosophy set the paradigm for many predecessors to think about development with more holistic and comprehensive way. Karl Marx is the one of his followers who is considered as left Hegelian. Though, I personally tried to go through various resources to understand his philosophical ideas, but it was really challenging. Following is the text which I got from Hegel-by-HyperText Resources and it really is helpful for beginners like me to have some idea about Hegel. I tried to annotate it with footnotes in at the end. Hope it will help the readers too.
“Hegel’s aim was to set forth a philosophical system so comprehensive that it would encompass the ideas of his predecessors and create a conceptual framework in terms of which both the past and future could be philosophically understood. Such an aim would require nothing short of a full account of reality itself. Thus, Hegel conceived the subject matter of philosophy to be reality as a whole. This reality, or the total developmental process of everything that is, he referred to as the Absolute[1], or Absolute Spirit. According to Hegel, the task of philosophy is to chart the development of Absolute Spirit. This involves (1) making clear the internal rational structure of the Absolute; (2) demonstrating the manner in which the Absolute manifests itself in nature and human history; and (3) explicating the teleological nature of the Absolute, that is, showing the end or purpose toward which the Absolute is directed.
Concerning the rational structure of the Absolute, Hegel, following the ancient Greek philosopher Parmenides, argued that “what is rational is real and what is real is rational.” This must be understood in terms of Hegel’s further claim that the Absolute must ultimately be regarded as pure Thought, or Spirit, or Mind, in the process of self-development. The logic that governs this developmental process is dialectic. The dialectical method involves the notion that movement, or process, or progress, is the result of the conflict of opposites. Traditionally, this dimension of Hegel’s thought has been analysed in terms of the categories of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. Although Hegel tended to avoid these terms, they are helpful in understanding his concept of the dialectic. The thesis, then, might be an idea or a historical movement. Such an idea or movement contains within itself incompleteness that gives rise to opposition, or an antithesis, a conflicting idea or movement. As a result of the conflict a third point of view arises, a synthesis, which overcomes the conflict by reconciling at a higher level the truth contained in both the thesis and antithesis. This synthesis becomes a new thesis that generates another antithesis, giving rise to a new synthesis, and in such a fashion the process of intellectual or historical development is continually generated. Hegel thought that Absolute Spirit itself (which is to say, the sum total of reality) develops in this dialectical fashion toward an ultimate end or goal. For Hegel, therefore, reality is understood as the Absolute unfolding dialectically in a process of self-development. As the Absolute undergoes this development, it manifests itself both in nature and in human history. Nature is Absolute Thought or Being objectifying itself in material form. Finite minds and human history are the process of the Absolute manifesting itself in that which is most kin to itself, namely, spirit or consciousness. In The Phenomenology of Mind Hegel traced the stages of this manifestation from the simplest level of consciousness, through self-consciousness, to the advent of reason.
Self-Knowledge of the Absolute[3]
The goal of the dialectical cosmic process can be most clearly understood at the level of reason. As finite reason progresses in understanding, the Absolute progresses toward full self-knowledge. Indeed, the Absolute comes to know itself through the human mind’s increased understanding of reality, or the Absolute. Hegel analysed this human progression in understanding in terms of three levels: art, religion, and philosophy. Art grasps the Absolute in material forms, interpreting the rational through the sensible forms of beauty. Art is conceptually superseded by religion, which grasps the Absolute by means of images and symbols. The highest religion for Hegel is Christianity, for in Christianity the truth that the Absolute manifests itself in the finite is symbolically reflected in the incarnation. Philosophy, however, is conceptually supreme, because it grasps the Absolute rationally. Once this has been achieved, the Absolute has arrived at full self-consciousness, and the cosmic drama reaches its end and goal. Only at this point did Hegel identify the Absolute with God. “God is God,” Hegel argued, “only in so far as he knows himself.”
Philosophy of History
In the process of analysing the nature of Absolute Spirit, Hegel made significant contributions in a variety of philosophical fields, including the philosophy of history and social ethics. With respect to history, his two key explanatory categories are reason and freedom. “The only Thought”, maintained Hegel, “which Philosophy brings ... to the contemplation of History, is the simple conception of Reason; that Reason is the Sovereign of the world, that the history of the world, therefore, presents us with a rational process. “As a rational process, history is a record of the development of human freedom, for human history is a progression from less freedom to greater freedom.”
Ethics and Politics[4]
Hegel’s social and political views emerge most clearly in his discussion of morality and social ethics. At the level of morality, right and wrong is a matter of individual conscience. One must, however, move beyond this to the level of social ethics, for duty, according to Hegel, is not essentially the product of individual judgment. Individuals are complete only in the midst of social relationships; thus, the only context in which duty can truly exist is a social one. Hegel considered membership in the state one of the individual’s highest duties. Ideally, the state is the manifestation of the general will, which is the highest expression of the ethical spirit. Obedience to this general will is the act of a free and rational individual.”
G. W. F. Hegel (1770-1831). Hegel-by-HyperText Resources
http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/hegel/help/hegelbio.htm retrieved on 04/06/09.

[1] The idea of absolute was first introduced by Heraclitus which looks at all types of existence emanating from ‘The One’.
[2] Hegel’s philosophy core concept is this dialect and have it is this process which integrates various parts and bring them into oneness ‘Absolute’ and then one is able to find the reality. He says that reality is absolute and if you miss any part of it then it would be hard to understand full. Unless you understand Dialect you cannot move forward to explore the things.
[3] His concept of Self is worth mentioning here as it connects conscious or spirit with the body and establishes a link to understand reality as a whole i.e. absolute knowledge of conscious. Karl Marx also used this concept and discussed about he classless society.
Here I want to share that the concept and idea of creation Pakistan (my home country) by our nation poet Muhammad Iqbal in early twentieth century. His idea was based on Hegelian philosophy of understanding the collective ‘self’ of Muslims as a substantial minority in Sub-Continent and looking for an independent state where they can live enjoy liberty and equality.
[4] This concept tells us that how one should engage in the political and social process of society based on ethical principles. Though for Hegel the concept of ethics is more based into Christianity but still his approach is universal.


Access to Credit and Development

I thought to write about this interesting topic ‘Access to Credit and Development’ as it was discussed in today’s class after the movie.
It has relevance with Dr. Krier’s discussion in previous class regarding ‘Theory of Leisure Class’ by Thorstein Veblen in which he brings up the idea of conspicuous consumption where people spend in a snobbish way just for maintaining high social status. Similarly, many people try to emulate those rich and snobbish people in order to be classified in the same status in society.
Looking at the development level of society in developed countries (North), the industrial revolution had a thrust on production which resulted a rapid growth of consumer’s class. In addition to necessary goods of consumption, it created the demands of luxurious goods and services. It was access to credit which enabled the consumers to have so many unnecessary goods or services which they did not need to consume but they consume it for showing their high status in society. Therefore the infrastructure and expansion of the businesses took an abnormal turn.
One can find it from the movie we saw today as how people of high social status had been living couple of centuries ago and how this consumerism and access to credit provided the middle class to enjoy those leisure’ through credit. But one has to agree that access to credit have provided middle class the opportunity to enjoy the pleasure of those luxuries which centuries ago they never dreamt of as resources were concentrated in few families or elite group. But this bubble of credit though enabled the middle class to fulfill their dreams of leisure to emulate rich but it made rich more richer and middle class an engine of consumption.
But there is a flip side of the coin too. This consumerism brought us to this global financial crunch. This bubble was neither real nor sustainable to cater the demands of so many consumers. Similarly, it brought pseudo development rather than ‘sustainable development’. How this financial shapes a new world is still to be seen and an important area for sociologist to dig deep into.

Access to Credit in developing countries is altogether a different phenomenon. For instance in many African and South Asian countries people do not have access to credit. Though consumer financing had been introduced in some developing economies and have a similar trends of using these credit cards in luxury items but it did not spread in all the developing countries and among all the sections of societies as it is more prevalent among urban growing middle class rather than rural poor.
But I also want to share a success story of Access to Credit and Development in some developing countries and particularly in Bangladesh. Dr. Yunus, a Nobel laureate, introduced the concept of micro finance credit scheme. His organization Grameen Bank disseminated small scale credit among the poorest of the poor women in Bangladesh. The bank provided vocational training to those women. These women started their own small businesses and it brought a revolutionary change in their lives. It really helped Bangladesh to pull millions of families from poverty and also empowered the women for having an independent income for their children.
Micro-finance has its limitations as World Bank and other multilateral institutions are promoting frameowork of ‘one size fits all’ while ignoring the ground realities of different countries. But still it’s a very successful ‘Access to Credit for Development’.
Grameen Bank: http://www.grameen-info.org/


Abnormal Division of Labor

Division of labor does not necessary means that the society is working in ideal condition but its a continued struggle in DOL helps to tackle those abnormal forms which otherwise shake the equilibrium of social structure. Durkheim identifies three types of anomalies in his book DOL.
First he deals with Anomic DOL which occurs when certain functions of society are not
synchronized and which becomes a source of decomposition. It gives the feeling of isolation to
individual and he is limited to his own activity, neglects his colleagues and have no sense of achieving common goals. But Durkheim believes that enervation in collective consciousness is
normal process and social life is impossible without struggle. It is not DOL which is responsible
for this anomie but ‘relationship between the organs in the system are not well regulated’.
If the contacts between the two organs are obstructed, the rules which stem social solidarity to
fix equilibrium and relationship become vague and useless. Therefore DOL turns the worker into
‘lifeless cogs’. Durkheim argues that DOL does not create this circumstances but it’s the lack of
diversity and the dysfunction of certain organs which is responsible for that, while DOL
emphasis workers to interact with each other to break compartmentalization and promotes social solidarity.
Secondly, in order to create social solidarity, DOL does not require that everyone should be assigned some work but also the work ‘agreeable to him’ otherwise it is forced DOL. If work produces some unrest and panic among workers, one needs to investigate the distribution of social functions and its correspondence to distribution of natural abilities. In ideal conditions labor is divided according to their aptitude but inequality develops with the passage as perfect spontaneity does not exist in society. The common sentiments do not have substantial strength to keep individuals together in group in organic society. It is contract which develops the DOL and challenges inequality. In mechanical societies there are certain people who are born as poor or rich but in organic solidarity there would be no poor or rich unless the contract is unjust. He further states that these abnormalities are more prevalent in less modern societies where mechanical relationships are dominant over contractual obligations which ultimately causes inequality.
Third abnormal form of DOL also mentioned as another abnormal form occurs when ‘organs of the system’ are too dysfunctional to produce efficient social solidarity. In this typology, highly developed DOL sometimes is insufficiently integrated and the regulator fails to distribute work among individuals to keep them busy to get optimum output. It’s a functional failure which causes this form of abnormal DOL. On the other hand if the functions are smooth and DOL is evenly distributed this activity will increase in social solidarity with more active participation and function in this way becomes more continuous.
As actions are more solidly linked to one another , they become more dependent on one another. The more individuals which work in a society, the more each individual will specialize. At the same time, each worker must increase his activity to meet the needed amount of product. Hence, a second reason for why the DOL fosters social cohesion: 'It fosters the unity of the organization by the very fact that it adds to its life.'
Durkheim classifies these abnormal forms of labor and then investigates into the causes of those anomalies. He does not stop here but also prescribes the solutions to fix those anomalies. Being an ardent supporter of DOL, he firmly believes that change in social structure is only possible through normal distribution of DOL. Like Marx, he also digs deep into the anomalies such as inequality and deprivation but his analysis of causes more scientific and methodological. His prescription for social change is for transformation from mechanical to organic by using the instrument of division of labor. But Marx, social change perspective is revolutionary and immediate. Though both have contributed a lot for modern sociology but it seems that Durkheim doctrine is more prevalent and acceptable in modern society.

Do Rules Make Durkheim Constructionalist?

Durkheim goal for writing the ‘The Rules’ was to set guidelines which distinguish sociology from other disciplines and also help the sociologists to analyze social facts objectively, specifically and methodologically. It is an attempt to explain social facts rationally and construct the foundation of sociology based on ‘reason and truth’.
It is important to understand that how facts are termed ‘social’ before looking into the rules of sociological methods. This objectivity treats the social facts as ‘things’ which may be regarded as ‘realities’ having characteristics which are independent of sociologist conceptual intuitions and can be accessed through empirical analysis. The first part of this paper interprets the rules and second part of the paper tries to explore that how Durkheim applied those rules in The Division of Labor in Society.
Durkheim defines society as collectivity and sociology as “the science of institutions, their genesis and their functioning”. He stresses the researches to be careful and cautious in both defining and analyzing what constitutes social facts and its relationship with groups.
Durkheim tried to establish the use of scientific method to analyze and answer the queries and to explore and describe society. He emphasizes that ‘Sociology must be not only a concept for discussion, but also an empirical science in application’. He says that any sociological argument will loose its validity if it is not analyzed scientifically.
He believes that methods should include
· observation of facts (things) as a function
· systematically discard all preconceptions
· discretion in order of main problems to be examined,
· procedures to be followed in sequence,
· established rules of proof
· cautious and critical review

Being a functionalist, he observes Social facts are a way of thinking and doing, it develops a collective consciousness which is a baseline or point of beginning for science. One should objectively observe social fact as a thing because the ideas or concepts are subjective while things are objective. Unlike Spencer and Comte, he tautologically stresses that scientific observation should also be a part of reflection which ultimately brings concrete ideas rather than speculating the ideas without scientific investigation.
External Social Phenomena proceeds from the proposition that elements together form phenomena. Unlike psychology where individual makes the psyche of entire ‘whole’ which is not true with social. He compares that individuals are related to society (whole) in the same way as particles forming the cell. He argues that there are commonalities and resemblance between sociology and psychology which does not mean they are same. Even those similarities are constructed in different ways in both disciplines. For example a group of peaceful individuals demonstrating in the street and if few of them get violent, does not represent the collective objective but external social phenomenon had made it violent. In psychology it will be termed as a group psyche but sociology will look into the external social phenomenon which instigated the crowd to be violent.
Durkheim believes that both history and philosophy are unable to analyze ‘social’ due to various factors. History deals with the nominal data of various groups and connects it with events while comparison of groups and events is not in the domain of historians. On the other hand philosophy looks tribes, town and nations as a combination of people ‘together by general laws and thereby creating a continuum for all humans.’ He argues that its sociology which intermediates between both as society is same but it differs in relation to social facts.
He also criticizes both Comte and Spencer for their limitations as the former perceives society as one specie and the latter though cognizes significance of observing parts to understand the ‘whole’ but failed to define ‘simple society’. He says ‘society is not mere sum of individuals, but the system formed by their association represents a specific reality which has its own characteristics’.
Durkheim identifies horde as the basic social specie for his methods of study as he believes that one needs to study all the ‘parts’ in order to understand ‘whole’. It seems impossible to study all parts of society (whole) as it is comprised of many species (parts). And also, the selection process of parts and whole may have the possibility of some errors but he comes up with the idea for sociologists for selecting appropriate variable and defining them meticulously. In this way its not only the element to be analyzed but it also helps us to find the ‘relationship to what is being studied’. His rule determining ‘cause of a social fact must be sought among antecedent social facts and not among the states of individual conciousniess’.
Classifying social facts and units assist us make improvement in the interpretation of phenomenon ‘Therefore when one undertakes to explain a social phenomenon the efficient cause which produces it and the function it fulfills must be investigated separately’ . Although this interpretation needs to analyze cause of phenomenon and also examine its function as he proposes ‘ the function of a social fact must always be sought in the relationship that it bears to some social end’. Here function may be interpreted as the effect of that cause or the relationship it contains to ‘social end’. Therefore the ‘causal relationship’ is very pivotal as it helps us to interpret and analyze the social facts and its function.
Division of Labor & ‘The Rules’:
Division of labor (DOL) is necessary for intellectual and material development as it enhances reproductive capacity and skill of worker. It creates sense of solidarity between two or more people. In addition to economic interests, it lays the foundation of social and moral order i.e. sui generis.
Durkheim correlates solidarity with two types of laws (repressive & restitutive) which segregate solidarity into mechanical and organic respectively. Repressive or penal laws are considered as collective punishment by society to a perpetrator against any crime ‘The collective conscience is the totality of beliefs and sentiments common to the average members of a society that forms a determinate system with a life of its own’. While restitutive (civil, communal and procedural) laws are designed to restore the previous relationship disturbed by one party to affect organic solidarity ‘The formation of a contract directly concerns the parties involved: nonetheless, if a contract has a binding force, it is society which confers that force.’
It is a functional approach by looking into the layers of DOL by dividing solidarity (whole) into mechanical & organic (parts) and to see them with the lens of law (dependent variable). He also illustrates the example that how society in early ages developed from various stages such as hordes, tribes, village, towns and cities and identified the evolution of society from mechanical to organic solidarity. In doing so he infact divides the society’s evolution into various parts and then see with solidarity (dependent variables). He comes up with the conclusion that the increase in organic solidarity decreases its mechanical share from the society.
He argues that people in primitive societies have more resemblance in their beliefs and ideologies while the in advanced ‘civilized’ societies they are distinguished from one another. However backward or less developed societies still have laws which punishes a group/community against the crime done by an individual as they have mechanical solidarity and believe that crime done by an individual from a tribe is a collective responsibility of whole community.
Infact development or modernity is very dear to Durkheim as he believes that the societies which are primitive or have mechanical solidarity are have less division of labor. In other words he believes ‘Diversity becomes greater as types become more developed. Hence, the higher the social type, the more developed the DOL’.
Durkheim differs from Spencer who believes that society is just an ‘establishment of relationship between individuals to exchange the products of their labor’ and this normal exchange takes place through a social contract. But the former believes that societies are ‘spontaneously contractual’ to the extent as individual is born in the society and is expected to abide the rules of society. But also the legal obligations in modern society are growing with expanding structures of restitutory laws. Resultantly, it increases the role the social control to regulate obligations while decreasing the role of contracts. In this way ‘society plays a role in shaping contracts, contracts play a role in shaping society. An extensive network of relationships which contribute to social solidarity can stem from contracts’.
Durkheim believes that every society is moral as ‘men cannot cohabitate without agreeing or cooperating’. Therefore societies classified as organic solidarity tend to be more moral as DOL needs more interaction and cooperation among eachother. Therefore individual have strong ties with others in the society. But societies with mechanical solidarity tend to be less moral as it is based on ‘common sentiment’.

Marx Vs Durkheim

Industrial Revolution changed the economic and social landscape of society in seventeenth and eighteenth century in Europe. One also finds the evolutions of social and economic ideas during that period which were the harbingers of various revolutions in Europe. Both Karl Marx and Durkheim as social theorists looked in the social structure of society by using a lens of conflict and functionalist theorist respectively with an objective to bring social change. Both have the commonality of discussing groups and structure rather than studying individuals.
As a conflict theorist, Marx unbundles the complex system of society identifying inequality which benefits few who rule and brings sufferings for more particularly the workers. He believes both mode of production and process of production are controlled by industrialist while the worker is alienated from the production. For addressing this increasing inequality, he proposes a theory of classless society based on Hegelian dialectical materialism and advocates the overthrow of ruling upper class bourgeois replacing with proletarians and middle class.
Social relations for Marx are fundamentally division of labor and struggle between social classes as his humanity is not religious but of course economic. He argues that for understanding society one needs to explore and analyze its formation with reference to forces of production and who benefits from that production and who loses in this process. He says ‘ability to expound the real process of production, starting out from the material production of life itself, and to comprehend the form of intercourse connected with this and created by the mode of production, as the basis of history; and to show it in its action as State, to explain all the different theoretical products and forms of consciousness, religion, philosophy, ethics, etc., etc. and trace their origins and growth from that basis; by which means, of course, the whole thing can be depicted in its totality’.
For him, mode of production is the driving force for social development and social transformation. He argues that society’s transformation from feudal to industrial (rural to urban) resulted as the mode of production changed during the course of time. He says as the mode of productions changes the division of labor, therefore new classes emerge but with the same pattern of one who controls it and the other who produces for it.
Durkheim’s functionalist perspective looks at society as a system with various parts which together making a whole. He forms the idea of society as an ‘integrated system’ functioning through interconnected parts. He sees society as a phenomenon which may be empirically investigated and the changes are internal within the society.
Durkheim classifies these abnormal forms of labor and then investigates into the causes of those anomalies. He does not stop here but also prescribes the solutions to fix those anomalies. Being an ardent supporter of DOL, he firmly believes that change in social structure is only possible through normal distribution of DOL. Like Marx, he also digs deep into the anomalies such as inequality and deprivation but his analysis of causes more scientific and methodological. His prescription for social change is for transformation from mechanical to organic by using the instrument of division of labor. But Marx, social change perspective is revolutionary and immediate. Though both have contributed a lot for modern sociology but it seems that Durkheim doctrine is more prevalent and acceptable in modern society.
My personal views about DOL (1893) and ‘The Rules (1895)’ have mixture of appreciation and some limitations. Frankly, I did not enjoy reading DOL as I did in Marx. I feel that Durkheim while writing DOL had in his mind that he would be publishing rules after two years. Therefore in DOL, he tried to present a theory for justifying his methods. Being a constructionist/ functionalist, it is a strategic and successful move. But his theory does not have that depth and appeal which makes you ardent follower of Durkheim as theorist. On the other hand, credit goes to him for building an argument for sociology as an independent entity. Being a sociologist in making, I personally am idealist and that’s why have more inclination towards Marx as he questions the system and somehow defies inequality and challenges power imbalance and finally presents an argument ‘another world is possible’. Durkheim on the other hand looks into the layers of society and then argues that division of labor may transform society from primitive to modern but he sees it objectively without any passion making another world rather tries to fix this world by changing social structure.
With functionalist point of view, Durkheim’s rules are really fascinating and innovative in sociology. Even one can say that current research paradigm is dominated by the followers of Durkheim. His argument that it is necessary to prove your argument supported by a theory and then proved by a set of methods so that research present proof of argument and follow set of methods. Reading rules gave me the idea that how most of the research practices today follow that framework and provides sociologist a space in modern society to come up with their findings and incorporate it in policy discourse.
The compatibility of both rules and DOL go parallel particularly when he looks into the various layers of solidarity and then correlate it with DOL. His partitioning of solidarity into two parts and then its effects on DOL and also looking into the further parts and bits of negative and positive solidarity shows that he tried to applied ‘the rules’ wherever possible. He also looks in DOL with its abnormal forms both in mechanical and organic solidarity and then tries look into causes and effects of abnormal forms of DOL.
One limitation which I feel he did not discuss in both DOL and the rules is the concept of Power which is very important in sociology as ignoring power equals legitimizing power. Though he discusses inequality in forced division of labor but one can hardly find cause and effect in that area. With all its limitations, the rules are the wonderful guidelines for the students of sociology to conceptualize that how current rules are refined and improved which more than hundred years ago were introduced and innovated by a Durkheim.
Durkheim, Emile (1947). The division of labor in society. Glencoe, Ill., Free Press
Durkheim, Emile(1982). Durkheim: The Rules of Sociological Method and Selected Texts
on Sociology and its Method. edited and introduction by Steven Lukes, select translations by
W.D. Hallis. New York, NY:The Free Press.
Marx Vs. Durkheim. http://www.exampleessays.com/viewpaper/100755.html Retrieved on March 29, 2009.
Robert C Tucker (1978). The Marx-Engels reader. New York : Norton.



Social Structure Vs Social Systems

The discussion during the class today provided a food for thought about ‘Theory and Social Structure’. The crux of the discussion was about the components of social structure and how they build the who pyramid of society in general and how each component works in particular.
Social Structures play the role of umbrella in a society which helps the society to function socially. It is comprised of various institutions, ideologies and social entities functioning in a social system. For instance, democracy (governance), religion (beliefs), military (security), judiciary (justice) and media (accountability) are the institutions of that social structure in which society functions and integrates the social process.

Social Systems on the other hand are the operational manuals for maintaining the social structure. Social systems have ‘norms, rules, laws and goals’ to execute within its jurisdiction so that the social system may achieve the ultimate objectives for the functioning of society.

Social structure is more about institutions while social system is generally for organizations. For example religion is an institution (social structure) on the other hand church/mosque/synagogue is an organization. Similarly military or democracy is social structures while army or congress are the institutions. The picture gives us a very wonderful view of social organization in which various social structures are shown while one may finds a social systems within each structure.

Social Process on the other hand is the mechanism within the social structure which helps it to function and adapt. Social process includes ‘socialization, integration, power & status distribution & adaptation’. Social process and social structures are catalyst for changing each other. For instance it is the social process which has transformed our social structure from cave age to a modern democratic society. But the dysfunction of the social system (congress) does not mean that social process have stopped believing in the social structures.

But sometimes it is the individuals which influence both on social process and social structures and we have the example of those charismatic leaders such as Gandhee with his non violence movement, Dr. King with his civil rights movement and Nelsen Mandela for the liberation of apartheid Africa. On the other hand one finds the leaders who disrupted the social structure and social process with their leadership such as Hitler and Taliban.


Suicide: Durkehim (March 3, 2009):

How Durkheim's Theory of Suicide fits into Suicide Bombers:

Today we had a guest speaker in our class and she discussed in details about Durkhiem interpretation of ‘suicide’ and then she compared it that how suicidal rate in Russia increased after the demise of communist Soviet Union in 90’s .

She described the three commonly patterns identified by Durkhiem which were commonly found among the people who committed suicide:

Egoistic suicide is committed by people who are not strongly supported by membership in a cohesive social group. As outsiders, they depend more on themselves than on group goals and rules of conduct to sustain them in their lives. In times of stress, they feel isolated and helpless.

Altruistic suicide
is committed by people who are deeply committed to group norms and goals and who see their own lives as unimportant. Basically, these suicides involved dying for a cause.

Anomic suicide is committed by people when society is in crisis or rapid change. In such times, customary norms may weaken or break down. With no clear standards of behavior to guide them, many people become confused, their usual goals lose meaning, and life seems aimless.

There were eye-opening findings which she shared in our class about Russia. It was also very helpful to find that how communist Russia was being rule by the Communist Party and how people were coping with that change and most of the suicides committed by them were Anomic Suicides as there was a huge shift from Communism to the ownership of property which people have not seen for two or three generations. This confusion and shifting of goals made many people’s life aimeless and were feeling themselves misfit in the transitory society.

As we had very little time for discussion in the class, she was kind enough to stay for half an hour after the class. I had a question in my mind which I put before her and the group present at that time.

I am from Pakistan, and my country has experienced a wave of suicide bombings which has taken more innocent lives than the innocent lives lost during 9/11. Earlier I used to think about those suicide bombers’ (terrosists) as a behavior issue. As these children are generally admitted in some radical religious schools where they are taught ‘hatred literature’ against other nations, religions and sects and then are motivated and trained to take suicidal action against their enemies.

After reading Durkhiem and then his interpretation of patterns of suicides, I thought these terrorist do not lie in one category but one finds all these three patterns mentioned above in the motivation for suicidal mission.

They have the egotistic tendencies as majority of the suicide bombers are from poor section of society. They are not only poor but are excluded from the society due to disparity of wealth, basic rights and power imbalance prevalent in the society. They find a great deal of respect and empowerment when they have association with those mentors who are preparing them for a suicidal mission. Therefore the hatred for society is pretty natural for them which treated the with incohesivesness.

Ironically, these terrorists altruistic misinterpret religion as the motivating force pursuing them to go for this mission. They argue that death in the suicidal mission with be a great service for religion and would be a great weapon to eliminate the enemies of religion. They are wrongly brainwashed that not only will their suicide mission will be a great service to the religion but also pave the way for heaven for him and his family after his death.

Surprisingly, there is anomic factor for the increase of suicide bombing. There was a great transition in Afghanistan after 9-11. The extremists were having a safe haven in Afghanistan before 9-11 and life for them was stable. But with the invasion of foreign forces in Afghanistan and then use of military in Pakistan brought a great change in their lives. They were enjoying their barbarian rule but without any external interference. But suddenly, they were at run as the attack from all sides had brought them to react with suicide bombings which was not only to annihilate themselves but also the people around them.

Ii is just an observation but your suggestions and comments may be helpful to look into the issue with a researcher lens.

Source: Blogspot for Cartoon



Social Power has been central issues in Sociology. Power has a great role in our day to day life, in our society and in our system as a whole. It begins from micro level (home), to mezzo level (community) and deals at macro level (nations, geo political).
Though idea of social power has been debated in one way or the other among various scholars such as Archyia Kautalyia in his book “Arthshaastir” in which he depicts how a state may be run by keeping the power within the hands of ruler. Though coercive power has been used by various rulers in the history from every region and creed but somehow coercive power was legitimize philosophically by Machiavelli during the Renaissance period in his famous book “The Prince” where he clearly legitimizes ‘End justify the means’ notion.
Karl Marx has also commented on social power when he discusses that labor in this capitalistic society is coercive labor and it is the industrialist who controls the resources and has power over the means of production including the labor. It is that power imbalance of Capitalistic society he believes may be erased by revolution rather than reformation in the system.
There are several bases of social power and are well classified by French and Raven :
Coercive Power: “ability to punish those who not conform to your ideas or demands”. Coercive power has widely been discussed and debated by the sociologist in both classical and modern power. Coercive power may also be called as a misuse or abuse of power. Many states where Military governments topple the democratic setups are the part of coercive powers. But it does not necessarily means that coercive power does not exist in democratic setups. One finds various levels of use of coercive powers various institutions, in various parts of the world. These Islamic militants are another example of using coercive power in the domain of religion when exert their believes on the society as a whole and one who defies is punished for setting a lesson for the society in general. The reign of terror is another example when coercive power was in its climax.
Legitimate power or Organizational Authority: “This form is based on the perception that someone has the right to prescribe the behavior due to election or appointment to a position of responsibility also called normative power”. In the modern days, this legitimate power concept is more prevalent. Though the legitimacy was also prevalent in monarchy but that was top to bottom and one finds number of wars, fratricides and revolts within the monarchs to topple and overthrow the King/Queen by challenging its legitimacy and also using coercive power. But in democracy, this concept is from bottom to top, when people elect their officials and give them power or authority to decide on certain issues on behalf of their constituency. The process of election somehow legitimize the power and discretions which elected officials use at local, state, national or international level. Similar is the situation when on is appointed on some powerful post through a transparent and accountable process of induction to perform certain duties and use certain power lying within his/her domain.
Referent Power (Power through association with others who possess power) : This type is prevalent in our modern society no matter it is developed or developing world. It is somehow a subtle abuse of power when one associates oneself with a person who already has power and then acquire certain powers sometimes violates merit. It is very common when holds power then s/he wants to behold the surrounding power bases among ones peers. Therefore the second or third tier powers are normally referent powers (who sometimes are not eligible for those posts) rather than legitimate persons.
“Expert Power” is the ‘ability to have distinctive knowledge, expertise or skills’. Though one finds this power structure in ancient societies but they were rare in number and their role in power was limited. But industrial revolution has created another class of professionals (not workers) who ‘know more and more about less and less’ are called specialist or expert in their field. In government domain they are considered as Technocrats. They are the one who are bridge between the working and industrialist class. Their skills, knowledge and expertise bring them into the category of value added human resources which has more social capital value as compare to totalitarians. One finds that this expert class enjoys a power as a representative of the capitalist and directly deals with the working class. Therefore the power struggle at the moment is more between expert group and the worker group rather than worker and the owner of the factory.
Informative Power ‘deals with controlling information needed by others in order to attain a goal’.
Reward Power: “perceived ability to give positive consequences or remove negative ones”.
Personal View: I had an opportunity to work for a non profit organization in Pakistan and its motto was ‘Challenging Power Imbalances’. Its great to share that on hand experience that how power plays its role in various tiers of society and then how it may be challenged in a non confrontational way in order to bring the tiers of system accountable and transparent from bottom to top approach rather than other way round.
We were working on eradicating poverty through rights based approach rather than focusing on service delivery approach. And within that goal my area of work was to look into the issue of Food Rights at household, community, national and global level.
So the interesting finding was that there had been and has been abundant food production at global level which can easily feed the current world’s population. Then we tried to figure out that why about 856 million people are malnourished or food insecure. It came up that its not the production which matters but rather it’s the distribution which is more important. Ironically, most of the rich countries have abundant food and even millions of people go to bed hungry in those countries. Infact, the power of food production and distribution is not in the hands of government rather than in the corporate sector which sees food as a commodity not a human right. Therefore skewed distribution of food leaves many people manlnourished all around the world.
Then we looked into the national levels and particularly, the poor countries which want to overcome this food insecurity but sometimes their policy makers do not have ‘ Food ‘ as their top political agenda or sometimes are arm twisted by the donors who look more into the corporate interests of their countries rather than eradicating poverty and food insecurity in those countries. Therefore government which is normally run by the elite group do not know that what are the sufferings of poor who are suffering from food insecurity and malnourishment.
Similarly at community level it was found out that those who owns some land, business or some entrepreneur (As Marx calls it private property), are somehow food secure but those who do not have ownership or are tenants are more powerless and chronically food insecure. The power at local level is concentrated which have more assets and money.
At household level, we found that patriarchy plays very important role in poor countries and poor societies. Women who cook the food for the whole family is the last one to eat and the man who is considered as the head of the family gets the best out of that meal. So for him, its feast and for women it is just a left over if there is any !
Therefore, this power has vertical tiers as well as horizontal tiers. Though challenging power imbalances is somehow a defiance in that society but one needs to understand its dynamics at every level and then challenging strategies may be adopted with adaptations at each leve.

Bases of Social Power


Alienation and the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844

Marx argues that worker with his work produces commodity. Infact his work is transformed into commodity. He involves into the level of commodity and himself becomes indeed the most miserable commodity. The more he produces the commodity the more commodities become cheaper ‘Labor produces not only commodities it produces itself and the worker as cheap commodity.’ The proposition is that the object which labor produces confronts it as something alien. The output or commodity does not belong to him(worker). The labor arises as loss of reality of the workers’ objectification. This loss of the object and object dissociation may be called as estrangement or alienation.

The worker becomes a slave of his object, as he receives and object of labor, in that he receives work (employment) and secondly in that he receives means of subsistence. This estrangement is not only demonstrated in the products of his labor. It also integrates production activity as the product is after all the outcome of the activity of production. Therefore its not only the product (commodity) itself but the production process which brings alienation.

Hence the labor is external to worker and it is not associated with to his essential being. During his work he does not feel free or happy infact he feels himself outside his work. His labor is not voluntary but a coerced or forced labor. The labor is not contentment of his needs but means to fulfill his subsistence needs. Man who is alienated from himself due to external labor, therefore it is a labor of ‘self sacrifice of mortification.’ It appears the fact that labor of the worker is not his own as it does not belong to him but to someone else.

I never thought about the concept of ‘alienation’ before reading Marx. He has explained it in such a wonderful and vivid way that one can grasps this concept so easily and I assume it is applicable to all of us who are born and brought up in the Capitalist society. But it is more apparent in the industrial sector particularly in the developing countries. I was just thinking about the Charlie Chaplin’s movie and similar thing happen when I was on field visit to Columbus Junction (IA). There were some immigrant workers who work at a meat processing plant in the area. They said, we are pressurized all the time to work more and more. Their team/shift was processing 1000 hogs a day and this year the company has set the target of processing 1200 hogs per day with a little incentive if the process more. I was just thinking of Marx at that time that how the work of these people is transformed into a commodity and how the profit of that commodity would be calculated in the head of the company at some coastal area.

The workers had no control over commodity but were more interested in their subsistence income to meet their both ends meet. They were dissociated with the object they were producing and estrangement and alienation with reality.

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