IGNOU BSOC 133 Solved Free Assignment
BSOC 133 Solved Free Assignment July 2023 & January 2024
Q. 1. What is Capitalism? Compare Marx’s and Weber’s views o capitalism.
Ans. There are many features of capitalism marked by Tom Bottomore (1973) in His Dictionary of Marxist Thought which are as follows:
(i) Production for sale rather than for self-use: This means a shift from a subsistence economy. The production is undertaken for direct consumption in most pre-capitalist economies.
Let us take the example of agricultural economies in which farmers grow crops for their own use and only a small surplus is available for sale.
This is because technology is not so advanced and domestic or family labour is used for farming.
This is not the case in a capitalist economy in which a large number of workers gather together in a factory and goods are produced on a mass scale for sale in the market.
(ii) The existence of a market where labour-power is bought and sold: Marx opined that the workers are regarded only in terms of their labour-power. They are paid wages by the owner who hires them.
The workers are legally free and are not forced to work like slaves or serfs. They work to satisfy their economic needs.
They enter into contracts with the capitalist and are not free from hunger which forces them to sell their labour.
(iii) Exchange takes place through money: The production is undertaken for sale which is transacted through the use of money. The various elements in the capitalist system are connected with each other by money and therefore the banks and the financial institutions play an important role in the system.
(iv) The capitalist controls the production process: The capitalists also decide how production is to be carried out and what is to be produced, the composition of raw materials and machines and the manner in which the output is to be marketed.
(v) The capitalist controls financial decisions: There are many decisions like pricing of the product, wages of the workers, the amount of financial investment and so on which are taken by the capitalist.
(vi) Competition: The whole idea of capitalism is production for sale and therefore the competition between capitalists is bound to happen.
The questions related to the sale of the product and the profits leads to a situation in which each tries to out do the other.
The result could be innovation or the use of the latest technology. The result of the competition could also be in the formation of ‘monopolies’ or ‘cartels’, where a single producer or group of producers try to dominate the market by pushing or forcing out competitors.
The result is the further concentration and centralisation of capital in a few hands. Marx quoted that capitalism is a system which symbolises the most acute form of exploitation, inequality and polarisation of classes.
This means the social distance between the owners of the means of production (i.e., the bourgeoisie) and the working class (the proletariat) becomes greater and greater.
Views of Marx and Weber on Capitalism:
(i) Difference in Approach: We have already studied that Karl Marx takes society as his unit of analysis and used the term social realism to describe this approach. Marx explained the term capitalism as one of the historical stages through which society passes.
Weber studies society in terms of meanings attributed or given by individuals to the world around them and tried to make an interpretative understanding of social phenomena.
He understood capitalism in terms of the psychological motivations of individuals and by interpreting their world-view and the meanings they attach to their activities.
(ii) The Emergence of Capitalism: Marx witnessed the emergence of capitalism in terms of a shift in mode of production and believed that the economy or the material world is the infrastructure or base, which moulds the other sub-systems like culture, religion, polity and the like.
A change in the system is viewed as a primary change in economic system. Therefore, the emergence of capitalism is explained in terms of a changed mode of production which results from the contradictions within the earlier historical stage, in this case, feudalism.
Weber’s analysis is complex in nature as he does not ignore economic factors in the emergence of rational capitalism.
He stated that the problems of meanings, motivations and world-view of individuals are important which help to guide action, including economic action. Weber stressed on the value system that makes it possible.
(iii) Consequences of Capitalism and Remedy for Change: Karl Marx believed that capitalism symbolises exploitation, dehumanisation and alienation of the working class and is based on inequality and will ultimately break down.
This breakdown will be brought about by its own inner contradictions. The proletariat will bring about a revolution and thus a new stage of human history, namely, communism will be born.
Weber also stated that rational capitalism is alienating for human society. Rational capitalism and the rational bureaucratic state go together. Weber is pessimistic about the future and unlike Marx does not think revolution or collapse of the system very likely.
Marx stressed that the irrationality and contradictions in capitalism, lead to change and Weber speaks of its rationality. This rationality imprisons human beings in its iron-cage.
Marx and Weber consider capitalism using different approaches. Marx studied it in terms of the historical stages which society passes through.
Capitalism come as a result of contradictions in the earlier stage bringing about a new mode of production. Weber also stressed on the economic factors like Marx.
But he has a complex understanding of the concept taking into account value-systems and beliefs, in keeping with his interpretative understanding of social phenomena.
According to both the thinkers, capitalism has negative consequences for human society. They both have a different vision of the future in the sense that Marx preaches revolution and change but Weber has not such hopes.
Marx believed that capitalism is rooted in irrationality and to Weber it is a reflection of rationality.
Q. 2. Discuss the contribution of Durkheim to sociology of religion.
Ans. Durkheim believed that in order to define religion, it is important to first free the mind of all preconceived ideas of religion.
Durkheim did not support the notion that religion is concerned only with ‘mysterious’ or ‘supernatural’ phenomena or with Gods, spirits and ghosts.
He stated that religion is as concerned with the ordinary as the extraordinary aspects of life.
There are many simple things in day to day life like the rising and setting of the sun, the regular patterns of the seasons, the growth of plants and crops, the birth of new life which are as much as a part of religious ideas as miracles and spectacular happenings.
He defined religion by supporting that the various religious systems of the world must be examined in order to derive those elements, or characteristics, which they have in common.
Durkheim (19 12:38) also pointed out that “religious cannot be defined except by the characteristics which are found wherever religion itself is found”.
Durkheim added that all religions comprise of two basic components, namely, beliefs and rites. Beliefs can be defined as the collective representations and rites determined modes of action, which are influenced by beliefs and religious beliefs according to Durkheim presuppose the classification of all things into ‘sacred’ and ‘profane’.
The two spheres have to be carefully regulated through rites and ceremonies as they are in opposition with each other. The sacred is that which is set apart, considered holy and venerated or dreaded and avoided.
The sacred is usually in a higher position, valued more than profane things, and its identity and power are protected by social rules.
On the other side, the profane refers to the mundane, ordinary aspects of day-to-day existence.
Durkheim said that the sacred and profane are kept apart because they are heterogeneous (different), antagonistic (in conflict) and isolated (separated). Durkheim added that beliefs and rites unite to form religion.
Beliefs are the moral ideas, the rules, the teachings and myths and are the collective representations which exist outside of the individual, yet integrate the individual into the religious system.
With the help of beliefs, human beings understand the sacred and their relationship to it and accordingly lead their lives.
Rites can be defined as the rules of conduct that follow from beliefs, which prescribe how human beings must behave with regard to sacred things.
Durkheim opined that rites serve to sustain the intensity of religious-beliefs. They help in bringing the individuals together and in strengthening their social natures.
Also, they are modes of expression of the collective conscience, which, as you have studied, refers to the commonly held values, beliefs and ideas of the community (see Giddens 1978: 84-89).
Durkheim’s (1912:62) definition of religion taking into account these factors is as given below:
“A religion is a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things, that is to say, things set apart and forbidden – beliefs and practices which unite into one single moral community…
Q. 3. Do you think class antagonism and subsequently class conflict in the capitalist system will usher in socialism? Discuss with reference to the writings of Marx.
Ans. Marxist Political Economy (MPE) depicts a range of political economy perspectives that are broadly connected to and in the tradition of the writings (notably The Communist Manifesto, Grundrisse and Capital) and insights of Karl Marx.
The research tradition is very diverse and heterogeneous; it is nevertheless possible to identify some common key tenets. MPE consists of an integrative an analysis of the economy, society and politics.
These three fields are not taken as isolated but as interdependent structures that evolved historically.
The analysis of class struggle, involving the exploitation of labour by capital within the capitalist mode of production, is fundamental to the understanding of dynamics within this analysis.
This view states that the capital and labour represent two antagonistic classes. The former is primarily characterized by ownership of the means of production, while the latter comprises free wage labourers in a double sense.
They are free from control over the means of production and free – compared with the feudal system – to sell their labour power. Capital is central to this and is primarily organized to ensure the profitability of invested money.
In this respect, the integrative economic analysis includes moving beyond a sole focus on the functioning of the economy. Therefore, under capitalist conditions, labour is not only exploited but also faces alienation.
This means that wage labourers are not the directors of their own work. Instead, s/he is employed in the capitalist mode of production, performing specialized tasks in commodity production, without owning the products.
The capitalist mode of production is not limited to an isolated sphere in society but structures the latter in various ways.
For example, through the process of commoditization, social relations that were formerly untainted by market logic are transformed into commercial relationships, relationships of exchange, and relationships of buying and selling.
MPE has the explicit objective to change the current state of economic and societal organization, with an emancipator perspective to establish a more just society by overcoming capitalism.
Q. 4. What did Durkheim mean by ‘collective conscience??
Ans. What is it that holds society together? This was the central question that preoccupied Durkheim as he wrote about the new industrial societies of the 19th century.
By considering the documented habits, customs, and beliefs of traditional and primitive societies, and comparing those to what he saw around him in his own life, Durkheim crafted some of the most important theories in sociology.
He concluded that society exists because unique individuals feel a sense of solidarity with each other.
This is why we can form collectives and work together to achieve community and functional societies. The collective consciousness, or conscience collective as he wrote it in French, is the source of this solidarity.
Durkheim first introduced his theory of the collective consciousness in his 1893 book “The Division of Labor in Society”.
(Later, he would also rely on the concept in other books, including “Rules of the Sociological Method”, “Suicide”, and “The Elementary Forms of Religious Life”.)
In this text, he explains that the phenomenon is “the totality of beliefs and sentiments common to the average members of a society.”
Durkheim observed that in traditional or primitive societies, religious symbols, discourse, beliefs, and rituals fostered the collective consciousness.
In such cases, where social groups were quite homogenous (not distinct by race or class, for example), the collective consciousness resulted in what Durkheim termed a “mechanical solidarity”-in effect an automatic binding together of people into a collective through their shared values, beliefs, and practices.
Durkheim observed that in the modern, industrialized societies that characterized Western Europe and the young United States when he wrote, which functioned via a division of labour, an “organic solidarity” emerged based on the mutual reliance individuals and groups had on others in order to allow for a society to function.
In cases such as these, religion still played an important role in producing collective consciousness among groups of people affiliated with various religions, but other social institutions and structures would also work to produce the collective consciousness necessary for this more complex form of solidarity, and rituals outside of religion would play important roles in reaffirming it.
Q. 5. Explain the rules for distinguishing between nromal and pathological social facts.
Ans. Durkheim classified social facts into Normal and Pathological social facts. Normal social facts are the most widely distributed and useful social facts assisting in the maintenance of society and social life.
Pathological social facts are those that might associate with social problems and ills of various types.
Normal social fact confirms to the given standards. But normality varies from society to society and also within a society.
It is important that a social fact which is normal may not be normative. For example, Sati Pratha is not regarded as a normal social fact in castes other than Rajput’s.
Durkheim says that crime is present in every society with some structural changes. It is a good example of pathological social fact.
We consider crime as pathological. But Durkheim argues that though we may refer to crime as immoral because it flouts values we believe in from a scientific viewpoint it would be incorrect to call it abnormal.
Firstly, because crime is present not only in the majority of societies of one particular type but in all societies of all type.
Secondly, if there were not occasional deviances or fluting’s of norms, there would be no change in human behaviour and equally important, no opportunities through which a society can either reaffirm the existing norms or else re-assess such behaviour and modify the norm itself.
According to Durkheim when the rate of crime exceeds what is more or less constant for a given social type, then it becomes pathological facts. Similarly using the same criteria, Suicide is normal social fact.
Durkheim claimed that a healthy society can be recognized because the sociologist will find similar conditions in other societies in similar stages.
If a society departs from what is normally found it is probably pathological. The distinction between normal and the pathological plays an important role in Durkheim’s thought.
It is one of the intermediate phases between observation of facts and the formation of precepts is precisely the distinction between the normal and the pathological.
If a phenomenon is normal, we have no grounds for seeking to eliminate it, even if it shocks us morally, on the other hand, if is pathological; we possess a scientific argument to justify projects of reform.
A phenomenon is normal when it is generally encountered in a society of a certain type at a certain phase in its evolution.
A social fact is normal, in relation to a given social type at a given phase of its development, when it is present in the average society of that species at the corresponding phase of its evolution.
Q. 6. What is the difference between organic soliarity and mechanical solidarity?
Ans. Mechanical Solidarity: We all know that mechanical solidarity refers to solidarity of resemblance or likeness. The existence of a great deal of homogeneity and tightly-knit social bonds serves to make the individual members one with their society.
The collective conscience is extremely strong. The collective conscience refers to the system of beliefs and sentiments held in common by members of a society which defines what their mutual relations ought to be.
The strength of the collective conscience binds such societies and the individual members through strong beliefs and values.
Any violation or deviation from these values is viewed very seriously and the offenders get the harsh or repressive punishment. It must be pointed out that this is a solidarity or unity of likeness and homogeneity.
There are limited individual differences and division of labour is at a relatively simple level. To sum up, the individual conscience is merged with the collective conscience in such societies.
Organic Solidarity: Durkheim opined that organic solidarity refers to a solidarity based on difference and complementarily of differences.
Let us take the example of a factory in which there is a great deal of difference in the work, social status, income, etc. of a worker and a manager. But, the two complement each other.
The job of a manager has no meaning without the cooperation of workers and workers need to be organised by managers.
Therefore, both are important for each other’s survival. The societies which are based on organic solidarity are touched and transformed by the growth of industrialisation.
Therefore, the division of labour is a very important aspect of such societies. A society based on organic solidarity is thus one where heterogeneity, differentiation and variety exist.
The complexity of the societies can be seen in the personality types, relationships and problems.
The strength of the collective conscience is less in such societies as the individual conscience becomes more and more distinct, more easily distinguished from the collective conscience. Individualism becomes increasingly valued.
The grip that social norms have on individuals in mechanical solidarity loosens and the individual autonomy and personal freedom become as important in organic solidarity as social solidarity and integration in societies characterised by mechanical solidarity”.
Q. 7. Outline Weber’s view on values in social sciences.
Ans. Weber clearly differentiated between the value-orientations and value judgements.
The researcher or scientist may be guided to undertake a particular study because of certain value-orientations, but Weber believed that he/she must not pass moral judgments about it.
Weber assigns to the sociologist the task of interpretative understanding of the motives of human actors.
The humanness of the sociologist can prove an asset in understanding society and culture because the sociologist can examine phenomena from the inside.
Weber added that he/she can attempt causal explanations by using ideal types and historical comparison. But ethical neutrality must be maintained.”
Q. 8. What did Weber mean by ‘ideal type’?
Ans. Weber stressed on the need for the researcher to separate his/her ‘value judgments’ from ‘judgements of fact, by examination of factual data rigorously and the development of clearly defined concepts.
These helped us to understand the different configurations of a social phenomenon under definite circumstances.
Weber developed his formulation of the ‘ideal type’ which is a methodological tool in which a certain model or construct of the reality to be studied is formulated by the researcher.
This is done by abstracting the most important features of that phenomenon. This worked as a measuring rod to compare the similarities and differences between the ‘real’ and the ‘ideal’.
In turn it helped the researcher to construct hypotheses linking them with the conditions that led to a particular phenomenon or event becoming prominent, or the consequences resulting from the emergence of a particular phenomenon.
Q. 9. Explain Marxian notion of society.
Ans. Marx believed that the basic necessity of material requirements of life make people to produce them. As they get involved in the production process the individuals are compelled to enter into definite social relations.
This forms the basis of the Marx’s theory of society. He opined that the change in material conditions is necessarily accompanied with corresponding change in social relations.
The box below will help us understand how and what happens when new developments of production forces of society come in conflict with existing relations of production.
To sum up, we conclude that the conception of society by Marx and the social order stresses on the dominant modes of production.
The dominant modes of production are governed by the social relations of productions (i.e., class relations). The nature of the class relations is exploitive and is characterized by inequality and conflict.
The approach followed by Marx to the understanding of society rests not on the individual but on class inequality and class conflict. These are the main cause social tensions and instability in society.
Q. 10. Explain Marx’s viewpoint on consequences of division of labour.
Ans. The views of Durkheim’s and Marx’s on the consequences of division of labour are bound to be different. Marx witnessed division of labour as a process imposed on workers by capitalists.
The consequences are that it leads to dehumanisation of the work force and results in Alienation. The creativity of workers is not taken into account and they become a commodity that can be bought and sold at the market place.
They become mere parts of the production process rather than the producers themselves and there is no meaning to their problems to the employers. They are demanised and are considered as work- machines.
As they have no control, they suffer from alienation at all levels, their work, their fellow-workers and the social system itself.
Therefore, Durkheim sees division of labour as a process that can be the basis of integration whereas Marx view it as a process bringing about dehumanisation and alienation, separating the creators from their creation.
The workers become slaves of the system of which they should have been the masters.