Avineri on Marx as social democrat

Shlomo Avineri is one of the interpreters of Marx's thought for whom I have had a great deal of respect since the publication of Social and Political Thought of Karl Marx in 1968. (I also greatly admire his book on Hegel's political philosophy, Hegel's Theory of the Modern State.) Avineri has recently published Karl Marx: Philosophy and Revolution, and …

Wickham on “feudalism”

Chris Wickham is perhaps Britain’s leading historian of European history between the end of the Roman Empire and the Renaissance. His two books, The Inheritance of Rome: Illuminating the Dark Ages 400-1000 (2009) and Medieval Europe (2016), are rich and intriguing accounts of the heterogeneous and diverse histories that the period encompasses. One topic in particular that is of …

Hegel on labor and freedom

Hegel provided a powerful conception of human beings in the world and a rich conception of freedom. Key to that conception is the idea of self-creation through labor. Hegel had an "aesthetic" conception of labor: human beings confront the raw given of nature and transform it through intelligent effort into things they imagine that will …

M I Finley on the dynamics of the Roman Empire

One of the books I found influential in graduate school in philosophy was M. I. Finley's The Ancient Economy, which appeared in 1973. Finley's book sought to explain important parts of the Roman world by piecing together the best knowledge available about the economic relations that defined its socioeconomic foundation. And the book proposes to consider …

Merchant capital

Karl Marx was very interested in capital -- an abstract concept referring to society's wealth. And he was interested in the persons who owned and controlled capital -- the capitalists. But the primary focus of his lifelong analysis was upon one particular species of capital, what he referred to as "industrial capital." This is the form …

Critical theory in the Frankfurt School

An earlier post raised the question of the meaning of the word "critical" in Roy Bhaskar's theory of critical realism. The most extensive discussions of the epistemology of critical theory occurred in the post-Marxist debates within the Frankfurt School, and Raymond Geuss presents those debates with great clarity in The Idea of a Critical Theory: …

Sociology of knowledge: Mannheim

The sociology of knowledge is an interesting but somewhat specialized field of research in sociology. Basically the idea is thatknowledge -- by which I mean roughly "evidence-based representations of the natural, social, and behavioral world" -- is socially conditioned, and it is feasible and important to uncover some of the major social and institutional processes …

Bourdieu’s “field”

image: Emile Zola, 1902   How can sociology treat "culture" as an object of study and as an influence on other sociological processes? This is, of course, two separate questions. First, internally, is it possible to treat philosophy or literature as an embedded sociological process (a point raised by Jean-Louis Fabiani in his treatment of …

Proto-industrialization

The concept of proto-industrialization became an influential one in economic history in the 1970s and 1980s. The term refers to a system of rural manufacture that was intermediate between autarchic feudal production and modern urban factory production. Variously described as rural manufacturing, domestic manufacture, cottage industry, and a "putting-out" system, it was a dispersed system …

Farms in historical materialism

Materialist explanations in history generally attempt to discover fundamental features of technology and labor that impose a very deep imprint on the rest of society. Farming is almost always fundamental in this respect; the forces and relations of production are particularly visible, and the products of the farm system are fundamental to the survival of …

%d bloggers like this: