The sociology of class

According to the traditional definition, a class is defined in relation to the broad structure of the property system. A group of people belong to the same class when they occupy the same position within the property system governing labor, physical assets, and perhaps intangible assets such as knowledge or money. This is a structural …

Labor mobilization

Workers are a group who ought to be readily prone to mobilization. They are brought together into proximity with each other in large numbers in factories, rail stations, ports, and other workplaces. The circumstances of production usually give them causes around which to gather -- health and safety issues in the workplace, bullying or disrespectful …

What is a peasant?

Quite a bit of China's history has been framed in terms of the role of the "peasant" in Chinese society. Historians consider the features of the peasant economy; they examine the occurrence and dynamics of peasant rebellions and peasant mobilization; they ask about peasant culture and consciousness. What is a peasant? Is it a sociologically …

Rising income inequality in China

Allan Wheatley writes an important article in Reuters this week about the situation of rising income inequalities in China as part and parcel of the booming economic growth the country has witness for the past two decades.  Several key facts emerge from the piece: While spectacular affluence is emerging at the top end of China's …

"Moral economy" as a historical social concept

The concept of a "moral economy" has proved useful in attempting to describe and explain the contentious behavior of peasants in response to onerous social relations. Essentially, it is the idea that peasant communities share a set of normative attitudes concerning the social relations and social behaviors that surround the local economy: the availability of …

Mentalité?

Is there such a thing as a "mentalité" of a people, group, or nation? Take these young people at an Iowa potluck supper, or the traders pictured below at the Chicago Board of Trade -- is there a midwestern mentalité that they can be said to share? What factors might be comprised by such a …

Agendas for Chinese sociology

The challenge for Chinese sociology is the challenge of Chinese society. Chinese social sciences are presently in a period of deep uncertainty. Marxist ideas about method and theory are no longer governing, and new paradigms have not yet taken full form. This transition is especially important because of the magnitude and novelty of the social …

Retreat of the Elephants

Mark Elvin's title, The Retreat of the Elephants: An Environmental History of China, is brilliantly chosen to epitomize his subject: the human causes of longterm environmental change in China over a four-thousand year period of history. How many of us would have guessed that elephants once ranged across almost all of China, as far to …

The world food system

Here is one very concrete way in which we live in a global world: the most basic need that we have -- food -- is satisfied on the basis of a system with global reach and global price and production interconnections. The planet's 6+ billion people need a daily diet of grains, oils, and protein, …

What was E P Thompson up to?

Let's think about E P Thompson. His 1963 book, Making of the English Working Class, transformed the way that historians on the left conceptualized "social class." But what, precisely, was it about?Whereas other Marxist historians focused particularly on the large structures of capitalism, Thompson's eye was turned to the specific and often surprising details of …

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