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Cultural Theory and Practice


Dr Liza Das Associate Professor Department of Humanities and Social Sciences Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati QIP CD Cell Project IIT Guwahati 2009-10 – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Cultural Theory and Practice

Cultural Theory and Practice
  • Dr Liza Das
  • Associate Professor
  • Department of Humanities and Social Sciences
  • Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati

  • The domain of Cultural Studies covers the
    social processes involved in the production,
    transmission and reception of symbolic or
    cultural forms.
  • The Polity Reader In Cultural Theory

  • Cultural Studies, inasmuch as it focuses on
    symbolic forms and signifying practices, is
    distinguished from what is called the study of

  • Why is Agatha Christie not studied in English
    departments when most people read Christie rather
    than Thomas Hardy?
  • Who decides that Shakespeare can / must be read
    but not Christie?
  • Pramod K. Nayar, An Introduction to Cultural

  • The Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies
    (est. 1964)
  • The University of Birmingham
  • Richard Hoggart
  • Stuart Hall

  • Cultural Studies has a commitment to an ethical
    evaluation of modern society and to a radical
    line of political action.
  • It has the objective of understanding culture
    in all its complex forms and of analysing the
    social and political contexts in which culture
    manifests itself.

  • Have you ever asked yourselves Why do we live
    the kind of life that we live?
  • In Cultural Studies this question is framed as
  • How are we produced as subjects?
  • What is culture?
  • Why should we investigate culture?
  • Can it be studied systematically?
  • If yes, what are the tools with which we may
    approach such a vast subject?

  • Here we study the life that we live -- and the
    reasons thereof -- through a variety of lenses,
    and all the various lenses may not agree with
    each other.
  • Such is the difficulty of studying the lives that
    we live, our beliefs, our choices and our loves
    and our despairs.

Stuart Hall
  • By culture I mean the actual grounded terrain of
    practices, representations, languages and customs
    of any specific society.
  • I also mean the contradictory forms of common
    sense which have taken root in and helped to
    shape popular life

That complex whole which includes knowledge,
belief, art, law, morals, custom, and any other
capabilities and habits acquired by man as a
member of society. E. Tylor, Primitive
Culture, 1871
  • Culture is the webs of significance spun by man
    that he is suspended in.
  • C. Geertz, The Interpretation of Cultures,
  • or of meaning and value

In how many different ways can you study yourself
as a cultural being? Interdisciplinary
scope Philosophy How do we understand reality?
Kant Noumenon and phenomenon. How do we
attribute meaning to our existence through our
value and belief systems? Language How does
language construct our perception of
reality? Economics How does wealth and
distribution determine our lives?
Sociology Why do we have the social systems and
arrangements that we do? Psychology Why do we
think in certain ways? What does it mean to be a
cognitive agent? Science and Technology How
does technology affect our way of
life? Literature, media Why are the media and
literature so powerful as cultural
products? History How has culture evolved and
change thorough different times?
Areas 1. Science Human Evolution and the
beginnings of culture 2. Psychology Theory of
Memetics 3. Political Economy Marxism 4.
Modernism and Postmodernism 5. Technology
Posthuman culture
  • Key concepts and guiding statements of the
  • Culture is not a given. It is constructed and
    hence can be studied systematically.
  • 2. Culture is not absolute or static but
    changing and dynamic.
  • 3. There are reasons and forces (eg. political
    economy) behind cultural changes.
  • 4. Power is the chief arbiter of the kind of
    lives we lead.

Theory considerations How do we theorise
culture? Theory is an intellectual activity in
which people interpret, critique and draw
generalisations about how and why the social
world spins the economic, cultural, political and
institutional webs. Theory has the ability to
make sense of all levels of our everyday lives.
Cultural practices are always underlined by
theoretical assumptions and perspectives. The
theory constructed is not merely a system but an
instrument for change. Practice Not theory vs
practice theory as practice. Epistemology
Theory of knowledge, its origins, sources,
assumptions and limits. How do we have knowledge
and what are its means? Problematisation of
  • A general idea that explains a large set of
    factual patterns.
  • A comprehensive explanation of a given set
    of data that has been repeatedly confirmed by
    observation and experimentation and
  • has gained general acceptance within the academic
  • A statement or set of statements used to
    explain a phenomenon. A theory is generally
    accepted as valid due to having survived repeated
  • A scientific theory is an established and
    experimentally verified fact or collection of
    facts about the world. Unlike the everyday use of
    the word theory, it is not an unproved idea, or
    just some theoretical speculation. The latter
    meaning of a 'theory' in science is called a

  • Several related propositions that explain some
    domain of inquiry. Also called a school or
  • A statement or set of statements designed to
    explain a phenomenon or class of phenomena. For
    example, Social Learning Theory describes how
    human behavior is a product of environmental,
    social and personal factors.
  • An organized set of ideas that serves as a
    framework for interpreting facts and findings and
    a guide for research.

Theory and Practice
  • Cultural Studies is a body of theory generated by
    thinkers who regard the production of theoretical
    knowledge as a political practice.
  • Knowledge is never a neutral or objective
    phenomenon but a matter of positionality, of the
    place from which one speaks, to whom, and for
    what purposes.
  • E.g., an anti-casteism theorist builds her
    discourse with a view to bringing about change in
    caste consciousness and actual caste practices.

Cultural Universals
  • Communicating with a verbal language consisting
    of a limited set of sounds and grammatical rules
    for constructing sentences
  • Using age and gender to classify people (e.g.,
    teenager, senior citizen, woman, man)
  • Classifying people based on marriage and descent
    relationships and having kinship terms to refer
    to them (e.g., wife, mother, uncle, cousin)
  • Raising children in some sort of family setting

  • Having a sexual division of labor (e.g., men's
    work versus women's work)
  • Having a concept of privacy
  • Having rules to regulate sexual behavior
  • Distinguishing between good and bad behavior

  • Having some sort of body ornamentation
  • Making jokes and playing games
  • Having art
  • Having some sort of leadership roles for the
    implementation of community decisions

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  • Variation There is Variation in Every
  • Competition Organisms Compete for limited
  • Offspring Organisms produce more Offspring than
    can survive.
  • Genetics Organisms pass Genetic traits on to
    their offspring.
  • Natural Selection Those organisms with the Most
    Beneficial Traits are more likely to Survive and

Darwin suggests that the source of variation is
in "reproductive elements prior to
conceptionVariation is random and
heritable.Variation in domestic varieties is
different than in wild populations. 
COMPETITION The lack of resources to nourish
the reproduced individuals places pressure on the
size of the species population, and this means
increased competition and as a consequence, some
organisms do not survive. The organisms who
die as a consequence of this competition are not
totally random, Darwin found that those organisms
more suited to their environment were more likely
to survive.
  • One of the prime motives for all species is
    to reproduce and survive, passing on the genetic
    information of the species from generation to

  • Differential reproduction- If an organism
    lives half as long as others of its species, but
    has twice as many offspring survive upto
    adulthood, its genes will become more common in
    the adult population of the next generation.
  • If the variations are inherited, then
    differential reproductive success will lead to a
    progressive evolution of particular populations
    of a species, and populations that evolve to be
    sufficiently different might eventually become
    different species.

  • Genetics is the study of the function and
    behavior of genes.
  • Offspring receive a mixture of genetic
    information from both parents. This process
    contributes to the great variation of traits

  • principle by which each slight variation, if
    useful, is preserved
  • If the variations are inherited, then
    differential reproductive success will lead to a
    progressive evolution of particular populations
    of a species, and populations that evolve to be
    sufficiently different might eventually become
    different species

  • Darwin came to understand that any population
    consists of individuals that are all slightly
    different from one another, those individuals
    having a variation that gives them an advantage
    in staying alive long enough to successfully
    reproduce are the ones that pass on their traits
    more frequently to the next generation.
  • Subsequently, their traits become more common and
    the population evolves.
  • Darwin called this descent with modification.

  • Our emotional behavior follows the pattern that
  • already visible in lower animals.
  • The curling of lips into a sneer maybe a relic of
    the snarling action designed to show the teeth to
    an enemy when the teeth were still used as
  • Our lives are still dominated by functions
  • on us as a result of our animal ancestors.

  • Our moral sense is a product of interaction
  • between social instincts and developing
    intelligence .
  • in many primitive tribes, the willingness to
    co-operate with each other is confined to the
    tribal group-outsiders dont count as a moral
  • This is consistent with the view that the social
    instincts were built up for the benefit of the
  • As the size of our societies have increased we
  • have inevitably been learn to generalize the
    moral theories
  • designed to convince us that respect for others
    is an
  • absolute good.

  • Adaptation explains why our ancestors had
    evolved characters that separated them from apes.
    The apes have remained apes because they have
    retained their ancestor lifestyle in trees,
    their forelimbs have thus continued to be adapted
    for grasping branches. Our own ancestors moved
    out of the trees, stood upright as means of
    getting about in open plains.
  • This in turn freed their hands for exploring the
    environment and for using sticks and stones as
    primitive tools. Therefore our intelligence is a
    byproduct of unique shift in lifestyle by our
    ancestors. In their new way of life, something
    called natural selection favored those
    individuals who walked upright and in turn
    promoted the increase of intelligence within a
    population that now had better opportunity to
    exploit that faculty.

  • 1.Natural selection
  • 2.Man-made selection
  • 3.Sexual selection
    depends not on a struggle for existence, but on
    struggle between males for the possession of
    females. The result is not death to the
    unsuccessful competitor, but few or no
    offspring. Therefore it is less vigorous then
    natural selection.  
    powers on all ages and both sexes. Man can act
    only on external and visible characters. Nature
    cares nothing for appearances, except in so far
    as they may be useful to any being. It can act
    on every internal organ, on every shade, on whole
    machinery of life. Man selects only for his own
    good, nature only for that of the being for which
    it tends.

  • Daily and hourly scrutinising throughout the
    world, every variation, even the slightest
    rejecting that which is bad, preserving and
    adding up all that is good silently and
    insensibly working, whenever and wherever
    opportunity offers, at the improvement of each
    organic being in relation to its organic and
    inorganic conditions of life.

  • Natural selection can act only by preservation
    and accumulation of infinitesimally small
    inherited modifications, each profitable to
    preserved being and as modern geology has
    almost banished such views as the excavation of a
    great valley by a single diluvial wave, so will
    natural selection, if it be a true principle,
    banish the belief of continued creation of new
    organic beings, or of any great and sudden
    modifications in their structures.

  • The purpose of evolutionary psychology is to
  • identify evolved emotional and cognitive
  • adaptations that represent "human
  • psychological nature.
  • " Evolutionary Psychology is not a single theory
  • but a large set of hypotheses" and a term which
  • "has also come to refer to a particular way of
  • applying evolutionary theory to the mind,
  • with an emphasis on adaptation, gene-level
  • selection, and modularity. - Steven Pinker

  • Evolutionary Psychology
  • Evolutionary psychology borrows particular themes
  • evolutionary biology (outlined above), and adds
  • fundamental assumptions
  • Existence of discrete psychological traits
  • aspects of humans (e.g. "spatial ability",
    "anxiety levels") are
  • discrete traits,
  • Heritability of psychological traits These
    traits have a
  • genetic basis, they are inherited, and at some
    point in the
  • evolutionary past have been components of genetic
  • Adaptation These traits have been exposed to
  • and currently represent adaptations to some
  • environment.

  • Principles of evolutionary psychology
  • Evolutionary psychology is a hybrid discipline
    that draws
  • insights from modern evolutionary theory,
  • cognitive psychology, anthropology, economics,
  • Computer science, and paleoarchaeology.
  • Premises
  • 1) Manifest behavior depends on underlying
  • mechanisms, information processing devices housed
    in the
  • brain, in conjunction with the external and
    internal inputs
  • that trigger their activation.

  • 1) Evolution by selection is the only known
    causal process capable of creating such complex
    organic mechanisms.
  • 2) Evolved psychological mechanisms are
    functionally specialized to solve adaptive
    problems that recurred for humans over deep
    evolutionary time.
  • 3) Selection designed the information processing
    of many evolved psychological mechanisms to be
    adaptively influenced by specific classes of
    information from the environment.
  • 4) Human psychology consists of a large number
    of functionally specialized evolved mechanisms,
    each sensitive to particular forms of contextual
    input, that get combined, coordinated, and
    integrated with each other to produce manifest

  • Culture and evolutionary psychology
  • The mind is a system of neuro-cognitive
    information processing modules designed by
    natural selection to solve the adaptive problems
    of our distant ancestors.
  • The diversity of forms that human cultures take
    are constrained by innate information processing
    mechanisms underlying our behavior.

  • Language acquisition modules
  • Incest avoidance mechanisms
  • Cheater detection mechanisms
  • Intelligence and sex-specific mating preferences
  • Foraging mechanisms
  • Alliance-tracking mechanisms
  • Agent detection mechanisms
  • Fear and protection mechanisms (survival
  • These mechanisms are theorized to be the
  • foundations of culture. In order to fully
    understand culture
  • we must understand its biological conditions of

Anatomical Evolution Of Man
  • There was a rapid increase in size of
    brain during the various evolutionary stages
  • The rapid increase in cerebral volume was
    concentrated mainly in the association cortex(
    dealing with complex calculations), hippocampus
    (dealing with memory) and cerebellum (dealing
    with posture and balance).

  • Another significant change was a second
    expansion of the brain and the descent of the
    larynx in the wind pipe.
  • An important event was the evolution of
    laryngeal nerves which connects the brain to the
    larynx and allows us to speak. This feature is
    also found in some reptiles and amphibians but is
    vestigial in them.

  • One of the main differences between the
    apes and our ancestors was that the memory of
    apes was episodic.
  • While our ancestors, on the other hand, could
    retrieve their memories as and when they wanted.
  • This meant that our ancestors had access to wide
    repertoire of memories which allowed them to
    remember the body representations of various
    activities and hence in turn allowing them to
    perfect them and even improvise on them.

  • As the whole body became a tool for
    communication new social territories began
    opening up complex games, extended competition,
    pedagogy through direct imitation, a more complex
    repertoire of facial expressions and intentional
    group displays of aggression, solidarity, joy,
    fear and sorrow forming the basis of the first
    hominid cultures.

  • The social, cultural, anatomical changes
    surrounding the hominids paved the way for
    lexicon invention.
  • The language was an offshoot of the lexicon
    invention which enabled our ancestors to enable
    relationship between words and the imposition of
    metalinguistic skills the govern the uses of
    these words

  • Language gradually assumed a dominant and
    an important role the human culture but never
    eliminating the mimetic skills learned earlier on.

This resulted in the well known phrase
survival of the fittest, where the organisms
most suited to their environment had more chance
of survival if the species falls upon hard
times. Those organisms who are better
suited to their environment exhibit desirable
characteristics, which is a consequence of their
genome being more suitable to begin with.
Right Handedness
Handedness is an attribute of human beings
defined by their unequal distribution of fine
motor skill between the left and right hands
Most humans (say 70 percent to 95 percent) are
right-handed, a minority (say 5 percent to 30
percent) are left-handed, This appears to be
universally true for all human populations
anywhere in the world. There is evidence for
genetic influence for handedness although it can
be influenced (and changed) by social and
cultural mechanisms.
- It is not unusual for individual animals to
show a preferential use of one hand over the
other, to develop an individual hand preference.
But there is no consensus among researchers that
any non-human species shows the same
species-level handedness found in humans.
What is the cause of handedness and why the
handedness is majorly dominant in humans and Not
animals as such?
  • US university scientists were able to synthesize
    a drug that could generate similar dillusional
    environment that existed in the times when major
    anatomical transformations were occuring among
    previous hominids .
  • When this drug was administered to apes it was
    found that those showed greater endurance to that
    drug that had greater right hand specificity.
  • Thus experiment revealed that right handedness
    gradually grew during the phase of evolution of
    prehominids into later developed hominids
    representing this property grew as a result of
    cultural and anatomical human development which
    is now visible in existence of species level
    handedness in humans

As the successive homonids generations were
advancing in cultural and neural fields it
demanded more efficient energy management,
therefore bipedalism was one the most significant
anatomical transformations of the era.
  • Anthropologists theorized that early humans
    began walking on two legs as a way to reduce
    locomotor energy costs.
  • To examine this theory among humans and adult
    chimpanzees, researchers have found that human
    walking is around 75 percent less costly, in
    terms of energy and caloric expenditure, than
    quadrupedal knucklewalking in chimpanzees.
  • That energy savings could have provided early
    hominids with an evolutionary advantage over
    other apes by reducing the cost of foraging for

  • The thermoregulatory model (Wheeler Labs) views
    the increased heat loss, increased cooling,
    reduced heat gain and reduced water requirements
    conferred by a bipedal stance in a hot, tropical
    climate as the selective pressure leading to
  • Sleeping on back is possible anatomically only
    in bipedals and research shows sleeping on back
    is least expensive way as far as energy is

 over the period of evolution,the humans which
were once a mere food gatherers and hunters have
evolved not only anatomically but also culturally
as well as technologically. This vast sea of
knowledge which has been accumulated over the
period of time is not just a 1 generation process
but gradually developed as the fruits of
  • This property of passing on valued knowledge
    as well as skills to the successors called
    inheritance which has ultimately played important
    role in the development of human culture as we
    see today.
  • As humans developed anatomically majorly in
    the neural area, the basic human efforts became
    more and more thoughtful as the thinking
    processes had begun
  • The era of language development dawned upon
    and soon man was making long strides in the
    cultural expansion and knowledge.

  • Humans started resorting to external
    memories to better organise the complex structure
    of their lives which is evident in the large
    number engravings ,ancient texts, and sculptures.
  • This era marked not only the acquisition of
    knowledge but also their preservation which could
    be rightfully transferrred to next generations
    which further developed and consolidated them .

  • Karl Marx
  • 1818-1883
  • Friedrich Engels

  • Hegel
  • Feuerbach
  • Max Stirner
  • Moses Hess
  • Lewis Morgan
  • A mere property career is not the final
    destiny of mankind ...

A Basic Question
  • Why do we live the kind of life that we live?
  • Marxism is a cultural theory which seeks to give
    a historical and materialist explanation for the
    kind of lives we live.

  • Metaphors of Understanding Society

Society Is Like A Human Body
Characteristics of human body
Characteristics of society
Each part of the body works in harmony with all
other parts
Each part of society works in harmony with all
other parts
Society Is Like A Play
Characteristics of a play
Characteristics of society
A play has actors who play their individual roles
Society consists of individual actors who play a
variety of roles
Society Is Like A Theme Park
Characteristics of theme park
Characteristics of society
A theme park has numerous different rides
Society is characterised by a multiplicity of
choices (work, education, leisure, etc.)
  • This school of thought looks upon nature and
    history as a reflection of ideas or spirit. The
    theory that men and women and every material
    thing was created by a divine Spirit, is a basic
    concept of idealism.

  • History is explained as a history of thought.
  • People's actions are seen as resulting from
    abstract thoughts, and not from their material
  • Hegel turned thoughts into an independent "Idea"
    existing outside of the brain and independent of
    the material world. The latter was merely a
    reflection of this Idea.
  • Religion is part and parcel of philosophical

Hegelian Dialectics
  • Marx a Young Hegelian
  • Dialectics is the science of the general laws of
    motion and development of nature, human society
    and thought.
  • Dialectics deals not only with facts, but with
    facts in their connection, i.e. processes, not
    only with isolated ideas, but with laws, not only
    with the particular, but with the general.

  • "A development that seemingly repeats the stages
    already passed, but repeats them differently, on
    a higher basis a development, so to speak, in
    spirals, not in a straight line a development by
    leaps, catastrophes, revolutions breaks in

  • Hegels dialectic is often characterized as a
    three step process of
  • It is the way how one can explain formation of
    every society past and present.

  • What experience and history teach is this that
    nations and governments have never learned
    anything from history, or acted upon any lessons
    they might have drawn from it.

  • Hegel brilliantly posed the problem, but was
    prevented from solving it by his idealist
  • It was, in Engels' words "a colossal

Dialectical Materialism
  • Maintains that the material world is real and
    that nature or matter is primary.
  • The mind or ideas are a product of the brain. The
    brain, and therefore ideas, arose at a certain
    stage in the development of living matter.

  • Marx explained, on the contrary, thoughts and
    ideas were simply the reflection of the material
    world. So Hegelian dialectics was fused with
    modern materialism to produce the higher
    understanding of dialectical materialism

Marxist philosophy
  • The driving force of history is neither "Great
    Men" nor the super-natural, but stems from the
    development of the productive forces (industry,
    science, technique, etc.) themselves.
  • It is economics, in the last analysis, that
    determines the conditions of life, the
  • habits and consciousness of human beings.

  • In all societies, the provision and social
    organisation of such things as food, clothing and
    shelter is a fundamental social necessity and it
    involves devising some means whereby such things
  • Produced by a population.
  • Distributed to people
  • Exchanged in some way.

  • In addition, it is important to note that the
    production, distribution and exchange of such
    things as food and shelter is a communal activity
    - people have to co-operate in some way to
    produce these things.
  • In order to produce, therefore, people enter,
    willingly or unwillingly into a variety of social

  • Marx argued that, throughout human history, the
    way in which people "co-operated" - or organised
    themselves - to produce the "means of their
    social existence" has been different.

  • "In the social production which men carry on,
    they enter into definite relations that are
    indispensable and independent of their will
    these relations of production correspond to a
    definite stage of development of their material
    powers of production.
  • The sum total of these relations of production
    constitutes the economic structure of society -
    the real foundations, on which rise legal and
    political superstructures and to which correspond
    definite forms of social consciousness."

Historical Materialism
  • Men make their own history, but they do not
    make it just as they please they do not make it
    under circumstances chosen by themselves, but
    under circumstances directly found, given and
    transmitted from the past. The tradition of all
    the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on
    the brain of the living.

  • History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second
    as farce.

  • To transform both the world and mans
    consciousness of it
  • To achieve the state of Communism
  • From each according to his ability, to each
    according to his needs.

  • Society" is not a something that exists over and
    above people.
  • Society" is the product of people's behaviour.
    If people create the social structures within
    which behaviour is ordered then, of course, they
    are perfectly capable of changing the social order

  • The relationship between social classes is
  • Unequal
  • Exploitative
  • Founded on a conflict of interest

  • To expose the political and economic
    contradictions inherent in Capitalism (for
    example, the fact that while people co-operate to
    produce goods, a Capitalist class appropriates
    these goods for its private profit).

  • All exploiting classes attempt to morally justify
    their class rule by portraying them, as the
    highest, most natural form of social development,
    deliberately concealing the system of
    exploitation by disguising and distorting the

  • Society / social systems are in a constant -
    inevitable - state of conflict. Social order
    exists not because it is
  • a. The "natural" state of things or,
  • b. Because everyone is in basic agreement about
    how order should be maintained and so forth.
  • But order exists because powerful social
    groups (or classes) are able to impose a sense of
    order, permanence and stability upon all other
    classes in society.

  • Therefore, those who dominate the economic sphere
    in any society will also dominate politically and
    ideologically - and, in this respect, an
    important idea is that the ideology of the ruling
    class is the dominant ideology in society.

  • The possession of power gives you
  • 1. Economic power
  • Wealth
  • Status.
  • 2. Political power
  • Control over political institutions (government,
    the State).
  • 3. Ideological power
  • Control over the way in which people are able to
    visualise and interpret the social world. This is
    carried-out through various forms of
    socialisation through the mass media, the
    workplace, the family, the education system

  • The mode of production in material life
    determines the general character of the social,
    political, and intellectual processes of life.
  • It is not the consciousness of men which
    determines their existence it is on the contrary
    their social existence which determines their

  • It is our socio-economic reality that gives shape
    to our way of thinking and not the other way
  • The economic reality in which we find ourselves
    determines our culture and our consciousness.
  • There is no absolute knowledge and at any given
    time, the ruling ideas are the ideas of the
    ruling CLASS.

Base and Superstructure
  • Marx argued that these two basic types of social
    relationships represented two parts of the
    overall nature of relationships within capitalist
  • 1. Economic relationships - the "infrastructure"
    or "economic base" of society.
  • 2. Political / ideological relationships - the
    "superstructure" of society.

  • Although superstructural relationships are
    important, they ultimately rest upon the economic
    base of society.
  • According to Marxists, these kinds of
    relationships are dependent upon - and reflect -
    the nature of economic relationships in society.
    Thus, if economic relationships are fundamentally
    unequal, then political and ideological
    relationships will both reflect - and help to
    reinforce - inequality.

Superstructure Consciousness Religion Morality Education Family Mass Media Legal System Workplace Ethics
Base Relations of Production Forces of Production
  • For Marx education performs two main functions in
    capitalist society-
  • 1. It reproduces the inequalities and social
    relations of production of Capitalist Society.
  • 2. It serves to legitimate these inequalities
    under the guise of Meritocracy.

  • Revolutionary changes in society take place
    because the the forces of production come into
    conflict with the relations of production

Historical Materialism
  • Primitive Communism Based on cooperation
  • Emergence of surplus and private property
  • The historic defeat of women
  • Slave Society
  • Feudalism
  • Absolute Monarchy
  • Capitalist Revolution Competition
  • Imperialism
  • Socialism
  • Communism Cooperation

  • According to Marx, different historical periods
    have different dominant means of production
    (which, in turn, produces different types of
  • In Feudal society, land was the most important
    means of production.
  • In Capitalist society, land is still significant,
    but the most important means of production are
    things like factories, machines and so forth.

  • Different societies at different times in their
    historical development involve some or all of the
    above as part of the general production process.
  • For example, in Britain in the Middle Ages, the
    forces of production would have involved
  • Land - since this was basically an agricultural
  • Raw materials - basically anything that could be
  • Tools - but not machines, as such.
  • Knowledge - but not particularly "scientific" as
    we might understand the term.
  • People - the "labour power" of peasants, for
    example, working on the land.

  • The relationship to the means of production
    objectively determines our social class and, if
    we accept this idea for a moment, it follows that
    he initially identified two great classes in
    Capitalist society
  • 1. The Bourgeoisie (Upper or Ruling class).
  • Those people (a minority) who owned the means of
  • 2. The Proletariat (Lower or Working class).
  • Those people (the majority) who did not own the
    means of production.

  • Marx argued that all societies involved conflict
    - sometimes open but more usually submerged
    beneath the surface of everyday life - that was
    based upon fundamental inequalities and different
    economic and political interests
  • The history of all societies is the history of
    Class conflict

  • The basis of this conflict lies in the fact that
    although wealth is created by the Proletariat
    (the working class), it is appropriated (that is
    "taken away") privately - by the Bourgeoisie - in
    the form of profits.

the proletariat (or working class) own nothing
but their labour power
the bourgeoisie (or capitalists) own the means
of production
The proletariat have no one beneath them to
exploit so the only path they can take to
freedom is to set up a classless society in which
no one is exploited. This, they thought, would
happen after a revolutionary overthrow of
capitalism and after an in-between period called
the "dictatorship of the proletariat".
  • The Bourgeoisie in any Capitalist society resolve
    it through somehow making the Proletariat believe
    that the economic system is based upon freedom,
    fairness and equality.
  • This is where the concepts of both "power" and
    "ideology" come into the equation.

Consensual Values???
  • Though it appears that people in any society do
    share fundamental values, but Marx argued that
    this "consensus over basic values" (which
    Functionalists, for example, tend to take for
    granted) was by no means the whole story.
  • In effect, Marx argued that the Bourgeoisie are
    able to use the power that comes from economic
    ownership to "control" the way in which people
    think about and "see" the nature of the social

Manufactured Consent
  • Marxists see this consensus as being
    manufactured by the Bourgeoisie (through the
    primary and secondary socialisation process and
    cultural institutions such as religion, education
    and the mass media).

  • Leadership with the consent of the led
  • There are two ways in which a ruling class can
    consolidate its hegemony over other classes
  • a. Through the use of force (the police and army,
    for example).
  • Althusser called these "Repressive State
    Apparatus" (RSAs)
  • b. Through the use of ideology / socialisation
    (the mass media, social workers, teachers and the
    like - a form of "soft policing")
  • Althusser called these "Ideological State
    Apparatus" (ISAs)

  • Alienation is used to refer to the way in which
    Capitalist society degrades both the Bourgeoisie
    and the Proletariat.

  • The Bourgeoisie are alienated from their fellow
    human beings because of their exploitation and
    oppression of the rest of society. This condition
    of alienation is used to explain why such things
    as crime occurs in society - the social bonds
    that should tie people together are fatally
    weakened by the exploitative relationship between
    Capital and Labour.

  • The Proletariat are alienated from society
    because although they are responsible for
    producing goods co-operatively (for the potential
    benefit of society as a whole), the fruits of
    their labour are appropriated by the Bourgeoisie
    (in the form of profit) for their private use.

  • The philosophers have only interpreted the world
    in various ways the point is, to CHANGE it.
  • Communism is a political philosophy which argues
    that men should have equal rights to wealth.

  • The first step in the revolution by the working
    class is to raise the proletariat to the position
    of ruling class to win the battle of democracy.
  • The proletariat will use its political supremacy
    to wrest, by degree, all capital from the
    bourgeoisie, to centralize all instruments of
    production in the hands of the state, i.e., of
    the proletariat organized as the ruling class
    and to increase the total productive forces as
    rapidly as possible.

The Communist Manifesto
  • Abolition of private property
  • Abolition of all rights of inheritance.
  • Equal obligation of all to work.
  • Establishment of industrial armies, especially
    for agriculture.
  • Free education for all children in public
  • Abolition of children's factory labor in its
    present form.
  • Combination of education with industrial

  • In place of the old bourgeois society, with its
    classes and class antagonisms, we shall have an
    association in which the free development of each
    is the condition for the free development of all.

  • Capitalism effects the ideology of people as it
  • Destroys important human values, replacing even
    religious belief with naked exploitation.
  • Undermines an individuals sense of personal
    value in ones work.
  • Undermines human relationships all relationships
    are based on cash.
  • Destroys human freedom. The only freedom it
    protects is free trade.

From Communist Manifesto
  • The bourgeoisie has created enormous cities,
    has greatly increased the urban population as
    compared with the rural, and has thus rescued a
    considerable part of the population from the
    idiocy of rural life. The bourgeoisie, during
    its rule of scarce one hundred years, has created
    more massive and more colossal productive forces
    than have all preceding generations together
    railways, electric telegraphs, clearing of whole
    continents for cultivation, canalization of

Factors responsible for the fall of imperialism
  • Capitalism creates huge factories, workers
    become concentrated and begin to organize for
    legal reforms (higher wages/better working
    conditions). Their effort fails. Fierce
    competition between capitalists leads to new
    technologies, which leads to lower costs. In the
    competition, some capitalists go bankrupt have
    to become workers, and many workers lose their
    jobs as new technology replaces them

  • Greater numbers of people permanently unemployed.
    Misery widespread.
  • Fewer people can afford the products of
    capitalists, so fewer companies survive.
  • The proletariat, having nothing to lose but their
    chains, so they rise up.

The Vision of the Socialists
  • Socialist Revolution will eliminate private
    property. No longer will man have the means of
    exploiting another man.
  • Bourgeoisie will fight, so revolution will be
  • A dictatorship of the proletariat will follow to
    weed out remaining capitalist elements.

  • In the end, a classless society with no more
    oppression or internal contradictions.
  • People will be free to choose how they labor, and
    can be creatively productive. They will be able
    to live to their fullest potential.

  • Its description in Marxs Communist Manifesto in
  • In communist society, nobody has one
    exclusive sphere of activity but each can become
    accomplished in any branch he wishes, to hunt in
    the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle
    in the evening, criticize after dinner, without
    ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or

The Socio-economic Conditions that favored rise
of socialism
  • The increase in the number of workers in the
    industrializing nations was one important factor.
    The concentration of industries during the
    so-called second industrial revolution that
    occurred during the last two decades of the
    nineteenth century brought together workers in
    unprecedented numbers. Rapid industrialization
    also accelerated the tendency of the general
    population to move from the countryside into
    urban centers. Cities proved to be favorable
    environments for socialist organizationswhich
    demanded a fairly sophisticated social/cultural
    infrastructure in order to thrive.

  • The rise of literacy also redounded to the
    benefit of the socialists as more and more
    workers learned to read they were able to imbibe
    socialist ideas in the form of pamphlets, books,
    and the press.

  • The "democratization" of the ballot box also
    helped the socialists in that the extension of
    the franchise brought more workers into the
    political arena thus making it possible to get
    socialist deputies elected to parliament. All of
    these factors created the basis for a
    "proletarian" mentality or consciousness. By the
    late 1880s workers were joining clubs and trade
    unions, electing their own representatives, and
    subscribing to their own publications. And though
    this is not to say that all workers were
    necessarily socialist, it did mean that the
    principal vehicles for propagating and sustaining
    socialism were now anchored in the framework of
    modern industrial society.

The Paris Commune
  • The prevalent socio-economic conditions and
    the post-war conditions made the working class
    restless and on March 18th 1871 , a socialist
    form of government called the Paris Commune
    took over Paris and denied subjugation to France
    Imperialist government . But was brutally
    suppressed by the Capitalist regime in about 2

Destruction of the Vendôme Colonne during the
Paris Commune.
A barricade in the Paris Commune, March 18, 1871
  • Socialism refers to a broad array of doctrines or
    political movements that visualize a
    socio-economic system in which property and the
    distribution of wealth are subject to control by
    the community for the purposes of increasing
    social and economic equality and cooperation.
    This control may be either directexercised
    through popular collectives such as workers'
    councils or indirectexercised on behalf of the
    people by the state. As an economic system ,
    socialism is often characterized by socialized
    (state or community) ownership of the means of
    production .

  • In a socialist society the means of producing and
    distributing wealthfactories, farms, mines,
    docks, offices, transportwill belong to the
    whole community. Common ownership will do away
    with the need for exchange, so that money will
    have no use.
  • Production in socialism will be determined by
    people on the basis of social need, not profit.
    At the moment people may need wealth but, unless
    they can afford to buy it, they must go without.
    Production is geared to sale with a view to
    profit. Socialism means production solely for
    use bread to eat, houses to live in, clothes to

  • What will be the incentive to work in a
    socialist society?
  • There will be no wages, for in a classless
    society no person will have the right to buy
    another person's ability to work for a price.
    Work in socialist society will depend on
    cooperation and the voluntary decisions of men
    and women to contribute to society in order to
    keep it going. Just as an individual could not
    survive if he or she did not eat, drink or take
    basic health care, so a socialist society would
    not survive unless the people in it acted
    cooperatively in a spirit of mutuality.

  • One basic question why should those who provide
    the money (capital) receive all the profits, and
    those who provide the labor receive none of the
  • It is labor, after all, that turns raw materials
    (including cash) into something with greater

  • Socialism could be summed up in this way
  • All social wealth, the land with all its
    natural resources hidden in its bowels and on the
    surface, and all factories and works must be
    taken out of the hands of the exploiters and
    taken into common property of the people. The
    first duty of a real workers' government is to
    declare by means of a series of decrees the most
    important means of production to be national
    property and place them under the control of

An explanation of Socialism
  • In other words, the resources should be in
    the hands of the workforce, not the few rich
    people there are. The true duty of the government
    is to place the national property under the
    control of the common person.

The Great Socialists
Robert Owen
  • Labour begins with the making of tools.
  • With these tools, humans change their surrounding
    to meet their needs.
  • The essential distinction between Man and other
  • "The animal merely uses its environment," says
    Engels, "and brings about changes in it simply by
    his presence
  • Man by his changes makes it serve his ends,
    masters it.

Stone Age Nomadic Life
  • Humans, were very rare animals, and they roamed
    around in groups in search of food. This nomadic
    life was completely dominated with food
  • Everything that was made, collected, or produced
    was considered common property.

  • Between 10,000 and 12,000 years ago, a new higher
    period emerged known as the new stone age or
  • Instead of roaming for food, advances were made
    in cultivating crops and domesticating animals.
  • Stable tribes and communities arose at this time.

  • In the stage of primitive communism (savagery and
    barbarism) no private property, classes,
    privileged elites, police or special coercive
    apparatus (the state) existed.
  • The tribes were divided into social units called
    clans or gentes (singular gens).
  • These were very large family groups, which traced
    their descent from the female line alone.
  • It was forbidden for a man to cohabit with a
    woman from his own clan or gens, thus the tribes
    were made up from a coalition of clans.
  • At certain times, a form of group marriage
    existed between the clans themselves.

  • Common tribal property came under growing strain
    from the development with the private family,
    with private houses growing up alongside the
    communal dwellings.
  • Common Land became later divided up to form the
    collective property of each family. The
    Matriarchal family gave way to the Patriarchal
    (male dominated) form, which became essential to
    the maintenance of the collective property.

Ownership of Private Propery
  • With the growth of new means of production,
    particularly in agriculture, the question arose
    who should own them?
  • With the further development of the productive
    forces, inequality began to appear within
  • For the first time, men and women were able to
    produce a surplus above and beyond his own needs,
    resulting in a revolutionary leap forward for

Build Up to the Slave Society
  • In the past, where war broke out between two
    tribes, it was uneconomic to take captives as
  • After all, a captive would only have been able to
    produce sufficient food for himself. No surplus
    was produced.
  • The only use for a captive, given the shortage of
    food, was as a source of meat. This was the
    economic foundation of cannibalism.

Build Up
  • But once a surplus was produced, it became
    economically viable to keep a slave who was
    forced to work for his master.
  • The surplus obtained from a growing number of
    slaves was then appropriated by the new class of
    slave owners.
  • Problem How were the slaves to be controlled
    and forced to work? The old tribes had no police
    force or means of coercion.
  • Solution Every individual was free and was a

The Society Divides
  • The production of a surplus product smashed the
    old forms of society, enabling classes to
  • Rich and poor, landowner and tenant, creditor and
    debtor all made their appearance in society.
  • The clans which were social units of originally
    blood relations, began to disintegrate. The rich
    of different clans had more in common with each
    other than they had with the poor of their own

Shift in the Role
  • For the first time since humans evolved from the
    ape, a section of society was freed from the
    labour of eking out an existence
  • Those who were freed from work could now devote
    their time to science, philosophy and culture.

Shift in the Role
  • With the growth of the city-states, the increase
    in the division of labour greatly accelerated new
    crafts sprung up together with a growing band of
    artists catering for the tastes and culture of
    the upper class
  • Function of the new ruling class was to develop
    the productive forces and take society forward.
    It was at this stage that civilisation first

Rise of Feudalism
850-1000 AD
A New Type of Government For a New Situation
Origin of Feudalism
  • Roman Empire outstretched itself to increase the
    slave population though continuous wars.
  • As a result many peasants The best soldiers
    died bringing the cheap slave and the slave
    empires to an end.
  • The Great Migrations, the flooding of the Roman
    Empire by the swarms of savage Germans,
  • The conquest of The Barbarians marked the end of
    a civilization. They were uncivilized European
    tribes who had no respect for art and education.

Rise of Feudalism
  • Barbarians destroyed productive forces
    agriculture, industry and trade. The rural and
    urban population had decreased.
  • In their conquest of territories they proceeded
    to ransack the towns and settle down in the
    countryside. There they lived by means of
    primitive agriculture.
  • The need for social security, political order and
    economic growth gave rise to
  • Feudalism

  • Etymology
  • The term "feudalism" came from the German fief.
    "Fief" simply meant "something of value." In the
    agricultural world of the time, "something of
    value" was usually land.

Definitions of Feudalism
  • Feudalism was the system of loyalties and
    protections during the Middle Ages.
  • Feudalism is a political system of power
    dispersed and balanced between king and nobles.
  • Feudalism is a decentralized organization that
    arises when central authority cannot perform its
    functions and when it cannot prevent the rise of
    local powers.

Feudalism - in its primitive form
  • During the Middle Ages, peasants could no longer
    count on the Roman army to protect them. German,
    Viking and Magyar tribes overran homes and farms
    throughout Europe. The peasants turned to the
    landowners, often called lords, to protect them.

Feudalism - in its primitive form
  • The barbarians hence formed small communities
    with elected village chiefs.
  • Gradually, the chiefs were chosen from the same
    family through succession.
  • Villages were at constant war resulting in
    conquered land being divided up with the greater
    share to the chief.

The chief guaranteed protection to those under
him, in turn the villagers owed fidelity and
homage to the lord.
Crystallization of Feudal Relations
  • The authority of the village lords extended into
    the surrounding countryside.
  • The lords or barons and their men-at-arms formed
    a new social hierarchy sustained by labour
    provided by their vassals.
  • The barons carried out continual warfare among
    themselves in order to enlarge their territories.
  • The vanquished became vassals of the conqueror.
  • Stronger Barons won and became potent feudatories
    and established feudal courts which petty barons
    in vassalage were bound to attend.

Lords/Barons Men at arms
This was the hierarchy
Maturity in Feudal Relations
  • Majority of farmland became divided into areas
    known as manors, each manor possessing its own
    lord/Baron and officials.
  • The arable land was divided into two parts, about
    a third belonged to the lord, while the rest
    divided amongst his vassals.
  • The vassals share of land was further divided up
    into separate strips scattered throughout the
    fields which meant a massive drain on

Maturity in Feudal Relations
  • The social structure that developed under
    feudalism gave rise to new classes and groups.
    The social framework represented a pyramid
    structure headed by the king, aristocracy, the
    great church men and bishops. Under the
    privileged were barons, dukes, counts knights.
    On the bottom rungs of social order were freeman,
    serfs and slaves.

Feudal Hierarchy
Feudal Hierarchy
  • Role of the King
  • The King was in complete control under the Feudal
    System. He owned all the land in the country and
    decided who he would lease land to.

Role of the Baron The men who leased land from
the King were known as Barons, they were wealthy,
powerful and had complete control of the land
they leased from the King. They established their
own system of justice.
Feudal Hierarchy
  • Role of the Knights
  • Knights were given land by a Baron in return for