Sociological debates effective Term: Autumn and Spring

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Part A gets ten marks; Parts B and C get 45 marks each

Candidates should write any essay plans or rough works they require in a separate booklet so that they may consult them easily while writing their answers. These plans should be written only for the benefit of the candidate, and not elaborated to impress the examiner. They should, however, be handed in, attached to the other answer books by a treasury tag.

Sample Paper 1

PART A: Multiple Choice Questions:

Tick the option you consider correct.

You get 2 marks for a correct answer, 0 marks for leaving the question blank, or an incorrect answer

A1) Which of the following is the accepted formulation of the Hegelian dialectic?

a) Analysis – Dialysis - Paralysis

b) Synthesis – Crisis - Analysis

c) Thesis – Antithesis – Synthesis

d) Digression – Regression – Progression

e) Hypothesis – Prosthesis - Enuresis

A2) According to Marx , the landed aristocracy was the ruling class in which of the following?

a) The Capitalist Mode of Production

b) The Functionalist Mode of Production

c) The Asiatic Mode of Production

d) The Feudal Mode of Production

e) The Artificial Mode of Production

A3) Which of the following attempted to bring together the insights of Marx and Freud?

a) The Shakers

b) The Hamburg School

c) The Frankfurt School

d) The Pre-Raphaelite School

e) The Chicago School

A4) Which one of the following books by Talcott Parsons is best described as presenting critical discussions of four leading thinkers which he argues lays the basis for a common sociology?

a) The Structure of Social Action (1937)

b) The Social System (1951)

c) Essays in Sociological Theory: Pure and Applied (1954)

d) Social Structure and Personality (1964)

e) Societies: Evolutionary and Comparative Perspectives (1966)

A5) Who wrote The Female Eunuch (1970)?

a) Kate Millett

b) Germaine Greer

c) Toni Giddens

d) Jane Addams

e) Anne Oakley

PART B CLOSE READINGS (forty-five marks)

Attempt EITHER Part B1 or PartB2


Read the following passage carefully and answer all the questions following it in your own words.

‘It would be a mistake to read Anti-Oedipus as the new theoretical reference (you know, that finally encompasses everything, that finally totalises and reassures, the one we are told we “need so badly” in our age of dispersion and specialisation where “hope” is lacking). One must not look for “philosophy” amid the extraordinary profusion of new notions and surprise concepts: Anti-Oedipus is not a flashy Hegel. I think that Anti-Oedipus can best be read as an “art” in the sense that is conveyed by the term “erotic art,” for example. Informed by the seemingly abstract notions of multiplicities, flows, arrangements, and connections, the analysis of relationship of desire to reality and to the capitalist “machines” yields answers to concrete questions. Questions which are less concerned with why this or that than with how to proceed. How does one introduce desire into thought, into discourse, into action? How can and must desire deploy its forces within the political domain and grow more intense in the process of overturning the political order? Ars erotica, ars theoretica, ars politica.10

‘Whence the three adversaries confronted by Anti-Oedipus. Three adversaries who do not have the same strength, who represent varying degrees of danger, and whom the book combats in different ways.:

  1. The political ascetics, the sad militants, the terrorists of theory, those who would preserve the pure order of politics and political discourse. Bureaucrats of the revolution and civil servants of Truth.

  2. The poor technicians of desire – psychoanalysts and semiologists11 of every sign and symptom – who would subjugate the multiplicity of desire to the twofold law of structure and lack.

  3. Last but not least, the major enemy, the strategic adversary is fascism (whereas Anti-Oedipus’ opposition to the others is more of a tactical engagement). And not only historical fascism, the fascism of Hitler and Mussolini – which was able to mobilize and use the desire of the masses so effectively – but also the fascism in us all, in our heads and in our everyday behaviour, the fascism which causes us to love power, to desire the very thing that dominates and exploits us.’

(from Michel Foucault (1972) “Preface” to Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia Paris : Minuit (tr. Hurley R., Seem M. and Lane H.R, 1977 NY:Viking Penguin))


B1a Briefly say what is meant by the phrase “not a flashy Hegel”. (5 marks)

B1b “Bureaucrats of the revolution and civil servants of Truth.” How fair is this as a characterisation of Marxist and Positivist thought in the 20th century? (fifteen marks)

B1c In your own words explain why Foucault is so enthusiastic for the work of Deleuze and Guattari. (twenty-five marks)


Read the following passage carefully and answer all the questions following it in your own words.

‘The movement of progressive societies has been uniform in one respect. Through all its course it has been distinguished by the gradual dissolution of family dependency and the growth of individual obligation in its place. The individual is steadily substituted for the family as the unit of which civil laws take account. The advance has been established at varying rates of celerity12, and there are societies not absolutely stationary in which the collapse of the ancient organisation can only be perceived by careful study of the phenomena they present. But, whatever its pace, the change has not been subject to reaction or recoil, and apparent retardation13 will be found to have been occasioned through the absorption of archaic14 ideas and customs from some entirely foreign source. Nor is it difficult to see what is the tie between man and man which replaces by degrees those forms of reciprocity in rights and duties which have their origin in the Family. It is Contract. Starting as from one terminus of history, from a condition of society in which all relations of Persons are summed up in the relations of Family, we seem to have steadily moved towards a phase of social order in which all these relations arise from the free agreement of Individuals. In Western Europe the progress achieved in this direction has been considerable. Thus, the status of the Slave has disappeared – it has been superseded by the contractual relationship of the servant to his master. The status of the female under Tutelage15, if the tutelage be understood of persons other than her husband, has also ceased to exist; from her coming of age to her marriage all the relations she may form are relations of contract. So too the status of the Son under Power16 has no true place in the Law of modern European societies. If any civil obligation binds together the parent and the child of full age, it is one to which only contract gives its legal validity. The child before years of discretion, the orphan under guardianship, the adjudged lunatic, have all their capacities and incapacities regulated by the Law of Persons. But why? The reason is differently expressed in the language of different systems, but in substance it is stated to the same effect by all. The great majority of Jurists17 are constant to the principle that the classes of persons are subject to extrinsic control on the single ground that they do not possess the faculty of forming a judgment on their own interests; in other words that they are wanting in the first essential of an engagement by Contract.

‘The word status may be usefully employed to construct a formula expressing the law of progress thus indicated, which, whatever may be its value, seems to me to be sufficiently ascertained. All the forms of status taken notice of in the Law of Persons were derived from, and to some extent are still coloured by, the powers and privileges anciently residing in the Family. If then we employ Status, agreeably with the usage of the best writers, to signify these personal conditions only, and avoid applying the term to such conditions as are the immediate or remote result of agreement, we may say that the movement of the progressive societies has hitherto been a movement from Status to Contract.

( Sir Henry Maine, 1861, Ancient Law: Its connection with the Early History of Society and its Relation to Modern Ideas, London: Routledge, conclusion to Chapter 5)


B2a) Briefly explain what Maine means by “the gradual dissolution of family dependency and the growth of individual obligation in its place” (5 marks)

B2b) When Maine writes about “The status of the female under Tutelage” he is referring to the older English common law under which women were legally controlled by either their father, or their husband (until they became widows). How far do you think he is right to suggest that increased personal and legal rights for women are the result are the result of the declining importance of the family as a legal entity? (15 marks)

B2c) How well does Maine’s idea of the most important change in the creation of modern society match later social theory in the writing of Marx, Durkheim, Weber and others? (twenty-five marks)


EITHER attempt whichever part of QUESTION TWO you have not attempted,


Answer ONE of the following Questions.

C1). Speculate as to whether the work of Anthony Giddens will still be widely cited or read in the year 2106, giving reasons for your speculation.

C2). Parsons in the first volume of “The Structure of Social Action” (1937) suggests that a general theory of sociology needs to emerge in opposition to Herbert Spencer’s Utilitarianism. Did he pick a fight with the right guy?

C3) Is it social structure which determines how institutions function, or the other way round?

C4). Discuss the impact of feminism on sociological theory since the 1960s.

C5) How far is the story of Manuel Castells one of a gradual loss of confidence in the ability of humans to make an impact on their own history?

C6) Why has Durkheim’s Suicide been so important in the teaching of Sociology?

C7) Was Parsons right when he suggested that Weber took over most of what was important in the work of Marx?

C8) How far is it possible to bring psychoanalytic theory into sociology?

Sample Paper 2

PART A: Multiple Choice Questions (10 marks)

Write down in your answer book which options you consider correct for each of the questions A1-A5.

You get 2 marks for each correct answer.

A1. Which of the following is inscribed on Karl Marx’s gravestone ?

  1. Hitherto politicians have only investigated the world; the point however is to save it.

  2. Hitherto political economists have only castigated the world; the point, however, is to chasten it.

  3. Hitherto philosophers have only sought to interpret the world; the point, however, is to change it.

  4. Hitherto polymaths have only sought to accumulate the world; the point , however, is to derange it.

  5. Hitherto, philosophers have only sought to change the world; the point, however, is to understand it.

A2. Which of the following died in 1979?

  1. Max Weber

  2. Talcott Parsons

  3. Émile Durkheim

  4. Anthony Giddens

  5. Gilles Deleuze

A.3 The question “Who now reads Herbert Spencer?” was originally asked in print by which of the following?

  1. Talcott Parsons

  2. Alfred Marshall

  3. Robert K.Merton

  4. Crane Brinton

  5. C.Wright Mills

A.4. Sir Henry Maine described the movement of progressive societies as being which of the following?

a) From feudalism to capitalism

b) From mechanical to organic solidarity

c) From community to corporation

d) From status to contract

e) From oligarchy to democracy

A.5 The original author of the book “The Gift” was which of the following?

  1. Richard Titmuss

  2. Mary Douglas

  3. Marcel Mauss

  4. Robert Burns

  5. Félix Guattari

And, for a bonus mark, what was the book’s original title?


Attempt EITHER Part B1 or Part B2


Read the following passage carefully and answer ALL the questions following it in your own words.

Extracts from Chapter Two of Weber, M. (1920) Die Protestantische Ethik und der Geist des Kapitalismus,translated by Talcott Parsons as : Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. New York: London: Allen and Unwin 1930,

The capitalistic economy of the present day is an immense cosmos into which the individual is born, and which presents itself to him, at least as an individual, as an unalterable order of things in which he must live. It forces the individual, in so far as he is involved in the system of market relationships, to conform to capitalistic rules of action. The manufacturer who in the long run acts counter to these norms, will just as inevitably be eliminated from the economic scene as the worker who cannot or will not adapt himself to them will be thrown into the streets without a job.

Thus the capitalism of to-day, which has come to dominate economic life, educates and selects the economic subjects which it needs through a process of economic survival of the fittest. But here one can easily see the limits of the concept of selection as a means of historical explanation. In order that a manner of life so well adapted to the peculiarities of capitalism could be selected at all, i.e. should come to dominate others, it had to originate somewhere, and not in isolated individuals alone, but as a way of life common to whole groups of men. This origin is what really needs explanation. Concerning the doctrine of the more naive historical materialism, that such ideas originate as a reflection or superstructure of economic situations, we shall speak more in detail below. At this point it will suffice for our purpose to call attention to the fact that without doubt, in the country of Benjamin Franklin's birth (Massachusetts), the spirit of capitalism (in the sense we have attached to it) was present before the capitalistic order. There were complaints of a peculiarly calculating sort of profit-seeking in New England, as distinguished from other parts of America, as early as 1632. It is further undoubted that capitalism remained far less developed in some of the neighbouring colonies, the later Southern States of the United States of America, in spite of the fact that these latter were founded by large capitalists for business motives, while the New England colonies were founded by preachers and seminary graduates with the help of small citizen, craftsmen and yeomen, for religious reasons. In this case the causal relation is certainly the reverse of that suggested by the materialistic standpoint.

But the origin and history of such ideas is much more complex than the theorists of the superstructure suppose. The spirit of capitalism, in the sense in which we are using the term, had to fight its way to supremacy against a whole world of hostile forces.


The most important opponent with which the spirit of capitalism, in the sense of a definite standard of life claiming ethical sanction, has had to struggle, was that type of attitude and reaction to new situations which we may designate as traditionalism. In this case also every attempt at a final definition must be held in abeyance. On the other hand, we must try to make the provisional meaning clear by citing a few cases. We will begin from below, with the labourers. One of the technical means which the modem employer uses in order to secure the greatest possible amount of work from his men is the device of piece-rates. In agriculture, for instance, the gathering of the harvest is a case where the greatest possible intensity of labour is called for, since, the weather being uncertain, the difference between high profit and heavy loss may depend on the speed with which the harvesting can be done. Hence a system of piece-rates is almost universal in this case. And since the interest of the employer in a speeding up of harvesting increases with the increase of the results and the intensity of the work, the attempt has again and again been made, by increasing the piece-rates of the workmen, thereby giving them an opportunity to earn what is for them a very high wage, to interest them in increasing their own efficiency. But a peculiar difficulty has been met with surprising frequency: raising the piece-rates has often had the result that not more but less has been accomplished in the same time, because the worker reacted to the increase not by increasing but by decreasing the amount of his work. …….He did not ask: how much can I earn in a day if I do as much work as possible? But: how much must I work in order to earn the wage… which I earned before and which takes care of my traditional needs? This is an example of what is here meant by traditionalism. A man does not "by nature" wish to earn more and more money, but simply to live as he is accustomed to live and to earn as much as is necessary for that purpose. Wherever modem capitalism has begun its work of increasing the productivity of human labour by increasing its intensity, it has encountered the immensely stubborn resistance of this leading trait of pre-capitalistic labour.

……….it is one of the fundamental characteristics of an individualistic capitalistic economy that it is rationalized on the basis of rigorous calculation, directed with foresight and caution toward the economic success which is sought in sharp contrast to the hand-to-mouth existence of the peasant, and to the privileged traditionalism of the guild craftsman and of the adventurers' capitalism, oriented to the exploitation of political opportunities and irrational speculation.

It might thus seem that the development of the spirit of capitalism is best understood as part of the development of rationalism as a whole, and could be deduced from the fundamental position of rationalism on the basic problems of life. In the process Protestantism would only have to be considered in so far as it had formed a stage prior to the development of a purely rationalistic philosophy. But any serious attempt to carry this thesis through makes it evident that such a simple way of putting the question will not work, simply because of the fact that the history of rationalism shows a development which by no means follows parallel lines in the various departments of life. The rationalization of private law, for instance, if it is thought of as a logical simplification and rearrangement of the content of the law, was achieved in the highest hitherto known degree in the Roman law of late antiquity. But it remained most backward in some of the countries with the highest degree of economic rationalization, notably in England, where the Renaissance of Roman Law was overcome by the power of the great legal corporations, while it has always retained its supremacy in the Catholic countries of Southern Europe. ………………

In fact, one may--this simple proposition, which is often forgotten, should be placed at the beginning of every study which essays to deal with rationalism--rationalize life from fundamentally different basic points of view and in very different directions. Rationalism is an historical concept which covers a whole world of different things. It will be our task to find out whose intellectual child the particular concrete form of rational thought was, from which the idea of a calling and the devotion to labour in the calling has grown, which is, as we have seen, so irrational from the standpoint of purely eudamonistic self-interest, but which has been and still is one of the most characteristic elements of our capitalistic culture. We are here particularly interested in the origin of precisely the irrational element which lies in this, as in every conception of a calling.


B1a Briefly say what is meant by the phrase “rationalised on the basis of rigorous calculation” (5 marks)

B1b “Concerning the doctrine of the more naïve historical materialism, that such ideas originate as a reflection or superstructure of economic situations ….”: How is Weber differentiating his analysis from that of the Marxists of his day? (15 marks)

B1c How far does the first paragraph of the passage quoted above justify Parsons’ attempts to present Weber’s thought as basically congruent with Durkheim’s view that social facts constrain individual choice?

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