Individual and the Social Structure

Essay by nituree April 2007

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This paper would discuss and evaluate the social structure theory of Karl Marx and the role of individual in this connection. One objective of this paper is to illustrate how the Marxian conception of social structure underlies even the new work that goes beyond Marx. A second objective is to demonstrate how a more complex image of social structure can be built up by viewing any specific social structural arrangement as a conjuncture of multiple modes of domination. As far as the question of any problem in its explanation is concerned, there are various explanations of this theory but apparently, no clashing viewpoint is found in this theory. A perhaps simplistic way of viewing such a conjuncture is to treat all of the existing modes of domination in an additive fashion. In this view each person's position in a social structure is simply the intersection of his or her social positions in each mode of domination.

Although simplistic, this model already offers a powerful tool for analyzing social structure. For example, it is such an additive model that underlies what may be called the triple exploitation thesis describing the conditions of working women in the multinational industrial sectors of the less-developed countries.

From the realist perspective social structures are an important variety of generating mechanism in the social sphere. Accordingly there are two major tasks for the sociological study of social structure. The first task is simply to describe the nature of various social structures as generating mechanisms, paying particular attention to the ways in which they generate their causal properties. Marx Capital is a paradigmatic example of such a description. The second task is to explain particular historical events in terms of conjunctures of structural mechanisms. Partly because each conjuncture is unique and partly because human behaviour is intrinsically...