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sociological theories

Karl Marx (1818-1883)

Practical attempts, even by the masses, can be answered with a cannon as soon as they become dangerous, but ideas that have overcome our intellect and conquered our conviction, ideas to which reason has riveted our conscience, are chains from which one cannot break loose without breaking ones heart; they are demons that one can only overcome by submitting to them. (Marx, 1842) HIS BIOGRAPHY Karl Heinrich Marx was born on May 5, 1818 in Trier, Prussian. He was the third of seven children and was the oldest son. His father, Heinrich Marx, a succesful Jewish lawyer, provided the family with a middle class existence. Her mothers name is Henrietta. Both parents came from long lines of rabbinical families, but for business reasons the father led the family to convert to Lutheranism in 1817.

Marxs father, the first in line to receive a secular education, became a disciple of the Enlightenmentof Leibniz and Voltaire, of Kant and Lessing. He introduced to the young Marx, the great ideas of the Enlightenment, and the Greek and German classics. Their relationship as father and son remained close almost until the father died. It was only severed when Karl Marx joined the Young Hegelians in the University of Berlin. He was fortunate to have another role model in the person of Freiherr Ludwig von Westphalen, a next door neighbor. He was a distinguished upper-class Prussian government official. A great admirer of Enlightenment and liberal ideas, Westphalen spoke several languages, knew Homer by heart, and was exceedingly well read in ancient and modern philosophy and literature. He became the mentor of Karl Marx. He encouraged him, lent him books, and took him to long walks in which he talked to him about Cervantes (the author of Don Quixote) and Shakespeare. He also shared to him about social doctrines, including the Saint-Simonians. His parents had him educated at home until the age of thirteen. Marx finished his high school at Trier Gymnasium at the age of 17 (year 1835). He enrolled law at the University of Bonn in October, 1835. After a year, motivated by a desire to move to a more exciting and lively capital, he transferred to University of Berlin (year 1836, age 18). It became the decisive turning point in his career. It was in Berlin that he was deeply influenced by Hegels ideas (Hegel died on November 14, 1831 due to cholera). He joined Young Hegelians, a group of young philosophers, who followed Hegel but later Page 1 of 11

sociological theories moved away from his teachings. He became a member of Doktorklub, comprised of radical, and somewhat antireligious young marginal academics. Outstanding among them are brothers Edgar and Bruno Bauer, who influenced Marx to abandon law and devote himself to philosophy. In the spring of 1837, when on vacation in Stralow, a suburb of Berlin, Marx began a serious study of Hegels philosophy. On May 10, 1838 his father died. (Karl Marx was then 20 years old). In April of 1841, Marx (23 years old) received his Ph.D. from the University of Jena. The title of his dissertation was On the Differences between the Natural Philosophy of Democritus and Epicurus, where he asserted that ideas are empty unless they contribute to an ethical foundation for life. After graduation he became a writer for liberal-radical newspaper, Rheinische Zeitung (Rhenish Newspaper) in Cologne, and within ten months had become its editor-in-chief. He wrote a number of pieces on the conditions of the peasants and the poor, among them, the misery of the Moselle vinegrowing peasantry and the harsh treatment the poor received for the theft of timber in forests to which they believed they had a communal right. The paper was closed shortly thereafter by the government because of its political position. It was in November 1842 that Marx first met Engels, who visited the Rheinische Zeitung offices in Cologne on his way to England. Engels became his life-long friend. Engels, two years younger than Karl Marx, was born on November 28, 1820. On June 19, 1843 (at age 25) Marx married Westphalens daughter, Jenny, with whom he shared a life of singular devotion. They were engaged in summer of 1836 (Marx was 18 years old then), and they kept it secret at first. Jennys family was dismayed considering Marx was a socially inferior and had no social standing. It was later to be the remarkable strength of Jenny Marx that sustained her family through periods of poverty and grim persecution. (Perdue, 1986:309) Seeing that political activity in Germany was impossible, Marx with his bride moved to Paris in October 1843. There he took up the history of the French Revolution, studied French Socialism and English Political economy. It was the unique way in which he combined Hegelianism, socialism, and political economy that shaped his intellectual orientation. (Ritzer, 1983:65) In Paris, Marx attended workers meetings, got in touch with the leaders of the secret League of the Just (later renamed Communist League in June 1847, in London), and met members of clandestine French workers societies.He also read Proudhon and Louis Blanc, Cabet and Fourier, Saint-Simon and SaintSimonians, and Blanqui. He became familiar with the works of Adam Smith and Ricardo and with their liberal critics such as Remonde. He met a number of radicals including Russian revolutionary Michael Bakunin, the Frenchman Proudhon, the poet Heinrich Heine, Ferdinand Freiligath, Wilhelm Weitling, and the radical left-Hegelian writer Arnold Ruge. It was also at this point that his friendship with Friedrich Engels continued to deepen. It is impossible to study Marx without taking a hard look on his friendship with Engels. The son of a textile manufacturer,

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sociological theories Engels had become a socialist critical of the conditions facing the working class.(Ritzer, 1983:65). It was through Engels and his work that Marx was exposed to the misery of the working class. On January 16, 1845, Marx (26 years old) is ordered to leave France because some of his writings had upset the Prussian Government. He then moved to Brussels in early February. His wife and baby Jenny (born on May 1, 1844) later joined him in mid-February. In Brussels, he worked with the German Workers Educational Association, which was associated with the Communist League. In 1847, the league commissioned him (with Engels) to write a document expounding its aims and beliefs. The result was the Communist Manifesto. It was first published on February 21, 1848 in London. (Karl Marx was 29 years old when Communist Manifesto was published). It was then that the familiar first sentence, The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle, emerged which became the most distinctive aspect of Marxs later work. On March 3, 1848 The King of Belgium ordered Marx out of the country within 24 hours. The Brussels Central Authority of the Communist League announced its dissolution and transferred it to Paris. Marx is authorised to form a new Central Authority there. On March 4, Marx and his wife are kept under arrest for 18 hours by the Brussels police. They and the children (Jenny, 4, Laura, 2, Edgar, 1) left Brussels and headed for France. In early April of 1848, Marx and Engels went to Germany to take part in the revolution. They once agained assumed the editorship of the radical newspaper Neue Rheinische Zeitung, where Marx became the editor-in-chief and Engels as editor. They worked for an alliance of the liberal bourgeoisie with the emerging working class movement against the reactionary government. The revolution failed and Marx blamed it on the liberals cowardice. He still expected that the revolutionary flame would be rekindled in the near future. In (February 7-8) 1849 Marx was arrested and tried in Cologne on a charge of incitement to armed insurrection; he was acquitted but was expelled from Germany, and the Neue Rheinische Zeitung was suppressed.( Encarta 2007) In early June of 1849, Marx came to Paris, where a major revolutionary outburst was expected. However, democratic petty-bourgeois leaders failed to direct the struggle of the people, and an attempted uprising failed. On 23 August 1849, French authorities ordered Marx to leave Paris within 24 hours. On 26th, he arrived in London. His family joined him on September 17. As the London years went on, Marx, although never despairing of the coming of a new revolutionary upsurge, realized that the fires of 1848 had burned out. Refusing to participate, Marx and Engels withdrew from most of their fellow refugees. Since he had not managed to make many contacts in the British labor and socialist movement, Marx now retired almost completely into the narro circle composed of his family, Engels and a few devoted friends and disciples. He remained in this isolated condition throughout most of his life. (Coser, 1971:63-64)

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sociological theories On November 5, 1849, Heinrich Guido, the fourth child of the Marxes was born. On November 19 same year, Heinrich Guido died. On March 28, 1851, Marxs daughter Franziska was born. Franziska died on April 14, 1852. In June 1852 Marx obtained an admission to the British Musem, where he studied the working conditions in capitalism and its inequities. On April 6, 1855, his eight-year-old son Edgar died. By 1857 he had accumulated over 800 pages of notes and short essays on capital, landed property, wage labour, the state, foreign trade and the world market; this work however did not appear in print until 1941, under the title Grundrisse. In 1859, Marx (41 years old) was able to publish Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, his first serious economic work. (Wikipedia) These studies ultimately resulted in the three volumes of Capital, the first of which was published in 1867, while the other two were published posthumously. He lived in dire and abject poverty during these years, barely managing to survive on a small income from his writings and the support of Engels. Only once had he attempted to find regular employment (as a clerk in a railway office) but was turned down because of his illegible handwriting. Being entirely devoted to his work and absolutely convinced that the anatomy of the political anatomy of capitalism,, would provide an indispensable instrument for the necessary emancipation of the working class, Marx continued his scholarly tasks even when he and his family were pursued by angry creditors and found it hard to obtain lodging. Three of his children (Heinrich,14 days old, Franzsiska,1 year old, Edgar,8) died from malnutrition or lack of proper care. When one of them died, he had no money to pay for a coffin until a fellow refugee came to his rescue. He and his family were exhausted by a variety of illnesses, some of which clearly stemmed from their miserable condition. But Marx persevered. (Coser,1971: 64). In 1863, Marx (45 years old) began to become reinvolved in political activity by joining the International, an international movement of workers. He wrote its inaugural address, which was adopted as its platform. He soon gained dominance and prominence of the movement. He devoted ten years of life to the affairs of the International. Karl Marx, who became its principal figure, was in effective control of the movement and insisted on rigid adherence to the line he had set down. The International soon became a powerful movement, inspiring fear in the defenders of the status quo. (Coser, 1971:66) He must have felt then that he had finally achieved the union of socialist theory and revolutionary practice that he had aimed for ever since 1947. Yet that dreamed was shattered. The International disintegrated due to internal conflicts. It finally expired in Philadelphia in 1876. In the later years of his life, he was still hungry of knowledge and still voraciuosly read book. In the period 1878-1883, he studied mathematics, agrochemistry, geology, ground rent and agrarian relations, organic and inorganic chemistry, and taught himself new languages such as Russian and Turkish.

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sociological theories On December 2, 1881, his wife Jenny, the daughter of an aristocrat, who treated working people as nobility, suffered through the deaths of three of her children, and struggled to hold a family together, died of cancer. A year later his oldest daughter Jenny also died. Marx developed a catarrh that kept him in ill health for the last fifteen months of his life. It eventually brought on the bronchitis and pleurisy that killed him in London on March 14, 1883 at about 2:45 in the afternoon. He died in an armchair in his study. He died a stateless person and was buried in Highgate Cemetery, London, on March 17, 1883. The messages carved on Marx's tombstone are: WORKERS OF ALL LANDS UNITE. (Wikipedia). There were eleven people who attended the funeral. His death was hardly noticed by the public. HIS WORK Dialectical Materialism In his biography, weve learned that Karl Marx was aquainted with so many philosophies and ideas of his time and of the Enlightenment. He did not just take a look at them but studied them in depth. How did Karl Marx view the society? This question is vital in understanding his work and in his way of theorizing. Lets considered first his method: Dialectical Materialism. It is impossible to study his theory apart from reviewing this. What is dialectical materialism? This is a revision of Hegels dialectical mode. The difference was that Hegel focused on dialectic of ideas while Marx tried to apply it in the material world specifically on the social and economic processes. Dialectic is both a way of thinking and an image of the world. It stresses the importance of processes, relations, dynamics, conflicts and contradictions. It views society as dynamic, not composed of static structures. Dialectical analysis is not a one-way, simple, cause-and-effect relationship. To the dialectician one factor may have an effect on another, but it is just likely that the latter will have a simultaneous impact on the former (Ritzer, 1983: 67). Simplifying, an input undergoing a process will result to an output. This output in return will affect the input, and so the process continues including its external factors. One cannot study a part of society without considering the society as a whole and all the social interactions taking place. In Marxs dialectical analysis, social values are not separable from social facts. This means that his sociology is not value-free, which most sociologists adhere to. The dialectical thinker believes that not only is it impossible to keep values out of the study of the social world, but it is also undesirable because it produces dispassionate, inhuman sociology that has little to offer to people in search of answers to the problems they confront. (Ritzer, 1983:67) Dialecticians focused on the relationships of social phenomena in the contemporary world. However, it does not limit itself to the present, but takes into consideration the past as well as the future. It studies

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sociological theories the roots of the modern world as what Marx did. It also has an image of the future world, and work on it until that world comes into existence. Marxs study in the British Museum provided him an in-depth historical understanding of economy under capitalism, analyzed it with regards to the present, and tried to foresee the future based on his findings. Before presenting Marxs analysis of the structure of the society, let us examine first briefly his thoughts about human potential. The basis of much of Marxs thinking lies in ideas on the potential of human beings. (Ritzer, 1983:70) He believed that up to his time man had not discovered a way to maximize his potential. Capitalism prevented people from achieving their potentialities. It is his hope that communism would provide an environment where people could express and develop that potential. Ritzer (1983) elaborated some following concepts on human potential that would be helpful in understanding the structure of capitalism. 1.Powers and Needs- In Marxian system, human powers are not simply what they are now, but also what they were historically and what they can be in the future. Needs are the desires people feel for things that are usually not available. Talking about powers and needs, the larger setting of society as a whole must be taken into account. 2.Consciousness- Marx believed that mans consciousness and its ability to direct activity set humans apart from other animals. This consciousness must be related to the material world. At this part Ritzer pointed out the development of consciusness with regards to human potential. a. primitive society-people developed their capacities to only a slight degree. b. capitalism- people developed their potential but limited because their goal is ownershp rather than the expression of the human potentialities. c. communism- all factors that distort human nature are overthrown, and people are allowed to express the human potential in ways never before possible. 3. Activity, Work, Creativity- Activity refers to the motions involved in purposeful endeavors. Work deals with the process of material production. Creativity relates to the ability of people to make to make unique products. In capitalism work is separated from activity and creativity, however in communism, according to Marx these are combined, exuding the human potential. 4. Objectification- it is when people produce objects (food, clothes, shelters). It should involve the creative capacities of individuals. Human potential is actualized in the objectivication of the products. In capitalism, objectivication is distorted and human potential is not maximized. 5. Labor-Instead of being an end in itself and an expression of human capabilities, labor in capitalism, is reduced to a means to an endearning money. Hence, people work to earn money but not to maximize its potential.

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sociological theories 6. Sociability-people are inherently social, relating both with men and with nature. Capitalism however suppresses this nature of man (when it comes to the working condition). 7. Alienation-It is social structure that acts to break the natural interconnections that characterize human nature in an ideal sense. In capitalism, workers are alienated from their productive activity, product, fellow workers, and from their own human potential. Capitalists goal is to increase profit. It put aside the welfare of the workers sense of sociability, reducing them to inhuman machines. The result is a mass of people who are unable to express their essential human qualities. Communism implies a reestablishment of the interconnections that have been broken in capitalism. In capitalism, human beings are no longer creative instead they focus on owning and possessing objects. Capitalism hinders the people to exercise freely and reach the peak of their human potential and creativity. 8. Emancipation- Marxs sociology lies in the ultimate emancipation of humanity from the enslavement of capitalist society. Human activity should make man dignified, integrated, complete and free, so that the resources and potentialities that reside in him may develop, expand, and fine fruitful expression. This is not true in capitalism. Marx encouraged the proletariat to do a decisive action that would liberate them from the slavery of capitalist society. Hence, emancipation is not something to be waited, but something to be fought for. The Structure of the Capitalist Society As Ive mentioned earlier, Marx used dialectical materialism; hence he referred structure as dynamic, composed of a large number of continuing social relationships. It is helpful to understand the following concepts on how the structure of the capitalist society works. 1. Commodities- The problem of the commodities is the central, structural problem of capitalist society according to George Lukacs (1922). A commodity is something (usually a product) that is brought or sold, that is exchanged against the value of other products in the market. In capitalism, products exchange value is separated from their use value. While use values are produced to satisfy one owns needs, exchange values are produced to be exchanged for values of another use. (Ritzer,1983:89) 2. Fetishism of Commodities- According to Marx, the labor gives commodity their value, not the properties of the things themselves or the market. Fetishism of commodities involves the process by which actors forget that it is their labor that gives the commodities their value. 3. Reification- the process of coming to believe that humanly created social forms are natural, universal, and absolute and, as a result, those social forms aquire the characteristics endowed them by people. The concept of reification implies that people believe social structures are beyond their control and unchangeable. By reification, human beings make symbols real (reverence for the flag). The (free) market is being reified, and thus it supposedly determines the cost of goods, services and labor.

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sociological theories 4. Capital- as an independent structure, capital (of the bourgeoisie) exploits the workers who were and are responsible for its creation. People tend to reify capital by believing that it is natural for the capitalist system to be external, and coercive of them. Workers are exploited by a system that they have forgotten they produced through their labor and have the capacity to change. Capital is dead labor, that vampire-like, only lives by sucking living labor, and lives the more, the more labor it sucks. 5. Private Property-Private property is also reified. Instead of controlling it, the workers are controlled by it. In his earlier work, Marx made it clear that not only is private property the product of alienated labor but, once in existence, it in turn exacerbates alienation by imposing itself between people and the production process. (Ritzer,1983:82) 6. Division of Labor- Marx is against specialization and division of labor, which prevents people from realizing and expressing their human potential. It disassociates people from the product and everything that happens to it after is it produced. In communism people will not all become,according to him, poets or artists or doctors, but the artificial barriers preventing people from developing to their fullest will be eliminated. 7. Social Class- social classes arise out of the acts of production. There are two conflicting classes, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. People come to reify classes, and as a result these classes come to have a life on their own that constrains the actor. The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle, noted Marx and Engels in the Communist Manifesto. This is to be the foundation on how Marx sees capitalism. Human history is characterized by the struggle of human groups which will be called social classes, but which are characterized in the first place by an antagonism between oppressors and oppressed and in the second place by a tendency toward a polarization into two blocs, and only two. (Aaron,1965: 150) 8. Class consciousness- an accurate conception of how capitalism works and how it affects both the proletariat and the bourgeoisie.Successful class struggle is dependent on the development of class consciousness, not just on the level of economic necessity. Marx here was talking about the consciousness of class as a whole. 9. False consciousness- an incorrect assessment of how the system works and of their role and interest in it. This is the characteristic of the capitalist society. False consciousness is born, above all, from the hiatus between what people think of themselves and what really is in social life.(Szacki, 1979: 162) 10. Ideology- Ideology can be define as an integrated system of ideas that is external to, coercive of, people. The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships, the dominant material relationships grasped as ideas. (Marx and Engels) An ideological system functions to alter the thoughts and actions of members of the oppressed class. In this way, ideologies serve to foster the further exploitation of the proletariat. (Ritzer, 1983: 88) Summing up, this is how capitalism runs as I understand. Hypothetically, consider the slippers industry. The capitalist has a capital of P20. He invested it. One slippers use value is P5. Its labor cost is P5, but the capitalist pays the worker P4. The capitalist sold it in the market for P10 (exchange value). The surplus value is P6. Out of P6, the capitalist pays Php 2 to rent and electricity. That leaves the capitalist

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sociological theories P4 profit. But for Marx, it is a form of theft. The first victims are not consumers (most of whom are also workers) but those whose labor is so exploited. The P4 can be used by the capitalist for private consumption, but that would not lead to the expansion of the business. This will be added to the capital, which will in turn generate more surplus value. This desire for more profit is what Marx called the general law of capitalist accumulations. Those who play the capitalist role are compelled by the structure of the capitalist system to hold down the cost of labor. That is from P4, he will try to lower it to P3, or even lower. Another alternative is to increase the length of time of the worker to increase production. Considering the advent of technology which increased productivity (out-put per human hour of labor), the capitalist will eliminate some workers, (these workers will settle to do any job they might find just to survive or theyll find no job at all) which will be a part of the industrial reserve army. Be reminded that Marx sees this capitalism as a conflict. Another thing, the capitalist might go to an undeveloped country where the labor cost is cheap, P1 compared to former P4. There the surplus value is even greater. Capitalism pushes the capitalists to gain more and more capital. In order to do this, given Marxs view that labor is the source of value, the capitalists are led to intensify the exploitation of the workers (proletariat). The social relations between proletariat and the capitalists become increasingly strained. Marx foresaw a situation in which society would be characterized by a tiny number of exploitative capitalists and a huge mass of proletariats and members of the industrial reserve army. It is in these extreme circumstances that capitalism would be most vulnerable revolution.(Ritzer, 1983: 90) Marx believed that such historically specific preconditions unleash repressed rational forces within labor. Then follows the development of class consciousness and its political organization into a reolutionary movement. In breaking their own chains, this class will realize the ideal they embody: the advent of social ownership and the beginning of true human history. (Perdue,1986:327) INTELLECTUAL AND SOCIAL CONTEXT The eighteen thirties and early forties, the years of Marxs younghood were years of profound despair for the German educated classes. A blanket of repression covered all those who attempted to think independently. The Holy Alliance, established by the powers that had defeated Napoleon in order to repress the forces of libertarian revolution, of radicalism and the Rights of Man, seemed forever even faintly stifle liberal stirrings. The repressive regime was especially galling to those who, like the inhabitants of Rhineland, had breathed the air of comparative freedom under the Napoleonic administration. (Coser,1971:76). Germany was lagging behind France and England not only in its political development, but socially and economically as well.

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sociological theories It was during this period of time also that July Revolution in France happened (year 1830), and Britain abolished slavery (1833). Marx's thought was strongly influenced by Hegel's dialectical method and historical orientation, the classical political economy of Adam Smith and David Ricardo, French socialist and sociological thought, in particular the thought of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Henri de Saint-Simon and Charles Fourier, earlier German philosophical materialism, particularly Ludwig Feuerbach and the solidarity with the working class of Friedrich Engels. He was deeply influenced by his father and Westphalen on Enlightenment ideas. Marx's view of history, which came to be called historical materialism, certainly shows the influence of Hegel's claim that reality (and history) should be viewed dialectically. Hegel believed that human history is characterized by the movement from the fragmentary toward the complete and the real (which was also a movement towards greater and greater rationality). Sometimes, Hegel explained, this progressive unfolding of the Absolute involves gradual, evolutionary accretion but at other times requires discontinuous, revolutionary leaps episodal upheavals against the existing status quo. For example, Hegel strongly opposed slavery in the United States during his lifetime, and he envisioned a time when Christian nations would eliminate it from their civilization. Marx's critiques of German philosophical idealism, British political-economy, and French socialism depended heavily on the influence of Feuerbach and Engels. Hegel had thought in an idealist terms, and Marx sought to rewrite dialectics in materialist terms. He wrote that Hegelianism stood the movement of reality on its head, and that it was necessary to set it upon its feet. Marx's acceptance of this notion of materialist dialectics which rejected Hegel's idealism was greatly influenced by Ludwig Feuerbach. In The Essence of Christianity, Feuerbach argued that God is really a creation of man and that the qualities people attribute to God are really qualities of humanity. Accordingly, Marx argued that it is the material world that is real and that our ideas of it are consequences, not causes, of the world. Thus, like Hegel and other philosophers, Marx distinguished between appearances and reality. But he did not believe that the material world hides from us the "real" world of the ideal; on the contrary, he thought that historically and socially specific ideology prevented people from seeing the material conditions of their lives clearly. (Wikipedia) A voracious reader, he was deeply influenced by the radicals of his time and ideas of the Enlightenment. A hugely influential revolutionary thinker and philosopher, Marx did not live to see his ideas carried out in his own lifetime, but his writings formed the theoretical base for modern international communism.(BBC History)

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sociological theories References Books Aron, Raymond. Main Currents in Sociological Thought. New York: Doubleday,1965. Coser, Lewis. Masters of Sociological Thought. USA:Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1971. Perdue, William D. Sociological Theory: Explanation, Paradigm and Ideology. California: Mayfield Publishing Company, 1986. Ritzer, George. Sociological Theory. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1983. Szacki, Jerzy. History of Sociological Thought. Connecticut: Greenwood Press, Inc., 1979.


Encarta 2007

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