Blau, P M, The Dynamics of Bureaucracy: a study of interpersonal relations in two governmental bureaucracies, Chicago, IL: Chicago University Press, 1963
Blau argues in this book that, rather than accept Weber’s theory that deviation from the rules undermines efficiency in bureaucracies, a flexible approach to the rules might actually enhance efficiency. Blau’s central premise is that in any organisation there are informal structures and processes that, whilst not gaining official recognition within a given organisation, are nevertheless accepted. He even suggests that such structures might actually be imperative to the efficient operation of a given organisation. One of his case studies is of the FBI in Washington DC, where he noted that agents continually broke the rules of confidentiality and enhanced their efficiency as a result. Blau paints a generally negative picture of bureaucracy, arguing that efficiency can never be maximised unless its rules are consistently flouted.
NB: This book provides a very useful set of examples of case studies for students wishing to undertake the Research unit.
Blondel, Jean, Voters, Parties, and Leaders: The Social Fabric of British Politics, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1974
This is a classic text for both politics as a discipline and the topic of politics and power, and social class stratification, in sociology. The book discusses the social structure of the UK, with reference to class, education, occupation, income, and the extent of social mobility. This acts as a platform upon which the author builds an understanding of political parties and party politics, and how these, along with the aforementioned social factors, impact upon elections and voting behaviour. The role of vested interests such as trade unions and employers’ organisations is discussed in critical detail, indicating the point of ‘access’ to the political and bureaucratic executive, and how this is imbalanced often by the class relationships frequently seen as being synonymous with each group. Blondel concludes this book by posing the question of whether the UK operates a system whereby the ruling elite is part of ‘the (political) Establishment’ or, in effect, a ‘ruling class’.
This book provides an excellent analysis of power politics.
Bottomore, T B, Elites and Society, Harmondsworth: Pelican, 1964
A dated though classic text from a sociologist with a pedigree in analysing
and evaluating political and sociological theory, this book takes a critical
look at both elites in society, and a range of different theoretical positions on such elites. Bottomore begins with a definition of what is meant by the term
‘elites’, and the different positions of the ‘elite theorists’ (C Wright Mills, Pareto, Mosca), sociologists/social theorists who view societies in terms of the minority elite groups who hold disproportionate power to their actual size and number. What the author attempts to do is disaggregate the philosophical or theoretical arguments from the ideological positions of the respective theorists. As such, he identifies both supporters and critics of elitist structures in both modern and developing societies. The last two chapters deal with the possibility of the contradictory relationship between having such elites and democratic progress in both developed and developing societies, and whether such a phenomenon can ever bring about societies based on greater equality.
Braverman, Harry, Labour and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century, New York: Monthly Review Press, 1974
This book is considered one of the seminal texts in the Marxist explanation of work and organisational behaviour. Braverman’s work rests on the premise that in order to maximise the economic efficiency of labour, it is necessary to exercise stringent forms of control over the labour process, so that workers have minimal or no flexibility. The method management employed to bring this into effect was the imposition of Taylor’s scientific management not only into the industrial work processes, but the white collar or service sector also. This form of ‘deskilling’ would allow managers to plan work tasks in minute detail, cut costs, reduce wage demands, and thus increase profitability as well as productivity. Braverman’s work seeks to underline the point that human relations theory is little more than a tool designed to present to workers the illusion that their employers have their interests at heart.
Durkheim, Emile, The Elementary Forms of Religious Life, New York: Free Press, 1915
This publication is one of Durkheim’s seminal pieces of sociological thought,
and is divided into three books. Book 1, ‘Preliminary Questions’, explains the definition of religious phenomena, such as supernaturalism, mysticism, beliefs,
rites, godless religions, and of religion itself. The discussion on the definition of religion is interested in how distinctions are made between the sacred and the profane, and the necessity of many religions to distinguish religion from magic,
by incorporating the idea of the Church. In this section, Durkheim also introduces the reader to a distinction between animism (soul genesis, formation the idea of spirits, and the transformation of the cult of spirits into the cult of nature) and naturism (pretended distinction between religion and mythology). Book 2, ‘Elementary Beliefs’, looks in detail at the definitions, emblems and sacred nature of totemic beliefs (e.g. inability to kill and/or eat certain animals or plants in some religions), whilst also investigating how issues of class affect totemism. Book 3, ‘Principal Ritual Attitudes’, concentrates on notions of negative and positive cults, explaining the nature of ascetic rites, sacrificial elements, causality, representative rites, and the ambiguity of sacredness. Durkheim ends his work by comparing the
unity of science with the morality of religion. This is a very informative text in terms of its functionalist explanations of the role and purpose of religion as a shaping force in society.
Durkheim, Emile, The Division of Labour in Society, New York: Free Press, 1947
In what is probably his most famous work, first published in 1893, Durkheim identifies what he sees as the moral consequences of industrialisation, and particularly the specialisation of functions and activities that industrialisation brings forth. Durkheim calls this state of affairs ‘civilisation’. He argues that the specialisation of activities that work creates as it evolves extend from purely economic considerations into all aspects of social life, such as the family, politics, education. This ‘wider fragmentation’ or ‘social division of labour’, as he calls it, has fundamentally changed the relationship individuals have to the moral order. Durkheim uses what he refers to as ‘mechanical solidarity’ (pre-industrial society) and ‘organic solidarity’ (industrial society) to explain what he sees as different forms of consciousness and cohesion experienced in different types of society. This is probably the key text for a solid theoretical grounding in functionalist explanations of work and work organisation.
Glasgow University Media Group, Really Bad News, London: Readers and Writers, 1982
The Glasgow University Media Group (GUMG) has a strong, established tradition of producing highly engaging and constructively critical analyses of the mass media in Britain. A key focus of its work is to look at news reporting, particularly the broadcast variety, from an objective, balanced, viewpoint. The focus is particularly keen because, as they see it, despite the fact that legislation demands that broadcast news be non-biased, substantial evidence to the contrary suggests that it is anything but! They concentrate on examples of ‘biased’ or partial reporting in the media, such as the critical broadcasts of industrial relations and politics, featuring language such as ‘the trade unions being “out” again’, ‘the unions/workers making unsustainable wage demands’, the ‘Labour Party being under siege by the left’, and a generally selective take on news. The authors go on to criticise the minimal access given to organisations such as trade unions, left-wing politicians, and protest pressure groups by the broadcast media in comparison to businesses and business leaders, and mainstream and centre-right politicians. When that access is provided, it is often in an environment which is disadvantageous to a group’s cause, such as interviewing trade union officials at the site of a picket line, where emotions are likely to be running high, whilst interviewing company managers in the more comfortable, calmer environment
of their offices. An example cited is how Tony Benn, a challenger for the leader-ship of the Labour Party in the early 1980s, and a key exponent of moving the Labour Party to the left, was given negative television and radio news coverage
compared to Denis Healey, a darling of the Labour right. Such partisanship in the media, argues the GUMG, often comes in the form of fewer TV and radio appearances, and fewer chances to answer questions when actually given such opportunities.
Glasgow University Media Group, War and Peace News, Milton Keynes: Open University Press, 1985
As the title suggests, this offering from the GUMG analyses the way in which the broadcast news reports on war and attempts by citizens to end such conflict. The book is divided into two sections, the first looking specifically at the UK’s television and radio news coverage of the Falklands War, whilst the second section looks at the efforts of the peace movement to bring about greater stability and peace, through advocating nuclear disarmament, etc. Both sections are discussed within the context of the heating-up of the Cold War, with a massive rise in the production and proliferation of nuclear armaments by the West (particularly the US) and the Soviet-inspired communist East (particularly the Soviet Union).
In the section covering the broadcasting of news occurring in the Falklands War, the authors identify that the government and the military had virtually a monopoly of control over the way the war was being reported, as Western journalists were not allowed into the ‘theatre’, but had to report from British warships based on information provided to them by the military (after being cleared with the British government). It was a virtual rather than absolute monopoly as some news coverage from Argentina was shown on the BBC, whereupon the Prime Minister at that time, Margaret Thatcher, criticised them for being unpatriotic due to the exposure. What the exposure did, however, was indicate that the British government and the military had been lying to the Western media about some aspects of the conduct and success of the British military operation. According to the government, the BBC was wrong in fulfilling its legally binding role of news balance and impartiality.
Section Two looks analytically at the role of the broadcast media in reporting the feminist peace camp at Greenham Common. Examples of bias in broadcasting included the discussion of the arrival of American cruise missiles in a largely uncritical manner, generally viewing them as being an acceptable form of defence against Britain’s Cold War enemies. On the other hand, the peace camp was not even reported by ITN in its early days, and the BBC tended to dismiss it as a ‘so-called peace camp’. Other aspects of this section include the role of the church in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. There is also a very informative set of Appendices, of which the ones on opinion polling and the news language over the sinking of the Argentine warship, General Belgrano, are particularly interesting.
Grint, Keith, The Sociology of Work: An Introduction, second edition, Cambridge: Polity Press, 1998
Grint’s book provides a good introduction to what is meant by work; he looks at Western and non-Western explanations of work, domestic work and unemployment. Alongside this, he provides an historical account of the development of work from pre-industrial times to the changes to work patterns and practices under globalisation. Grint evaluates the impact of technological innovations on the labour process, how occupational changes occur as a result, and how trade unionism, state interventionism, and changes to law have seen more women enter the workplace, though usually under unequal terms. The three classical sociological approaches to work, as advocated by Marx, Weber and Durkheim, as well as contemporary theories of work organisation, such as contingency theory, postmodernism and institutional theory, are given due analysis by the author. There are individual chapters that also concentrate, respectively, on class relations and industrial conflict; patriarchal relations in the workplace and women workers’ experience of trade unions; and race and ethnicity, and exclusion from work or certain types of work as a result of ethnic/racial minority status. The final two chapters concentrate more specifically on 20th-century developments in work, such as Fordism, neo-Fordism, post-Fordism, and the enhanced insecurity that globalisation brings. There are useful essay questions posed at the end of each chapter, along with helpful suggestions for further reading.
Hutton, Will, The State We’re In, revised edition, London: Vintage, 1996
This is the first in a succession of books on the role of the state, politics and the increasingly globalised economy in modern Britain. Hutton begins with an evaluation of what he sees as the damage caused to the social fabric of UK society by eighteen years of New Right economic management under the Conservative Party. Other issues that Hutton tackles include the nature of the power of global markets and finance, along with their failure to provide adequately for the population at large. He takes a critical look at the unsustainable rise in consumer credit – what he argues is the spending of ‘tomorrow’s money today’, inequality in the workplace and how that, in turn, entrenches social inequality in wider social life. Hutton proposes that a return to the Keynesian economic model would be appropriate, as would a major constitutional change, where the old landed aristocratic elites become disestablished and a republic created. It is here that the author fully utilises the term ‘stakeholder capitalism’ as a model of a democratic economy that could be beneficial to the many rather than the wealthy elite.
Hutton, Will, The State of Things to Come, London: Vintage, 1997
Following on from his successful The State We’re In (1996), this book
continues to assess the eighteen years of New Right conservatism of the
Thatcher and Major governments. In so doing, Hutton provides a critical perspective to what he sees as the damaging free market policies that emerged
in the late 1970s and continue to this day. The backdrop to his discussion is the concept of a ‘stakeholder society’, a notion taken up by the present Labour government. Indeed, Hutton advocates and endorses a Labour government as being the only party government that could carry out this agenda, the aim behind such a society being a combination of a strong economy and a fairer social system – a means of looking after the ‘have nots’ as well as the ‘haves’. This is not essentially a sociological study, as Hutton’s background is that of a journalist and newspaper editor; rather it is of significant interest to sociology students with an interest in the mechanisms of power and politics, as it provides a blueprint for what Hutton sees as the necessity to create a more democratic political and economic structure. This would require major constitutional change in the UK, allowing a move towards a fair UK society at the heart of Europe.
Lukes, Stephen, Power: a Radical View, Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1974
Written largely as a critique of what has often been seen as Weber’s somewhat narrow view of power, Lukes’ book provides an alternative that perceives power as being identified as having three ‘faces’, or dimensions. The first face, or ‘one-dimensional view’, is that power is achieved through the ability to make decisions that will be accepted. Power, in this sense, comes though influence and control. The second face, or ‘two-dimensional view’, is that power can be exercised by the ability not to make decisions, or to give others the idea that they are able to make decisions, albeit within strict parameters (i.e. forcing someone to carry out a task, but allowing them flexibility in how they carry that task out). The third face, or ‘three-dimensional view’ of power, is the ability to shape the wishes, desires, attitudes of others through the art of persuasion, often in very subtle, culturally reinforced ways. Lukes argues that these ‘dimensions’ have the potential to lead to conflict, though such conflict might rarely manifest itself.
Madry, Nick and Kirby, Mark, Investigating Work, Unemployment and Leisure, London: Collins Educational, 1996
This book is part of a series of ‘A’ level sociology textbooks called ‘Sociology in Action’. The text is broken down into easily useable sections within each chapter, and begins with definitions of what is meant by work and non-work. The context, within which much of this text is written, i.e. with reference to the theories of Marx, Weber and Durkheim, is presented in Chapter 1. This is followed in subsequent chapters by explanations of such concepts as scientific management, convergence theory, labour process theory, and meanings of skill and de-skilling, etc. Using references to both quantitative and qualitative research approaches to work, the authors go on to discuss Fordism, post-Fordism, and flexible specialisation from critically analytical approaches, such as that of Gramsci on Fordism. Madry and Kirby go on to discuss contemporary patterns of industrial conflict, and the economic and social effects of
unemployment and limited employment opportunities in the de-industrialising West. The last three chapters deal with wider issues of globalisation, such as the argument that Western society is becoming ever more orientated towards leisure pursuits, and consumption as opposed to production, whilst the developing world is becoming the ‘factory’ for those in the West with an apparent increase in leisure pursuit.
Miliband, Ralph, The State in Capitalist Society: an analysis of the Western system of power, London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1969
Miliband’s book is a critical evaluation of the unequal power relations that are fostered by capitalism, such as the functionalist notion of consensus in contemporary Western societies. The author argues that capitalist economics fosters and reinforces inequality and elitism, both in terms of the inequitable wealth distribution and the sustainability and creation of organisational elites that entrench such social cleavages. He goes on to provide a critical view of the notion that capitalism is competitive, by providing examples of its monopolistic and hence uncompetitive true nature, e.g. the ability of large corporations to obtain direct access to the government, and to obtain direct government support for takeover bids. Miliband discusses the problems experienced by the Left, particularly in the West, in attempting to bring about revolution through a series of reforms, whilst their counterparts in the Soviet-inspired East, Asia and Africa, have done so through armed insurrection. This book is a very important contribution to Marxist debate on the nature of politics and unequal power relations in capitalist societies such as the UK, US, and Western Europe.
Mills, C Wright, The Power Elite, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1956
A key ‘elite theorist’, Mills looked at the extent to which powerful elites controlled the mass population in American society in the 1950s. His theory, where his explanation of elite rule was based on organisational/institutional rather than psychological factors, was designed as a criticism of such power relations. Mills rejected the notion put forward by some elite theorists that members of the elite had qualities or intellectual characteristics superior to those of the general population. He believed that those who occupied senior positions in the three major institutions, the government, the military and major corporations, enjoyed power in proportions that were incompatible with their representation. These elites would act in accordance with one another to enhance and reinforce the base of power that each occupied, so that they effectively become, in the main, self-serving. The book goes on to discuss how this sense of collusion would continue to ensure that elite dominance was maintained, by creating systems by which only a narrow band of individuals could actually progress into such positions of power. Even when individuals did proceed, unexpectedly, into such positions, the mechanisms of elitism would generally ensure that those who had ‘bucked the
trend’ adopted the philosophical outlook of the elite whose ranks they had joined.
Moore Jr, Barrington, Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy: Lord and Peasant in the Making of the Modern World, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1966
This is an extensive sociological work that has had a substantial impact on the study of power relations in the disciplines of both sociology and politics. Moore charts in substantial depth the movement from a world based on agricultural production to one increasingly based on industrial production, with Britain, France, China, the United States, India and Japan used as case studies. In so doing, he evaluates the role played by revolutionary forces in modernising these societies, or aspects of them. His precept is rather controversial, in that he sees the true revolutionary impetus coming from the declining elites rather than rising social classes. The author looks at each country’s modernisation independently in the first instance, drawing comparisons and contrasts between their respective experiences of conflict and change. For example, Britain’s ‘revolution’ saw not only the ascendancy of capitalism, but also the re-establishment of aristocratic rule over this new mode of production. France, on the other hand, Moore argues, saw an end to its monarchist absolutism and its replacement with a form of ‘revolutionary terror’. The American Civil War is argued by the author to have been the last capitalist revolution – subsequent revolutions being attempts to end both social and economic inequalities, though usually having to do so by creating industrialised economies from largely peasant ones. He demonstrates three different routes to modernisation in Asia, with Maoist communism being the route taken in China, a form of fascism taken in Japan, and peaceful transitional change from a colony to statehood in India. The last four chapters of this book provide both implications for the different routes to modernisation, and possible projections for the future success of such routes.
NB: For those students who undertake the unit on Research methods, there is a very useful final section on the use of statistics and a conservative historiography by Moore.
Rush, Michael, Politics and Society: An Introduction to Political Sociology, Hemel Hempstead: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1992
This text provides a comprehensive introduction to the study of power
and politics, including the relationships between social and political
institutions, social and political behaviour, and the impact of politics on
society. Beginning with an Introduction that sets out the relationship between political science and sociology (political sociology), Rush covers a range of important areas of sociological discussion, such as the development and role of the state and its relationship to society, the notions of power, authority and
legitimacy, and the distribution of power. In looking at the latter, he discusses the differences and similarities between elite theory, pluralism, totalitarianism and democracy. Other parts of this book cover political socialisation, participation and recruitment by political parties. Rush evaluates the influence of communication of a political nature in forming public opinion, and the importance of ideology in shaping values and attitudes. Finally, the impact of revolution, development and modernisation on bringing forth social change, or undermining it, is discussed in some depth.
Schumpeter, Joseph A, Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy, fifth edition with a New Introduction by Tom Bottomore, London: George Allen & Unwin, 1976
This is a classic and previously politically influential text, which will be very useful for students interested in politics and power relations in sociology. Whilst much of what Schumpeter argued has been seemingly unravelled by the reality of the New Right political and economic developments over the past twenty years, he nevertheless provides an excellent account of capitalism and its Marxist and socialist critics. He begins the book with an evaluation of the theories of Marx, moves on to the seemingly unsustainable nature of capitalism, and identifies viable socialist alternatives to capitalist democracy. In his analysis, he squarely equates socialism as being inherently democratic, and argues that the latter is not an idea necessarily confined to capitalism. The last section of the book provides an analysis of the historical development of socialist parties of different forms, such as the Fabianism of the Labour Party in Britain, the Marxism-Leninism-Stalinism of the Soviet Union, Syndicalism in France, and the experiences of socialist parties in the US and various European countries. The impact of both the First World War and the Second World War on the fortunes of socialist parties and socialist politics and policies is also discussed in substantial depth.
Weber, Max, The Sociology of Religion, Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1956
This book, first published in 1922, begins with the translator’s notes that
clarify some areas of Weber’s work that do not always survive the translation from German to English. This is then followed by a sizeable critically
evaluative Introduction by the American functionalist sociologist, Talcott Parsons. Broken down into sixteen chapters, the book begins with the rise of belief in the supernatural as the establishment of religion. Weber makes comparisons and contrasts between religion and magic, and tackles the issues
of totemism, prophecies, religious morals and ethics, and the pastoral nature of all religions. He further discusses the impact of religion and religiosity on forms of social stratification, such as estates, caste and class, with particularly interesting commentary on the manipulation by religion to provide ethical salvation for the under-privileged. This classic text takes up a discussion of the historical and intellectual developments of and within different religions,
with a substantial concentration on the Jewish and Christian faiths. He compares these ‘Western’ faiths with those that emerged in the East, such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam, and examines most of them in relation to dominant political, economic and cultural trends at the time. Chapter XIII, in particular, has an interesting discussion on the tension between what Weber calls religio-ethics and economic rationalisation of social life.