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force for humanity. While Weber was well aware

of capitalism’s capacity to advance the material

aspects of civilization, he also – like Marx – felt

that there was something deeply non-ethical

and inhuman about the system. The reader may

recall Weber’s famous metaphor of “the iron cage”

(stalwarts Ghettoes), which has taken on a life of its

own in contemporary social science. Weber himself,

however, used this metaphor to indicate that

life in modern capitalist society is unbearably

harsh. One reason for this has to do with the

unrelenting demand that everybody works all

the time; there is also the fact that life in modern

capitalist society lacks a deeper meaning.

But even if there exist parallels between the

views of Marx and Weber on capitalism, they

also differ on several important points. One may

single out five such points of profound difference.

First of all, while Marx saw capitalism as centered

around production, Weber saw it as centered

around the market. Second, while Marx argued

that there only exists one type of capitalism,

Weber disagreed and suggested that there are several

such types. Third, Marx and Weber differed in

the way that they conceptualized the role that

law, politics, and culture play in modern capitalism.

Fourth, Weber’s theory of the origin of capitalism

differed from that of Marx. And finally,

Weber introduced the concept of meaning into

the analysis of capitalism – a concept that does

not exist in Marx.

That Weber saw capitalism as centered on the

market, as opposed to production, comes out very

clearly in his general view of capitalism. From

Weber’s The Agrarian Sociology of Ancient Civilizations

(1909 [trans. 1976]), one may cite what is probably

the most succinct definition of capitalism that

can be found in his work: “where we find that

property is an object of trade and is utilized by

individuals for profit-making enterprise in a

market economy, there we have capitalism.”

Second, while Marx argued that there was no

capitalism in Antiquity and that capitalism could

only be found in the West, Weber sharply disagreed.

As opposed to Marx, Weber in Economy and

Society (1921–2 [trans. 1978]) suggested that there

are three major types of capitalism: political capitalism,

rational capitalism, and traditional-commercial

capitalism. Political capitalism can be found where

profit-making is directly dependent on politics,

say where merchants operate under the direct

protection of an imperialist power or where business

contracts can only be secured through the

mediation of state officials. Political capitalism,

according to Weber, existed in Antiquity, in the

West, and elsewhere, and can also be found in

modern society. Rational capitalism, in contrast,

is a uniquely western product, and first came into

full being from the time of the Reformation and

onwards. It is characterized by a strongly methodical

approach to all economic matters and by the

capitalism capitalism


use of institutions such as the modern firm,

rational technology, and capital accounting.

Traditional-commercial capitalism can be found

in all societies, far back in history as well as

today, and it consists of small trade in goods and


Third, while Marx conceptualized the role

of law, politics, and culture in capitalism as all

being influenced by economic forces in a decisive

manner, Weber had a different approach.

In principle, the causality can go both ways. He

also argued that, as society develops, so do its

various spheres – such as the economic sphere,

the political sphere, the religious sphere, and so

on. Each of these spheres has its own internal

dynamic and autonomy vis-a`-vis society as a whole

(Eigengesetzlichkeit). How clashes between spheres

will be solved is an empirical question and cannot

be predicted in advance. Basically, however, politics

and law need to be predictable and reliable

for rational capitalism to thrive.

Fourth, Weber and Marx differed on the historical

origin of western capitalism. Both saw capitalism

as the result of a long evolutionary history

and not as the result of one critical event or factor

(for Marx on this point, see Capital; for Weber,

General Economic History). Still, while Marx singled

out the enclosures in England as extra important

in this development, Weber did the same with the

creation of “the spirit of capitalism” during the

Reformation and onwards. Whether Weber was

correct or not in his thesis that certain Protestant

ideas (especially the notion of work as a vocation),

helped to jumpstart modern capitalism is still a

much-debated question as Gordon Marshall demonstrates

in his In Search of the Spirit of Capitalism


The last point on which Marx’s and Weber’s

analyses of capitalism differ importantly from

one another has to do with the concept of meaning

(Sinn). While Marx was very interested in

understanding the relationship between capitalism

and culture, he nonetheless never addressed

the issue of the meaning that the actor attaches to

his or her actions. By explicitly including this

aspect, Weber can be said to have opened up the

analysis of capitalism in many directions that

remained closed to Marx.

Schumpeter was deeply influenced by the works

of Marx and Weber, including their analyses of

capitalism. While he admired both authors, he

also regarded Capital, as well as The Protestant Ethic

and the Spirit of Capitalism (1905 [trans. 2002]), as

having serious flaws. He was not impressed by

Weber’s argument that a qualitative change had

somehow taken place in the mentality of western

capitalists at the time of the Reformation, and he

disapproved of most of the economics that Marx

had used in his argument. Schumpeter in his

Essays (1961) saw capitalism as gradually evolving

from Antiquity or “early capitalism” to contemporary

times or “the modern phase,” that is,

“1898 and today,” traversing in the process “mercantile

capitalism,” from the sixteenth century till

the end of the eighteenth century, and “intact

capitalism,” during the nineteenth century. He

emphasized continuity, and he saw no reason to

refer to primitive accumulation or Luther’s ideas

about Beruf (vocation).

Schumpeter nonetheless deeply admired Marx’s

idea that the economy is not something that only

responds to influences from the outside, as in conventional

equilibrium analysis. He also tried to

construct his own theory of capitalism on this

insight by Marx, although he picked a different

central actor: the entrepreneur rather than the

capitalist. The entrepreneur, Schumpeter argues,

can be defined as an economic actor who, by

piecing together a new combination of already

existing factors, creates innovations and economic

change. Stimulated by the huge profit that an

entrepreneur makes, a number of imitators will

appear, till there is no more room for making a

profit, and the economy starts to slide downwards.

The business cycles that always accompany capitalism

are, according to Schumpeter, basically caused

by the entrepreneur and the wave of imitators that

follows in his or her footsteps.

Something must also be said about Capitalism,

Socialism and Democracy (1942) when it comes to

Schumpeter’s analysis of capitalism. He here

comments on a period of the history of capitalism

when Marx and Weber were not alive, namely the

interwar period. Like Weber, however, Schumpeter

singles out the giant corporations with their

huge bureaucracies as the key actors – and also as

being deeply problematic. Indeed, Schumpeter

was so fearful of these giant corporations that he

saw them as a major reason why capitalism was

bound to go under and be replaced by socialism.

Like Marx, Schumpeter was convinced that capitalism

one day would disappear, but in contrast to

Marx he thought that this would be caused by

its success and not by its failure. Many factors

were involved in this process, including the quality

of the capitalists. With the success of capitalism,

he argued, capitalists would eventually turn

complacent and lose their desire to counter the

attacks of socialists and intellectuals – and

this failure to respond would slowly undo “the

capitalism capitalism


capitalist civilization,” including its otherwise

well-functioning economic system.

Socialists more or less monopolized the use of

the term capitalism from around 1900 – when

Werner Sombart (1863–1941) popularized it in

Der moderne Kapitalismus (1903) – till something

like the 1970s. From this point on, however, it

has been as much embraced by economists, liberals,

and the right wing as by social democrats

and the left wing. The theory of capitalism that

can be found among economists today is also no

longer restricted to theories of how prices are set

through the interplay of demand and supply; it

also includes reflections on the institutions that

give structure to capitalism, including the state.

To discuss the various models of capitalism that

can be found among twentieth-century economists

would demand a longer essay than this,

and the reader is referred to the works of people

from J. M. Keynes to Milton Friedman (1912– ), and

John Kenneth Galbraith (1908–2006). A few words

must nonetheless be said about the economists’

creation of what may be termed the neo-liberal

theory of capitalism, since it is this way of looking

at capitalism that has come to dominate the

current discourse on this subject.

The neo-liberal theory of capitalism has deep

roots in the nineteenth century and was given an

early and theoretically sophisticated expression

in the works of Austrian economists Ludwig von

Mises (1881–1973) and Friedrich von Hayek (1899–

1992). These two thinkers insisted on the decentralized,

spontaneous nature of capitalism and

that the state must stay out of the economy – for

example, Friedrich von Hayek, Individualism and

Economic Order (1948), and Ludwig von Mises, The

Anti-Capitalistic Mentality (1956). Prices carry

enough information for the entrepreneur to

know what to do; and while legal and political

institutions are necessary for the market to work

properly, they must under no circumstances be

allowed to interfere with its workings or to counter

its results through welfare measures. The

market will produce liberty and wealth if it is

left alone; and this is what matters.

Since the 1980s, when Margaret Thatcher and

Ronald Reagan came to power, this vision of

neoliberal capitalism has become the official economic

ideology of the West, and it is still as strong,

if not stronger. As applied to the situation of the

economy in developing countries, neoliberalism is

known as “the Washington consensus” and has

come to expression in official statements by the

International Monetary Fund, the US president,

and so on.

Other academics besides liberal economists

have produced important scholarship on capitalism

during the post-World War II period. Leaving

aside Andrew Shonfield’s pioneering Modern Capitalism

(1965) in order to continue with the theme

of the neo-liberal vision, a mention should be

made of the idea of disorganized capitalism which

emerged in the 1980s. It is here argued that the

attempt to organize capitalism at the top (via

cartels, monopolies, and the like) and at the

bottom (via trade unions, cooperatives, and so

on) is about to come to an end – for example in

Scott Lash and John Urry, The End of Organized

Capitalism (1987). The result of this process will

be strife and disorganization, and will work out

differently depending on the country in question.

During the 1990s a novel approach to the study

of capitalism emerged, which also is opposed to

neoliberalism. This is the school of varieties of

capitalism, which is close in spirit to the French

regulation school (see regulation theory) and

the so-called economics of conventions. All of

these approaches work in the tradition of political

economy and draw on a mixture of heterodox

economics and political science. Their focus is on

capitalism in individual countries, and comparisons

are often made between various countries,

as well as between groups of countries. A central

task that the varieties-of-capitalism approach

has set for itself is to show that non-liberal and

heavily regulated economies work just as well as

neoliberal and de-regulated economies. Sweden

and Germany, for example, have capitalist economies

that are as efficient as, say, the United Kingdom

and the United States (see, for example, Colin

Crouch and Wolfgang Streeck, Political Economy of

Modern Capitalism, (1997) or Peter Hall and David

Soskice, Varieties of Capitalism, (2001). In analyzing

the way that capitalism is organized in different

countries, much emphasis in this type of literature

is also laid on the mode of governance. And in

doing so, many more actors are usually taken

into account than in conventional economics, including

chambers of commerce and other business

associations. Much attention is finally also

paid to different types of regulations, from legal

systems to the many rules that are produced in

modern society.

An attempt has also recently been made to draw

on the tradition of economic sociology in analyzing

capitalism (for example Victor Nee and Richard

Swedberg, The Economic Sociology of Capitalism,

2005). This approach is heavily indebted to Weber

and Schumpeter and primarily attempts to outline

the social structure of the various economic

capitalism capitalism


institutions that are at the core of capitalism,

from firms and markets to entrepreneurship

more generally. Proponents of this approach are

closer to New Institutional Economics than to the

tradition of political economy. They also center

their analyses around the notion of interest, and

view institutions as embodying interests or as

channeling interests rather than as a set of rules –

for example, in Richard Swedberg, The Concept of

Interest (2005).

It may finally be noted that, according to Marx,

capitalism is always revolutionizing itself in its

attempts to seek new profits. This means that the

analysts of capitalism are looking at a target that

is moving very rapidly, something that tends to

cast them in the unhappy role of the famous owl

of Minerva, always arriving too late. Nonetheless,

since capitalism is at the center of modern society,

and since it constitutes “the most fateful force in

our modern life” (Weber), it is absolutely crucial

that it also remains at the center of social science.


capitalist mode of production

– see Karl Marx.

carceral society

– see Michel Foucault.


The social implications of care have been highlighted

by sociologists whose work has emphasized

the often unseen work that is performed

(largely in the household). The study of care has

been responsible for the “denaturalization” of

those responsibilities (looking after children, the

ill, the infirm, and the elderly) which were once, if

not assumed to fall to, then at least assigned to,

women. A generation of sociologists (including

Hilary Graham, Miriam David, Clare Ungerson,

and Hilary Land) asked questions about who cared

for those not able to function as independent and

autonomous adults and found that the answer

was largely, although not exclusively, women. As

a result of these studies, “caring work” has been

recognized in much of Europe as work that merits

economic payment.

There is another sense, however, in which the

extension of the understanding of the term work

has enlarged our perception of care. It lies in

the development of what has become known

as the “ethic of care.” In 1982, Carol Gilligan

(1936– ) argued, in A Different Voice, that women

approached moral choices in terms of the implications

of their actions for others. Gilligan – and

other later writers – have defined this attitude as

that of an ethic of care which prioritizes the needs

of others, rather than abstract and ideal moral

systems, in making moral and ethical choices.

The recognition of the giving of care has also

created the social recognition of “carers,” those

millions of people (largely female) whose lives

are ruled by the dependence of others. For aging

societies, the issue of care and carers has become

central to welfare policies, since for many people

the traditional expectations surrounding care

have become unacceptable, not least in the assumption

that caring for others will always be

willingly, and voluntarily, accepted. MARY EVANS


In commonsense usage, this is the progression of

an individual through an occupation via a series

of predefined institutional gateways which secure

standing in the community, increasing levels of

seniority within the occupation, and increasing

levels of pay. The hierarchal structure of a university

career provides a good example: from tutor, to

lecturer, senior lecturer, associate professor, and,

finally, professor. Max Weber argued in The Protestant

Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1905 [trans.

2002]) that the development of the career as a

calling or vocation was a secular solution to the

problem of salvation in Protestantism, providing a

secular form of salvation through service to the

community. Sociologists, particularly those in the

symbolic interactionist tradition, have focused on

the temporal sequencing of a career and particularly

the problems that arise for organizations

when individuals become blocked in their career

aspirations. More broadly then, the concept of

career can be applied to any ongoing sequences

of changes of social status over time. Thus, the

sequencing of the events that go to make a family

can be conceptualized as a career. While careers

are usually taken to be positive life experiences, as

in a career in the professions, they can also be

negatively evaluated. Erving Goffman drew attention

to the negatively evaluated “moral career” of

the mentally ill patient, who through a series of

degradation ceremonies – the loss of an autonomous

adult identity, the replacement of street

clothing with institutional garments, and boundaries

around their ability to interact with others –

experienced a stigmatizing career. In criminology,

there is also the notion of a “criminal career” in

which an offender passes through a series of

stages towards full-time criminal activities.

Contemporary sociologists have focused on the

changing nature of work in postindustrial society,

capitalist mode of production career


which makes the possibility of a life-long career

increasingly unlikely as work becomes more fragmented

and discontinuous, because companies

downsize and outsource functions previously

undertaken by long-term employees: such as, for

example, IBM outsourcing its computing functions

to India. Under the impact of neoliberalism

in the state sector, the idea of a career in the

public or civil service is also on the wane as

the state out-sources many of its functions to

the private market. Richard Sennett has, in The

Corrosion of Character (1998) and Respect (2003),

claimed that, with the decline of career in the

modern economy, there is a corresponding transformation

of personality, namely an erosion of

character. KEVIN WHITE

case study

The term case study refers both to methodological

strategy and subject of study. Social scientists use

the case-study approach as a methodological strategy

when they wish to provide rich descriptions

and analyses of a single case, or a small number of

cases. This approach allows researchers to develop

a detailed view of processes, interactions, and

meaning systems in a way they would find difficult

if they were examining dozens or hundreds

of cases. A case-study research project is limited

in its capacity to support universalizing sociological

generalizations but its advantage is that

it can reveal more meaningful data about a

case. Case-study data can yield specific insights

that form the bases for hypothesis testing (see

hypothetico-deductive method) in studies that

use large datasets. Many researchers in this tradition

use the comparative method, wherein close

examination of two or three targeted cases allows

them to isolate the causes and consequences of

particular case features and dynamics. Qualitative

field researchers, and historical, comparative, and

quantitative methodologists all use the case study


A case-study project might take as its subject

work organizations, social movements, communities,

political regimes, schools, and myriad

other case types. The particular population from

which a researcher draws his or her case follows

from the theoretical and substantive goal. For

example, if a sociologist wishes to know whether

and why social inequality persists in organizations

that are committed to democratic, progressive

social change, she or he might study workerowned

cooperatives or feminist, peace, and other

social movement organizations. V ICKI SMITH

Castells, Manuel (1942– )

A Spanish-born sociologist, Castells has roots in

urban sociology and the sociology of social movements,

which are examined in his The Urban

Question (1977), City, Class and Power (1978), and

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