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The growth of the novel (in the eighteenth century)

and the spread of the mass newspapers (in

the nineteenth century) were both important in

the spread of the political imagination of the

nation. The Protestant Reformation was especially

important in the growth of a literate population

who consumed print (for example in copies of

sermons), and which contributed to the triumph

of vernacular languages over the Latin of the

Catholic Church.

ideology imagined communities


With Anderson’s thesis the idea that nationalism

produces rather than discovers nations

became the common assumption of sociological

and political discussion. BRYAN S. TURNER


In an article on the “Sociology of Imperialism”

(1919), Joseph Schumpeter defines imperialism as

“the objectless disposition on the part of a state to

unlimited forcible expansion.” In this sense, “imperialism”

describes the common tendency of a

political unit to grow until it encompasses the

earth. In so far as the purpose of any political

unit is expansion, all polities are either potentially

or actively imperialist. But polities do not all try to

expand in the same manner or to the same extent.

Only empires aspire to expand themselves indefinitely:

both city-states and nation-states are based

on a territorial sovereignty, while empires aim

directly at a universal sovereignty, a dominium

over the whole of humanity.

At its best, imperialism is a noble disposition to

create a political structure that is both universal

and concrete, a desire to unify humanity. At its

best, imperialism is also a just disposition: not a

disposition to conquer out of an unhealthy libido

dominandi, but for the sake of peace, for the sake of

an equivalent of the pax romana which political

unity makes possible. However, imperialism has

often been seen as problematic. In the book of

Genesis, God condemns the project of building a

tower “with its top in heaven,” Babel, by halting

this symbol of human over-reaching with “the

confusion of tongues,” thereby dividing humanity

into many nations, making human attempts to

build imperial projects to unify humanity more

difficult. Genesis associates imperialism with

hubris and pride, with a vain and evil desire to

be like God.

Our present unease with imperialism has at

least two specific roots. The first is the non-democratic

character of empires. In an empire, a ruling

individual or a ruling oligarchy imposes its will on

the rest of the empire. Empires are built around

the opposition of a core and a periphery, the periphery

being subordinated to the core. In contrast,

city-states and nation-states are not built

around the distinction core/periphery but around

an opposition between internal and external, with

more firmly defined boundaries: these political

forms are compatible with the idea of a unified

people of equal citizens. Whereas empires exclude

democracy as a political regime, city-states and

nation-states are compatible with democracy;

they are not necessarily hierarchical. A second

root of our contemporary discomfort with imperialism

is cultural relativism. In order to justify

their imposed order, empires tend to claim

that they stand for a higher degree of civilization,

that this gives them a right to rule “barbarians.”

In a world like ours, which considers itself to be

disenchanted with any claim about the superiority

of any aristocracy or civilization, empires

appear to be lacking in legitimacy.

According to Schumpeter, imperialism is an

irrational inclination towards war and conquest,

and one which he associates with the survival

of residual political structures: imperialism

belongs to a pre-capitalist era and is an atavism

destined to disappear. In order to defend their

social position, a ruling class (see social class)

foments a jingoistic mood in which ideas such

as national honor and prestige play an essential

part. But, according to Schumpeter, a purely capitalist

world can offer no ground for imperialist

impulses. Schumpeter belongs to a tradition illustrated

by Auguste Comte and Thorstein Veblen

according to which commerce will replace war –

a tradition analyzed in Raymond Aron, War and

Industrial Society (1958). One dominant contemporary

version of this theory, a theory of globalization,

has two roots: a belief that commerce will

replace war, and an argument turning the ideals

of the Enlightenment, ideals which underpinned

European imperialism, against imperialism itself.

However, imperialism should not simply be

confused or conflated with an old-fashioned spirit

of conquest, an anti-capitalist and an antidemocratic

inclination. Not all empires have been

tyrannies, not all empires belong to a pre-capitalist

and pre-democratic age. Another school of explanation

of imperialism stems from Vladimir Ilich

Lenin’s analysis of imperialism as the “highest

stage of capitalism.” The claims of this school are

the converse of Schumpeter’s: the accumulation

of wealth will not be enough to get rid of war, as

war is a necessary consequence of economic inequality.

This argument and its posterity are described

in Wolfgang J. Mommsen, Theories of

Imperialism (1977 [trans. 1980]). The preservation

of capitalism requires expansionist opportunities.

Imperialism is due to the acute competition of

surplus capital which did not find profitable

employment on the home market.

Lenin’s theory echoes Machiavelli’s political

philosophy perhaps even more than Marxism.

According to Machiavelli, imperialism is favored

by all those who try to avoid the conflict between

the haves and the have-nots, the oligarchs and the

people. Imperialism reorients the activity of the

imperialism imperialism


city or state in a way which enables it to avoid

imploding through civil war. On this account, the

sociology of international relations cannot be separated

from the sociology of social classes and

political sociology. As Machiavelli puts it in his

Discourses On the First Ten Books of Titus Livius (1531

[trans. 1996]) (an analysis of Rome’s imperial past),

the passions of those who want to acquire and of

those who do not want to lose combine to form a

communal passion to acquire the world. The quarrel

between the poor and the rich frees an energy

that helps in building up the power necessary to

conquer. Imperialism sublimates class conflicts

into wars of overseas conquest and external


One can reconcile in part Lenin’s and Schumpeter’s

teachings by noticing that there are various

types of empires and imperialisms. Empires

are more or less military and more or less formal.

Although Britain built the immense empire that

became the empire par excellence in modern

times, the nation’s power was ordinarily exercised

in an indirect way that made it easy to rule with a

comparatively small army and civil service – Niall

Ferguson’s Empire (2003) offers an introduction to

its history. In its weakest form, imperialism can be

a form of loose economic hegemony. Today,

deepening the spirit of commercial societies, the

United States of America seem to have superseded

the indirect character of the British Empire in

exercising their empire without the real burden

of an empire.

Imperialism is not necessarily incompatible

with capitalism and democracy: it can be a product

of both. Western nations ruled the world because

their individual members set sail for

science, victory, and gain. The extension of political

and economic liberty at home went hand in

hand with the extension of the power abroad. The

great discovery of Machiavelli, both a republican

and an imperialist, is that freedom is not an

enemy of power, but what produces it. The acquisitive

passion is equally at work in democracy,

capitalism, and imperialism: it leads the have-nots

to impose their own regime (democracy), a regime

that will allow them to acquire more goods

(capitalism) and more territory (imperialism).



In commonsense terms, income refers to the

wages that an individual earns through gainful

employment (see work and employment) over

time. In more technical language, it refers to the

flow of money, goods, or services to an economic

unit, which may be an individual or more typically

a household. Personal disposable income

refers to the income available to a household after

taxation and national insurance contributions.

The national income refers to the aggregate

incomes of the residents of a society in a given

period of time. Incomes in this national calculation

include all payments for the factors of production,

that is wages, salaries, profits, rent, and

income from abroad.

In economic distribution theory, the incomes of

land, labor, and capital are determined by the

demand and supply for them. This way of looking

at income was an aspect of the classical political

economy of David Ricardo (1772–1823) who sought

to determine the economic laws that regulate the

distribution of the produce of industry between

different social classes, namely landowners, capitalists,

and workers. In developing these ideas,

Ricardo created a theory of income distribution,

that is an analysis of the share of the economic

output that went to landlords, capitalists, and

workers. Whereas landlords depended on rent

from land, capitalists seek profit on industrial

investments, and workers exist on wages. Ricardo

anticipated Karl Marx in recognizing the fundamental

conflict of interest between these three

classes. Ricardo recognized that the value of any

commodity will be determined by the amount of

labor invested in it, and therefore capitalists have

an interest in controlling wages to increase their

profits. Capitalists will attempt to replace labor

with machinery, because capital-intensive goods

will be cheaper than labor-intensive goods. Ricardo’s

theory of the dynamics of capitalism was

similar to the demographic theory of Thomas

Malthus (1766–1834). Ricardo argued that when

wages rise above the subsistence level, workers

respond by increasing the size of their families.

As population grows, the supply of labor will increase,

there will be downward pressure on wages,

and as family size increases the standard of living

declines. However, population growth increases

the demand for land and increases rent. This Ricardian

distribution model described the inherent

contradictions of capitalism, thereby anticipating

the Marxist theory of capitalist crisis.

Sociologists have been primarily interested in

the distribution of income as a measure of social

inequality. Richard Titmuss in Income Distribution

and Social Change (1962) showed that in Britain

the problems of income distribution and taxation

were poorly understood, and that social workers

had been too concerned with the basic problem

of poverty to the neglect of relative income

income income


inequality. Titmuss’s research was intended to

examine whether there had been any equalization

of incomes in the postwar period. This question

has given rise to much debate, but there is

some consensus that, with neo-liberalism, income

inequality has increased.

Sociologists typically measure income inequality

in terms of the gini coefficient. This coefficient

is based on the Lorenz curve which shows

the extent of inequality in terms of a frequency

distribution by reference to personal income. A

Lorenz curve is a graphical representation of inequality

in which the cumulative percentages of

a population of taxpayers are plotted against the

cumulative percentage of incomes. A straight line

rising at an angle of 45 degrees from the base of

the graph will show perfect equality. For example,

if 10 percent of the population earned 10 percent

of the national income, and 20 percent earned

20 percent, and so on, there would be perfect

income equality. When a curve is traced below

the 45 degree line, the degree of curvature measures

the degree of inequality. The gini coefficient

is measured as

G ¼ Area between Lorenz curve and 45-degree line

Area above the 45-degree line

Where the frequency distribution is equal, then

G ¼ 0.

As the welfare state expanded in the postwar

period, Britain was characterized by a considerable

degree of income equality in the 1950s and

1960s. However, the gini coefficient showed that

in the mid-1980s income inequality began to increase,

and from the late 1980s it increased rapidly.

Taxation has an important role to play in

income distribution, and with the reduction in

direct personal taxation the income of the rich

has increased significantly. The number of millionaires

in Great Britain has increased dramatically

since the 1980s. Sociologists are interested in

income distribution because it provides a proxy

measure of social class, and the conflict between

wages and profits is an indication of the extent

of class struggle. Furthermore, income inequality

is closely associated with poor health. In Unhealthy

Societies (1996) Richard Wilkinson showed how improvements

in mortality rates in Great Britain

had slowed down after 1985 as income inequality


The economic theory of income distribution

assumes perfect competition between factors of

production and, in a free market, labor, land,

and capital will be fully and efficiently employed.

Sociologists have, however, been interested in

conditions that limit perfect competition such as

the growth of trade unions, wage bargaining, the

institutionalization of social conflict, and monopolies

over profit. Economic theories of perfect

competition between factors of production with

constant returns to scale and zero profits have had

difficulties explaining such phenomena as waste.

Such theories are also limited by their inability to

calculate the value of the black market (or informal

economy) and crime to economic activity, because

such activities are not or rarely subject to

taxation, and hence are not easily measured.


income equality

– see income.

independent variables

– see dependent/independent variables.


– see ethnomethodology.


There are two general perspectives on individualism.

First, it is a political doctrine associated with

liberalism that emphasizes the autonomy, importance,

and freedom of the individual in relation to

the state. Second, it is a particular type of culture

associated with private property rights, personal

consumption and individual autonomy. It is typically

assumed to be an important aspect of western

culture as a whole, having its historical roots both

in Greco-Roman antiquity and in the Christian

religion. However, individualism had its modern

origins in the theology of seventeenth-century religious

sects, and it is often held to be the dominant

ideology of capitalism. In political theory, John

Stuart Mill claimed that the individual is sovereign,

and in economic theories of entrepreneurship,

Robinson Crusoe in Daniel Defoe’s novel is

seen to be the quintessential hero of individualistic

capitalism. Individualism is also thought to

be a defining characteristic of western culture, in

contrast with the emphasis on the family and the

collectivity in eastern cultures. In Essays on Individualism

(1986), Louis Dumont contrasted the hierarchical

caste society of India, with its emphasis

on the social over the individual, with modern

western society where society is subordinated to

the individual.

Individualisme was employed in France as condemnation

of the rational individualism of the

Enlightenment and the French Revolution. For the

income individualism


eighteenth-century English philosopher Edmund

Burke (1729–97), individualism and the promotion

of individual interests would undermine the commonwealth

and create an uncivil, unstable, and

repressive society. Nineteenth-century French sociology

can also be seen as a powerful criticism of

individualism, and in the notion of the social sociologists

emphasized the importance of social solidarity

against the negative impact of egoistic forms

of individualism. E´mile Durkheim developed a sustained

intellectual attack on utilitarian individualism

as represented by Herbert Spencer. While the

analysis of individualism has played a significant

role in the development of sociological theory, the

ideological and intellectual relationship between

individualism and sociology is often ambiguous.

As a result, understanding the relationship between

“the individual” and “the social” remains a

perennial issue in sociological theory.

The development of individualism corresponds

closely with the emergence of western capitalism

from the early seventeenth century. Max Weber,

in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism

(1905 [trans. 2002]), showed how Calvinism challenged

traditional authority by claiming that the

salvation of the individual could not be guaranteed

by the institutions of the church, such as the

Sacraments. Each individual would stand alone

before God on the Day of Judgment, and would

be held responsible for his or her sins. Protestantism

created a radical version of religious individualism

that profoundly shaped western attitudes

towards political and social institutions. The emphasis

on the isolated individual and the anxieties

surrounding uncertain knowledge of salvation

was part of a “tragic vision” that in France characterized

the Jansenist sect, the philosophy of

Pascal, and the tragedies of Racine. In early

modern history, the Protestant Reformation was

a critical turning point, because it made salvation

potentially available to everybody, regardless of

his or her social standing. This theological differentiation

of the individual from society is an important

component of the historical development

of religion.

In theoretical terms, individualism is subject to

considerable confusion. It is important to establish

a clear distinction between four separate

issues. We can distinguish an emphasis on the

individual as an autonomous agent with a distinct

identity as part of the western tradition. Then

there is individualism as a social and political

ideology with various national traditions. Third,

in European thought, individuality was a romantic

view of the uniqueness of the person and is the

product of a long process of education and cultivation.

Fourth, in modern societies, there is individuation

as a process whereby people are

standardized by the bureaucratic processes of the

modern state. Finally there is in addition an epistemological

theory called methodological individualism

that argues that all sociological

explanations are reducible to the characteristics

of individuals.

The development of sociological theory has involved

various attempts to resolve this dilemma of

collective and individual concepts of social institutions.

Weber, for example, has been criticized

for an artificial and historically static construction

of the individual and society. In The Society of

Individuals (1991), Norbert Elias criticized Weber

for his inability to reconcile the analytical tensions

between the individual and society. This failure

to deal successfully with this artificial division

is a general weakness of sociological theory. Elias

offered a solution in which we analyze the two

concepts of individual and society as historical

constructs that arise from social processes. The

balance between society (We) and the individual

(I) is not fixed, and hence what he called “processual

sociology” or “figurational sociology” was

designed to explore the We–I balance in different

social configurations, such as feudalism or bourgeois


In American sociology, there has been a persistent

theme claiming that nineteenth-century individualism

was undermined by the growth of mass

society. The debate starts with Alexis de Tocqueville

who, in Democracy in America (1848 [trans.

1968]), believed that the lack of centralized, bureaucratic

government in America had encouraged

individual initiative and that voluntary associations

had flourished to solve local, community

problems. Civil society required these associations

to flourish, and as a result individualism had not

been crushed by centralized administration. However,

the emphasis on equality, while a revolutionary

doctrine, also threatened the individual with

mass opinion. Tocqueville’s fears for individual

opinion in a mass democracy influenced liberals

such as Mill towards universal suffrage in Britain.

Critical theorists in the twentieth century

continued to study the impact of mass society

on individuals. C. Wright Mills, in The Power

Elite (1956), claimed that individuals were increasingly

manipulated by public opinion in a society

where elites controlled the channels of information.

David Riesman, in The Lonely Crowd (1950),

analyzed the American personality as the otherdirected

character, because it depends on

individualism individualism


constant approval and affirmation from others.

Other-directed personalities are conformist, and

hence American culture was stagnating. In The

Organization Man (1956), W. H. Whyte described

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