Structure and agency as the products of dynamic social processes
Marx and modern social theory
in Human agents and social structures
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The chapter considers readings of Karl Marx first as a theorist of structure and then as a theorist of agency. It demonstrates that neither approach can offer a coherent understanding of the social world or a consistent exposition of Marx's own position. The chapter examines the concepts of fetishism and alienation, to show their centrality to Marx's project and their relevance to the structure-agency 'debate'. The chapter also examines three key topics from capital namely: the commodity, work and primitive accumulation. It also demonstrates that they can be understood more coherently in the original than as the products of either social structure or individual action. The chapter discusses some ways in which Marx's theoretical framework might be useful as a corrective to contemporary sociological concerns. Commodity exchange is nothing new or unique to capitalist social organisation. In feudal societies things were exchanged and, more importantly, things were produced for exchange.


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