I don’t know how to handle this Sociology question and need guidance.

Answer Questions from two books one being “Gerth and Mills From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology” and “The Marx-Engels Reader” Second Edition Edited by Robert C. Tucker.

Here are the Questions:

Gerth and Mills From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology

Set 1 Questions:

(1) Weber asks “What do we understand by politics?” (p. 77).

Question: How do you think he answers that: what do you think he means by “politics”?

(2) He then asks “What is a ‘state’?” (pp. 77-79).

Question: (a) How do you think he answers that: what do you think he means by “the state” (pp. 77-78)?

(b) And why does Weber necessarily link what he means by “politics” to what he means by “the state” (pp. 78-79)?

(3) According to Weber, what is the relationship between the state and the use of violence (p.78)?

And what specific kind of violence—and use of violence—is he referring to?

(4) He later asks “When and why to men [in a particular society] obey [their state]?” (p. 77). Question: How do you think he answers that: how do rulers and/or how does the state itself “manage to maintain their domination?” (p.80).

(5) According to Weber, “Neither the worker nor—and this has to be noted well—the entrepreneur, especially the modern, large-scale entrepreneur, is economically dispensable. …In the main, it is very difficult for the entrepreneur to be represented in his enterprise by someone else, even temporarily” (p. 85).

Question: What do you think this says about (a) how Weber understands the various social groups who play a role in politics and (b) the relative importance of each social group?

Set 2 Questions:

Raising the question about what is the relationship between ethics and politics (pp. 117-119)—and keeping in mind what we’ve already discussed in class about Durkheim’s social theories on the place of moral values in society—, Weber finally asks “Should it really matter so little for the ethical demands on politics that politics operates with very special means, namely, power backed up by violence?” (p. 119, emphasis in the original).

On the one hand, he then says: “If one makes any concession at all to the principle that the end justifies the means, it is not possible to bring an ethic of ultimate ends and an ethic of responsibility under one roof or to decree ethically which ends justifies which means” (p.122, my emphasis).

On the other hand, he had already said that “No ethics in the world can dodge the fact that in numerous instances the attainment of ‘good’ ends is bound to the fact that one must be willing to pay the price of using morally dubious means or at least dangerous ones—and facing the possibility or even the probability of evil ramifications” (p. 121).

Question: Are these two conclusions compatible or is he contradicting himself? I.e., is Weber saying that holding political leadership in the state inevitably involves behaving unethically because it leads to practicing evil [violent] ends to achieve purportedly good [socially peaceful] ends? Or is he saying that holding political leadership in the state only involves having to face the “possibility or even the probability of [bringing about] evil”—and therefore unethical—consequences?

Set 3 Questions:

(1) Weber establishes a sharp distinction between, on the one hand, what he calls “the rational interpretation of law on the basis of strictly formal conceptions” versus, on the other hand, what he sees as law systems based on tradition and revelation (“charismatic justice”), those based on ethical-moral values (“Kadi-justice”), and judgements based on analogies and precedents (“empirical justice,” also known as common law) (pp. 216-219, my emphasis). He then adds that, “In the field of executive administration, …the specifically modern and strictly ‘objective’ [rational, efficient, not personal, nor arbitrary] idea of ‘reasons of state’ …upheld as the supreme and ultimate guiding star [e.g., compass, GPS] of the official’s behavior” (p.220).

Question: Can you give examples of how would Weber’s argument about “reasons of state” “as the supreme and ultimate guiding star of “executive administration” operate in the case of the U.S. today?

(2) According to Weber, “The position of all ‘democratic’ currents …is necessarily ambiguous” (ibid., p.220).

On the one hand, demands for “‘[formal] equality before the law’” and for “legal guarantees against arbitrariness” automatically means a demand for more “formal and rational ‘objectivity’ of administration [i.e., the efficient, bureaucratic rule of experts]” (ibid., p.220).

On the other hand, the demands from the laboring poor (“the propertyless masses”) for “substantive [moral] justice” (ibid., p. 220, emphasis in the original) “to compensate for their [underprivileged, terrible] economic and social life-opportunities in the face of” the rich and the middle classes (“the propertied classes”) “must emotionally reject what reason demands” (ibid., p.221). Such “‘popular justice’ …usually does not ask for reasons and norms”: “under the conditions of mass democracy, public opinion is communal conduct born of irrational ‘sentiments’” which goes against “the rational course of justice and administration” (ibid., p.221).

Question: In light of the previous question (#1), does what Weber is saying here seem to suggest that, according to him, the only rational forms of justice and the only forms of justifiable reason are the “reasons of state”?

(3) Weber says that “Bureaucratic organization has usually come to power on the basis of a leveling of economic and social differences” but “This leveling has been at least relative.” On the one hand, “Bureaucracy inevitably accompanies modern mass democracy” (ibid., p.224, emphasis in the original). On the other hand, “democracy inevitably comes into conflict with bureaucratic tendencies” (ibid., p.226).

Question: How does Weber solve this apparent contradiction in his argument?

The Marx-Engels Reader Second Edition Edited by Robert C. Tucker

Set 4 Questions:

(1) In one of the selections from Marx you had for today (an excerpt from 1847’s The Poverty of Philosophy), Marx makes the observation that, as a product of capitalist industrialization, “Economic conditions transformed the mass of the people of the country into workers” (Tucker, ed., The Marx-Engels Reader, p.218).


(a) Is he referring here to different forms of [mainly wage] workers (factory-based, agricultural laborers, domestic servants) or is he only talking about factory workers?

(b) Is this a fair question: i.e., is there sufficient information in this extract from Marx to even be able to answer this question?

(2) What do you think Marx means here by the working class “already [existing and functioning] as a class against capital [what elsewhere he calls a class ‘in itself’] but not yet [as a class] for itself”? In other words, what exactly is this difference he makes between a class “in itself” versus “a class for itself” (ibid., p.218)?

(3) According to the already mentioned 1847 passage, Marx argues that “The combination of capital has created for this mass a common situation, common interests [among these laboring masses]” (ibid., p.218, my emphasis).

Question: How does this description by Marx compare with Weber’s argument that “In the same way, the direction of [class] interests may vary according to whether or not a communal action of a larger or smaller portion of those commonly affected by the ‘class situation’ or even an association among them, e.g., a ‘trade union,’ has grown out of the class situation from which the individual may or may not expect promising results. Communal action refers to the action which is oriented to the feeling of the actors that they belong together” (From Max Weber, p.183, emphasis in the original) and “The communal action that brings forth class situations, however, is not basically action between members of the identical class; it is action between members of different classes” (ibid., p.185)?

(4) In the excerpt from 1847’s The Poverty of Philosophy (in ibid., pp. 218-219), Marx argues that in order for the “emancipation of the oppressed class” to result in “the creation of a new society” “it is necessary that [(a)] the productive powers [i.e., the labor, tools, raw materials, etc.] already acquired [by the capitalists] and [(b)] the existing social relations [between, on the one hand, the social class that owns and profits from these ‘productive powers’ versus, on the other hand, the social class that has to work for these owners-profiteers] should [(c)] no longer be capable of existing side by side” (p. 218). He also says that all of this can only happen when the old society—which still exists and predominates—reaches a stage of full technological and economic development (“supposes the existence of all productive forces which could be engendered in the bosom of the old society”) (Tucker, ed., The Marx-Engels Reader p.218).

He then asks “Does this mean that after the fall of the old society there will be a new class domination culminating in a new political power?” and he answers “No. The condition of the emancipation of the working class is the abolition of every class” (ibid., p.218).

On the other hand and in his 1852 letter to Weydemeyer (in ibid., p.220, emphasis in the original), Marx continues to emphasize how these processes are linked to “particular historical phases in the development of production” (ibid.). However, in this same letter Marx argues that “the class struggle necessarily leads to the dictatorship [i.e., class rule and state power] of the proletariat,” even though “this dictatorship itself only constitutes the transition to the abolition of all classes and to a classless society” (ibid., p.220, emphasis in the original).


(a) In what ways is the definition of working-class rule and state power he describes here similar and/or different from how Weber defines all forms of the modern state (From Max Weber, pp. 78-790)?

(b) So and according to Marx, does “the creation of a new society” “mean that …a new class domination culminating in a new political power”? Or does his claim that all this “necessarily lead[s] to the dictatorship of the proletariat” mean something else entirely? In other words, is Marx (i) contradicting himself, (ii) changing his mind, or, rather, (iii) still maintaining a basic consistency in his overall argument?

(5) Likewise in the excerpt from 1847’s The Poverty of Philosophy (in The Marx-Engels Reader, pp. 218-219), Marx clarifies that “the struggle of class against class is a political struggle” (ibid., p.218), i.e., a struggle for control over which social class is going to rule society and hold state power. He also argues here that the “social movement[s of the working class]” at that time—e.g., trade unions, labor associations —are necessarily and simultaneously “political movement[s]”—i.e., movements that confront the existing/ dominant class rule and state power—: “There is never a political movement which is not at the same time social” (ibid., p.219).

Question: What do you think Marx means when he says that this struggle within “a society founded on the opposition of classes …culminate[s] in a brutal ‘contradiction’” which only leaves two options, namely “‘combat or death: bloody struggle or extinction’” (ibid., p.219)?

Set 5 Questions:

(1) According to Marx, what are three ways in which the simple commodity exchange (C-M-C) is similar to the—potentially capitalist—more complex, “transformation of money into commodities” (M-C-M)? What are four ways in which these two forms or circuits of exchange different? (pp. 329-332)

(2) Marx argues that “the circuit M-C-M would be absurd and without meaning if the intention were to exchange by this means two equal sums of money” (p.330). Later on he adds, “The change of value that occurs in the case of money intended to be converted to capital [namely, the circuit M-C-M] cannot take place in the money itself” (p.336). Question: (a) Why would an exchange that amounts to “two equal sums of money” necessarily be absurd? (b) Why exactly is it that the circuit M-C-M “cannot take place in the money itself”?

(3) How does Marx define surplus value? (p.332)

(4) According to Marx, why is labor power the only source—and basis–of surplus value? (p.336)

(5) Marx describes the formal-superficial aspects of the selling and buying of labor power (namely, M-C-M´, where M´ > M) as a situation where the owner of labor power and “the owner of money meet in the market, and deal with each other as on the basis of equal rights, with this difference alone, that one is the buyer and the other is the seller; both, therefore, equal in the eyes of the law” (p.337). Later on, he says that “The capitalist maintains his rights as a purchaser when he tries to make the working-day as long as possible,” whereas “the labourer maintains his right as seller when he wishes to reduce the working day” (p.364). However, he immediately adds: “There is here, therefore, an antinomy [contradiction, a mutual incompatibility], right against right, both equally bearing the seal of the law of exchanges. Between equal rights force decides” (p.364). Question: (a) Is Marx talking about the same issue of rights in both cases: is the essence of the second case—a mutual incompatibility that can only be decided by force—necessarily identical the first, namely the selling and buying of labor power (M-C-M´)?

(6) Bear in mind what Marx has already indicated in a selection from last week about the socially-necessary labor time involved in establishing the value of different commodities (pp. 305-306). Question: In the selection assigned for today, what does Marx say determines the value of the specific commodity he calls labor power? (pp. 339-340)

Set 6 Questions:

(1) Marx argues that the “accelerated increase in total capital”—accompanied by a rapid decline in the equivalent amount of capital that goes to pay for labor power (“This accelerated diminution of the variable constituent [of capital]”)—, at first glance, would seem to (“apparently”) correspond to an “absolute increase of the labouring population” (p.422, my emphasis). However, Marx immediately points out that this superficial appearance is misleading insofar as what actually happens is an increase in the “relative surplus population” (“a relatively redundant population of labourers”) (p 422, my emphasis), more commonly referred to as a “disposable industrial reserve army”(p.423).

Question: What does Marx mean when he distinguishes between an “absolute increase of the labouring population” versus an increase in the “relative surplus population” (industrial reserve army)?

(2) Marx indicates that “every special historic mode of production [i.e., specific way of economically organizing societies and world economies during a long-term historical period] has its own special laws of population” (p.422).

Question: What is the capitalist law of population (“law of population peculiar to the capitalist mode of production”)? (p.422)

(3) According to Marx, “this [relative] surplus population” (“disposable industrial reserve army”) is fundamental for the creation of surplus value to take place under capitalist conditions (he calls it “the lever of capitalistic accumulation”) without which capitalism would be impossible (“a condition of existence of the capitalist mode of production”) (p.423).

Question: What does this mean: why exactly is “this [relative] surplus population” so important to the operations and existence of capitalism and why is capitalism impossible without this industrial reserve army?

(4) Marx argues that the creation of this relative surplus population (the industrial reserve army of labor) occurs more rapidly than both (a) the technological transformations brought about byindustrialization and than (b) the decrease in variable capital, as compared to constant capital (p.425).

Question: Why does this necessarily mean that, for Marx, “as the productiveness [or productivity] of labor increases, capital increases its supply of labor more quickly than its demand for labourers” (p.425, my emphasis)?

(5) According to Marx, the overwork performed by the employed sectors of the working class increases the number of unemployed workers. On the other hand, competition and pressure [for jobs] from unemployed workers forces employed workers to perform more overwork (p.425). Question: Why would both these two sides of the same coin necessarily “become a means of enriching the individual capitalist”? (p.426)


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