Full Text


Jacques Delacroix

Subject Cultural Studies
Sociology » Economic Sociology, Sociological and Social Theory

People Marx, Karl

Key-Topics capitalism

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405124331.2007.x


Capital is anything of value, such as money, put to work to produce revenue. Capitalism is the organizing principle of any society that relies on market forces and private parties, as opposed to tradition or to government action, to put wealth to work on a systematic basis (rather than incidentally or intermittently). The discipline of sociology began largely as a critical commentary on capitalism. The emergence of modern, society-wide capitalism in Western Europe in the late eighteenth century was accompanied by deep social transformations, including a dramatic rise in urban, and therefore highly visible, poverty. (The rise of capitalism is inseparable from the Industrial Revolution.) These upheavals triggered a general intellectual malaise and generated both the social and intellectual movement of socialism and the academic discipline of sociology. Perhaps because of the circumstances of its birth, sociology has always cast a pessimistic look at capitalism ( Feagin 2001 ). Accordingly, sociologists tend to ignore Adam Smith, the moral philosopher (1723–90) who first laid out the links between capitalism and prosperity. The founders of sociology, including Georg Simmel (1858–1918) and Émile Durkheim (1858–1917), generally viewed capitalism as a central object of their inquiry. Two nineteenth-century thinkers in particular exercised a lasting influence on American sociology's study ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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