Anthony Giddens

british sociologist (born 1938)

Anthony Giddens, Baron Giddens, MAE (born 8 January 1938) is a British sociologist who is known for his theory of structuration and his holistic view of modern societies. He is considered to be one of the most prominent modern sociologists, the author of at least 34 books, published in at least 29 languages.

Anthony Giddens (2004)



Capitalism and Modern Social Theory (1971)

  • The main dimensions of Marx’s discussion of alienation are as follows: ...
    1. The worker … has no power to determine the fate of what he produces. ...
    2. The work task does not offer intrinsic satisfactions. ...
    3. Human relations, in capitalism, tend to become reduced to operations of the market. … Money promotes the rationalization of social relationships, since it provides an abstract standard in terms of which the most heterogeneous qualities can be compared, and reduced, to one another. ...
    4. Some animals do produce, of course, but only in a mechanical, adaptive fashion. Alienated labor reduces human productive activity to the level of adaptation to, rather than active mastery of, nature.
    • pp. 12-13.
  • Political economy … founds its theory of society upon the self-seeking of the isolated individual. Political economy, in this way, “incorporates private property into the very essence of man.”
    • p. 14 (Quote is from Marx, Early Writings (1964), p. 148).
  • It is usually assumed that, in speaking, in the 1844 Manuscripts, of man’s “being reduced to the level of the animals,” and of man’s alienation from his “species-being” under the conditions of capitalist production, Marx is thinking in terms of an abstract conception of “man” as being alienated from his biological characteristics as a species. So, it is presumed, at this initial stage in the evolution of his thought, Marx believed that man is essentially a creative being whose “natural” propensities are denied by the restrictive character of capitalism. Actually, Marx holds, on the contrary, that the enormous productive power of capitalism generates possibilities for the future development of man which could not have been possible under prior forms of productive system. The organization of social relationships within which capitalist production is carried on in fact leads to the failure to realize these historically generated possibilities. The character of alienated labor does not express a tension between “man in nature” (non-alienated) and “man in society” (alienated), but between the potential generated by a specific form of society—capitalism—and the frustrated realization of that potential. What separates man from the animals is not the mere existence of biological differences between mankind and other species, but the cultural achievements of men, which are the outcome of a very long process of social development.
    • pp. 15-16.
  • The main form of crude communism is based upon emotional antipathy towards private property, and asserts that all men should be reduced to a similar level, so that everyone has an equal share of property. This is not genuine communism, Marx asserts, since it rests upon the same sort of distorted objectification of labor as is found in the theory of political economy. Crude communism of this sort becomes impelled towards a primitive asceticism, in which the community has become the capitalist instead of the individual. In crude communism, the rule of property is still dominant, but negatively: “Universal envy setting itself up as a power is only a camouflaged form of cupidity which re-establishes itself and satisfies itself in a different way.”
    • p. 16 (Quote is from Marx, Early Writings (1964), p. 154).
  • Human consciousness is conditioned in a dialectical interplay between subject and object, in which man actively shapes the world he lives in at the same time as it shapes him.
    • (describing Marx’s view), p. 21.
  • The expropriated peasantry are “turned en masse into beggars, vagabonds, partly from inclination, in most cases from stress of circumstances.” This is met with fierce legislation against vagrancy, by which means the vagabond population is subjected to “the discipline necessary for the wage system.”
    • p. 32 (Quotes are from Marx, Capital (1970), vol. 1, p. 737).
  • The concept of the “isolated individual” is a construction of the bourgeois philosophy of individualism, and serves to conceal the social character which production always manifests.
    • (describing Marx’s view), p. 35.
  • Marx rejects as “absurd” the contention made by John Stuart Mill, and many of the political economists, that while production is governed by definite laws, distribution is controlled by (malleable) human institutions. Such a view underlies the assumption that classes are merely inequalities in the distribution of income, and therefore that class conflict can be alleviated or even eliminated altogether by the introduction of measures which minimize discrepancies between incomes.
    • p. 37.
  • The main defect of idealism in philosophy and history is that it attempts to analyze the properties of societies by inference from the content of the dominant systems of ideas in those societies. But this neglects altogether the fact that there is not a unilateral relationship between values and power: the dominant class is able to disseminate ideas which are the legitimations of its position of dominance. Thus the ideas of freedom and equality which come to the fore in bourgeois society cannot be taken at their “face value,” as directly summing up social reality; on the contrary, the legal freedoms which exist in bourgeois society actually serve to legitimize the reality of contractual obligations in which propertyless wage-labor is heavily disadvantaged as compared to the owners of capital. … While ideologies obviously show continuity over time, neither this continuity. nor any changes which occur, can be explained purely in terms of their internal content. Ideas do not evolve on their own account; they do so as elements of the consciousness of men living in society.
    • (describing Marx’s view), pp. 41-42.
  • To renew the energy expended in physical labour, the worker must be provided with the requirements of his existence as a functioning organism—food, clothing, and shelter for himself and his family. The labour time socially necessary to produce the necessities of life of the worker is the value of the worker’s labour power. The latter’s value is, therefore, reducible to a specifiable quantity of commodities: those which the worker requires to be able to subsist and reproduce.
    • (describing Marx’s view), p. 49.
  • This situation [alienation] can therefore [according to Durkheim] be remedied by providing the individual with a moral awareness of the social importance of his particular role in the division of labour. He is then no longer an alienated automaton. but is a useful part of an organic whole: ‘from that time, as special and uniform as his activity may be, it is that of an intelligent being, for it has direction, and he is aware of it.’ This is entirely consistent with Durkheim’s general account of the growth of the division of labour, and its relationship to human freedom. It is only through moral acceptance in his particular role in the division of labour that the individual is able to achieve a high degree of autonomy as a self-conscious being, and can escape both the tyranny of rigid moral conformity demanded in undifferentiated societies on the one hand and the tyranny of unrealisable desires on the other.
    Not the moral integration of the individual within a differentiated division of labour but the effective dissolution of the division of labour as an organising principle of human social intercourse, is the premise of Marx’s conception. Marx nowhere specifies in detail how this future society would be organised socially, but, at any rate,. this perspective differs decisively from that of Durkheim. The vision of a highly differentiated division of labour integrated upon the basis of moral norms of individual obligation and corporate solidarity. is quite at variance with Marx’s anticipation of the future form of society.
    According to Durkheim’s standpoint. the criteria underlying Marx’s hopes for the elimination of technological alienation represent a reversion to moral principles which are no longer appropriate to the modern form of society. This is exactly the problem which Durkheim poses at the opening of The Division of Labour: ‘Is it our duty to seek to become a thorough and complete human being. one quite sufficient unto himself; or, on the contrary, to be only a part of a whole, the organ of an organism?’ The analysis contained in the work, in Durkheim’s view, demonstrates conclusively that organic solidarity is the ‘normal’ type in modern societies, and consequently that the era of the ‘universal man’ is finished. The latter ideal, which predominated up to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in western Europe is incompatible with the diversity of the contemporary order. In preserving this ideal. by contrast. Marx argues the obverse: that the tendencies which are leading to the destruction of capitalism are themselves capable of effecting a recovery of the ‘universal’ properties of man. which are shared by every individual.
    • pp. 230-231.

Ten Years of New Labour edited by Matt Beech and Simon Lee (2008)

  • Every left of centre party that gets into power is doomed to disappoint – more so, probably, than governments of the right, since the left aspires more definitively to reshape society. It is a phenomenon found around the world in democratic countries. Once into the grind of day to day government, the left’s erstwhile supporters will be quick to say that the party lacks direction, or it has betrayed its values, or that its policies are not radical enough, or all three together. The 1945 Attlee government is fondly remembered by many activists as the most radical and accomplished of all Labour regimes. Yet at the time it was vociferously denounced for its timidity and its lack of purpose.
    • pp. xi.
  • I argued more recently for a hypothecated wealth tax on very high earners to support the campaign against child poverty. Why shouldn’t the super-rich be obliged to help the super-poor?
    • pp. xvi.
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