From International Socialism, No.13, Summer 1963, p.36.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
Sociology at the Crossroads
This book comprises a selection of Professor Marshall’s essays written over a period of some thirty years. The first part deals with the problems of sociology as an academic discipline, the second with social class and the third with social welfare. The first and the third of these are rather inconsequential. Much of the writing in these sections is dated. A minor exception is the attempt to outline some of the major tensions between the notions of the affluent society and welfare state. It is a pity Marshall has not found time to devote more attention to the distinction made in Germany between the Social Market Economy (in which capitalism remains supreme except for minor welfare adjustments) and the Welfare State (in which welfare mechanisms supersede the market); Marshall invokes this distinction but makes relatively little of it. The essays on class and stratification are another matter, particularly those which raise the vital problem of the relationship between class and social status. In these essays Marshall convincingly demonstrates what socialists and communists alike have on the whole either ignored or denied – the inevitability of social status distinctions and the variety of the determinants of social stratification. In capitalist society it is recognized that relationship to the means of production is the primary determinant of the class structure but that social status based on prestige of social groupings has a varying degree of autonomy; and the implication is that this autonomy is not to be explained simply in terms of ruling class legitimation or false consciousness. It is a pity that the analysis was not extended to communist experience, which would have facilitated a discussion of Lenin’s notion of ‘non-antagonistic classes.’
Last updated on 31.10.2006