A Middlesex University resource

Lecture links for Andrew Roberts

A history of Social Science
from ancient Greece to the 21st century

Reason in Plato and Aristotle and how it relates to gender
Hobbes and State of Nature Theory
Filmer and Locke
Rousseau and the French Revolution
Adam Smith
Jeremy Bentham and Utilitarianism
Robert Owen
Theory in the 1830s and 1840s
Utilitarianism, Owenism, Thompson and Wheeler and feminism
Poor Law and Social Policy
Lord Ashley and Mill and Taylor in 1848
Marx and Engels in 1848
Engels "Origin"
Durkheim and Weber

Introduction to Social Science History

My name is Andrew Roberts and I give the lectures on Social Science History. Most of you who take it will not start with much knowledge about history or the people we are talking about - Weblinks from the online lecture notes will let you find out what you need to know, when you need it.

These are the online lecture notes. The lectures use a lot of pictures. You need to take the images stimulated in your mind by these, and use them to help you read.

The web lecture notes began as just the notes used in lectures, and some of them are still just headings. I have, however, been adding pictures, writing the notes out and building in links to the web versions of the texts referred to.


The central issue of the first module in this course is the development of a "scientific" approach to themes previously the concern of theology and philosophy. We look at how "science" develops from "theology" and "philosophy".

You should ask yourself the questions:

  1. What is science? and
  2. What is philosophy?
I am not going to answer these questions, because academics do not agree about the answers. You have to think about the issues for yourself. What I will do is to suggest possible answers.

I will start by suggesting that science requires at least two elements: ideas and observations.

Often, when people talk about science, they talk mainly about the observations side. We, however, will look at the ideas side of science.
You will not find statistics or other social data in these lectures - We are looking at the thinking that comes before the statistics.

Read about imagination We tend to think of science as careful observation. Like the fellow looking carefully at the carrot, which is reflected as an idea in his mind.

But ideas and imagination also organise what we see. Like the lady who (being a psychologist) first thought of a donkey motivated by a carrot, then thought of the carrot as a sexual symbol, then thought of a fellow who grew carrots, and then thought of getting a knife to cut up the carrot into a stew


Throughout the course we will be discussing four ideas that are closely related. Click on each of these words for its explanation, and then use the "Back" button to return to this page.





I am not really here What has pink elephant to say about this?

Reason is something which lets you get results from your mind, without consulting books or asking a lecturer.

Theory, reason and an argument all allow you to anticipate the direction they are going in.

For example. High on a Scottish mountain you meet someone who needs to travel to Room B2 on Enfield Campus at Middlesex University. It is your campus and your university - but you have never seen B2. You have seen B4. Do you say "I cannot help you", or does your mind anticipate where B2 is? The way you anticipate involves using a theory of numbers. You think B2 is likely to be near B4, but why?

August Comte (1797-1857) divided the history of ideas into three stages:

  1. theological,
  2. philosophical (critical)
  3. scientific (positive)
Comte argued that thinking scientifically is superior to thinking like a philosopher or a theologian. Do you agree with this? Without, necessarily agreeing that one way is superior to another, we can relate Comte's three stages to the people we talk about in the first of these lectures:


Hobbes and Locke


Adam Smith

Utilitarian Theory,






We can begin the story of modern social theory with the "state of nature" theories of Hobbes and Locke and the theological theories of Filmer.

You all know what a state of nature is: It is walking about in the woods with no clothes on!

Read the Adam and Eve story in the 1611 Bible click on the serpent to read his story

The Adam and Eve picture illustrates theological and state of nature theories which you can read about in chapter two of Social Science History. The same page has these two descriptions:

"state of nature theorists"... work out what society and politics are about by imagining ..human beings..stripped of ..social characteristics .. They ..try to show how the needs of those individuals explain their need for society and politics...

Theological theories say that there is a body of divine law from which you deduce natural law.

I have suggested that ideas are as important as observations for science. Ideas shape what we see. We inherit theories from our culture (our social science history) that give us different ways of thinking about and investigating society. These lectures introduce you to theories like this. The first is one that is called a State of Nature theory:

THOMAS HOBBES (1588-1679)

Hobbes wrote: Leviathan.

Leviathan is a monster described in Job, one of the oldest (?) books of the Jewish Bible. There are two monsters described in this passage of Job: Leviathan and Behemoth. This is a picture of them drawn by the artist-poet William Blake Views differ about what they are, but Leviathan sounds to me like a crocodile, and Behemoth like a hippopotamus. Hobbes named another of his books Behemoth

By clicking on the links above you can read the descriptions from Job. Particularly notice these parts from Leviathan

His scales are his pride,
shut up together as with a close seal.

One is so near to another, that no air can come between them.

The arrow cannot make him flee:
slingstones are turned with him into stubble.

Darts are counted as stubble:
he laugheth at the shaking of a spear.

"Upon earth there is not his like,
who is made without fear.

He beholdeth all high things:
he is a king over all the children of pride."

Hobbes' book has the full title Leviathan Or The Matter, Form and Power of a Commonwealth Ecclesiastical and Civil

We can take the word "Commonwealth" as meaning " Society". The book, therefore, is about the matter, form and power of society. It was published in 1651, just after the English Civil War.

Although we have classified Hobbes as a philosopher, he thought of himself as a scientist. Hobbes wanted to make a scientific model of politics like Galileo's model of the Universe.

Galileo: was an Italian astronomer (1564-1642) who treated the planets as if they were like earthly bodies. He thought about their movement as being governed by the same laws that govern the physical objects we can handle.

Galileo's theories started from simple axioms, or basic statements, about the laws governing matter. One of these laws is what we know call the law of inertia, that a body continues its motion in a straight line until something intervenes to stop it.

Hobbes wanted a scientific model of the political universe. He argued that science should use theories based on "right reason". Thes would be modelled on the mathematical disciple called geometry. (If you click on the coloured word it will take you to the Study Guide page about geometry).

Hobbes says that if we give correct definitions to things we can argue from those definitions to universal conclusions. Correct definitions are like axioms. Hobbes calls them definitions because he is an empiricist.

  • What Hobbes tries to define correctly is human psychology
  • He argues from his psychology to universal conclusions about political behaviour

    Hobbes is an Empiricist: He believes that all our ideas come from observations:

    Observations set up trains (chains) of thought:

    Some just meander:

    Some have an end:

    In a state of nature other people are either:

    • an end or a means to an end:
    • People about whom one fantasizes their utilisation for obtaining desires.
    • an obstacle stopping us getting our end
    • People about whom one fantasizes their death.
    Because we have this kind of psychology we are absolutely dependent on sovereign power to secure civilisation

    Hobbes: The Big Picture

    At the front of Leviathan there is a picture in which the ideas of the book are summed up. Before, you read further, click on the coloured words above to look at some of the main features of the picture. Scroll down to the two columns of small pictures at the bottom. What are the pictures off? What do you think they symbolise?

    Here are some suggestions:

    • The sovereign's great body is made of the multitude of individuals. Because of this making of one from many, civilisation [represented by the town and cultivated country] is possible. It is the sovereign's power that makes civilisation possible. If the sovereign power is not absolute, we will all destroy one another.

    • The king controls the army and religion:
      • The pictures on one side represent physical power
      • The pictures on the other side represent the power of ideas
      People can think what they like (nobody can stop them), but they cannot read or speak anything that the sovereign does not permit because that would endanger the peace.

    Hobbes timeline and resources


    We are looking at how "science" develops from "theology" and "philosophy".

    Science involves both ideas and observations: We are looking at the ideas side of science. Ideas come in patterns that we call theories.

    The two types of theories we are looking at are: "State of Nature" and "Theological"

    The three theorists we are looking at are: Sir Robert Filmer, Thomas Hobbes and John Locke, all of whom lived in the 17th century, at about the time of the English Civil War.

    Today I am going to look at the way that their different theories explain power

    Power is a general concept. If you have a theory of power that explains politics, the same theory should be able to explain the power between men and women, or the power of parents over children.

    I will start with Hobbes, because he can be summarised by the picture at the front of his book. Go back and look at Hobbes: The Big Picture.

  • History as research method: The Survivors History Group

    Saint Simon

    Marx and Engels

    Auguste Comte


    Emile Durkheim
    Durkheim's sociology
    Division of labour, social cohesion and conflict
    Suicide and social solidarity

    A Durkheim Question

    George Herbert Mead

    Simone De Beauvoir

    Thinking sociologically the Bauman and May way
    Oneself with others

    Michel Foucault


    Judith Butler

    Social structures and social identities
    Socialisation - identity - and interaction
    Sex - Gender - Sexuality

    Inequality - Poverty - Wealth
    Work, Employment and Leisure
    Stratification, Class, Status

to Andrew Roberts' web site - home page for society and

    I want to take a picture from each side of the Hobbes Big Picture to explain the history of the times Hobbes, Locke and Filmer were writing. Clicking on the red dates will take you to the timeline and resources.
    I will use the crown for the King's power The bench can symbolise Parliament's power
    X 1642 English civil war between Charles 1st and parliament over the power of each
    1649 King executed. Parliamentary forces were led by Cromwell, who later established his own dictatorship
    1651 Hobbes' Leviathan. This supported the need for absolute power. But Cromwell's absolute power would be as good as a King's
    1660 Restoration of English monarchy (Charles 2nd)
    1680 Patriarcha by Sir Robert Filmer (died 1653) published. This supported absolute divine right of kings. So would not support Cromwell, or Parliament choosing a king.

    Locke's Two Treatises written in reply. They supported limitations on the power of Kings and the rule of laws established by parliament.

    1688 Bloodless Revolution: William and Mary (protestants) were invited to become king and queen by the English parliament. James 2nd fled to France. 1689/90 Locke's Two Treatises of Government published.

    SIR ROBERT FILMER who died 1653:

    Patriarcha published 1680
    pater = father
    archa = rule
    subtitle of the book:
    The natural power of kings

    The crux of Filmer's argument is that nature and the Bible show us that state of nature theories of political authority are nothing but figments of the imagination.

    The Bible is not now accepted as the authority that it was in Filmer's day, The argument that authority is "natural" rather than created by the will of the ruled has not dated.

    According to Filmer: all government is absolute. There is no natural freedom. No one is born free. Filmer argues that all authority is absolute (unlimited)

    if you click on King Adam you can read what
Rousseau thought of Filmer's arguments If you click on King Adam you can read what Rousseau thought of Filmer's arguments
    Filmer's Bible argument is that God made Adam general lord of all things - and this father-power model is intended for all time.
    "God gave to Adam not only the dominion over the woman and the children that should issue from them, but also over the whole earth to subdue it...so that as long as Adam lived, no man could claim or enjoy anything but by donation, assignation, or permission from him..."

    "All kings either are, or are to be reputed, the next heirs"


    His Biblical basis for all authority being based on the family is the 5th commandment:

    "Honour thy father and thy mother".


    The following points are to help to distinguish Filmer's argument from Hobbes and both of them from Locke.

    Filmer says a father's power is

    "like that of absolute monarchs - absolute power of life and death"

    That is what Filmer means by absolute, unlimited power: Absolutists say a sovereign's power is and should be unlimited.

    Filmer and Hobbes are both absolutists.

    But Filmer uses natural law whilst Hobbes uses state of nature theory.

    Locke is not an absolutist. He wants to limit power.

    Locke uses state of nature theory to argue against absolutism, for constitutional monarchy. He wants to show:

    a) that civilisation has some independence from the sovereign

    b) that rights exist independent of the sovereign




    Declaration of the Rights of Man     France - August 1789

    Thomas Hobbes     England 1651

    taken from Hobbes' big
    reason accepts force




    reason governs force

    taken from Hobbes' big

    Hobbes' idea of reason

    Locke's idea of reason


    forced contract


    Difference between reason in Locke and Rousseau



    The Declaration of the Rights of Man will focus your thoughts on the relation of theory, philosophy and science to the revolution.

    It was made by the French National Assembly (Parliament) in August 1789.

    It is a set of general philosophical principles that were supposed to be universal: Addressed to man man in general. Logically, applies to everyone who is a "man".

    It tried to make politics rational and scientific:

    It tried to make reason the governing principle, and to control force by reason.
    The introduction says:

    "ignorance ... neglect ... and contempt for the rights of man are the sole causes of public misfortune and the corruption of governments"
    If politics is "founded on simple and irrefutable principles" it will lead towards the "happiness of everyone".

    It tried to make a general science of government:

    The Declaration: set out the "natural" rights of man, so that acts of governments could be compared with the purpose of every political institution. Note "the purpose of every political institution" (not just those of France).

    REASON AND FORCE: HOBBES ON ABSOLUTISM. The big political issue of the Revolution of 1789 was constitutional government versus absolutism . Absolutism is the political philosophy supported by Hobbes. Constitutional government is supported by Locke and Rousseau.

    With Hobbes the important points are that

    go to big picture
    Hobbes presents us with a simple option: accept the power of the sovereign or collapse into a:

    state of war

    Locke has a more complex idea of the relation between society and the state of nature - His model is of a constitutional rather than an absolute monarchy


    France, in Hobbes' time, was the model for absolutism. Britain, after 1688, was the model for constitutional government.


    Is not a Hobbesian war of all against all, but

    taken from Hobbes' big
    An egalitarian state governed by the law of nature.
    taken from Hobbes' big
picture Unfortunately, the state of nature topples easily into:


    which is why people in a state of nature
    chose to enter a state of society:
    The people in the state of nature voluntarily form a state of society and constitute a government.

    The important points here are:

    The monarch's actions are governed by laws,

    The laws embody the general principles by which the nation chooses to govern itself

    The laws are rooted in natural reason, so reason governs force

    taken from Hobbes' big
    Law taken from Hobbes' big


    taken from Hobbes' big


    Hobbes and Locke both used State of Nature Theory. That is they imagined human beings in a state of nature and their theory showed how the human beings became civilised. The movement from the state of nature to civilisation is based on some kind of agreement. This was called a "contract". So we get "social contract" for the agreement that forms society. The idea of "contract" is linked to that of "exchange". A great deal of social theory is based on the idea that society can be explained as a series of exchanges between people.

    Let us think about the kind of contract that can exist between people. Imagine a gangster pointing a gun at someone and saying "your money or your life". Is that a contract? It sounds like one: "Give me your money and in exchange I will not pull the trigger of this gun, and you will stay alive" Hobbes argue that contracts are valid whether they are based on fear or agreement. If we look at Hobbes: The Big Picture, we can see why: Hobbes believes that civilisation is only possible if the sovereign has absolute power. The people, therefore, will want someone to be in absolute control. They will not argue about the way that the sovereign gains absolute control, as long as he does.

    HOBBES' IDEA OF REASON: We will look at how this fits in with Hobbes' idea of reason. Hobbes believes that natural reason is individual reason. Something you use to obtain your individual ends.  Reason starts with impressions  Trains of these are memories  Some trains have ends  Reason is linking the items of the chain in the right order. In a state of nature:  We can see that following our ends creates "war of all against all" (an end we do not want)  We can also see that if someone makes us follow rules of behaviour we can have civilisation (an end we do want)

    Reason does not have the strength to establish civilised relations between people. That requires a sovereign. According to Hobbes we need a sovereign even to talk to one another: The sovereign has to lay down the law about what words we use to indicate different things.

    LOCKE'S IDEA OF REASON: Locke believes that we are naturally governed by a law that enables us to behave in a civilised way towards one another. That law is reason. Locke argues that reason is the law of nature that teaches us not to harm one another. "reason ... teaches all mankind, who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another"

    Locke agrees with Hobbes that reason starts with the individual's sensations. But reason soon becomes inter-active: It does not just take place in the individual's head, but takes place between people.

    Reason teaches us that we are all "equal and independent". How do observations do that? Look at your neighbour. Does he or she look equal to you? Look at the chairs. We could say that they are all equal in a way that we cannot say people are. I think Locke means that we learn, through inter-acting with one another, that human beings are the different from chairs in our inner nature. If you kick a chair you do not expect the chair to feel pain. If you kick another human being you do.

    But we cannot see one another's inner nature. We learn about it by interacting with one another. We learn, as children, to imagine the other person as like ourselves on the inside. We learn to think about the other person as someone like us, but independent, and looking at us in the same way as we are looking at them. Locke says that this "equality" in our "nature" becomes "so evident" that it becomes "the foundation of an obligation to mutual love on which all our interpersonal duties are built".


    Hobbes argued that when people were conquered in war the conqueror has the right to kill them. However, there could be a bargain which said: "be my slaves and I will let you live". [See Leviathan chapter 20: Margin: Despotical Dominion how attained].
    A forced contract: "Be my slave or I will blow your brains out"

    Rousseau argued that real human society requires consent and has to be based on reason.

    "Since no man has a natural authority over his fellow, and force creates no right, we must conclude that conventions form the basis of all legitimate authority among men"

    Force is not a human to human relation:

    It is the kind of relation you have with a chair

    not the kind of relation you ought to have with another human being.

    This means that slavery is unnatural - it goes against the natural basis of human society.

    Sociologist Frank Pearce uses this argument to explain why there was so much violence in the relations of slave owners and slaves in the West Indies.

    Rousseau used this argument to attack absolutism in France. It can also be applied to  slavery in the French West Indies.  relations between men and women.  relations between adults and children.

    To show that real human relations are based on consent, not force, Rousseau distinguishes two different types of will:

    Particular will

    General will

    Each type of will is also a type of reason .

    Particular will is private, individual desire. It is like Hobbes' private reason. It is the pursuit of an end where the other person only exists as a means to the end, or an obstacle.

    Rousseau argues that this is not a fully human form of will. It does not distinguish humans from animals. It does not show how we moved from our animal state of nature into our human social nature.

    General will:

    For Rousseau, the general will is the foundation of real human reason. General will is your will as a social being. It is the will you have to do things that are for the general good.
    It is the kind of reason that Locke talks about when he says:

    "reason ... teaches all mankind, who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another"

    Difference between reason in Locke and Rousseau

    Locke says that human reason exists in a state of nature.

    We learn it naturally by interacting with one another.

    It allows civilised relations to exist between people before they create political society.

    The difference between a state of nature and civilisation is not as great in Locke's theory as it is in Hobbes'. This is a point on which Rousseau disagrees with Locke.

    Rousseau thinks human reason only comes into being with society. He sees human beings as totally transformed by the passage from nature to society:

    "The passage from the state of nature to the civil state produces a very remarkable change in man, by substituting justice for instinct in his conduct, and giving his actions the morality they had formerly lacked."

    The general will makes us human. Our particular, individual, wills may want to pursue selfish ends with no regard for the other person's interests. But there is a nobler voice within us, a will that wants to do what is best for everyone. Within us there is a conflict between these two wills.

    THE CORRUPTION OF REASON AND REVOLUTION: Rousseau argued that Society had been corrupted. Rulers had corrupted general reason by bending it to their own individual interests. They claimed to be acting in the general interest, but were really acting in their own selfish interests. Society could be made healthy again if it was based on the general will of the people.

    ONE OF THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN LOCKE AND ROUSSEAU:  Locke's ideas placed an emphasis on mechanisms for tolerating and coping with diversity.  Rousseau's General will is one and undivided.

    ROUSSEAU ON MEN, WOMEN AND REASON: Idea of nature in Rousseau. Women are closer to nature (caught up in their biology). Because of their attachment to the family they are both the source of patriotic inspiration and unable to make the generalisations necessary for (good) political reason.

    See Social Science History chapter 5 and the extracts from Adam Smith and the timeline and resources

    Adam Smith (born 1723, died 1790).
    For some time, Professor of Moral Philosophy at Glasgow University.

    1759 Theory of Moral Sentiments.
    The Wealth of Nations

    Francis Hutcheson (1694-1746), whose ideas influenced Adam Smith, said there is a natural order which is superior to anything humans can devise.

    The Invisible Hand:

    Smith wrote that every individual necessarily labours to render the annual revenue of the society as great as he can.

    "He...neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it. He intends only his own gain. He is...led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention...By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good." (Smith, 1776, Book 4, Ch.2. Click for fuller extract)

    Theory of Moral Sentiments, argues that human conduct results from six sentiments, balanced in pairs. This balance makes a natural harmony, so that people left to follow their sentiments naturally promote the common good.

    self love is balanced by sympathy
    desire for freedom is balanced by a sense of propriety
    the habit of labour is balanced by a propensity to exchange

    Although there are six sentiments that Smith thought control human nature and lead to a natural harmony, for the purposes of economics he thought self love is the one that leads to harmony.

    Rousseau thought the nation's good depends on citizens being concerned for the general interest. When selfish "particular" interests override the general interest society is corrupted.

    As far as economics is concerned, Adam Smith disagreed. Economically we are egoists. We like to make profits. But all this self love does not lead to disharmony. The selfish decisions together behave as if someone is controlling the system in the general interest. He calls this the invisible hand. ( Click for extracts on the Invisible Hand)

    Wealth of Nations

    You can think of a nation's wealth in two different ways:

    1. the wealth of the government
    2. the wealth of the whole people.
    Nowadays, (2) would be referred to as the National Income or National Product, according to the way you chose to calculate it.

    Adam Smith criticised a school of economic thought called mercantilism. Mercantilists thought national wealth the result of a country exporting more than it imports - so that money flowed in instead of out. The mercantilists recommended high tariffs to deter imported goods. The tariffs also contributed to the income of the government. Adam Smith argued that high tariffs also deterred trade. Free trade, he argued, would lead to the largest national product. The large national product would mean the government would be able to get more income from less taxes.

    Laissez faire. Adam Smith was influenced by a French school of economics called the Physiocrats. They thought that everything good comes from nature. They believed in a natural order, directed by natural laws, superior to anything made by human beings. The state, therefore, should not try to control the economy. It should interfere as little as possible with the natural order. This is what is meant by "laissez faire" (leave alone).

    Economic Policy. The mercantilists wanted taxes to deter imports and bounties to encourage exports. Adam Smith and the physiocrats urged their governments to leave the economy alone. Britain was just entering the industrial revolution when Smith wrote and his policy of free trade and a neutral state was seized upon by political leaders like Pitt. Smith's arguments, therefore, helped the development of industrial capitalism in Britain. According to Smith, government has only three duties although these are "of great importance":
    1. defence
    2. justice
    3. those public works that are necessary but not sufficiently profitable to be left to private enterprise.
      (See Smith, 1776, Book 4, Ch.9. Click for extracts)

    The National Product
    "The annual labour of every nation is the fund which originally supplies it with all the necessaries and conveniences of life which it annually consumes". ( Click for fuller extract)
    The average wealth of individuals is the National Product divided by the number of individuals. This proportion is regulated by two different circumstances:
    1. the skill, dexterity, and judgment with which its labour is generally applied
    2. the proportion between the number of those who are employed in useful labour, and that of those who are not so employed.
    According to Smith, (1) appears to be more important than (2).
    " Among savage nations of hunters and fishers, every individual who is able to work, is more or less employed■. Such nations, however, are miserably poor■. Among civilised, thriving, nations a great number of people do not labour at all, many of these consume the produce of ten or a hundred times more labour than the greater part of those who work; yet the produce of the whole labour of the society is so great that all are often abundantly supplied, and a workman, even of the lowest and poorest order, if he is frugal and industrious, may enjoy a greater share of the necessaries and conveniences of life than it is possible for any savage to acquire." (Smith 1776, Introduction. Click for fuller extract))
    Productivity is the ratio between the number of people employed in production and the output.

    Division of labour

    Smith says the most powerful influence on productivity is the division of labour. This increases productivity because of:

    1. the increased dexterity in every workman
    2. the saving of the time previously lost passing from one kind of work to another
    3. the invention of machines which enable one man to do the work of many. (See Smith 1776, Book 1, Chapter 2. Click for extracts)
    Pin making. On his own, without machinery, an untrained person might only be able to make one pin in a day. Division of labour makes pin-making a distinct trade. Workers gain skills in pin making. Machines are invented to assist the process. The process is sub-divided into numerous sub-processes. In such a factory each person could be calculated as making over four thousand pins a day. (See Smith 1776, Book 1, Chapter 2 Click for extracts)

    Smith on value Click for extracts)

    What makes on thing more valuable than another? Smith says there are two types of value: USE VALUE and EXCHANGE VALUE.

    The Water Diamond Paradox: Which is the most useful? Water. Which is the most valuable in exchange? Diamonds

    Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Thomas Malthus, Robert Owen, James and John Stuart Mill, William Thompson and Karl Marx all shared a belief in the labour theory of value and in the importance of distinguishing between use value and exchange value. Click for a fuller outline of value in economics)



    Notes made on the basis of student discussion notes in autumn 1996

    Adam Smith and Robert Owen. Liberalism versus Socialism?

    Adam Smith believes we depend on each other, however, the dependency in childhood is different to that of adulthood. In childhood we depend on the charity of adults. In adulthood our interdependency is based on exchange, and only beggars choose to depend on handouts from others.

    Smith believed that society is based on the division of labour. The division of labour is coordinated by the market. It is a natural phenomena, not an artificial one.

    Smith believes that the centre of a prosperous society is exchange. He believes that market principles should be the basis of society. The network of exchange is not constructed consciously, it comes about naturally.

    Smith believes in Laissez-Faire. This means that society should trust to the hidden hand of the market. There should be no government intervention in the economy because tariffs will interfere with free trade. What is the role of government according to Smith?

    Was Smith only interested in profit? Did he lack a humanistic approach to economics that would concern itself with the effects of the division of labour on the quality of the workers' lives?

    Owen wants self love to be developed into the love of all. He is less individualistic than Adam Smith. He believes cooperation as opposed to individualism will lead to greater economic efficiency, and will provide a better quality of life. Owen believes that self love corrupts public affairs. He believes that exchange in a competitive, money-based, society is not fair exchange as the labourer does not receive the full value of the goods produced. (The term that social theorists use for this is exploitation)

    Smith wants the poor law changed so that unemployed people can claim benefit where they live. Why?

    Are problems in society the result of errors in the economic system?
    Owen believes that if the labourer is paid in full (fair exchange, not exploitation) demand for goods will increase to match the supply. This will mean full employment and the abolition of poverty. The poor law will, therefore, become redundant. Owen's way of ensuring fair reward is by a return to what he calls the natural standard of value. This is to use labour instead of money as the standard of value. Money is an artificial standard.

    Initially, Owen sought cooperation from the government to establish Villages of Cooperation. The government refused this. Owen though that if these Villages of Cooperation were financed out of government money, the cost would be more than recovered by savings on poor relief. This is because they would provide jobs rather than relief.

    How does Owen suggest his villages of cooperation will improve the lives of women? Do we apply this idea of Owen's in any way today?

    What was Owen's basic principle?


    See Social Science History chapter 5 and the extracts from Bentham and the timeline and resources

    According to Bentham, science looks for the reality behind fictions.

    When the Pantomime Horse come careering across the stage, the artistic part of us appreciates the drama. The scientific part of us understands the horse as an illusion, and can explain how it is really two people inside a skin.


    Utilitarianism is a moral theory that claims "good" is what avoids pain and maximizes pleasure. Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), the founder of Benthamism, said that the guide for good legislation should be the:

    "greatest happiness of the greatest number"

    Bentham believed that society can be restructured to maximize the universal interest and minimize the "sinister" interest of the private. Such a society would maximize human happiness.


    See Social Science History chapter 5 and the extracts from Owen and the timeline and resources. Also see Community in the Social Science Dictionary

    We have already compared Adam Smith and Robert Owen

    I will begin this lecture by comparing Adam Smith to Rousseau, because Robert Owen is more like Rousseau than Smith. I will then introduce you to Owen's ideas by outlining his life story.

    Rousseau's General Will:

    we can solve the problems of civilisation by bringing the laws into accordance with the collective will: The will of all when we are nor thinking about our own selfish (particular) interests but about the general interest.

    Adam Smith: "I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good. It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest."

    Robert Owen argued that:


    Owen's theory

    Owen believed that people are not wicked, corrupt, drunken, idle etc by choice. People's characters are shaped for them by a combination of biology and environment.

    Between 1812 and 1816 Owen published four "Essays on the Formation of Human Character" (collectively called A New View of Society).

    This contained a phrase that is one of the keys to Owen's theories:

    "The character of man is.. always formed for him.. Man..never did..form his own character".

    Owen was not taking sides in any "nature-nurture debate". It is a common misrepresentation of what he argues to say he thinks people are formed by their environment rather than their biology. Owen believes they are formed by both. The issue that Owen is arguing is not this, it is whether we are responsible for our characters. Do we have the free will to shape ourselves, so that wrong doing is the result of choice? Or are we shaped by circumstances (biological or environmental). If this is the case, the rational course for social action will be to alter the causes of anti- social character.

    He was a phrenologist. He believed that the different human faculties are located in the different lobes of the brain. The main British phrenologist was George Combe. Combe said that Owen's teachers "studied the dispositions and faculties of the children more than any teachers I had met with". Combe and Owen both believed that character is the result of the interaction of an individual's inborn faculties and social environment. i.e. faculties are innate, but can be moulded. The same biological being can become a saint or a villain according to how he or she is brought up.

    The Owen quote means that people are not wicked or virtuous by choice. Biology and environment shape our characters. The scientific way to run a society is to study the dispositions of its members and adapt the environment to develop the most desirable dispositions.

    Lots of people saw New Lanark as being in the forefront of scientific progress. 1813 Funding from Bentham and others.

    A plan for the relief of the poor

    At the end of the war with France, in 1815, there was widespread poverty and unemployment. At this time Owen became involved in trying to make his ideas part of the national social policy. In 1815 (via Peel) he promoted A Bill to Regulate the Employment of Children in Textile Factories. In 1817, he published a Plan for the Relief of the Poor. Because of rising unemployment the taxes to relieve poverty (the poor rate) were rising steeply, and this made social policy on poverty a prominent public issue. Many people were coming forward with plans for reform. Owen's plan was that the unemployed should be provided with employment in villages of cooperation.


    Owen's theories were the subject of public debate. One of the most famous of these debates was between Owen and Ricardo - a follower of Adam Smith. I want to look at his economics in contrast with the theories of Thomas Malthus - England's first Professor of Economics - and also a follower of Adam Smith.
    The Problem
    Robert Malthus argued that poverty is inevitable because human population will always outstrip the production of food and other necessities.
    Owen said that this is not true. Malthus, he said, had ignored the influence of technology. In Owen's own lifetime, he said, technology had increased production 40 or even a hundred times relative to population. Human need remained the same. So why was there mass poverty?
    Owen's answer
    Poverty remains because a sufficient market does not exist for the goods produced. The reason for this is that the labourer is not paid the full value of what he or she produces. Owen (in agreement with Smith and Malthus) argued that "The natural standard of value is human labour". He said, though, that money introduces an artificial standard. What was needed was a return to the natural standard. If every labourer gets back what he or she puts into production there would be enough demand for the goods produced.

    In terms of his villages of cooperation, Owen said they must be provided with a market. The government would have to abandon the money standard of gold and silver, and replace it with a paper currency that represented the amount of labour in a product.

    Owen's economics is what we now call demand side (as opposed to supply side) economics. It is also an attempt at macro- economics, Or economics of the whole system.



    Poor Law and Social Policy
    See Social Science History chapter 5 and Total Institution and Panopticon. Also Surveillance and Foucault and Wealth and Poverty: Malthus and Ricardo

    1 Early 19th century arguments about poverty. [Malthus, Ricardo, Owen]

    2 The 1834 Poor Law, Utilitarianism and Laissez-faire

    Look at the picture

    The picture of Annie and Alfred in Social Science History was taken a year before they died. Annie was about 74 years old and Alfred was almost eighty. Since Alfred had retired they had been able to keep paying the rent on their flat because they both received an old age pension.

    State pensions for old people, however, had only been introduced in 1908. The 1908 Old Age Pensions Act was brought in after a long campaign. One author (Brian Watkin p.71) describes this Act as the first to begin replacing the "hated Poor Law" by the "Welfare State". The "hated Poor Law" he is talking about is the 1834 Poor Law.

    If Annie and Alfred had grown old before 1908, they would have spent their retirement years in a workhouse.

    In the workhouse Annie would have lived in dormitories with the other women, and Alfred with the other men. They would have been allowed out for part of the day to meet one another. As it was, the workhouse had become a hospital - the same hospital they died in, and Annie and Alfred only went into it when they were sick.

    Annie may have been born in a workhouse in Ireland. Her mother, and possibly her father, had left Ireland to find work in England. When they became unemployed they had to go into a workhouse. Here I have a picture of a workhouse at about the time that Annie was in one.

    Look at the picture

    It looks rather like a prison yard. But it is not a prison. People were free to leave at any time - but if they did they stopped receiving state benefit, they had to find their own food, lodgings and clothes.

    It's a picture of the women's yard. Men and women were strictly separated. You can see that some of the women have young children with them. The women were allowed to keep their children for the first few years (until they were about five), then the children were taken away and kept in another part of the workhouse.

    If you look at the left of the picture you will see a young girl, holding her mother's hand and pointing upwards. Her mother is looking in the direction the child is pointing. What is she pointing at? Maybe its at this gridiron in the wall between the men's yard and the women's. If you look closely you can see that a man has climbed up and is peering down into the women's yard. I like to think of him as Annie's father, trying to catch sight of his wife and daughter.

    The workhouse was meant as a deterrent. It was to put people off from claiming benefit. The part of it that the poor hated most was the way that it split families up.

    We are looking at how the ideas we have discussed influenced the social policies that made this kind of a difference to people's lives.

    Let me clarify the Social Policy history behind this.

    The period of history that we are talking about is the period from the end of the wars with France in 1815. The Poor Law that we are talking about is an Act passed in 1834 to modify the existing Poor Law.
    The Poor law provided support for people if they became unemployed, sick, too old to work or if they had more children than they could support.

    The 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act tried to deter people from claiming state benefits. The most radical way this was done was by building workhouses.

    1601 Elizabethan Poor Law: Provided for the relief of the poor.

    1662 Act of Settlement
    1793 War with France.
    1795 Speenhamland System
    1815 End of War with France

    Abolitionists (Ricardo and Malthus)
    Owen: Villages of Co-operation

    Two types of abolitionists:

    1. individualists - pessimists - economists - followers of Adam Smith): DAVID RICARDO and THOMAS MALTHUS Carlyle calls economics the "gloomy science"
    2. collectivists (optimists) - ROBERT OWEN and OWENITES - whose ideas on human motivation had certain features in common with Rouseau.

    Swing Riots 1830
    Reform Act 1832
    Poor Law Report

    1834 Poor Law Amendment Act. Placed the emphasis on deterring people from claiming relief.

    The Act did not introduce workhouses, but workhouses multiplied under the Act. The idea of the workhouse was that people should not receive relief unless they sold their possessions and entered the workhouse. It was a deterrent. The workhouses succeed in deterring able- bodied people. The inmates tended to be the young, the old, single mothers, sick, mentally distressed and people with learning difficulties.

    1908 Old Age Pensions Act. Brought in after a long campaign. Provided old people over 70 with a pension of 5/- a week. Pensioners were able to remain in their own homes, with their own possessions. One author (Brian Watkin p.71) describes this Act as the first legislation in replacing the "hated Poor Law" by the "Welfare State".

    1838/1839 Poor Law Extended North ::: fuelled Chartism.
    1846 Andover
    1847 Poor Law Board

    Now that we have seen what the workhouse is and where it fits in to social history, let us look at the ideas systems mentioned in the lecture title: Laissez-faire and Utilitarianism.

    We have suggested: that scientists and ordinary people interpret the world through complex bodies of ideas. The world will look different according to which body of ideas you look at it through. Utilitarianism and Laissez-faire have been two very influential bodies of ideas. They are very much alive today, but we are looking at them in the context of the 19th century poor law.

    I will link the issues to three theorists you have already heard about

    Adam Smith
    Robert Owen

    Adam Smith's ideas were applied to the Poor Law by two of his disciples: Malthus and Ricardo.

    ROUSSEAU'S GENERAL WILL: we can solve the problems of civilisation by bringing the laws into accordance with the collective will: The will of all when we are not thinking about our own selfish (particular) interests but about the general interest. (Similar to Owen's view of human nature)

    ADAM SMITH: I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good. It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.

    Adam Smith and Rousseau both believe that we have egoistic and compassionate desires.

    Adam Smith believes that there are sets of balancing desires within us. Self Love is balanced with sympathy. But self love is the most effective in the market place, whilst sympathy is most relevant to our family and friends. In general social policy, therefore, the followers of Adam Smith took an individualist line, basing effective social policy on self-love.

    Rousseau and Owen, on the other hand, saw individualistic self-love as corrupting public affairs. Both of them looked for a way in which self-love could become love of all. Rousseau found this through the idea of the general will. Owen found it through his argument that rational self interest is the general interest.

    Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Thomas Malthus and Laissez-Faire

    Laissez-faire means let alone, or let be. It refers to the idea that the wealth of the nation will increase most rapidly if Government does not interfere in the economy. This idea we associate with Adam Smith. His ideas were developed by Malthus and Ricardo, who applied them to the poor law.

    Here are two issues linking laissez-faire to the Poor Law:

    1. The Elizabethan Poor Law required that someone claiming relief should do so in the parish where they were born. This was seen by the followers of Adam Smith as a restraint on free trade. Economic theory treats labour as a commodity that can be bought and sold. It is argued that labour should be free to move to where the work is. So, today, if coal mines close down, miners should be free to move to an area of the country where there are other jobs - if they can find one. But if, when you become unemployed, you are forced to move back to the place where you were born, it is unlikely that will be the place where jobs are available.

      This was a limited free-market criticism of the Poor Law. A much more radical criticism was made:

    2. Malthus and Ricardo wanted the Poor Law abolished. Malthus said the Government should say that people alive at the time would continue to have a right to claim benefit - but anyone born later should grow up in a world where they would have no claim on state benefit. He and Ricardo argued that moving resources into welfare, moved them out of the real economy. It reduces the money available to pay people for working. It also, they said, gives an incentive for idleness, discourages people from saving for old age or illness, and encourages irresponsibly large families.


    Malthusian ideas on population


    Ricardo's ideas on wages and poor relief





    Ideas on self interest

    Communes of paupers


    This idea that the Poor Law should be abolished was not put into practice. Instead the Poor Law was retained, but modified in a way that took account of the laissez-faire criticisms.

    I will now look at how this happened, and at the way the second body of ideas, Utilitarianism, played a part in this.

    Click here to go to the definition of Utilitarianism that I gave earlier on in the course. (Use the "Back" button to return to this point)

    Click here to go to the description of the version of utilitarianism developed by James Mill. (Use the "Back" button to return to this point) James Mill was the most widely read and influential of the Utilitarians in the 1830s. It was his version of the doctrine which most people would have recognised.

    Let us recap the relevant history

    1815 End of War with France

    Abolitionists Ricardo and Malthus: argued that their version of science (Political Economy) should be applied to policy on poor relief. Owen: (Villages of Co-operation) argued that his version of science should be applied to policy on poor relief.

    Both wanted abolition.

    Argument for total abolition not politically practical, although theoretically the Malthus/Ricardo line was the position most consistent with laissez-faire economics.

    Over the next few years the version of Utilitarianism that is linked to other theories - especially laissez faire - was developed and popularised. It was this broader science that was eventually applied to the reform of the Poor Laws. The works of James Mill illustrate the broadening of the science to include egoistic psychology and laissez-faire economics.

    Some works of James Mill:
    History of British India (1817-1818).
    1816-1823.Essays for the Supplement of the Encyclopedia Britannica on government, law, the liberty of the press, prisons and prison discipline, colonies, the law of nations, and education.
    1821-1822 Elements of Political Economy.
    1829 Analysis of the Human Mind.

    Swing Riots 1830

    Reform Act 1832 (Possible shift in policy towards utilitarian and laissez faire ideas). Death of Bentham

    Poor Law Report. Probably largely drafted by Edwin Chadwick, a disciple of Bentham - led to 1834 Poor Law.

    EDWIN CHADWICK Transparency


    1832-1834 Assistant Commissioner re Poor Law

    1834 Secretary to the Commission

    :::: interest moves to sickness

    1842 Report of the Sanitary Condition of the Labouring Population of Great Britain

    1848-1845 Board of Health.

    1834 PRINCIPLES Transparency:

    The Poor Law Report suggested 3 principles for the new system:

    1) less eligibility,

    2) workhouse test,

    3) centralization and uniformity

    I will show, with quotes from Benthamite/Laissez-Faire sources how these three principles related to their theories.

    LESS ELIGIBILITY Transparency:

    Bentham on pauperism in the 1790s

    "If the condition of persons maintained without property by the labour of others were rendered more eligible than that of persons maintained by their own labour then...individuals would be continually withdrawing themselves from the class of person maintained by their own labour to the class of persons maintained by the labour of others."

    eligible = desirable

    One needs a balance of pain and pleasure. But is it a natural balance that should be sought, or can government's create artificial balances? The Benthamites were to suggest that the scientific role of law was to create an artificial balance. Government intervention should complement the market.

    WORKHOUSE TEST Transparency:

    JOHN R. MCCULLOCH. Laissez-Faire economist. Also a Benthamite.

    "The real use of a workhouse is to be an asylum for the able-bodied poor.. But it should be such an asylum as will not be resorted to except by those who have no other resource.. The able bodied tenant of a workhouse should be made to feel that his situation is decidedly less comfortable than that of the industrious labourer who supports himself."



    Freedom and self-development.
    Harriet Taylor and John Stuart Mill's idea of freedom and how it led to abolishing the poor law.


    See Social Science History chapter 6 and the extracts from Durkeim and Weber and the timeline. See also, Durkeim on crime

    The reality of society is the key issue on which we can contrast Durkheim with Weber:

    Durkheim believes that society is real
    - that is out there - an objective reality constraining us.

    He believes it is this external reality that sociology is about.

    Weber believes that it is the individual that is real.

    He thinks society is an abstraction

    He believes sociology is about individual actions that are socially orientated.

    French Professor of Sociology.
    Born 1858, Died 1917.

    See also, Durkheim and Rousseau

    His has two major theme:

    1) that society is real and

    2) the reality of society is the subject matter of sociology.

    So you should ask yourself two questions:
    1) Is society real?
    2) Has sociology a specific content?

    In this lecture I will first name Durkheim's main books and point out how these themes run through them all. With each book I will suggest a phrase that highlights the issue of the book.

    Clicking on the title of a book will take you to extracts from it

    1893 Division of Labour in Society

    " Societies are real - they have solidarity"

    This book tried to show that societies are real and that the reality of societies lay in something that Durkheim calls "solidarity".

    1895 Rules of Sociological Method

    This argues that if we want to be sociologists we should "consider social facts as things". This is a very mysterious statement, and the first thing I will do in the lecture will be to explain what I think it means.

    1897 Suicide

    "society is so real that it controls acts as (apparently) individual as suicide."

    About this time: Durkheim gave lectures on Rousseau (Published in 1912)

    Durkheim argues that Rousseau bridges the gap between state of nature theory and sociology. You remember that we started with state of nature theories - so Durkheim's lectures allow us to finish by seeing how this connects to where we started.

    See Social Science History Durkheim and Rousseau

    1912 The Elementary Forms of Religious Life

    Religious consciousness perceives the reality of society - but in a non-scientific form.

    Durkheim argues that human beings have always had a knowledge of the fundamental reality of their societies. This knowledge, however, was not, previously, scientific, but religious.


    Durkheim does not believe that we can

    1) apprehend data without a-priori categories, or

    2) make any advance in science without theories.

    Neither of these is what he means when he tells us that sociology deals with social facts.

    Let us see if we can find out what he does mean.



    Wundt had people sit on chairs and make careful observation of their perceptions.

    Illustration with lines:

    (Two lines of equal length appear unequal if arrows are attached to the end pointing outwards, and to the other pointing inwards)

    Illustration with swastika.

    The reaction you have to the swastika cannot be explained without reference to history. It is not simply a psychological issue. This led Wundt to write his book on Folk Psychology.

    Durkheim went further. He argued that there is a need for a distinct science of sociology.

    Durkheim believed that the central concern of sociology should be the study of society. He thought that sociology should concern itself with "social facts". By this he meant that it should concern itself with the (social) realities external to the individual, that constrain an individual.

    Here is one quotation that illustrate this.

    " .. we can formulate and delimit in a precise way the domain of sociology. It comprises only a limited group of phenomena. A social fact is to be recognized by the power of external coercion which it exercises or is capable of exercising over individuals, and the presence of this power may be recognized in its turn either by the existence of some specific sanction or by the resistance offered against every individual effort that tends to violate it". DURKHEIM 1895 p.10

    You recognise a physical fact by the resistance it offers to you. If I tell you that a wall is not there, and then try to walk through it, the wall will resist my efforts.

    If you tell me that exams do not matter, and that you intend to pass your degree without any exams - the University will resist your efforts.

    Often, Durkheim argues, the way that society resists our efforts is not what we would expect.

    For example, he argues that religion is important to society in ways that we do not normally understand. If then, we decide to construct a society without religion, we will find we are facing problems that we did not expect.

    He also argues that we need to be constrained by social rules or norms. So if we managed to escape from society's control we would find our lives so meaningless that we would be inclined to commit suicide.


    Solidarity is a kind of social glue that holds societies together.

    It is comparable to the "General Will" in Rousseau's State of Nature Theory.


    It will help us to understand Durkheim if we recall one of Adam Smith's notions about what holds society together.

    Smith suggested that we are held together by the economic advantages of the division of labour. We associate together because by each playing different parts in the production of economic goods we produce more.

    Durkheim agreed that we are held together by the division of labour. He called this kind of labour "Organic Solidarity".

    But he thought this had not always been the case:

    Human beings started in close knit societies where they all did more or less the same thing. Such societies, he said had a "mechanical solidarity".

    The division of labour developed within societies with mechanical solidarity. (Organic Solidarity comes after Mechanical Solidarity.)

    - it was not a natural propensity to truck, barter and exchange, but a new form of social solidarity that developed in the course of history.

    This leads Durkheim to the startling conclusion that societies are not so much the product of individuals as individuals are the product of society.

    In mechanistic societies human beings were not individualistic in the way they are in organic societies. The individual has evolved in the course of history. This has not happened because society has fallen apart, but because individualism (organic solidarity) provides a new and powerful way of holding society together.

    How does the division of labour glue us together in modern society?

    Durkheim argues that this is a much more than an economic issue.

    Society is becoming more and more differentiated (people are specialising more and more), but as we become more different from one another we grow closer together rather than further apart.

    Although organic solidarity is a different form from mechanical, Durkheim says that it cannot exist completely separately:

    The division of labour can.. be produced only in the midst of pre- existing society... There is a social life outside the whole division of labour, but which the latter presupposes. DURKHEIM 1893 p.277

    Contract, he argues, is a derivation of sacred ritual. If I break a contract:

    I am committing sacrilege, because I am breaking an oath, I am profaning a sacred thing DURKHEIM 1937 p.193, quoted NISBET 1965, p. 44.

    We can illustrate what he means by thinking of elementary economic exchanges. If you exchange money with the baker for a loaf of bread, both of you benefit and this binds you together. But it is not all that binds you. Exchange would be a very complex thing if we only calculated our advantage and tried to maximize our individual gain. We would always be calculating what we could get away with. Everybody would be a shoplifter when the shopkeeper was not looking and the shopkeeper would never dare turn his or her back on a customer! Economic life would be impossible. Instead, most of the time, we feel that we are under some obligation to act honestly. The intensity with which we can react to any slur on our honesty - even when we have been dishonest - indicates that we have very deep feelings about the issue that are not based on a calculation of economic gain. These feelings spring, Durkheim argues, from the mechanical solidarity that underlies the organic solidarity of exchange. Dishonesty is a betrayal of the community, and the community has a sacred charge in our emotional life. So we see that the organic solidarity of exchange is dependent on a more basic mechanical solidarity.

    German Professor.
    Born 1864 Died 1920,

    See also, Weber and Hobbes

    Generally considered (with Durkheim) to be one of the two main founders of sociology.

    Lecture contrasts Weber and Durkheim, but useful if we begin with a brief contrast with Marx: In Weber's writings the significance is given to the political rather than the economic. Marx argued the primacy of economics over politics and said that they were inextricably linked. Weber said that politics comes first and that the two are separate. In Weber's work ideas come first. He criticizes Marx's historical materialism.


    Weber believed that the central concern of sociology should be the a theory of social action... (See Social Science History)


    Weber says that social action can be classified into four types:

    (1) Rational action in relation to a goal.

    This would include actions motivated by self-interest. For example actions with an economic motive, market place actions like those Adam Smith described.

    (2) Rational action in relation to a value

    (3) Affective or emotional action

    (4) Traditional action


    They are unlikely to be found in a pure form in reality, but they help us to analyse reality. In any particular action that we take there will probably be a mixture of orientations.


    These subjective motivations lead to regularities in human conduct. They underlie the regularities of behaviour which sociologist take an interest in. Weber uses his ideal types of subjective behaviour to explain the regular recurrence of patterns of human behaviour.

    In social matters, Weber argues, the cause of something happening repeatedly in sequence is the motivation of the actors. (See Hume on the importance of cause and effect in science. Weber is arguing that the causes of regularity in human sciences are of a different kind to those on natural science)

    Here are some examples that Weber gives. I have put the different motives in bold. You can try to relate them to Weber's types of action.

    "If furniture movers regularly advertise at the time many leases expire, this uniformity is determined by self-interest in the exploitation of opportunities. If a salesman visits certain customers on particular days of the month or the week, it is either a case of customary behaviour or a product of some kind of self-interested orientation. ..when a civil servant appears in his office at a fixed time, it may involve these elements, but is not determined by custom or self-interest alone.. As a rule his action is also determined by the validity of an order (viz, the civil service rules), which he fulfils party because disobedience would be disadvantageous to him but also because its violation would be abhorrent to his sense of duty (of course, in varying degrees)"


    EXPERIMENT: Ask people to note down why they obey the state in any particular instance.

    The results will be varied, but they will not all be based on rational calculation of benefit. Even when people give this reason it is not necessarily convincing. A person may say that they do not steal because they do not want to be punished. But the same person may refrain from stealing when given an opportunity to do so with no possibility of being caught out.

    Within our motive for obeying can come any of those listed by Weber as types of social action. We can obey because it is the way to gain a reward or avoid a punishment, we can obey because we are adhering to a value, we can obey because the person commanding has captured our imagination, or we can obey because it is the done thing, the normal or traditional course of action.

    This means that corresponding to types of action are types of power:

    A) If a person is pursuing self-interest you can exercise power over her by offering or withholding economic rewards, or by threatening physical punishment. Let us call this type of power "force".

    B) Force is not the only type of power. You also exercise power over people if you win their allegiance by

    a) convincing them to adhere to a value system. Religious leaders, for example, exercise power over their followers, and religion can be used as part of the state's power.

    b) charisma: the force of your personality or your style of presentation,

    c) occupying a traditional power role. An hereditary king, for example, has power by virtue of tradition.

    These levers of power based on ideas, images and emotion, Weber refers to as legitimacy.

    According to Weber, all states are built on force. This is an essential component of the state. But equally important, and in practice more often relevant, is legitimacy. The grounds of legitimacy vary from society to society and from time to time.


    Weber says there are three main types of legitimacy: traditional, charismatic and rational/legal

    TRADITIONAL Traditional authority is based on the sacredness of precedent. There is a widespread belief that "old is best". A conservative conviction that what is, is right. It is a type of authority that is ill-suited to social change.

    CHARISMATIC Charismatic authority is an innovating and revolutionary force. It involves devotion to a person thought to possess authority by virtue of revelation (from God), heroism or other qualities of personal leadership.

    RATIONAL/LEGAL Rational/legal authority requires obedience not to a person, but to a system of rational rules.


    Weber's definition of the modern state:-

    "In the past, the most varied institutions...have known the use of physical force as quite normal. Today, however.we have to say that a state is a human community that (successfully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory". "

    This comes from Weber's own lecture on Politics as a Vocation. It is a very long lecture, but we would recommend that you read part of it. I will point out some features of the quotation:

    Earlier forms of the state, for example the feudal state, do not have a monopoly of legitimate violence. This is a distinguishing feature of the modern state, along with the fact that it exercises this monopoly in a given territory. In Feudal time different authorities could exercise legitimate force over the same area.


    Reason in
    Plato and Aristotle and how it relates to gender

    The lecture is mainly a discussion of pictures.

    The Greek philosophers we are talking about began the long tradition in Western thought of systematically examining reason.

    Check that you understand the relationship of Socrates -- Plato -- Aristotle.

    A phrase from Aristotle summarises a common theme of all three philosophers. Aristotle wrote:

    "that which can foresee by the exercise of mind is... intended to be lord.. and that which can with its body give effect to such foresight is a subject."

    That which can foresee by the exercise of mind is reason. All three authors argue that reason should rule

    Looking at the different origins of reason

    The pictures of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle that we will look at are taken from The School of Athens, a painting by Raphael in which he tried to paint the difference between the ideas of the Greek philosophers.

    I think that Raphael is symbolising features of the ideas of reason that each philosopher puts emphasis on.
    go to argument Raphael paints Socrates engaged in a heated argument.

    What do you think Raphael meant to symbolise by Socrates arguing?
    What has an argument got to do with reason?

    go to Plato Plato is painted with his finger pointing upwards; Aristotle with his palms pointing down towards the ground.

    What do you think Raphael meant to symbolise by a finger pointing upwards? What could Plato be pointing at, and what could it have to do with reason?

    What do you think Raphael meant to symbolise by a palms pressed down towards the earth? What could reason have to do with "down here" rather than "up there".

    go to Aristotle

    Socrates on virtue

    Socrates argued that there is a universal virtue, which requires knowledge for its appreciation and can, therefore, be learnt.. It is through the work of his student Plato, that Socrates thought endures for us, captured in Plato's "dialogues", where Socrates is the main speaker.

    Socrates spoke of one virtue and type of soul, regardless of sex. Plato records the relevant discussion in his Meno ... Meno is a philosopher who argues that there are actually several virtues, their applicability depending, for example on whether one is young, bond or free.. Man's virtue lies in knowing how to administer the state while a woman's is

    "to order her house, and keep what is indoors, and obey her husband".

    Socrates is unhappy with this diversity of values; he establishes that health and strength are subject to the same criteria in either sex and that virtue must be similarly universal since state and household both demand temperance and justice for their good ordering:

    "men and women, if they are to be good men and women, must have the same virtues of temperance and justice."

    Plato argued that:

    Aristotle argued that:

    Plato and Aristotle on Reason and Government

    Socrates, Plato and Aristotle argue that reason should govern. They argue that reason should govern every aspect of life: our individual conduct, our families, our society and government. The highest from of reason is that which governs society in the common interest.

    The just state

    The aim of Plato's Republic is to give an account of the just state. What emerges is a hierarchical and stable edifice in which each performs the functions for which his or her nature is best suited.

    Plato argues that the "just state" and the "just soul" have similar structures. Politics and psychology are mirror images of one another! [See The Republic p.435]

    There are three major functions, and three corresponding functionaries. The just soul is correspondingly divided into three parts.

    State Functions Functionaries Just Soul's Parts
    go to Plato
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    The rulers and auxiliaries both belong to the elite group of Guardians. In the just soul, spirit or courage mediates between reason and appetite, but is actually allied with reason - just as the auxiliaries who defend the state are allied with its rulers, the two classes having souls with a predominance of spirit and reason respectively.

    Note: Platos's analysis, shown diagrammatically above, is an example of social structure, and this is parallel to psychological structure. Both are hierarchical. The diagram shows the statics of a society. For a more complete social theory we need the dynamics.

    Mind should govern in the common interest

    Aristotle wrote:

    " For that which can foresee by the exercise of mind is by nature intended to be lord and master, and that which can with its body give effect to such foresight is a subject, and by nature a slave; hence master and slave have the same interest. "

    The principle that mind should govern in the common interest applies generally. The highest form of reason is not something that seeks out personal advantage, but the collective reason that seeks the good of all.

    Look at how Aristotle distinguishes between true and perverted forms of government


    Aristotle Politics

    Coole, D.H. 1988 Women in Political Theory. Wheatsheaf

    Plato Meno

    Plato Republic


    Theory in the 1830s and 1840s

    The next lectures are about gender,   family,   sex and class in 1830s and 1840s Britain.

    This is a period when people were thinking about how society is structured and about how society changes

    This included a great deal of discussion about men, women and children and their position in society.

    History: We are discussing theories in their historic context, so you need to know about history and theory. Click on dates when they appear to go to a timeline (chronology). History is a story that we argue is true. A chronology is one of these stories hung on a series of dates. The ones on this website hang the story and the readings from theorists on the same series of dates.

    We will look at how the following people theorised about the same events:

    Jeremy Bentham,

    James Mill

    William Thompson and Anna Wheeler

    Lord Ashley

    Harriet Taylor and John Stuart Mill.

    Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels

    In relation to Plato and Aristotle we talked about ideas, theory and reason. These are closely related

    If you know a theory's basic ideas (axioms and concepts), reason lets you work out what its conclusions might be

    As we look at each theory try to identify its concepts and axioms and then work out how the axioms and concepts hang together.

    You should also try to work out from the axioms and concepts what the theorists conclusions might be about gender, sex, family and class. Then compare what you reasoned that they might be, with what the theorist writes.

    Write down what you think the theorists basic ideas are, and how you think he or she got from their basic ideas to their conclusions about gender, sex, family and class. This will give you your interpretation of the theorist. It will also give you the basis for an argument in your essay.


    Bentham argued that science looks for the reality behind fictions. Go to an illustration of this and the definition of Utilitarianism. (Use the "Back" button to return to this point)


    Utilitarianism is a theory with different possibilities according to how it is developed. The man who was best known for popularising Bentham's work was James Mill. He linked Utilitarianism to three other bodies of theory:

    1) He linked it to egoistic psychology. Egoistic psychology is the kind of psychology that Hobbes developed. It argues that the foundation of any explanation of the human mind must be to trace its content back to the self-centred desires of the individual. James Mill wrote one of the first English text books of Psychology.

    2) He linked it to democracy. He argued that if we are all pursuing our own self-interest it is not safe to trust government to a minority. Every male adult must have a vote to act as a control on the government.

    Click here to go to the essay in which James Mill argued for democracy. This will also link you to a summary of his argument in Social Science History

    Click here for extracts from Thompson and Wheeler.

    3) He linked it to laissez-faire economics. He linked together the theories of Bentham and those of Ricardo and other followers of Adam Smith.

    Click here if you want to know who Smith, Malthus and Ricardo were.

    This is another aspect of James Mill's theory that Thompson and Wheeler criticised.

    Notice: None of these links is a necessary link.

    Thompson and Wheeler broke two of the links.
    Later, Harriet Taylor and John Stuart Mill did the same.

    What we see here is that theories can be developed in different directions by being combined with different basic ideas. In your essays you need to analyse the basic ideas and how they are linked together.


    William Thompson and Anna Wheeler criticised James Mill using his own (Utilitarian) axioms. Click here to return to James Mill's arguments.

    Thompson and Wheeler combined Utilitarian and Owenite theory. They argued that:

    • "Rational self-interest" recognises the individual's interest in the good of the community. (Owen)

    • People have created "fictions" to secure the bondage of others. (Bentham)

    • They need to learn that those fictions do not maximise the sum of human happiness. (Bentham)

    • Owenite science (reason) has discovered that human beings have their interests in common. (Owen)

    • We must abolish fictions, abolish oppression and abolish exploitation.
    Thompson and Wheeler argued that women differ from men in two natural and unavoidable ways:

    1 Physical strength
    2 Capacity to bear children

    They argued that all other differences are fictions created to keep women in men's power.

    Thompson and Wheeler timeline and resources


    Up to start of 1830s 1840s lecture
    Full TimeLine from 1820

    Utilitarianism was the dominant theory of Social Science in nineteenth century Britain.

    At the end of the century, Emile Durkheim challenged the utilitarian axiom that social science consists of analysing the pursuit of pleasure and avoidance of pain by individual members of society. But, despite Durkheim's challenge, utilitarian theory remains an important aspect of social science.

    Look at Social Science History to see how utilitarian theory uses deductive logic to argue from basic axioms to (arguably) inescapable conclusions.

    Look at how James Mill's argument for democracy is built on utilitarian axioms. James Mill uses an egoistic (selfish) model of humanity, rather like Hobbes

    With amended axioms, different conclusions could be reached.

    So Thompson and Wheeler used Owenite cooperative axioms to criticise James Mill's egoistic arguments.

    Each, however, argued within the utilitarian framework.

    One of the features of the deductive argument from axioms that James Mill and Thompson and Wheeler used is that they appear to reach conclusions that are true for all times. They are "a-historical" - history is not relevant to them.

    John Stuart Mill, the son of James Mill, was unhappy with his father's non-historical approach to political theory. John Stuart Mill envisaged that, at different stages of history, the pleasures and pains that humans seek and avoid will be different in ways that are significant for social theory. The axioms of human action will change with history, and social science needs a theory to explain history.

    John Stuart Mill's articles on the Spirit of the Age, in 1831, used the theories of a French socialist, Saint-Simon, to put Benthamism in historical context.

    According to Saint-Simon see also


    Organic and Critical Periods Chart of Saint Simon's pattern of European history

    Poly-theist ideology
    [The many Gods of ancient Greece]
      Theological ideology
    [Mono-theist (One God) Christianity]
      Positive or Scientific ideology
    Social order based on slavery   Feudal social order   Industrial social order
      The transitional (critical) period between the Ancient organic period and the Medieval organic period is the Imperial epoch of Rome   The transitional (critical) period between the Medieval organic period and Modern organic period is the period Saint-Simon was writing in

    Compare with the direction of progress in Mill's Subjection of Women

    We can argue that Bentham's ideas, which were critical of existing laws and institutions, were a feature of an age in which people were becoming uncomfortable with one social order, and had not yet found a new one. In their essay on the future of the labouring classes, John Stuart Mill and his friend, Harriet Taylor, called the old ideas "dependency theory" and the new ideas "self-determination theory"

    Mill and Taylor timeline and resources
    Mill and Taylor's future of the labouring classes article


    We can argue that Benthamism is a theory belonging to the movement between dependency theory and self-determination theory. Lord Ashley's theories are an example of what Mill and Taylor meant by Dependency theories.

    In Catherine Cookson's historical novel The Dwelling Place (1971) Jimmy (10) and William (8) go down the mine (pp 41-44)

    "A boy harnessed by ropes and a chain between his legs was on his hands and knees tugging up the incline a low bogie filled high with coal_" (p.43)

    This reflects the present feeling that the worst thing about coal mine employment before 1842 was that young children were employed. At the time, however, the great scandal was not children in the mines, but sexually active women.

    Look at the coal mines and sex pictures and read the text. It is not a boy pulling the cart, but a young woman with bare breasts.

    1840s' social theory: Women and children and issues connected with:

    December 1840: An article by Lord Ashley in the Tory Quarterly Review, discussed the employment of children in factories, and argued that society and the family in Britain were being destroyed by the industrial revolution. The way to restore a healthy society was for the rich to concern themselves with the welfare of the poor.

    May 1842 Second presentation of the CHARTER to Parliament. This agitation for democracy was what Taylor, Mill, Engels and Marx all saw as the healthy development of SELF-DETERMINATION.

    1842: Plug riots. English workers, striking for the Charter, roamed the Midlands and North of England setting light to rich men's houses and pulling out the plugs of factory boilers. Parliament thought that the revolution was upon them.

    1845: Engels' The Condition of the Working Class in Britain built on the work of the Owenite socialists like Thompson. The work linked politics, family, statistics, sex, town planning, immigration and crime to class conflict.

    1848: Harriet Taylor and John Stuart Mill described two contrasting
    theories about what was and what ought to be happening to the working class:

    1. The Dependence theory.

    2. The Self-dependence or Self-determination theory. This was the theory that they supported.

    1848: Karl Marx and Friederich Engels published The Communist Manifesto.


    See 1840s family, sex and crime
    The following discusses the early development of Marx and Engels' theory. For its final shape see Engels' Origin

    Marx and Engels published The Manifesto of the Communist Party in German in 1848. This was the same year as Mill and Taylor's Future of the Labouring Classes essay. It tries to explain many of the same historic events.

    We will start by looking at material on the web that is relevant to this question. There are links from the quotations to the full material.

    First, notice some key terms in the introductory sketch of their ideas. It says that Karl Marx (1818-1883) and Friedrich Engels (1820-1895) produced "a scientific analysis of human history" and that they produced their scientific analysis "from the perspective of socialism".

    Thompson and Wheeler, Mill and Taylor and Marx and Engels all claimed to be making a scientific analysis of society. Their ideas about what science is are different, although they have features in common. You should try to form a clear idea about what the author's you are commenting on mean by "science".

    You need to think about what is meant by "socialism" and "communism". It will help you with this essay if you treat these as two words with roughly the same meaning. The Communist Manifesto contains one definition of Communism:

    Engels draft for the Communist Manifesto contained another: To my mind, neither of these definitions is very helpful as starting points. The Manifesto defines communism by what it abolishes. Engels defines it by what it makes possible. Both are useful points if we know what it is. Why is it that Marx and Engels do not tell us?

    I guess they do not tell us because they thought their readers would know. After all, they begin the Manifesto

    "A spectre is haunting Europe- the spectre of Communism". (The Communist Manifesto paragraph 1).
    They are talking about a widespread belief system that was seen as a threat to existing institutions. If, therefore, we look at other writing of the time, we should be able to find what Marx and Engels are talking about.

    Look, for example, at what the Conservative writer, Lord Ashley, said about socialism in 1840.

      "The two demons in morals and politics, Socialism and Chartism, are stalking through the land; yet they are but symptoms of a universal disease, spread throughout vast masses of the people, who, so far from concurring in the status quo, suppose that anything must be better than their present condition". Ashley 1840
    The status quo, means the existing system. It was seen as being threatened by two ideas systems which, Lord Ashley says, were widely held by the masses of the people: socialism and chartism

    Chartism was the movement for The People's Charter, which was published in London in May 1838. The chartists wanted

    1) a vote for every adult male ("manhood suffrage"),
    2) annual Parliaments,
    3) vote by secret ballot,
    4) payment of MPs,
    5) Equal electoral districts,
    6) the abolition of property qualifications for MPs.

    In popular agitation, the campaigns against the 1834 Poor Law and for the 10 hours Bill tended to merge with the campaign for the Charter. Chartists believed that if the working class could gain control of Parliament they would gain control of the welfare system and of the economy.

    In The Communist Manifesto Marx and Engels say:

      The immediate aim of the Communists is the same as that of all the other proletarian parties: formation of the proletariat into a class, overthrow of bourgeois supremacy, conquest of political power by the proletariat. (The Communist Manifesto paragraph 2.7)
    Communism was, therefore, democratic in the way that the Chartists thought of democracy. It was democratic and socialist. It was the union of the two demons that Lord Ashley saw stalking the land.

    What, then, does Lord Ashley mean by socialism?

    In England in 1840 the word "socialism" was used for the ideas that we associate with Robert Owen, William Thompson, Anna Wheeler and people like that.

    Many socialists were chartists. Many chartists were socialists. Many socialists and chartists were also Trade Unionists. It is this mixture of radical ideas and practices that Marx and Engels see as threatening the existing institutions and making possible the liberation of the proletariate, or working class.

    When we look at what Owen, Thompson and Wheeler meant by socialism, we find something that is rooted in a specific theory of society that is "utilitarian" in the sense that it is about human beings following their "interests".

    Owen believed that: "Rational self-interest" recognises the individual's interest in the good of the community. So that, doing things collectively does more to secure our interests than doing things in competition. Socialism is a system of cooperation as distinct from competition. So socialism is a contrast to the theories of Adam Smith. It is developed by Thompson and Wheeler as an explicitly utilitarian theory.

    Engels believed that the practicality of such cooperative system had been proved by experiments in communal living organised by people like Robert Owen. He wrote an article for the German Press to demonstrate this.

    Marx and Engels argued for a materialist interpretation of society and history. The idea that human societies change the material world in order to exist, was used as the key to explaining everything that humans do. Look at what Engels wrote about what he learnt from living in Manchester in the 1840s:

      "While I was in Manchester, it was tangibly brought home to me that the economic facts, which have so far played no role or only a contemptible one in the writing of history, are, at least in the modern world, a decisive historical force; that they form the basis of the origination of the present-day class antagonisms; that these class antagonisms, in the countries where they have become fully developed, thanks to large-scale industry, hence especially in England, are in their turn the basis of the formation of political parties and of party struggles, and thus of all political history". Engels, F 1885.
    Economics is the key to explaining history. It is the key to explaining social change. Engels decided this after moving from Germany to Manchester where he:
    • saw the social disruption that the industrial revolution was causing.

    • saw the political agitation for democracy that the new industrial working class were engaged in.

    • met and talked with owenite (socialist) members of the Chartist movement.
    Marx and Engels key to history is an analysis of successive modes of production

    Another person whose ideas are described as socialist is the Frenchman, Saint Simon. Marx and Engels, as well as Mill and Taylor, were influenced by his ideas about history. Remember what we said last week:

    According to Saint-Simon:

    • History consists of a succession of social orders

    • The movement from one order to the next is triggered by the rise of a new class

    • Different ideas fit different periods of history. The ideas that suited the medieval, or feudal, order of society do not suit the present day social order.
    We can see how this is developed by Marx and Engels if we look at some passages in The Communist Manifesto)

    Communist Manifesto passage Name/s
    In the earlier epochs of history we find almost everywhere a complicated arrangement of society into various orders, a manifold gradation of social rank. (paragraph 1.3)
    In ancient Rome we have patricians, knights, plebeians, slaves (1.3) Ancient or
    slave society
    in the Middle Ages, feudal lords, vassals, guild-masters, journeymen, apprentices, serfs; (1.3) Feudal Society
    The modern bourgeois society that has sprouted from the ruins of feudal society has not done away with class antagonisms. It has but established new classes, new conditions of oppression, new forms of struggle in place of the old ones. (1.3) Bourgeois,
    Capitalist or
    Modern Society
    If by means of a revolution [the proletariat] makes itself the ruling class and, as such, sweeps away by force the old conditions of production, then it will, along with these conditions, have swept away the conditions for the existence of class antagonisms and of classes generally, and will thereby have abolished its own supremacy as a class.

    In place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and class antagonisms, we shall have an association in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all. (paragraphs 2.74 and 2.75)

    Communist or
    future society

    According to Marx and Engels, the motor that moves history is class conflict within the modes of production preceding communism. This idea that new classes rising makes established ideas redundant, is present in Saint Simon. By Marx and Engels it is highlighted and made the moving force of all history.

    The analysis of the successive modes of production and of class conflict as the motor of change is a distinguishing feature of any marxist theory, whether it concerns economics, psychology, music, literature, gender relations, family relations or whatever. This approach is called historical materialism.

    When social science theories are based on general theories of human nature, we expect the premises (axioms) of the theory in one sphere of social science (economics, for example) to remain consistent when applied to another sphere (gender relations, for example). You should, therefore, be able to relate the general theory, outlined above, to what Marx and Engels say about the family, sex and gender in The Communist Manifesto. The web copy of the Manifesto has an index to help you find the most relevant passages relating to the family, sex and gender.

    The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State (1884) was developed by Engels from notes by Marx. The Origin provides an overview of their historical materialism as they left it. Working on the theories of Morgan, they incorporate "Reproduction" into the material base, alongside "Production"

    Summary of Historical Materialism based on the Origin


    Summary introduction to Freud

    Charcot and Wittmann

    Freud's final outline of psychoanalysis

    Beginning to excavate his work


    © Andrew Roberts 6.1999 - 3.2001

    My referencing suggestion for this page is a bibliography entry:

    Roberts, Andrew 3.2001 - Social Science Lectures [web edition]

    and intext references to (Roberts, A. 3.2001 lecture subject). For example: (Roberts, A. 3.2001 Freud)

    See ABC Referencing for general advice.

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