The classical theorists in the 1800’s wrote about capitalism’s impact on people, the state and its hegemony over nations’ economies.  During this period, the European nations were developing new parliamentary systems of government; feudal systems were eroding and capitalism as an economic system dominated not only commerce, but it had an undue influence in government and politics.

  1. Marx’s essay, “Estranged Labor,” written in 1844 makes several points about capitalism and its effect on the proletariat.  What are the four key points?

Once you define the key points of the article, answer the following. a) What is the power structure as Marx defines it in “Estranged Labor?” b) Who is affected by the power structure and c) what are the long term—effects of the power structure?


  • Select one job.  Describe the job using the framework of (2) of the key points of Marx’s argument in “Estranged Labor.”


  • Fredrick Engels in 1884, in the “Patriarchal Family” describes how the economic disenfranchisement of women occurred.  What was the process?

After laying out the process answer the following.  a) What did Engels argue constitutes the power structure?   b) What was the response of those affected?  c) What were some of the long-term effects? 


  • In 2014, Thomas Piketty asserted that the concentration of American wealth for those with capital had grown geometrically since the 1970’s.  What was the key point of his argument?

After laying out Piketty’s argument, answer the following. a) What is the power structure that Piketty describes? b) What would be the response of those affected? c) What are the long-term effects?


5. In “Black Reconstruction and the Racial Wage,” W.E.B. Dubois posits that during Reconstruction, Black Americans, who were freed from slavery after the Civil War, now had a chance to fully participate in a new economic re-alignment of the South. But this realignment required a political alliance. What was this alliance? Did it work? Why or why not?

a. What power structure did Dubois describe?  b) What was the response of those affected? c) What are the long-term effects of the “Racial Wage?”


Having reviewed classical theories of inequality, we move on to the new theories of inequality and power. New theories of inequality shift from explicit and conscious methods of discrimination and advantage reproduction to more subtle and unconscious forms. While overt ways of discriminating against women and non-white people have been rescinded beginning in the middle of the 20th Century in the United States, new theories of inequality help to explain why differences among social groups are perpetuated without overt repression. Contemporary theories argue that inequality is multidimensional, and that power is wielded through knowledge and status differences, culminating often into what is often referred to as “privilege.”  There are three theoretical constructs that undergird our understanding of this dilemma.  The first is habitus. 

  • Define “Habitus.”
  • How would “habitus” create a power structure? b) What is the response of those affected?  c) What are the long-term effects of habitus?


7.Define Social Capital and include one example.

a) How could social capital create a power structure? b) What is the response of those affected by social capital?  c) What are the long-term effects?


8.Define Cultural Capital and give an example.

a) How might cultural capital create a power structure?    b) What is the response of those affected by social capital? c) What are the long-term effects of cultural capital?

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