Property and Power in Social Theory: A Study in Intellectual Rivalry

By Dick Pels | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

The problem of intellectual rivalry

This is a habit we all share, of relating an inquiry not to the subject-matter itself, but to our opponent in argument.

Aristotle


PROPERTY AND POWER

In everyday speech, we are both serviced and deceived by our most commonplace concepts: we have grown into their usage to such an extent as to forget that they are actually using us. Their functions appear self-evident, and their rules of reference remain largely implicit. Even in more disciplined discursive fields such as the historical sociology of ideas—which forms the subject of this study—such deceptive utensils proliferate in great quantity. The genealogy of ‘master concepts’ such as property and power offers no exception to this rule. As summary notations for fundamental building blocks of social life, they manifest the familiar translucency which comes from uninterrupted, mindless daily usage.

Axial terms in the Western repertoire of social thought, power, and property have been central concerns of political theory, jurisprudence, sociology, history, and political economy. They have played a pivotal role in theories of social inequality and class formation, identifying nodal points around which secondary, derivative inequalities were most likely to accrue: chances to participate in different lifestyles, to enter and operate social networks, to gain access to education, or to acquire social prestige. Both are also conceptual crossroads at which different currents in classical and modern social theory have met and interbred.

Despite this axial character (or rather, because of it), both concepts present a notorious source of embarrassment to modern academic social science. Property and power exuberantly illustrate Karl Kraus’s experienced observation that ‘the closer one looks at a word, the further it recedes in the distance’. The disciplinary partitions of twentieth-century social thought have cut up the analytical field into sociological, legal, historical, economic, and politico-scientific slices which, taken by themselves, provide too narrow an analytical platform for the broader and longer view which issues of property and power evidently require.

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Property and Power in Social Theory: A Study in Intellectual Rivalry
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations vii
  • Preface ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - The Liberal Dichotomy and Its Dissolution 18
  • 2 - Inside the Diamond 47
  • 3 - Marxism Vs. Anarchism 74
  • 4 - Fascism and the Primacy of the Political 101
  • 5 - Social Science as Power Theory 126
  • 6 - Power, Property, and Managerialism 164
  • 7 - Intellectual Closure and the New Class 192
  • 8 - Towards a Theory of Intellectual Rivalry 225
  • Notes 260
  • Bibliography 287
  • Index 311
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