The Spheres of Production and Circulation

  • John Urry
Part of the Contemporary Social Theory book series


There have been two main traditions which have conceived of social class in terms of essentially economic criteria. On the one hand, there is the tradition broadly characteristic of British sociology which has been derived from Weber’s cryptic formulations. This is an approach to class in which the main distinctions drawn are based on the market, on the differential allocation of life-chances. Different classes are able to command different sets of resources within exchange. On the other hand, there is the Marxist tradition in which social classes are determined by the relations of production, by the ownership/non-ownership of the means of production, by productive and unproductive labour, and, in certain formulations, by the functions of supervision and management. On this view the Weberian position is misleading since, in concentrating upon relations within the sphere of circulation, the ‘real relations’ of the capitalist mode, of the production and appropriation of surplus-value, are hidden from view. Classes for the Marxist are determined at the level of production — relations within the market are merely the phenomenal forms of the underlying real relations of capitalist production. A theory of class based merely on market relations cannot be correct.


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Copyright information

© John Urry 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Urry
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of LancasterUK

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