From West to East and Back Again: Capitalist Expansion and Class Formation in the Nineteenth Century

  • Glenn Morgan
Part of the Explorations in Sociology book series


One of the clearest trends in recent sociological theorizing has been the dawning recognition that for too long sociologists have unproblematically taken for granted the centrality of national boundaries in their discussions of social structure. The concept of society has drawn in its trail a whole set of assumptions that the nation-state is the basic framework for sociological analysis (cf. Urry, 1981). Such an approach has involved bracketing off both anthropology and history as well as themes from a number of earlier sociologists. Thus the findings of anthropologists on the shifting geographical boundaries and decentralized political forms of tribal and nomadic societies as well as historical analysis of pre-capitalist empires have been dismissed as irrelevant to the dynamics of class in capitalist nation-states. Instead analyses of class structure and the state have tended to occur as though one can abstract one ‘society’ from a set and analyze it individually without reference to the other members of the set. In doing so, the state and class structure become, as it were, phenomena determined internally to a set of geographical boundaries; they enter into a set of external relations — with other states — as preconstituted by their internal relations. The objective of this paper is to show that such a view is untenable; the state and class structure are constituted just as much in terms of their external as of their internal relations.


Class Formation Class Structure Pearl River Delta Opium Trade East India Company 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© British Sociological Association 1985

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  • Glenn Morgan

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