Sources: Networks of Capital

Online Sources

Balloon Maps

This NPR website includes several “balloon maps” designed to help visualize global inequalities. These maps are a great set of visual aids to help understand Wallerstein’s theory of the capitalist world-system.

Class Matters

This New York Times series on social class can help students get a more concrete understanding of how class continues to matter in the contemporary United States.

Mapping Globalization

This project led by Princeton sociologist Miguel Centeno uses a variety of data and historical maps to trace the contours of globalization. The related International Networks Archive also includes some fantastic images of global flows in capital, arms, drugs, tourism, and more.

TED Talk: Hans Rosling’s New Insights on Poverty

In this talk, Swiss doctor and statistician Hans Rosling discusses the many dimensions of development and its potential for some of the most impoverished countries. What might Marx or Wallerstein say in response?

This American Life: “The Giant Pool of Money” and “The Invention of Money”

These two episodes of the radio program This American Life explore the origins of the housing crisis and a more fundamental question: what is money?

Real Utopias Project

This series of books, papers, lectures, and discussions from sociologist and Marxist scholar Erik Olin Wright examines his proposals for radical social change. Consider using it to inspire lively class discussion on the relevance of Marx today.

Film and Television Sources

Life and Debt

A powerful documentary film about how global financial institutions and current policies surrounding globalization affect developing, post-colonial countries like Jamaica. To learn more about the film, go to its website.

Manufactured Landscapes

This striking film follows photographer Edward Burtynsky as he visits the darker side of global production and manufacturing, including giant factories and e-waste dumps in China. The visuals in this film are nothing short of extraordinary. You can watch clips of the film here.

Sociology Is a Martial Art

This documentary about French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu provides an intimate and thoughtful look into his life as a scholar and public intellectual. More information can be found here.

Shrek 2: Cultural Capital and High Class Meals

Shrek and Fiona’s visit to her parents’ castle provides an entertaining and familiar example of how cultural capital is used to draw boundaries between “insiders” and “outsiders.” Watch this clip here.

HBO’s The Wire, Season 1, Episode 3: “The Buys”

Habitus is one of Pierre Bourdieu’s most influential—and difficult—concepts. In this example of habitus, drug addict and police informant Bubbles gives fashion advice to Sydnor, an undercover police officer. Bubbles shows how the embodiment of a drug addict is something that is acquired through experience and is not something that can be easily faked. Note: Explicit Content.

HBO’s The Wire, Season 4, Episode 9: “Know Your Place”

In another example from The Wire, former police commander (and current field researcher) Bunny Colvin rewards three Baltimore middle school students with a fancy dinner. The scene paints a realistic picture of cultural capital at work. Check out this post at the Sociological Cinema for more on how to use this clip in class.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail

This humorous clip discussing traditional and rational-legal forms of domination provides some levity to Weber’s writings on the subject.

Ikea Nesting Instinct

Edward Norton’s monologue in this clip from the 1999 film Fight Club provides an excellent starting point for discussing commodity fetishism.

Reading Sources

Cook, Ian et al. 2004. “Follow the Thing: Papaya.” Antipode 36(4): 642–664.

An excellent, accessible case study into how commodities can be de-fetishized. The authors trace a papaya from its origins on a Jamaican plantation to the fridge of a North London flat. Highly recommended.

Frank, Thomas and David Mulcahey. 1997. “Consolidated Deviance, Inc.” Pp. 72–78 in Commodify Your Dissent: Salvos from The Baffler, edited by Thomas Frank and Matt Weiland. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.

In this clever and all-too-true piece of satire, Thomas Frank and David Mulcahey present the business strategy of the fictional company Consolidated Deviance, Inc., the “nation’s leader … in the fabrication, consultancy, licensing and merchandising of deviant subcultural practice.”

Harvey, David. 2010. The Enigma of Capital: And the Crises of Capitalism. New York: Oxford University Press.

Harvey, one of the most influential social theorists living today, brilliantly extends Marx’s insights on capitalism to the recent financial crisis. Also recommended: A Brief History of Neoliberalism (2005, Oxford).

Johnson, Steven. 2006. The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic—and How it Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World. New York: Riverhead Books.

Johnson’s book about a deadly cholera outbreak in 1850s London contains vivid prose about the living conditions of England’s working class (the first chapter, “The Night-Soil Men” is particularly good). A great way to illustrate to students the circumstances Marx was writing about in his critiques of capitalism. The story also illustrates the importance of social capital.

Johnston, Josée and Shyon Baumann. 2007. “Democracy versus Distinction: A Study of Omnivorousness in Gourmet Food Writing.” American Journal of Sociology, 113: 165-204.

What makes a good hamburger? Johnston and Baumann use both quantitative and qualitative methods to examine how food writers stress the “foodie” frames of authenticity and exoticism as a means of maintaining the exclusivity of elite tastes while simultaneously engaging ideals of democratic cultural consumption.

Meyer, John W. 2004. “The Nation as Babbitt: How Countries Conform.” Contexts 3(3): 42–47.

This short, accessible essay from the prolific Stanford sociologist of institutions provides a more Durkheimian take on globalization. Likely to stimulate some good discussion when paired with Wallerstein.

Seabrook, John. 1999, September 20. “Nobrow Culture.” The New Yorker. 104.

A cultural critic’s interesting take on cultural capital and the fate of “taste” in America’s consumerist society. A nice addition to the readings from Bourdieu. The full text is available at Seabrook’s website.

Scheper-Hughes, Nancy. 2000. “The Global Traffic in Human Organs.” Current Anthropology 41(2): 199-224.

An anthropologist applies Marx’s concept of commodity fetishism to the international market for organ transplants.

Wacquant, Loic. 2004. Body and Soul: Ethnographic Notebooks of an Apprentice-Boxer. New York: Oxford University Press.

This first-hand account of Wacquant’s foray into amateur boxing examines the construction of the “pugilist habitus” in a Chicago gym.

Wolff, Jonathan. 2002. Why Read Marx Today? New York: Oxford University Press.

A political theorist gives great answers to the question of Marx’s relevance for today’s world.

Zinn, Howard. 1999. Marx in Soho: A Play on History. Cambridge, MA: South End Press.

A humorous play imagining what Marx would think if he lived in the Soho neighborhood of today’s New York City. Search for clips on YouTube of the play being performed for “live” footage of Marx in action.