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The development and inequalities of society have traditionally been analysed in terms of stratification and class. Raymond Murphy argues that important inequalities of power remain unanalysed by traditional social theories, and that the concept of social closure, suggested by Max Weber, provides a means of capturing the common and essential features of types of subordination that appear quite different on the surface. Seemingly unrelated forms of domination based on private property, the bureaucratic Communist Party, credentials, status, race, language, and gender, are tied together by Weber's notion of social closure as the underlying principle of all systems of inequality in power. The book suggests improvements to the conceptions of closure, power, and social class, and turns closure theory back on itself to analyse the scholarly field. It develops a conceptualization of the rules of social closure and their transformation, and compares the Weberian concept of closure with the Marxian concept of exploitation.
Raymond Murphy examines the way in which Western society, in the elusive pursuit of mastery and control, has transformed its codes of social closure by the process of formal rationalization. He shows how this formal rationalization of monopolization and exclusion has led to substantively irrational results. Professor Murphy's conclusion - that Weber's theories of social closure and rationalization provide a conceptual basis for going beyond a narrow focus on one particular means of monopolization to an analysis of monopolization and exclusion per se - marks an important and original advance in the development of the ideas of Weber and in social theory generally.