Edited by Michael Hechter and Christine Horne
Edited by Michael Hechter and Christine Horne
Edited by Michael Hechter and Christine Horne

Movies linked to the text

The Problem of Social Order

The Road Warrior shows the social effects of the aftermath of a world war that has destroyed the physical and social infrastructure required to maintain social order. It is a reasonably contemporary vision of the Hobbesian state of nature.

Motives and Mechanisms

A Man for All Seasons provides an illustration of a value-rational orientation to action. Sir Thomas More sacrifices his high government office as Lord Chancellor – and ultimately his very life -- rather than sanction Henry VIII’s divorce and remarriage – an act that More, defender of the law, has deemed to be illegal.


The Gods Must Be Crazy demonstrates that the meaning of a given object – in this case, a glass bottle of Coca-Cola – is highly dependent on its social context. When dropped from a passing airplane into the Kalahari Desert, the Coke bottle causes havoc among the Bushmen.


1984(version with John Hurt and Richard Burton) is Orwell’s fantasy of a Hobbesian society in which allegiance to Big Brother is maintained by extensive monitoring and sanctioning.

Brazil is set in a dystopian world run by a bureaucratic, totalitarian government. Civil servant Sam Lowry gets caught in the bureaucratic machine.

Gandhi provides an illustration of Weber’s ideal type of charismatic order, which rests on values rather than externally-provided incentives. The beginning of the film shows how Gandhi mobilizes a following among the coloreds (Indians) in South Africa without any material resources to dispense.

The opening scenes of The Godfather, Part 1 provide a brilliant example of Weber’s ideal type of patrimonial domination.

Norma Rae and Bread and Roses provide descriptions of collective action in response to the subjugation of subordinate groups. These examples should be compared to the lack of collective action in Willis’ secondary school.

To Sir with Love has one of the best depictions of countercultural norms and legitimacy challenges in lower-class schoolrooms.

The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner has a study of a British worker who adopts countercultural norms by refusing to assimilate to middle-class behavior.


Michael Douglas’ famous speech exalting greed in Wall Street illustrates how Adam Smith’s behavioral assumptions sound radical even in the context of our own rampantly capitalist society.

Boiler Room provides an example of market manipulation with its exploration of “pump and dump” tactics.


Far From Heaven is a recent film that lays bare some of the social norms that held sway in 1950s America, but are now politically incorrect.

The first half of Full Metal Jacket – presenting Marine Corps basic training in the late 1960s – reveals how young American adults were socialized into new norms to prepare them for war in Indochina.

Witness plunges Harrison Ford, a Philadelphia homicide detective, into an Amish household to protect a young child from his predators. It portrays the high level of solidarity among the Amish (in particular, see the barn-raising scene) and the police.

In Gung Ho! hapless American autoworkers on the verge of unemployment are rescued by a Japanese buyout. The new Japanese managers attempt to instill group solidarity into the production process.

The 1966 John Frankenheimer movie Seconds, starring Rock Hudson, is a good illustration of the perils of individualism, among other things.


In Six Degrees of Separation, a New York couple is visited by a man who claims to be a friend of their children from Harvard.

In Strangers on a Train, a meeting between two strangers leads to murder.