First Advisor

Robert W. Shotola

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Sociology






Economics -- Sociological aspects, Sociology of knowledge, Capitalism



Physical Description

1 online resource (2, v, 158 p.)


In 1979 Jean-Fran~ois Lyotard defined postmodemism as "incredulity toward metanarratives." One of six narratives Lyotard saw in decline was the capitalist one, which promised wealth for everybody. According to Lyotard this narrative was refuted by recurrent economic crises in the 20th century. This thesis examines Lyotard's statement about the decline of the capitalist metanarrative by taking the approach of the sociology of knowledge, a branch of sociology that attempts to relate ideas to the socio-historical settings in which they are produced and received. The idea of general abundance, or the semantics, is described in othodox economic theory. Four distinct, successive phases marked major shifts regarding the idea of wealth for everybody in economics from the late 18th century onward. Two British structures and their relationship to the idea of general abundance are examined: the general economic development of the country and the economic situation of the people, and the social and economic policies in relation to the idea of general abundance. How did the development of the economic structure impact on the development of the idea? How did the statement of the idea influence the policies? The findings support Lyotard's thesis claiming the decline of the capitalist metanarrative. While wealth for everybody was explicitly promised at the beginning of modem economic thought, nowadays such statements cannot be found. The examination of British economic development and policies suggests that the decline of the idea is closely related to the structural developments. Despite constant economic growth and severe efforts of the state to eliminate poverty by redistributing income and wealth, the poverty levels could never be changed significantly, hence, the promise of wealth for everybody could never be fulfilled. Therefore, the economic crises that Lyotard identified as cause for the decline of the metanarrative were periods when economic and political trends became accelerated and led to a break with, until then, prevalent policies in regard to general abundance.


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