Study Notes

Sociologist in Focus: Charles Murray

AS, A-Level

Last updated 18 Oct 2017

Below are some study notes for the key New Right sociologist, Charles Murray:

Charles Murray was born in 1943 in the USA and is known for a number of pieces of sociological work, including the controversial book ‘The Bell Curve’ (co-written with Richard Herrnstein), in which they suggested that aspects such as education, job performance and income were better predicted using measures of intelligence than socio-economic status.

In the book, Murray and Herrnstein argue that there are differences in intelligence when comparing races, with critics saying that the assertions made in the book were racist.

Murray utilised the term ‘underclass’ to refer to individuals who lack employment, income or an education. He believed that these individuals have become surplus to requirements in developed economies due to globalisation, where cheaper labour can be obtained in other (usually more developing) countries. Murray’s views on society mean that he fits with New Right theorists, who view state welfare as creating a culture of dependency and individuals don’t have an incentive to work.

Murray’s work along with other New Right theory, although controversial, has received considerable political support within some countries, particularly in the US and the UK. 

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