Lecture#2: Starting Points 9
Starting Points- Chapter 9: Classes and Workplaces
The satisfaction people feel from their work depends on what they want to get out
of their work and what they are expecting.
Class: a group of people who share the same relationship to the means of
production or to capital (Marx) or a group of people who share a common
economic situation based on income, property , authority, etc. (Weber).
Marx→ conflict between classes is an inherent problem for capitalism
Durkheim→ conflict between classes in inherent in industrialism
In our age of capitalism it‟s the managers and directors who control capital, not
Also, state institutions exercise a lot of power in society
Marx → capitalism alienates workers. They become isolated and estranged from
the products they make, their co-workers and sometimes even themselves. The
anger employees feel can be channelled to other places (violence against women,
children, minority groups).
Workplace inequalities translate into broader social and economic inequalities.
Functionalists argue that poverty and inequality have an important place in
In this case the inequality cause by capitalism is a “graded ladder” where people
who are at different rungs have different jobs and incomes. Meaning that poverty
is a way to motivate people to move up the ladder.
The jobs at the top of the ladder require the most education but have the most
Functionalists think that everyone needs work along with hope and love.
Work allows you to acquire material necessities for you and your family.
Work also allows you to satisfy your need (emotional) of wanting to be a
productive and valuable member of society, to gain praise and recognition and to
interact and co-operate with other people.
Work is a platform for social interaction, social solidarity and cohesion. It‟s a
place to work out your social and creative impulses.
Relies on ideas from Marx and Weber
Want to know “Who benefits from the way power is organized in society?
(Especially the workplace). In this theory, unemployment is a condition that is manipulated by the capitalists
who run things. It allows them to boost profits
Marx→ capitalism is a cycle because you get burst of high productivity which
leads to overproduction. Overproduction forces prices down and when prices go
down the capitalists stop investing. When investment stops the economy slows
causes a recession (where people lose their jobs)
Boom and bust cycle gives you periodic cycles of unemployment.
Reserve army of labour: the people who form the easily mobilized, easily
disposable workforce that is at the mercy of the employers. (Their employment
situation is like this because they are often unemployed and are therefore
Marx→ class relations under capitalism cause all the conflict that happens
Have a critical analysis of the workplace but they note that women and men,
whether of the same class or not, have quite different experiences at work.
Since women get paid less than men, capitalists profit more from the work that
women do than from the work that men do.
This creates job dissatisfaction for women, a lack of job control and high rates of
depression (and other psychological issues).
Want to know “ How the labels of wealthy and poor are constructed through
Stereotype of the poor: minority member who relies on welfare instead of getting
a job. Perhaps is involved in crime and spends their money on drugs, alcohol, etc.
Stereotype of the rich: greedy, snobbish, callous, wasteful. Most likely born into a
family that was already well off.
Focus also put on what work and unemployment mean to individuals.
A lot of people see occupational titles as status symbols (basing their assessment
Ask “How did this arrangement emerge”
Contested Terrain: The Transformation Of The Workplace In The Twentieth
Century (Edwards, 1979) tells us that management practices have changed, going
from direct control to technological control to bureaucratic control.
Change in management strategies and ideologies is seen in the work that is done
and the technology used at work. Also interested in charting the changes in ideologies about work and the
„50s and „60s → worry was that work could become alienating. „70s and „80s→
concern was for exploitation of workers , computers replacing humans and the
need for more leisure time.
Labour and Monopoly Capital
Harry Braverman, 1974
Explored the evolution of capitalists over 2 centuries
Saw that works was becoming more degraded and “mindless”
Noted that the separation of skill and knowledge further degrades the meaning of
Developed 2 groups of employees needed: the small number of highly skilled
employees whose time is valuable (white-collar) and the masses of people doing
simple labour whose time is worth next to nothing (blue-collar).
The proliferation of clerical workers led to the application of scientific
management techniques (standardization of techniques, subdivision of skills,
freezing of pay levels) degraded work even further, even highly skilled jobs.
Labour and Classes
Social class: the way people earn a living (Marxian version) or how much money
and status people gain from their job (Weberian version).
Classes and the work that people do are fundamentally linked.
Bourgeoisie (the “haves”): the controlling class who owns the means of
Proletariat (the “have-nots”): the subordinate class who work for wages that come
from the bourgeoisie (Marx).
Since the two classes have different interests they will always be in conflict, yet
they are interdependent (they gain at the expense of each other).
Proletariat have to sell their labour to the bourgeoisie to earn the wages they need
to survive. Bourgeoisie buy the labour and gain profit from the goods and services
that are created.
But high prices, low wages and poor working conditions are bad for the health of
Marx → the class struggle is inevitable and never ending.
Class consciousness: a group‟s awareness of their common class interest and their
commitment to work together to attain collective goals. Very hard