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Chapter 9

Starting Points Chapter 9.docx

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Classes and Workplaces From "Starting Points" Chapter 9  Conflict between employer (pay lowest possible wages and spend little on working conditions) and employee (receive highest wages and best working conditions as possible)  Founders of sociology were all concerned with workplace conflict arising out of class relations o Marx definition: group of people who share the same relationship to the means of production, or to capital o Weber definition: people who share a common economic situation, based on (among other things) income, property, and authority  Privileged capitalist class exploited the working class for profits and social dominance  How does economic and social exploitation affect the working class?  How does the powerful capitalist class maintain their dominance?  How does the working class struggle to improve its situation?  Are high rates of unemployment or underemployment necessary>  How do class relations compare to 100 years ago?  Modern workplace is more complex than in the times of Marx, Weber, Durkheim  modern legislature about relationship between workers, managers, and owners is more complex  Marx warned that capitalism alienates workers o Isolating them from their work, products of their work, coworkers, and even themselves o When workers become aware of their exploitation, they take action to resist oppression or channel their frustration in other directions (ex. Women, children, minorities)  Mobilizing for action, workers form unions to meet their needs  Like sex and age, work status is a defining feature of all social life Functionalism  Argue that poverty and inequality serve important purposes in society  Inequality under capitalism is a graded ladder of people with different occupational roles and income levels  Higher up the ladder are the more socially valuable jobs that require more education and effort o Greater rewards and moving away from poverty motivate people to move up o Inequality, in this sense, brings out excellence and productivity  In the case of athletes, entertainers, and criminals, this is not true o Their skills are not as socially valuable, and yet they receive substantial salaries  Work has social and economic purposes o Providing for material necessities of life o Satisfy needs to be productive, valued members of society, gain recognition and praise, interact and co-operate with others Critical Theory  In functionalist analysis, unemployment = personal failure / lack of skill or ambition  In critical theory, it is a structural condition created by capitalist class to boost profits Marx  Capitalism creates cyclic unemployment o Bursts of productivity under profitable conditions  overproduction  drives down prices  capitalists stop investing, economy slows  recession and loss of jobs  Argues that capitalism causes all the conflict within societies  Key for capitalists is to get into market while profits rise and get out before they fall  Working class don't have same flexibility  suffer most in collapse, gain least in expansion  Employers use fear of unemployment to prevent workers from asking for higher wages  Reserve army of labour: people who, because they are impoverished and often unemployed, form an easily mobilized and disposable workforce at the mercy of employers In contrast to Functionalism,  Workers and employers' interests are constantly opposing  Workplace is not a place for sociability and creativity  it is for repression and mistreatment  Low-end workers (the most vulnerable and in need of a stable income) are first to lose their jobs in an economic slump Feminist Theories  Canadian women (regardless of class) are disproportionately engaged in little/no pay work  Capitalists profit more from women than from men; men profit at expense of women who work for them  Women have job dissatisfaction, lack of job control, rising psychosomatic illness (ex depression) Symbolic Interactionism  Labels of "wealthy" and "poor" associated with stereotypes  Focus on meanings of work and unemployment for the individual o Treat occupational titles as status symbols o Individual assessed on prestige and income of their work Social Constructionism  Management strategies and ideologies evolved as workers developed methods to thwart managerial practices of control o As old methods no longer worked, new methods were invented and taught  Social constructionists seek to chart the changes in ideologies about work and worker control Harry Braverman  Work is becoming more mindless and alienating  separation of execution (head-work) from design (hand-work)  Division of jobs into those requiring small number of high trained professionals whose time is valuable, and a mass of simple labourers whose time is worth next to nothing  Ex. Clerical workers used to be highly skilled, trusted assistants to the owner until recent decades where it has grown and depersonalized o Expansion of a task means workers can be less skilled o Office work becomes more regimented and controlled like a factory Labour and Classes  Permanently locked in conflict, the "haves" and "have-nots" are fundamental to all social relations and class conflict  Proletariat sells his time and labour to the bourgeoisie to make wages to allow them to survive  The bourgeoisie maximizes profits by minimizing wages  High prices, low wages, poor working conditions are harmful and so the workers struggle in any way (unions, co-operatives, legislation) for improvements o Inevitable and never-ending struggle of capitalism  Class consciousness: group's awareness of their common class interest and commitment to co- operate to attain collective goals  Class consciousness is difficult to attain o if disagreements exist within the proletariat (reluctance to work with other groups (ex. On basis of race, ethnicity, etc) , disagreement on group's best interests) o Employers can prevent unionization, legislators can give more power to employers, corporations can lobby (pay off) legislators, police force can be used to break strikes  False consciousness: willingness to believe in ideologies that support the ruling class, but are actually false and disadvantageous to working class's interests o Ex. Workers believing they are to blame for their economic condition  Workers are unaware that they are being exploited because: 1. Inverse Interdependence Principle: well-being of capitalists depends on deprivation or workers 2. Exclusion Principle: capitalists keep up pressure on workers by excluding them from access to resources (ex. Capital to start their own business) 3. Appropriation Principle: capitalists take their workers' labour for a fraction of its value  Marx views classes as economic groups, Weber views them as power groups  Petit bourgeoisie: lower middle class, owners of the means of production on a small scale (owners of small shops) o Do not belong to working class but neither to the Marx's capitalist class  Parties give people non-economic power and influence (include political parties and lobbies)  Status groups' members share a similar position in society and may be organized around shared features (ex. Religion, race, etc) o Practise exclusion to maintain boundaries between their own group and others  Dentists are a: o Class if we focus on comfortable income relative to means of production o Party if they lobby for/against publicly funded dental o Status group in their authority to train, certify, and de-certify practitioners  Marx believed you could only gain power by owning the means of production  Weber asserts that power can be gained by entering influential parties/high-status groups o Gain power through social position regardless of possession of economic control  Weber built on Marx's definition of class  Modern sociological conceptualization of class based more on Weber's as it is more inclusive  In a post-industrial society, Marx's portrayal is too simple o Don't need to own (just manage/be on board of directors) the business to control means of production  managerial revolution o Working class is international  globalization of work means mass mobilization of workers is more difficult as jobs can be shipped overseas if higher worker demands  Post-industrialism: economic system based more on services and information than manufactured goods/primary production Point/Counterpoint: Debate over Call Centre Outsourcing  Low cost labour  rationalized by saying they can spend more money on research, development for long term benefits  Concern that savings go to shareholders rather than creating new jobs The Organization of Work Today  Positive effects of Computerized work o Workers can spend more time on less repetitive, more interesting tasks  Negative Effects o Increased workplace inequality  Made many more people replaceable o Rise in unemployment  More skills being required lead to workers (with insufficient skills) taking on non-standard work arrangements o Non-standard work arrangements: dead-end, low-paying jobs known as precarious employment  Non-standard work allows employers to hire and fire with ease  puts stress & health problems on workers  Self-employment o Lets people increase autonomy and control o Lots of competition, no job security, no pension or health benefits o Few can afford to hire others and invest long hours to keep clientele  More non-standard work arrangements = fewer full-time jobs = more expected of workers = longer hours to compensate  Class politics (politicizing issues like economic equality, class based poverty) becoming replaced by identity politics (politic
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