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SOC281H1 (2)
Chapter 2

SOC281 Chapter 2: Class and Inequality

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Bonnie Erickson

Chapter 2: Class and Inequality Marx and Marxism - Marx writes that the three classes of modern capitalist society re the owners of labour power, the owners of capital, and the landowners, but he suggest that this is the pure form of class distinction - Marx believed that society is divided into classes that are defined by their relationship to the principle means of production in society - In capitalism those who own the means of the production (bourgeoisie) exploit labourers (the proletariat), who have no choice but to sell their labour power to (ie, to work for) the bourgeoisie in order to survive - The emphasize in marx’s work, then is on relationships between those who appropriate the labour of others to make a profit and those who need to sell their labour power - Marx is less concerned with how resources are distributed within capitalism and instead emphasizes the relationships among people who engage in economic systems of production - 2 themes emerge from marx’s work on social class that help us define what is meant by class in Marxist sociology: o 1. Social class is based in productive relations. That is, individuals who engage in production process have various rights and powers over the resources that are used in production processes o 2. Social class is conceptualized in relational terms. Unequal access to the rights and powers associated with productive resources (which by definition is relational) is thought of as class relations. Ownership of the tools that are required in production process is a necessary but not sufficient condition of being a member of the bourgeoisie. Thus, the issue is not simply that capitalists own machines, but that they deploy those machines in a production process, hire owners of labour power to use them and appropriate the profits from the use of those machines. A collector of machines is not by virtue of owning those machines, a capitalist Neo-Marxism: Issues of Exploitation, Authority, and Credentials - Exploitation is a central dimension of Wright’s latest approach to class analysis. Exploitation exists only when all 3 principles are operating simultaneously o (a) the inverse interdependence principle: the material welfare of one group of people casually depends upon the material deprivations of another o (b) the exclusion principle: the inverse interdependence in (a) depends upon the exclusion of the exploited from access to certain productive resources, usually backed by property rights o (c) the appropriation principle: exclusion generates material advantage to exploiters because it enables them to appropriate the labour effort of the exploited - a profit driven capitalist system requires that owners want workers to work longer and harder than the workers would freely choose to - hence conflict results not simply over wage levels, but also over how much “work effort” is expected - Wright integrates 2 key concepts, authority and skill, into his ideas of exploitation o Authority involves domination and is one axis upon which employees in capitalist systems are differentiated o Skill, emphasis here is wage. Because certain skills or credentials are scarce resources in certain labour markets, people who possess them are able to command a wage that is higher than the costs of producing and reproducing their labour power. When workers have control over knowledge or skill sets, then labour is hard to monitor or control - Managers and supervisors are in contradictory class locations because (1) they earn higher wages than what makes sense under the logic of capitalism; (2) they help to exploit the workers they manage, and (3) their labour is exploited by the capitalists they work for Weber and the Neo-Weberians Weber: Class, Power, and Distribution - Weber also agrees with Marx regarding the importance of property ownership in the assessment of class - For weber, classes are groups of people who share a common class situation. In Economy and Society, he defines class situation as the o Typical chances of material provision, external position, and personal destiny in life which depend on the degree and nature of the power, or lack of power, to dispose of goods of qualifications for employment and the ways in which, within a given economic order, such goods or qualifications for employment can be utilized as a source of income or revenue - Weber argued that there are 3 types of classes: o Property class: is one in which differences in property ownership determine the class situation o income classes: is one in which the chances of utilizing goods or services on the market determines the class situation o and social classes is a combination of the class situation created by property and income and one where mobility between the social classes is a typical occurrence either within an individual lifetime or over successive generations - Weber identified 4
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