Interpretations of class stratification
Interpretations of Class Stratification
Class stratification is a sociological concept which has evolved greatly over the years. Nonetheless, this progress has been accompanied by observable benefits and limitations. It is in the theoretical and empirical conceptualizations of class structures by the likes of Weber, Marx and Durkheim among others that the notion of class and stratification emerged. Dating to years before industrialization, these theorists embarked on formulating their own frameworks of understanding classes and their analysis. On the other hand, the limitation to the growth of this sociological construct has been in the decline of class analysis in the postmodernist society. This paper in a bid to interpret class stratification will refer to the works of Grusky and Sorenson (1998), Myles and Turegun (1994) and Dahrendorf (1959). In the synopses of the articles and book chapters, there will emerge comparative empirical analyses as the literature seems to be vastly interlinked.
Of great significance in the discussion is Dahrendorf's (1959) ‘Karl Marx's Model of the Class Society' and Changes in the structure of Industrial Societies Since'. These articles detail Karl Marx's theory of class and evident influence in the understanding of class stratifications. In addition, there is an exploration of Karl's influence on the industrial societies whose progress into vast classes he had predicted.
The theory of class by Karl Max is advanced by the stipulation of various components highly regarded as critical in the development of a class. Indeed, this sociological study aimed at discovering the principles which often determined social development trends (Dahrendorf, 9). As such, Marx saw the construct of a class as an element which could be used in the analysis of other societies. It is from then on that he went ahead to analyze the roles of property and economic power, relations of production, class situation and political power, class interests, class organizations and class struggle in formulating an ideal class. Modes of production and there relations were the basis to which these elements would spring with property being the essential condition in determining these modes. Property and the economic power which accompanied it created divisions amongst different sections of the society. The private property owners who were ideally the bourgeois society gained prominence over the working class which had rather limited authority. It is the ensuing relations over the modes of production that clear stratifications could start to emerge. Thus, it becomes eminent that individuals' classes are to be based on their place in the production capacities. Also, the levels of property ownership are responsible for the allocation of political power in the society. The identification of political power and authority holds a central importance to Marx's theory but its empirical validation is rather elusive.
Karl Marx initially set out to understand the dynamics which existed in the society in the development of his model of class. He advanced the perspectives of class conflicts and their implications for political constructivism. As asserted by Dahrendorf (25), this step in class development was the most important. It detailed the necessity for classes to indulge in class conflicts of a political nature in class formulation. It is evident from the literature that the situations indicated by Marx were of sound conceptualization in the integration of property distribution, possession and ensuring class interests. Furthermore, as the literature progresses individuals are reminded of the existing misdemeanors in Marx's theory which normally exist in form of false assumptions especially in the concept of a classless society. The concept of property relations and considerations to production poses major interpretational problems. These limitations have entertained criticism from other scholars as will be indicated by other articles.
However, this theory is vital in understanding class stratifications and most especially the aspect of property ownership which was observed in industrial societies as an element for class stratification. Indeed with respect to capitalist societies, Marx observed an unexpected outcome of property ownership in capitalist nations where industrial changes were consequently altering the dynamics of property ownership (Dahrendorf, 43). This notion has been acknowledged by Myles and Turegun (1994), who aim at providing an analysis of the empirical legacy borne out of 1970s and 1980s class analysis. It is actually in the 1970s that Marx's theory guided most theoretical and methodological frameworks for class analysis. Myles and Turegun (1994, 105) expound on the historical foundations which resulted to the emergence of a variety of bourgeoisies in advanced capitalism. The arguments which led to the construction of these varieties were the capitalism agenda of fusing of industrial and financial capital for the formation of finance capital. The other argument was that of separation of ownership and control which was done in joint stock companies. These actions precipitated into the shift of production power from legal ownership to managerial occupations. Within the emergent precepts of liberalism, statism and corporatism in modern capitalism there were separatist interpretations of financial capital and labor. Regardless of the way that countries approached capitalism there emerged clear divisions where those who owned private property automatically dominated the class structure while those who lacked ownership rights were delegated to the bottom of the pile. From this analysis Myles and Turegun (1994, 108) underlie that the sectoral fusion ideologies observed in the early and mid 20th century were often built on capitalist developments.
Myles and Turegun (1994) also discuss other developments in the 1970s and 1980s which accounted for class stratifications. These aspects include the return of the petite bourgeoisie, the search for the new middle class and the entry of women as part of the working class in post industrialism. The petite bourgeoisie had been previously eroded as a result of the increased property polarizations (Myles and Turegun, 109). This had allowed the then petite bourgeoisie to rise in ranks into positions in the working and new middle class. However, the late 1980's saw most societies rethink the roles played by the petite bourgeoisie in production capacities of their economies. It is then that such artisan and craftsmanship workers fought the shift to advanced classes and retained their original class. This move was possible due to the existing traditional perceptions on the values of such work. The industrial era heralded the entry of women into the workplace as technical jobs were replaced by service oriented ones. Myles and Turegun (1994) stipulate the need for new models of class analysis which pay tribute these existing polarizations observed from past stratification trends. Their concern ranges on the fact that theories such as weberian and Marxist have become limited in analysis modern class stratification. The same view is shared by Grusky and Sorenson (1998) who claim that such aggregate class analysis frameworks fall short in showcasing the emerging occupational classes.
Grusky and Sorenson (1998) set out to establish whether the almost currently inexistent class analysis can be salvaged. By initially highlighting the limitations which have accompanied various models for class analysis they indicate that though there has been remarkable progress in the sociology of class analysis there is still no adequate model for doing so. Aggregate representations which have often been supported by Marxist and weberian proponents have failed to capture the rather disaggregate functions of the modern occupational organization. Therefore, Grusky and Sorenson (1998) embark on a mission to construct an ideal class model. This disaggregated model holds its strongest form at the realist perspective and its weakest form at the nominalist perspective (Grusky and Sorenson, 1190).
Grusky and Sorenson (1998) reiterate that realist models of class analysis had been prematurely discarded and that they provided the best methodology for contemporary occupational groupings. This model implies that occupational groups be analyzed within the construct of social groups. Grusky and Sorenson (1195) also stipulate occupational groups are components of social structures which are evidently classes. This argument is quite profound in the application of modern class analysis. In the articles development there are discussions on the elements whose perceptions need restructuring so as to fit this realist model. They include social political accounts, identification, awareness, social closure, collective action, lifestyles and dispositions, sociotechnical change, associational change, organizational change and structural accounts. Grusky and Sorenson (1998) provide an evaluation of these aspects concretely as observed in the formulation of identification constructs. Grusky and Sorenson (1197) indicate that conventional classes have been weak in identifying occupational classes especially because they are production based. However, occupational identities in the proposed disaggregate classes are best when structured at a broad range of sources. Grusky and Sorenson (1998) insist on complete remapping of stratification systems and their implications. In their model, they advocate for the institutionalizing of all occupational aspects and acknowledge that regardless of any increasing forms of disaggregation, this model is ideally sociologically necessary. Furthermore, such a class analysis model takes into account the overall contemporary forms of collective action. Of the summarized literature Grusky and Sorenson (1998) are elaborate in the validity of their disaggregate class analysis model. Unlike the comparative studies provided by Myles and Turegun (1994) which are descriptive in nature and offer futuristic research trends, Grusky and Sorenson (1998) are highly analytical and well structured in serving the aspect class stratification.