Notes on Classes and Workplace - Starting Points A...

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Unformatted text preview: Starting Points: A Sociological Journey – Notes Chapter 9: Classes and Workplaces Introduction: How Work, Class, and Inequality are Related • Class o As defined by Marx, is a set of people who share the same relationship to the means of production o As defined by Weber, is a set of people with a common economic situation, based on income, property, and authority o Has imp effects on people’s health, on crime, and on intergroup conflict o It is an economic relationship, not a fixed attribute o Educational achievement and hard work can lead to better-­‐paying job, but majority stay in social class into which they were born for their entire lives § In part because wealth is often inherited; but also due to class socialization: process of teaching, learning, and passing on patterns of fashion and consumption • Social classes exist largely because of economic inequality • In Canada, top 1% of earners amassed 10.6% of country’s total income in 2013 (12.1% in 2006) • We don’t have nearly the same level of inequality as US but social mobility is a challenge for many Canadians • Stats show there isn’t much movement within the top 5% of earners = a worrisome trend • Why is it so hard to move up economic ladder in Canada which is committed to fairness and opportunity? o Any unequal society creates social classes that are relatively impermeable, esp at top and bottom o Income inequality creates differences in life conditions and life chances • Any discussion of class must consider class conflict which normally results from diverging economic interests o Ex. employers want cheap labour, but employees want highest pay Two Main Approaches to Class Conflict • Marx and Class Conflict o Concluded that all of history was driven by class conflict, and as societies moved from one form of production to another, the classes in control changes accompanied by changes in means of production o Karl Wittfogel: Oriental Despotism § Pointed out civilizations based on farming large rice baddies depend completely on irrigation systems so the “oriental despots” who control irrigation system and water flowing through are able to control society § By contrast, in capitalist industrial societies, dominant people are capitalists who control factories (source of jobs) and banks (source of credit) o Capitalists and workers are 2 key classes; though there are others like: landlords, petty bourgeoisie, peasants, lumpenproletariat (underclass) § Bourgeoisie is the capitalist class which owns and controls the means of production including factories, banks, and labour § Proletariat is the subordinate class in capitalist society; work for wages from the bourgeoisie § Under capitalism, landlords become marginal/secondary since they’re no longer central to production and wealth in society § Capital is wealth in the form of money/assets, used or invested in the production of goods § Petty Bourgeoisie is the lower middle class made up of people who own the means of production on a small scale, including artisans and owners of small shops • Typically, they own some property and may hire people to work for them, but not wealthy enough to live on investments alone and must also work to support themselves § Peasants also own some property and work land with help of family members and hired workers • Workers and owners, but hold no particular power in society Marx saw lumpenproletariat as dangerous and disreputable people with no social consciousness or political engagement ex. criminals, addicts, beggars, rootless adventurers, ex-­‐convicts • Don’t work regularly for wages, don’t own capital so can’t be considered members of any of the classes we have outlined so far In simplest Model of Marxism, capitalist society is built on conflict between bourgeoisie and proletariat This binary is fundamental to all social relations and all class conflict § Relationship between bourgeoisie and proletariat is paradoxical: need each other but permanently opposed to each other Defining feature of bourgeoisie is their exploitation of the proletariat Exploitative work relationship stands at centre of capitalism, producing what Marx considered its two central properties: exploitation and alienation Exploitation by bourgeoisie involves 3 principles, outlined by Erik Olin Wright 1. According to the inverse interdependence principle, the economic wellbeing of capitalists requires the economic deprivation and exploitation of workers 2. According to the exclusion principle, capitalists must keep pressure on workers by excluding them from access to benefits and productive resources a. Ex. by making it hard for them to get capital necessary to set up their own business b. May mean limiting their access to jobs, housing, and other fundamental needs 3. According to the appropriation principle, capitalists take advantage of the workers by buying their labour for a fraction of its real value § o o o o o o o Marx says workers will fight back using every possible means – unions, legislation, revolutions etc. § This is the class struggle under capitalism; never-­‐ending and inevitable struggle Capitalism creates seeds of its own destruction because it creates conditions (esp exploitation, alienation, and class mobilization) under which a revolutionary upheaval will develop o o o o o o o o o Capitalists fight back with their own weapons ex. threat of unemployment Reserve Army of Labour: people who, because they’re impoverished and often unemployed, form an easily disposable workforce at the mercy of employers Capitalists use unemployment and unemployed to prevent/quash labour unrest § Workers less likely to demand higher pay if they fear they’ll be replaced by even cheaper labour Richard Edwards coined the term “contested terrain” to describe how given their opposed interests, the two classes are locked in a conflict that plays itself out, partly, in the workplace § There can never be peace and co-­‐operation because of opposing interests From this pov, workplace is a place of repression and mistreatment, in which some groups even more vulnerable like single women, immigrants, younger-­‐than-­‐avg and older-­‐than-­‐avg workers Marx didn’t put much faith in sig change through peaceful methods; sought a radical approach Class Consciousness is a social class’s awareness of their common interests, which typically generates a commitment to work together to attain collective goals False Consciousness is a willingness to believe in ideologies that support the ruling class but that are false and disadvantageous to working-­‐class interests Barriers to class consciousness make it difficult for workers to mobilize towards Marx’s goal of a violent rebellion against the capitalists • • • • • Weber and Class Conflict o Focused on distribution of power among classes, instead of its sig in exploitation of one class by another o Defined class in terms of distribution (Marx = production) o Linked class to market situation; economic class defined by economic power in relation to given market o Marx viewed classes as economic groups, Weber viewed them as power groups o He believed power could be attained in various ways, ownership of the means of production being only one of the ways o Instead of proletariat and bourgeoisie classes only, Weber focused on other classes o Distinguished economic class from 2 other sources of power: parties and status groups § Parties are associations and organizations that give people non-­‐economic power and influence § Status groups are sets of people who share a social position in society, with a common degree of prestige, esteem, and honour • Chief defining feature: practise exclusion to maintain the boundaries between their group and others o Weber’s parties and status groups are related to social class, but are different § Like social class, they provide members with access to power but in diff ways § Argued people could gain power by entering influential parties and high-­‐status groups; they can gain power through their social position, regardless of whether they wielded economic control Marx provided foundations of class analysis; Weber build on them Modern sociological conception of social class based more on Weber because it is more inclusive In present day post-­‐industrial society, Marx’s portrayal is too simple for several reasons o Post-­‐industrial is referring to an economic system based more on services and info than on manufactured goods or primary production 1. It’s no longer necessary to own a business to control means of production a. Only necessary to manage the organization and/or serve on its board of directors b. James Burnham called this “the managerial revolution” 2. Working class today is international because of multinational ownership and global competition Work status is a defining feature of all social life, just like sex and age Ways of Looking at: Classes and Workplaces • Functionalism o Believe poverty and inequality are universal because they serve imp purposes in society o Under capitalism, inequality defined as graded ladder of people with diff occupational roles and income levels; usually called a stratification system o Poverty and inequality motivate effort, striving, and productive competition o Assumes people generally agree on social value of an occupation § Jobs requiring higher education and bring in high income = more desirable and prestigious § Evident using Emory Bogardus’ social distance measures (ex. study in Czech) o Inequality is good for society = encourages excellence and productivity o Diff kinds of societies have diff kinds of class structure and require diff kinds of investment o Modernization transforms class structure; it transforms and is transformed by the state o Industrialization makes upward mobility possible suddenly and on a large scale § Result = liberal democratic state that’s stable because it’s generally viewed as legitimate and as the protector of national well-­‐being o When investments in skill consistent with compensation, functionalist theory of inequality works well § Not always in balance: inflated salary of athlete, entertainers or lower salary of nurses, teachers o o o • • Believe everyone needs work = gives people a way to acquire the material necessities of life – food, water, shelter, clothing – for themselves and their families Also allows them to satisfy their emotional needs ex. gain recognition, be productive, interact w/ others Work has social and economic benefits; provides basis for social interaction, solidarity, cohesion, sharing of lifestyles and meanings Critical Theory o Look for power inequalities and exploitation: Marx, Weber, Dahrendorf, Mills, Lenski, Wright, Giddens o Class is a very real concept: relationship focused on means of production (Marx) or power and the market (Weber) o It is the particular combo of class, work, and status situations that shape class consciousness § There is no class mobilization without class consciousness o Social classes have no easy-­‐to-­‐spot distinguishing features unlike ex. racial/ethnic/age groups o Class differentiation requires lot of cultural inventiveness; class mobilization requires a lot of dedication o Class mobilization is a response to Marxist notions of class oppression and alienation, studied by Harry o Harry Braverman: Labor and Monopoly Capital § Explores evolution of capitalist production over last 2 centuries § Proposed work, while demanding even higher levels of education and expertise, was becoming ever more mindless, bureaucratic, and alienating • Was being “degraded” as capitalists sought to increase control over labour process § Separation of skill and knowledge degraded meaning of work; suggested it had an effect of separating jobs into those requiring (1) a small # of highly skilled and trained individuals whose time is seen as valuable, and (2) a mass of simple labourers whose time is considered to be worth next to nothing § Office work also proletarianized – became more simplified, mechanized, and regimented, like factory work § His theory proposes human factors of production are becoming more important and, therefore, meriting more investment • Also proposes human factors of production are increasingly taking a back seat to machines § Puts modern capitalism on collision course with working class and modern state and its responsibility for human capital investment in health, education, and welfare Symbolic Interactionism o Concerned with ways that meanings are attached to social inequality o Typically, poor person in N. America stereotyped as lazy, irresponsible, undeserving etc… o Rich stereotyped as greedy, shallow, snobbish, egotistical, callous, wasteful, probably white etc… o Focuses on meanings of work and unemployment for the individual o Work, esp in individualistic culture, contributes in a large way to shaping and expressing our identity § “What do you do?” – to learn about the “type” of person they’re meeting o Evolution of popular thinking about work: § Concern about alienating effects of certain types of work (50-­‐60s) § Concern about exploitation of workers here and abroad, possibility of computers replacing humans in workplace, and need to secure more leisure time (70-­‐80s) § Concerned with job insecurity, job loss, spillover effects of bad work lives into people’s family lives and health (with rise of global economic integration) • • Feminism o Focus on fact that women and men, even within same class, may have very diff experiences at work o Capitalists profit from hard work of women even more than men, who usually occupy higher-­‐paying jobs than women and profit at the expense of the women who work for them § Result among women is job dissatisfaction, lack of job control, high prevalence of depression o It is impossible to make universalizing statements about the effects of social class on all individuals § Ex. class experience of college grad would be diff if she works as a unionized hospital clerk, a retail store clerk, housecleaner; or class experience of a college grad would be diff if her parents own string of restaurants, work at Walmart, or are chronically unemployed Postmodernism o Suggested traditional/classical approaches to understanding inequality are too simple to account for the complex class system in evidence today o Postmodernists aim to highlight complexity of our class system, showing that it is no simple set of easily definable categories o Tend to problematize existing ideas about class and inequality, while questioning why we define them the way we do o Grusky and Weeden § Examine conventional measures of class, noting that these are merely statistical constructions that ignore deeply institutionalized relationships at the site of production § Revisiting class analysis so that it is based on performative categories rather than nominal ones will give us a better idea of what it means to belong to a class in the modern economy o Postmodernists also interested in issues related to social mobility o Goldthorpe re-­‐asserts value of traditional Marxist analyses, insisting that classes are evidently “real social groupings” but there are problems with traditional definitions of class, therefore problems with traditional measures of social mobility o This approach shows that we are still some distance from being able to identify the true boundaries of social classes; they remain statistical constructions not loved, shared experiences o Bidou-­‐Zacchariasen: with increasing popularity of this approach in Britain, interest in class analysis there has been declining; in France, there’s a renewed interest in traditional/Marxist terminology of social classes o Charusheela asserts Marxist analysis can avoid preconceptions of modernism, Eurocentrism, and essentialism, and may even be able to provide solutions to class-­‐based social problems Class Socialization • Classes tend to be self-­‐perpetuating, and to signify their identity by cultural means • Thorstein Veblen studied the leisure class; critiqued the “conspicuous consumption” of the wealthy • Pierre Bourdieu proposed that cultural capital reproduces social domination form one gen to the next o Cultural Capital is a body of knowledge and interpersonal skills that helps people to get ahead socially, often includes learning about and participating in high culture; learned expertise and competence o Includes all cultural symbols and practices that function to enhance social distinctions ex. taste in art, style in dressing, eating habits • Members of ruling class teach their children taste preferences to pass along their class-­‐based cultural capital • Joseph Stiglitz calls our attention to the folly of imagining that there is equal opportunity for advancement – or upward mobility – in modern capitalist societies, esp in most unequal ones like US The Organization of Work in Canada Today • Mechanization might lead workers to expect more opportunity, leisure time, and job autonomy; fewer boring, repetitive tasks; more time to spend on interesting work; and generally, a more satisfying work experience • But it has increased workplace inequality, made people readily replaceable • Non-­‐standard Work Arrangements: dead-­‐end, low-­‐paying, insecure jobs; also known as precarious employment o Sometimes called McJobs; growing type of employment in Canada o Usually don’t guarantee a career like they did in the past; made work less predictable and more variable o Gives employers full control over labour process; hiring and firing easy and frequent o These jobs are the “degraded” work that Harry Braverman warned against o ~40% employed women hold these jobs o Non-­‐standard work reps 1/3 of all jobs in Canada Emile Durkheim: The Division of Labor in Society • Proposed that modern industrial societies have diff, less consensual moral codes – including diff laws and beliefs – than pre-­‐modern, pre-­‐industrial societies had • Moral evolution results from society’s growth in size and economic complexity, and from increased capacities for communication • 2 factors associated with industrialization are specifically responsible for growth in moral density: o Social Volume is the total # of its members o Material Density is its frequency of social connections, which increases when spatial distance between individuals is reduced or through advances in communication and transportation • In pre-­‐industrial societies, where there was little division of labour and communities tended to revolve around a particular type of work (ex. hunting), people led similar lives and were bound together by the similarity • In industrial societies, with specialization resulting from division of labour, people come to depend on each other to complete their work and achieve their goals • Another result of industrialization is the greater reliance on non-­‐traditional units of organization o Occupational groups take greater significance than tribe/kin o Family integration weakened; organic solidarity Topics in the Study of Labour and Poverty • Alienation and Collective Action o Marx saw workers’ dissatisfaction with and detachment from their lives as a result of suffering under capitalism – a result he called alienation, which workers could experience in any of 4 ways 1. Worker feels alienated from product of his/her work 2. As a result of the first, worker feels alienated from act of production 3. Worker becomes alienated from his/her own essence as a human being, coming to feel like a robot, simply “going through the motions” to carry out the labour 4. Feels alienated from other workers o Union membership in Canada has been in decline since mid-­‐20th century o Rate of unionization fairly constant among women (1997: 32.1%, 2012: 32.8%) o Declined sharply among men (35.2% to 30.3%) suggesting decline in male-­‐dominated manufacturing (blue-­‐collar) unions and a survival of female-­‐dominated service (white-­‐collar) unions • The Working Poor and the Culture of Poverty o Working po...
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