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The City University of New York

Review: Class and Class Conflict in Contemporary Capitalist Societies


Author(s): Richard Ashcraft
Source: Comparative Politics, Vol. 11, No. 2 (Jan., 1979), pp. 225-245
Published by: Ph.D. Program in Political Science of the City University of New York
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Review Article

Class and Class Conflict in


Contemporary Capitalist Societies
Richard Ashcraft

Andre Gorz, ed. The Division of Labour: The Labour Process and Class
Struggle in ModernCapitalism, AtlanticHighlands, N.J., HumanitiesPress,
1976, xiv, 189pp.

FrankParkin,ed. The Social Analysis of Class Structure, London, Tavistock


PublicationsLtd., 1974, xii, 315pp.

John Westergaardand HenriettaResler, Class in a CapitalistSociety: A Study


of ContemporaryBritain, London, HeinemannEducationalBooks Ltd., 1975,
xv, 432pp.; New York, Basic Books, 1976.

AnthonyGiddens, The Class Structureof the AdvancedSocieties, New York,


Barnesand Noble, 1973, 336pp.; paper, Harperand Row Torchbook, 1975.

MartinBulmer, ed. Working-ClassImages of Society, London, Routledge &


Kegan Paul Ltd., 1975, xiv, 278pp.

Nicos Poulantzas,Classes in ContemporaryCapitalism, London, New Left


Books, 1975, 336pp.

There is, Anthony Giddens observes, "a long-standingproblem in sociol-


ogy--one might say the problemin sociology: the questionof classes andclass
conflict." 1 Ever since Marxoffered his solutionto this "problem," the study
of social classes, as Bendix andLipsetremark,has been permeatedby a critical
reaction to Marx's influence.2 Much of this critical revision of Marxism-
includingthe worksby the authorshereunderreview---owes a largeintellectual
debt to Max Weber.3In the first section of the essay, therefore,I will indicate,
briefly, the importanceof the theoreticalframeworksof MarxandWeberto the
recentempiricalresearchon class stratification.The specific characteristicsof
0010-4159/7910115-0006$05.00/1
o 1979 The City University of New York
225
ComparativePolitics January 1979

class and class conflict in postwar capitalist societies, as revealed by that


research, will be discussed in the second section. Finally, the essay will
concludewith a considerationof the problemof class conflict with respectto the
political future of the United States and Western Europe.

"All knowledge of culturalreality," Max Weberdeclared, "is always knowl-


edge fromparticularpoints of view." 4 Therefore, "the methodof investiga-
tion, the guiding 'point of view' is of greatimportancefor the constructionof
the conceptualscheme which will be used in the investigation"since the nature
of this investigationwill be "determinedby the evaluativeideas which domi-
nate the investigatorand his age." I In this section, I shall try to illustratethe
importanceof this Weberianobservationto a considerationof the worksby the
authorsunder review by showing that the types of questions and problems
discussed under the general topic of class conflict in capitalist societies are
shapedby the "evaluative ideas" drawnfrom the social theoriesof Marxand
Weber.
For example, we may ask: Does Marx's notion of class reflect a transitory
historicalstage of capitalistdevelopment,or does it retainits usefulness as an
ideal type applicableto contemporarycapitalistsocities? Can class conflict be
subsumedunder a more general problem of legitimatingauthority?Is "poli-
tics" an autonomoussphereof social activity with respectto "economics"? Is
class stratificationrooted in the productionor in the distributionof goods and
services? Does such stratificationimply the existence of conflictual relation-
ships betweenclasses? These are some of the theoreticalquestionsuponwhose
answers any interpretationof the empirical data discussed below depends.
Whatone discovers in the recentresearchon class is very much determinedby
the manner in which these issues-which divided Marx and Weber-are
resolved. This is especially evident, as we shall see, when the politicalimplica-
tions of the data on class are being discussed.
Thus, Nicos Poulantzas and Andre Gorz accept Marx's notion of class
conflict as a structuralcharacteristicof capitalist society rooted in the social
division of labor between capitalist and workers. For MartinBulmer or An-
thony Giddens,however, the formof class conflict describedby Marxis simply
a special, historicallyuniqueaspectof class stratification.WhatMarxregarded
as essentialto a theoreticalexplanationof capitalistsociety is, for them, merely
an empirically contingent phenomenon.6From a Weberianstandpoint,class
confrontationsare significantbecausethey represent"a special case of an even
more generalphenomenon," namely, the "institutionalizationof conflict." '
Whatis needed, therefore,is a theoreticalframeworkfocused uponthe problem
of legitimatingauthority.The search for such a theory necessarily directsthe

226
Richard Ashcraft

social scientistto look for "a type of social relationsanalyticallyindependentof


economic conditions." Consequently, for Weberians, politics becomes "an
autonomousprocess" withinthe generalarenaof social conflict.8 This view is
in sharpcontrastto that of Poulantzas, who writes:

Thedivisionof societyintoclassespreciselymeans. .. thattheconceptof social


classis pertinent
to alllevelsof analysis;thedivisionintoclassesformstheframe
of referencefor everysocialstratification. (Poulantzas,p. 199)

Hence, if there is an industrialstrike, whether or not this confrontationis


separablefrom or is part of the political class struggle between workers and
capitalists will depend, in part, upon whether the theoretical frameworkof
Marxor thatof Weberis relied upon to supply the interpretivesignificance of
this particularsocial activity.
Or, to consider another illustrationof the general point, whereas Marx
situatedclass structurein the relations of production,Weber describedclass
divisions in terms of exchange, viz., "the marketabilityof goods or ser-
vices." 9 The former approach focuses attention upon the organization of
productionas an inherentfeatureof class stratification,while the latterperspec-
tive stressesthe systemic patternof distributedrewards.For Poulantzas,there-
fore, classes cannot be identified with "the statistical and rigidly empirical
boundariesof 'social groups,' .. .but areratherdefinedin termsof an invariant
core of productionrelations"betweenthe owners of capitaland those who sell
their labor power (pp. 14-17, 116). Other scholars, following Weber's em-
phasis uponthe distributionof social gradations,referto classes as "aggregates
of personswith similaramountsof wealth and propertyand similar sourcesof
income" or "commonly sharedlevels of marketcapacity." 10The theoretical
importanceof "class" as a tool of social analysis will thus vary, as Giddens
observes, depending upon which definition the investigator adopts as the
"guiding point of view" for his research(Giddens, p. 104).
As a useful illustrationof the effect a particulartheoreticalframeworkhas
upon structuringthe meaning of social reality, and also, as a bridge to the
specific research to be considered in the next section, the work of David
Lockwood and Frank Parkin is of special interest. In a now classic article,
which provides the focus for the contributionsto Working-ClassImages of
Society, Lockwoodtriedto establisha linkagebetweenworkers'perceptionsof
theirimmediatesocial environmentandtheirattitudestowardsclass conflict in
society at large.11 His research was guided by the general propositionthat
perceptionsof class structurevary in accordancewith the respondent'sparticu-
larsocial milieus. "Class," thatis, servesas a generalizedsymbolicexpression
for the concretelyexperiencedsocial inequalitiescharacteristicof "the smaller
societies in which individuals live out their daily lives" (Bulmer, p. 1). A
numberof other studies had already shown that individuals tend to concep-

227
ComparativePolitics January 1979

tualize class structureeither in terms of a "power-conflict-dichotomous"


model or a "prestige-status-hierarchical" model."1In otherwords, it appeared
that some correlationcould be established, in a very general way, of course,
between a Marxianclass conflict conception of society prevalentamongst the
working class, and a Weberian status-hierarchyview of the social structure
characteristicof the middle class.
Lockwood's findings, while not directly challenging the validity of this
proposition,indicatedthatit was too broadlyformulatedto capturethe nuances
anddivergencescontainedin the empiricaldata;specifically, he drew attention
to the variationswithinworking-classimagery.Both the power-conflictandthe
status-hierarchymodels of class structure,Lockwood argued,served as gener-
alized expressionsof social relationsfor varioussegmentsof the workingclass.
The first model, he associatedwith the "proletarian"worker,an ideal typical
figure closely resemblingMarx's description;the second, he ascribed to the
"deferential"worker,who tendedto adopta functionalWeberianoutlookwith
respectto social relations.Thus, in explainingwhy individualswithinthe same
social class held differing conceptions of the social structure,Lockwood had
created, in Weberianfashion, two "types" of "workers."
Criticsof this viewpoint, not surprisingly,maintained,as had Marx, thatthe
contradictionsexpressed by workers were historically rooted in their social
milieus and could not be set aside by the intellectualconstructsof the social
scientist. FrankParkinandothersnotedthe inabilityof Lockwood's staticideal
types of workersto accountfor the fact that many workersactually expressed
contradictoryviews of social relations;thatis, they subscribedto both models
of class stratificationsimultaneously.x1 Whetheror not a working-classindi-
vidual perceives the social structurein consensual-hierarchicalor conflict-
dichotomous terms, Parkin argued, depends very much upon "the level of
generality" on which the questions are framed:

Thus,studiesof working-class attitudeswhichrelyonquestionsposedin general


andnonsituational termsarelikelyto producefindingswhichemphasizeclass
consensuson values... studieswhichspecifyparticular socialcontextsof belief
andaction,orwhichrelyon actualbehavioral indices(e.g., recentstrikes,plant
conditions,etc.) arelikelyto findmoreevidencefor a class differentialvalue
system.14

The original proposition, asserting a connection between conceptions of the


social structureand the life-style experienceof the individual,was reaffirmed,
but now, it was suggested, the specific natureof that connection could vary
accordingto assumptionsabout social relationsimplicit in the researchitself.
The problem of utilizing the concept of class remains, therefore, in this
fundamentalsense, a methodological-theoreticalone, since the natureof the
frameworkadoptedin approachingthe questionof social conflict constitutes,in
effect, a partof the evidence. Moreover,althoughneitherLockwoodnorParkin

228
RichardAshcraft

raise the point, it would appearto follow from the generalpropositionto which
they subscribe,thatif the social scientist's conceptualizationof class structure
representsa symbolic expressionof the social inequalitiescharacteristicof his
day-to-daymilieus, then whethersocial scientistsadopta consensus-hierarchy
or a conflict-dichotomousmodel of social structureis itself an issue rooted in
theirperceptionof the particularaspectsof class conflict or social stratification
thatshapetheirdaily lives. Theoriesof class structure,in short,are, at the same
time, ways of organizing the empirical data and also expressions of it. In
turningto a considerationof postwardevelopmentsin the United States and in
Europeancapitalist countries, I shall try to indicate the ways in which the
problemsthus far describedas conceptualor theoreticalreemergeas "part of
the data."

II

As Giddensobserves, the growthof a large white-collarmiddle class, located


predominantlywithin the service sectorof the economy, constitutes"a funda-
mentalstumblingblock to Marxisttheory," viewed as an explanatoryaccount
of twentieth-centurycapitalism.t"Some critics of Marxistsocial theory, like
Ralf Dahrendorf,have arguedthat "the Marxiannotion of a society split into
two antagonisticclasses growingout of the propertystructureof the economy is
no longer a correctdescriptionof Europeanreality." Forthem, "a new type of
class structureis emergingin Europe," replacingthe older(Marxist)notion of
class conflict between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat.61
In the currentliteratureon class stratification,this conclusion is linked not
only with the rise of the middle class, but also with a numberof correlative
issues which merit closer examination. According to various writers, the
changes characteristicof contemporarycapitalism reveal a redistributionof
income and the erosion of social inequalities,a high degree of social mobility
leading to the fragmentationof an older and more rigid class structure,the
increasingbureaucratization of society, andthe decline of the workingclass as a
political force for radical social change. Initially, these phenomena were
coalesced into an argumentwhich, in general, denied the importanceof class
and class conflict in postindustrialsociety. Recent research, however, has
shownthateach of these events suppliesmuchless evidence for an alternativeto
a class stratificationtheory of the social structurethan was at first supposed.
Forexample, to whatextent has therebeen a redistributionof income within
capitalistcountries, and does this signal a decomposition of class divisions?
The conclusionreachedby a numberof studies concernedwith this questionis
summarizedby Westergaardand Resler:

Therewereno signsof a reductionin overallinequalityof incomeduringthe


1960's,measured
afterallowanceforalltaxesandpublicwelfarebenefits.(p. 66)

229
ComparativePolitics January 1979

Anothervery detailedinvestigationof the subjectconcludesthattherehas been


no "discerniblemovementtowardgreaterequality" withinadvancedcapitalist
countriessince the end of WorldWar II.17 The patternof income distribution
within these societies has remainedremarkablyconstant. Propertyownership
andwealtharehighly concentratedin the handsof a tiny minority.1sThe notion
that, throughtechnologicaldevelopmentand economic expansion, capitalism
"naturally"narrowsthe division between classes is, to put it simply, a myth.
Nothing less thana purposive,well-designed, andpolitically forcefulprogram
of income redistributionis likely to reversethe process of persistenteconomic
inequalities.19Yet, contraryto popularbelief, most taxation laws and many
social welfare programsoperateregressively with respectto the redistribution
of the wealth.20In short, the boundarylines between classes duringthe last
century reflect "a substantiallyself-maintainingstructure."21
A more convincing-though not less hotly debated--claim can be made on
behalfof social mobilityas a factorwhichlessens class tensions. As Dahrendorf
phrasedthe argument:

The moreupwardanddownwardmobilitythereis in a society,the less com-


prehensiveandfundamental areclassconflictslikelytobe. As mobilityincreases,
groupsolidarityis increasingly
replacedbycompetition betweenindividuals,and
the energiesinvestedby individualsin class conflictdecrease.22

It was largely on the basis of what he regardedas "fairly high rates of social
mobility" in Westerncapitalistsocieties thatDahrendorfpostulatedthatsocial
conflict would increasinglymove away from a traditionalclass conflict model
towardsa social structuremore easily describedas "a fragmentationof inter-
ests." 23
It is interestingto contrastDahrendorf'spositionon this issue, which focuses
almost exclusively upon the statistical movementof individuals, with that of
Poulantzas,who maintainsthatwhatthe individualmembersof a class do does
not matterso long as the several social classes, as objectivestructuralconfig-
urations, retaintheir place within the social system (p. 284). Giddens, how-
ever, rightly reminds us that, although class structurationdoes representa
"closure" of life-chancesfor the individualandfor intergenerationalmobility,
if this closure were complete, we would not be speakingof classes at all, but of
somethingmore like castes. On the otherhand, if life-chances were randomly
distributedamongst individuals, "class" would indeed become a concept of
dubiousvalue for analyzingthe social structure.In otherwords, because class
stratificationpresupposes limited social mobility, the real issue is not the
theoreticalchallenge to the formerposed by the latter,but rather,what are the
specific featuresof social mobility in a particularsocial context which permit
one to speakof the empiricaltendenciesrelativeto class structurein thatsociety
(pp. 107, 110).

230
Richard Ashcraft

One of the difficulties in dealing with the data on social mobility in this
manner is attributableto the "strong ideological interest in the process of
upwardmobility" in the sociological literature,which has distortedthe rela-
tionshipbetweenthe persistenceof social classes andthe movementof individ-
uals.24In fact, as Parkinobserves, some capitalistsocieties have a higherrateof
downward mobility-nonmanual workers falling into the manual working
class-than of upwardmobility."5In anyevent, whatneeds to be madeclearare
the social circumstanceswhich providea contextualmeaningfor the statistical
data.26 For example, of those who move from manualto nonmanualoccupa-
tions, the overwhelmingmajorityareindividualswho move frombeing skilled
workersto positions with white-collarstatus. Thus, even when, for statistical
purposes, it constitutes an instance of upward mobility for the son of a
machinistto become an office clerk or a departmentstore salesman, whether,
fromthe standpointof social class, this reallyreflectsan upwardmovementout
of the working class is, to say the least, a highly problematicalissue. In his
studyof class in the United States, RichardHamiltonmaintainedthatthe social
and cultural milieus of the lower middle class, as well as their income and
workingconditions, were not appreciablydifferentfrom those experiencedby
the workingclass.27 Since almost all of the social mobility in capitalistsociety
is concentratedin whatParkincalls "the bufferzone" betweenthe middleclass
and the working class, the significance of social mobility with respect to
overcoming the obstacles of class barrierswould appearto be severely lim-
ited.28
Aside from income redistributionand occupational mobility, theories of
class realignmenthave relied heavily uponthe efficacy of educationas a factor
which levels class differences. "Mobility through education," Dahrendorf
argues, necessarily "includes mobility between the classes; from manual to
clerical and professionaloccupations..." 29 In fact, the expansion of higher
educationin industrializedsocieties has hadvery little effect uponclass stratifi-
cation. Essentially, growth in educationalopportunitiesduring the last half
century has meant an increase in the numbersof sons and daughtersof the
middle and upper classes attending college, and this expansion may have
actually workedto the relative disadvantageof membersof the working class
with respectto upwardsocial mobility.30 The son of an upper-classfatherstill
has morethanfifty times the chanceof the son of an unskilledworkerto become
a memberof the upperclass, despite the social importanceand availabilityof
educationalopportunities.In otherwords, "it is not the inequalitiesof class that
have been reduced" throughthe benefits conferredby the educationalsystem,
but rather,their "transparency."31 The ideological belief in social mobility
gained through education is far more importantas a "social fact" within
contemporarycapitalistsociety thanany empiricalevidence pointingto actual
shifts within the social structurecould possibly warrant.32
When argumentspremisedupon the rise of the middle class and, relatively

231
ComparativePolitics January 1979

speaking, upon the decline of the working class were first formulated,they
were interpretedas pointingto a basic transformationtakingplace within late
capitalism.Here again, however, a closer examinationof the evidence has led
to a reevaluationof this thesis andof the overallrelationshipbetweenthe middle
class and the working class. In the first place, it makes a crucial difference
whether"class" is simply a statisticalaggregateof individualunits or whether
it is a social unity, with referenceto families, life-styles, neighborhoods,job
conditions, etc. The failureto recognizethe family ratherthanthe individualas
the appropriatesocial unitof the class system, Parkinargues, is responsiblefor
much of the confusion as to the significance of the data.33For, the "middle
class majority"is a statisticalconsequenceof the fact thatthe employed wives
and daughtersof blue-collar manualworkers are counted as members of the
middle class.34The suddeninflux of women into the laborforce duringWorld
War II had more to do with the rise of a "white collar" sector of the economy
than any other single factor. Yet, forty percentof all female marriedclerical
workersin the UnitedStateshave blue-collarhusbands." In otherwords, when
the statistics are translatedinto the empirical conditions under which social
classes exist and relateto each other, the workingclass remainsthe largestand
most importantclass within the capitalistsystem of production.36 All contem-
porarycapitalistcountries, Giddens observes, are "working class societies,"
in which manufacturingremains the key sector of the economy (p. 198).
Moreover,if the projectedgrowthratesof blue-collarandwhite-collarworkers
are seen in termsof class membership,ratherthanas statisticalcategories, this
situationwill continue until well into the twenty-firstcentury.
Secondly, it is far fromclear as to the extentto which the tremendousgrowth
of the service sectorof the economy is a consequenceof the dramaticdecrease
in the number of agriculturalworkers during the period of rapid capitalist
expansion or of the displacementof jobs previously held by manufacturing
workers.3"The former, as a nonrepeatablehistorical development-like the
sudden massive entrance of women into the work force-would obviously
provide a shaky foundation upon which to base the projected trends of
capitalism, with respectto the comparativerelationshipbetween the manufac-
turing and the service sectors of the economy.
In short, a "postindustrialsociety" readingof the datapresentsa numberof
problems,rangingfrominsupportableassertionsaboutincome redistributionor
the achievements of upward social mobility gained through education, to
questionableinterpretationsof class mobility based upon occupationalcatego-
ries or the relativestatusof white-collarto blue-collarworkers,definedin terms
of statisticaldataratherthanin termsof social relationshipsor specific histori-
cal circumstances.Althoughthe point cannotbe given the attentionit deserves
here, I do want to suggest the presence in the stratificationliteratureof a
persistenttendency amongst those who adopt the neo-Weberianapproachto
social conflict to formulatea theory of the social structurewhich gives prece-

232
Richard Ashcraft

dence to analyticaldistinctions,aggregatestatisticalfigures, andto the individ-


ual as the basic unit of social life.38 Since postindustrialsociety theories were
advanced as part of an argument designed to demonstratethe decreasing
historical and sociological importanceof class and class conflict, the preva-
lence of this tendencyis less surprisingthan it might at first appear.It is even
less so when the contextual circumstances under which Weber's original
argumentwas put forwardaretakeninto account.39This is not to say, it mustbe
stressed,thatthis interpretation of late capitalismcanbe classified in any simple
sense as "false." Rather,the point is thatin orderto make sense out of the data
from this perspective-indeed, even to state what the "data" is-requires a
particularconceptual framework,one which, as it happens, is also part of a
critique of the Marxist theory of class and class conflict.
On the otherhand, Marxistshave experiencedmorethana few difficultiesof
their own in attempting to theorize about the recent developments within
capitalism. The problem does not lie with Marx's failure to recognize the
existence of "the new middleclass," butwith the ambiguousstatusaccordedto
this stratawithin his theory.40 At the heart of the matteris the fundamental
distinction Marx drew between "productive" and "unproductive" labor.
"Only that wage-laboris productive," he wrote, "which producescapital,"
i.e., surplusvaluefor the capitalist."4This means, as GorzandPoulantzaspoint
out, thatnot every wage earneris productivein the Marxiansense.4"Since "the
workingclass" is for them defined in terms of this exploitationof productive
laborpower, a large numberof "workers" in contemporarycapitalistsociety
are, in effect, not partof this class.43 Instead, they comprisewhat Poulantzas
calls "the new petty bourgeoisie" (p. 204). Under capitalism, only those
workerswhose laboris the sourceof "the self-expansionof capital" standin a
direct relationshipas producersto those who controlthe means of production
(capitalists).44Hence, for Gorz, and especially for Poulantzas, the working
class is almost exclusively located within the manufacturingsector.
The problemfacing Marxists, however, is not only that many "unproduc-
tive" workersin capitalistsociety aretheoreticallyexcludedfrom membership
in the working class; equally troublesome is the fact that many productive
workers, especially in Europeancountries, do not form partof the indigenous
working class. As Stephen Castles and Godula Kosack observe in Immigrant
Workersand Class Structurein WesternEurope:

Virtuallyeveryadvancedcapitalistcountryhasa lowerstratum,distinguished
by
orotherspecialcharacteristics,
race,nationality, whichcarriesouttheworstjobs
andhas the leastdesirablesocialconditions.45

Because these immigrantethnic workers are relatively unorganizedvis-a-vis


the nationalproletariat,the resulting social and political divisions within the
working class present practical obstacles to the viability of Marxism as the

233
ComparativePolitics January 1979

theoryof the working class in its struggleagainstcontemporarycapitalism.46


Thus, the shapeandsocial role of the twentiethcenturyproletariatis pressedon
one side by Marxisttheoreticianswho exclude unproductiveworkersand, on
the other, by nationalistpoliticalpartiesandtradeunionswho exclude product-
ive, but alien, workers.
Although they have arrived at the conclusion by a different route, some
Marxistsare in agreementwith the theoristsof postindustrialsociety that the
traditionalproletariathas lost its majoritarianstatusas a class. This, however,
does not resolve the issue of what importanceand social role ought to be
attributedto the new middle class. Poulantzas,for example, maintainsthat it
"does not have in the long runany autonomousclass position" (p. 287). Gorz
arguesthat insofar as white-collaror technical workersserve in a supervisory
role within the productionprocess, they are aligned with capitalists in the
exploitationof labor, but insofaras they are alienatedfromthe productof their
labor and from control of the means of production, they stand in the same
relationto capital as other workers(p. 167). In other words, since classes are
defined from the Marxist perspective according to their position within the
dominant mode of production, the economic status of "the new petty
bourgeoisie" is, in relationto thatof capitalistsand workers, an unstableone.
What is occurring, Poulantzas and Gorz argue, is "a massive process of
pauperizationand proletarianizationof this petty bourgeoisie."47
For Gorz, this process reflects the structuralcontradictionsof capitalismat a
fundamentallevel, "that of work organization." Within "the capitalistdivi-
sion of labor," he writes, "the functionof technicalworkersin manufacturing
industry... is both technical and ideological" (p. 168). Although such things
as the structureof factory organization,the centralizationof knowledge and
decision making, and the allocationof particularwork assignmentsareusually
justified on the grounds of "technological efficiency," Gorz contends that
most of these division-of-laborrelationshipshave more to do with the mainte-
nanceof workdiscipline andthe controlof the productionprocess thanthey do
with matters of "technical superiority."48With respect to the new middle
class, what Gorz sees is "a general evolution that is progressively shifting
technical workers from a supervisoryto a directly productive function" (p.
168). As these higher statusemployees lose their autonomyin designing their
worktasks andrelinquishtheirsupervisoryresponsibilitiesover otherworkers,
theirjob conditions will increasinglyresemblethose of other "proletarians."
While the evidence supportingthe general thesis of proletarianizationis
limited, thereare some indicationsthat such a process may be takingplace.49
For one thing, the real income of white-collar workers relative to that of
blue-collar workers has declined during the last two decades. The degree to
which the statusdifferentialwhich separatesthe two groupswill be eroded by
this fact remains to be seen (Giddens, p. 180). Secondly, there has been a
spreadof unionizationamongwhite-collarworkers,and, it is reasoned,insofar

234
Richard Ashcraft

as a tradeunion consciousness takes root within this strata,they will come to


recognize the central conflict between labor and capital which underlies the
class awarenessof other workers.50Third, Hamiltonreportedin his surveyof
clerical, sales, and other white-collar workers that half of the respondents
identified themselves as members of the working class. This working-class
identification, he noted, is particularlyhigh among those individuals from
working-classorigins who have moved into the middle class. In other words,
instead of shedding their earlier value orientationsfor those associated with
middle-classlife, workerswere "importingtheirclass identification"intotheir
new class position, thereby lending some supportto the belief that the new
middle class ought to be viewed in terms of a process of proletarianization
ratherthan one of embourgeoisement.51
This might also help to explain the growth of left-wing political parties in
Europe.Until recently,these parties,as electoralinstitutions,posed little threat
to the rule of the centrist-liberalcoalition which governs most WesternEuro-
peancountries.Yet, if a largeproportionof technical,white-collar,nonmanual
workers-what Poulantzas calls "a left wing technocracy" (p. 291)-are
joining the ranks of the socialist Left, the political future cannot simply be
assumed to lie in the hands of conservative, middle-class-orientedpolitical
parties.52It is a false, though widely-held assumption, that Marxists have
predicatedtheirpoliticalstrategyuponmaintainingthe purityandhomogeneity
of the workingclass in buildinga radicalmovement. On the contrary,nearlya
centuryago, Engels spoke of the need for the GermanSocial Democraticparty
to recruitinto its ranks "the greaterpartof the middle strataof society, petty
bourgeoisand small peasants" as well as workersin orderfor it to "grow into
the decisive power in the land.""53
Fromthe Marxiststandpoint,therefore,the new middle class is an unstable
economic compound of those elements which define the proletariatand the
bourgeoisie.Its unityas a class, accordingto Poulantzas,restson its ideological
andpolitical functionwithinthe socioeconomic system.54If, as Gorz suggests,
economic tendenciesare alreadyworkingto underminethe political autonomy
of this class within "the capitalistdivision of labor," the resultwill be thatthe
new petty bourgeoisiewill be increasinglydrawninto the political class strug-
gle between the proletariatand the bourgeoisie.In short,
The morecontradictory is a positionwithinsocialrelationsof production,the
morepoliticalandideologicalrelationscaninfluenceitsobjectivepositionwithin
classrelations.Themorea positioncoincideswiththebasicantagonistic class
relationsatthelevelof socialrelationsof production,thelessweightpoliticaland
ideologicalforcescanhavein determining its classposition.In a senseit is the
indeterminacy of classdetermination attheeconomiclevelwhichallowspolitical
andideologicalrelationsto becomeeffectivedeterminants of class position.55

Althoughparticularpropositionshave been discardedor reformulated,and

235
ComparativePolitics January 1979

otherswill have to be subjectedto tests and a morecriticalexaminationin light


of the recent research on class stratification,neither of the two theoretical
frameworkswe have discussed have been cast aside or "refuted" as a conse-
quence of this research. Rather, what has happened is that the polemical
dimensions of the sociological debate have been sharpened.Thus, whereas
non-Marxistshave concludedon the basis of the "inherent"featuresof postin-
dustrialsociety that the politics of the futurewill transcendthe boundariesof
class conflict, Marxists have argued that the "inherent" instability of late
capitalismwill lead to an intensificationof class conflict. The significance of
the recent changes in postwar capitalism depends, ultimately, upon what
political meaningcan be seen to flow from them. In Giddens'words, "specifi-
cally political influences ... mustbe allocateda primaryrole in interpretingthe
formationand developmentof class structures"(p 21).

HI

The rise of the new middleclass, it was at firstbelieved, would "stabilize class
tensions." In Aristotelianfashion, this class would act as a force of moderation,
standingbetweenthe extremistviews of the Right andthe Left, and "press the
political system towardconsensus.""' Since socialism, but especially Marx-
ism, was identifiedwith the extremistLeft in Europe,the political implications
of postcapitalist society seemed to point to "the demise of socialism.""
Lipset, however, recognized that the mass base of leftist parties and voting
patternsin Western Europe had not, in fact, declined during the period of
emergence of the new middle class. As a corollaryto the general moderation
thesis, therefore, it was arguedthat even if traditionalleft-wing parties con-
tinuedto grow in postcapitalistsociety, they would do so as a consequenceof
becoming "deradicalized" or more moderate;in short, parties of the Left
would move closer to a centrist political outlook.58
This political prognosiswas based largely upon inferences which translated
certain sociological characteristicsof the new middle class into projected
patternsof political behavior. The significant fact of postcapitalistsociety,
Dahrendorfargued, is that there has been "a withdrawal from politics in
modernsociety." The resultis that "the intensityof political commitmenthas
decreased.""59 The reason for this, Dahrendorfsuggested, is thatthe members
of the new middle class were more preoccupied with individual-centered
concerns than with the kinds of issues which would promote class solidarity.
Politics in a postindustrialsociety had assumed an increasingly "privatized"
and apatheticform, because this best reflectedthe sociopoliticalfeaturesof the
new middle class.
Lockwood's study of working-class imagery appeared to provide some
empiricalsupportfor this view. In additionto the "proletarian"and "deferen-

236
Richard Ashcraft

tial" workerspreviouslymentioned,Lockwood discoveredwhat he called the


"privatizedworker." This was someone who held a "pecuniary" model of
social relations.The privatizedworkersaw "himself in a work situationthatis
socially isolatingand. .. in which the dominantrelationshipis the cash nexus"
(Bulmer, p. 22). This "money-mindedness"applied not only to his job or to
the instrumentalattitude he adopted towards trade unions, but, in a more
generalsense, all formsof social powerwere conceptualizedas the powerof an
individual"to acquirethings:as purchasingpower" (ibid., pp. 24-25). Fromthe
standpointof the privatizedworker, "inequalities are not expressed through
social relationshipsat all," but are simply the gradationsestablishedby differ-
ences in monetaryincome (ibid., p. 26). Obviously, the prevalenceof such a
viewpoint would tend to underminethe propensityto act or to interpretthe
actions of others on the basis of class divisions in society. And, Lockwood
concluded, "the social consciousnessof manyindividualsin the 'new working
class' may be closer to this pecuniarymodelof society" thanto anyothermodel
(pp. 21, 26). The "privatization"of the workingclass is a thesis with a strong
kinship to the "embourgeoisement"argument;whetherworkersare adopting
middle-classvalues and life-styles, or simply engaging in self-indulgenceand
withdrawalfrom political activity, insofar as these trends are linked to the
progressiveexpansionof advancedcapitalism,both functionas a barrierto the
future intensificationof class conflict as envisioned by Marx.60
From a historical-theoreticalperspective, the recent changes in class struc-
turein capitalistsocietycould be easily reconciledwith Weberiansocial theory.
It was Weber, Giddens observes, who saw the spreadof bureaucratizationas
the stimulusfor the growthof a white-collarclass (p. 47). For Dahrendorf,it
was precisely this process of bureaucratization which supplieda "class unity"
to the new social strata. While from a traditionalclass standpointit might
appearnonsensicalto place secretaries,bankclerks, and salespeople together
with civil servantsand business executives in the same social group, Dahren-
dorf argued that such an approachwas defensible because "the hierarchical
internalstructure"of the social organizationsof which these individualswere
memberswas a "more significant" social fact thanotherkinds of distinctions
based on income or occupation.61'

In a largelywhite-collar society,thepoliticalprocesswill in large


bureaucratic
partbe foughtout in the competitionamongwhite-collargroupswithinthe
framework of the bureaucracy.62

The bureaucraticstructureof the socioeconomic system thereforeassumed a


precedencein determininghow the relationshipsbetween social groups were
conceptualized.At the same time, this viewpoint not only supplied a general
theoreticalframeworkfor the privatizedsocial relations of postcapitalistso-
ciety, it also describedthe politicalfutureof thatsociety as one of "bureaucratic

237
Comparative Politics January 1979

conservatism."63Since, accordingto Dahrendorf,class conflicts do not arise


withinbureaucraticstructures,the clearimplicationwas thatif social confronta-
tions occur in the future,they will be increasinglyremoved in their form from
any Marxian notion of class conflict. Thus, whether viewed in terms of
large-scalesocial forces (bureaucratization)or in termsof the empiricalcharac-
teristics of particularsocial groups (privatization),politics in postcapitalist
society had become divorced from "class" as the conceptualframeworkfor
social analysis.
This conclusion, which, of course, owed a greatdeal to Weber's attribution
of conceptual autonomy to "economics" and "politics," was initially ad-
vanced by Dahrendorf,but its most sophisticatedformulationappearsin Gid-
dens' book. "The stabilityof capitalistsociety," he writes, "dependsuponthe
maintenanceof an insulationof economy and polity, such that questions of
industrialorganizationappearas 'nonpolitical''"(p. 114). Because class struc-
turationis an endemic featureof capitalist society, Giddens argues, this fact
will always find some form of behavioralexpression, as "either class aware-
ness or class consciousness.""64 Since capitalism "is built upon a conflict of
interestbetweencapitaland wage-labor," workerscan be expectedto exhibit a
"conflict consciousness." However, the transformationof the latterinto "rev-
olutionaryconsciousness" requiresthat questions of restructuringthe socio-
economic system assumea centralplace in the confrontationbetweenlaborand
capital. In fact, Giddens maintains, this occurredonly in the early stages of
capitalistdevelopment.Hence, revolutionaryclass conflict is simply a histori-
cal phenomenon,and not, as it is for Marx, a theoreticalparadigmin terms of
which class relationshipsin contemporarysociety are to be assessed (pp. 117,
125). "The institutionalseparationof... class conflict in the industrialand
political spheres," Giddens concludes, "is the normal mode of the structura-
tion of class conflict in capitalist society " (p. 202).
Paradoxically,the interventionof the stateis requiredin orderto preservethe
"autonomy" of the two spheres. Increasingly, the capitalist state, under the
rubricof social democracy,is involved in economic planning,the regulationof
monopoliesand the labormarket,and even in effecting changesin the internal
organizationof economic institutions.These state actions have thus far main-
tained the institutionalizationof class conflict by preserving the essential
boundarylines between the "economy" and the "polity," therebyinhibiting
the developmentof a revolutionaryworking-classmovementwithinthe United
States and WesternEurope.However, Giddenswarns, the continuedpreoccu-
pation of the state with macroeconomic planning (incomes policies, price
controls, wage restraints,etc.) could redirectthe attentionof the labormove-
ment towards issues more directly concerned with the political control of
economic resources.Even if revolutionaryupheavalsdo not occur, the state is
caughtup in a process in which the moreit assumescontrolover the economy,
leading, perhaps, to "the dominationof the state apparatusover economic

238
Richard Ashcraft

life," in orderto "provide an escape from class society," the more it estab-
lishes "the entrenchmentof bureaucraticpower" (p. 282). In this sense,
althoughhe recognizesthat"in capitalistsociety, the class system continuesto
constitutethe fundamentalaxis of the social structure,and remains the main
channelof relationshipsof exploitativedomination"(p. 294), Giddens, in the
last analysis, agrees with Dahrendorfand Weber that revolutionaryclass
conflict has become extremelyproblematicas a lever of social change, giving
way to the dynamicsof bureaucratization as the dominantpolitical characteris-
tic of advancedindustrialsocieties.65
For Poulantzas,"the contemporaryspreadof bureaucratization is essentially
due to theprocessof concentrationandcentralizationof capital" (p. 275). And,
althoughhe means by bureaucratizationsomething which is only tangentially
relatedto the Weberiannotion, the point to be emphasizedhere is that from a
Marxistperspectivethis phenomenongrowsout of andmustbe definedin terms
of the class strugglebetween workersand capitalists. In one respect, bureauc-
ratizationwithinthe sphereof industrialorganizationis tied to the processof the
"proletarianization"of nonmanualworkers, previously discussed.66Viewed
in termsof the growthof the state apparatus,however, it has been arguedthat
the bureaucratizationof sociopolitical life in capitalist countries rests upon
deeply rooted divisions within the economy.
In the last two decades, the percentageof GNP representedby government
spending has increasedin these countries, largely as the consequence of the
expansionof social welfare services providedby the state.67 At the same time,
capitalismhas sufferedan "acute crisis of profitability"in the privatesectorof
the economy. Capitalaccumulationandeconomic growthhave slowed consid-
erably in the United States and Western Europe since the 1960s. During the
same period, tradeunion militancy, especially within the industrialsphereof
the economy, has increased. Government attempts to stimulate economic
growth, maintainfull employment, hold down inflation, and meet the wage
demandsof public sector employees, while also enlargingthe scope of social
services for the citizenry, has produced"the fiscal crisis of the state."68 The
costs of providing services and wage increases-which are not tied to rising
levels of productivity-lead to tax increases which, on the whole, serve to
maintain, and even in some cases widen, the existing social inequalities
between classes.
These economic difficulties which have plagued postwarcapitalismdo not
mean that a radical political movement will emerge in the United States or
WesternEurope.Rather,the point of the argumentis to suggest thatthe spread
of bureaucratizationmust be viewed as a contributorycause and not as a
solutionto the problembroughtaboutby class divisions. It is in this respect, as
Giddens remarks, that we are returnedonce more to the original competing
conceptualparadigmsof "class" and "bureaucracy,"accordingto which the
recent empirical researchis interpreted(p. 125).

239
ComparativePolitics January 1979

There is, however, one further aspect to an assessment of the political


significance of that research. Our earlier discussion of working-class social
imagery indicatedthe presence in the consciousness of large segments of the
working class of contradictoryvalue systems and models of social relations.
Parkindescribes this situationby referringto dominantand subordinateclass
value systems, and, he argues, the criticallyimportantfactoris the presenceor
absence of "the institutionalpower to legitimize a normativesystem which is
sharplyat odds with the dominantvalue system." A workingclass withoutthis
"institutionalpower" is "constrainedto acceptthe dominantmoralframework
as an abstract.. . idealizedversionof reality," while the presenceof a continu-
ous legitimizing source for a radicalvalue system allows workersto develop a
"favorable social identity." The presence or absence of a left-wing mass
political party is thus the key element in transformingoppositional life-style
values-"class awareness"-into (Marxian)class consciousness.69A recent
study of industrialconflict in postwarcapitalistcountriesconcludes that "the
relative size of CommunistParty membership"is the crucial variable in the
determinationof the intensity of strike activity in those societies:
Communist partiesinadvanced societiesremainimportant
industrial agenciesfor
the mobilizationof latentdiscontentand the crystallization
of labor-capital
cleavages.o
In otherwords, it is the way in which the class struggleis organizedthrougha
political partywhich remainsdecisive for the outcome of that struggle. At the
same time, the particularnatureof this practicalpolitical activity cannot be
deduced from any explanatoryaccount of the socioeconomic structure.The
debatebetween Weberiansand Marxistspersists precisely because, as Weber
pointedout, social theoriesare tied to "practicalvalue-interests." Since these
value-interestsare, in turn,boundup with the political conflict between social
classes in capitalist society, there can be no final theoretical solution to the
problemswe have discussed, so long as this political conflict continues. This
also meansthat, viewed in termsof theoreticalframeworks,politicalconfronta-
tions between classes arise within a sphere of indeterminacy, although the
causes and significance of these actions can always be explained post hoc
accordingto more than one of those frameworks.As Westergaardand Resler
remark,"the old institutionalizationof class compromiseshowed a vulnerabil-
ity in the late 1960s and 1970s which was not anticipated in any of the
conventionalinterpretationsbefore that" (p. 421). And, despite its propensity
to predict that the social revolution is just aroundthe corner, Marxism as a
political programwas just as unpreparedto deal with the events of May, 1968,
although,afterthe fact, it putforwarda theoreticalexplanationfor the failureof
the second FrenchRevolutionto occur. If Poulantzasis a bit overoptimisticin
describing the contemporarysituation as one which provides "the historic
possibility" for a "socialist revolution in France" (p. 333), neo-Weberian

240
Richard Ashcraft

social scientists are likewise a bit prematurein announcing the death of


socialism in Europe.
What I have tried to show in this essay is the importanceof a theory of the
social structurein assigningsignificanceto "class" relativeto otherconcepts,
and the indebtednessof contemporaryscholars to Marx and Weber in the
makingof these conceptualchoices. In light of the differingparadigmsformu-
lated by these two thinkers, I have indicatedthe various ways in which the
recentempiricalresearchon class stratificationis integratedinto these theoreti-
cal frameworks,andthe kindsof "puzzles" thatthis researchposes for them.71
Finally, I have arguedthatthe extent to which the political futureof the United
Statesor WesternEuropecan be predictedor extrapolatedfromthese theoriesis
severely limited, and that this limitationdirects our attentionto the fact that
theorizing is tied to specific practical value-interests. In the last analysis,
therefore, the significance of the theory will depend upon and cannot be
separatedfrom the way in which those interests are politically organized.

NOTES

1. AnthonyGiddens,The Class Structureof AdvancedSocieties (New York, 1973), p. 19;cf.


T.B. Bottomore, Classes in Modern Society (London, 1966), p. 8.
2. Seymour M. Lipset and ReinhardBendix, "Social Status and Social Structure,"British
Journal of Sociology (1951), 151. The authorsalso argue, more generally, that "discussions of
differenttheories of class are often academic substitutesfor a real conflict over political orienta-
tions" (p. 150); cf. Bottomore,p. 21. In orderto providea theoreticalcontextfor this essay, I have
extractedsome of the majorideas from the immense body of literatureon class stratificationand
have referred to the work of a few well-known scholars as representativeof widely-shared
viewpoints within the field of political sociology.
3. "Much of Max Weber's sociology may be said to constitute an attack upon the Marxian
generalizationthatclass strugglesform the maindynamicprocess in the developmentof society."
Giddens, p. 50; cf. pp. 125 ff., 275; FrankParkin, ed. The Social Analysis of Class Structure
(London, 1974), pp. 1-18, 143.
4. Max Weber,TheMethodologyofthe Social Sciences (Glencoe [Ill.], 1949), p. 81. (Italicsin
original.)
5. Ibid., p. 84.
6. Giddens, pp. 112 ff.; MartinBulmer,ed. Working-ClassImages of Society (London, 1975),
pp. 4-5. See also RaymondAron, 18 Lectureson IndustrialSociety (London, 1968), andLa Lutte
des classes (Paris, 1964). Aron's views are discussed by Giddens, pp. 60-63.
7. RalfDahrendorf,ConflictafterClass (London, 1967), p. 8; idem, Class and Class Conflictin
IndustrialSociety (Stanford, 1959), pp. 136, 172, 268 ff. See also the essay by W.G. Runciman,
"Towards a Theory of Social Stratification,"in Parkin, pp. 55-101; Giddens, p. 202.
8. Dahrendorf,Class and Class Conflict, pp. 136 ff., 246; Daniel Bell, TheCulturalContradic-
tions of Capitalism(New York, 1976), p. xi. Accordingto Weber, "culture," "economics," and
"politics" constituteseparablespheresof social life, within which class conflict may or may not
play an importantrole. Parkin,p. 143. Aron, Giddens, and Runcimanall use Weberto stress the
priorityof politics over economics, which also serves as the axis for a generalcritiqueof Marx.
Aron, "Social Class, PoliticalClass, RulingClass," in Lipset andBendix, eds. Class, Status,and
Power, 2d ed., (New York, 1966), pp. 203, 209; Giddens, pp. 21, 46-47, 50, 147;Runciman,p.
63.
9. Hans Gerth and C. Wright Mills, eds. From Max Weber (New York, 1958), pp. 182-83, 301.

241
Comparative Politics January 1979

John H. Goldthorpe,"Class, Status, and Partyin ModernBritain," EuropeanJournal of Sociol-


ogy, no. 2 (1972), 342-72, esp. 344.
10. Kurt B. Mayer and Walter Buckley, Class and Society (New York, 1970), pp. 15, 45;
Giddens, p. 192; cf. p. 105. Class conflict thus refers to an attemptto gain control over "the
distributionof symbolic and materialadvantages." FrankParkin,Class Inequalityand Political
Order (New York, 1971), p. 26.
11. David Lockwood, "Sources in Variation in Working-Class Images of Society," first
publishedin Sociological Review (November 1966), 249-67; reprintedin Bulmer, pp. 16-31. The
other essays in the volume are attemptsto carryout empiricalresearchon the basis of theoretical
critiques of the fundamentaltheses advancedin this article.
12. Dahrendorf,Class and Class Conflict, p. 283; Dahrendorf,"Recent Changes in the Class
Structureof EuropeanSocieties," Daedalus (Winter 1964), 250-51; Bulmer, p. 16.
13. See especially the essay by Robin Blackburnand Michael Mann, "Ideology in the Non-
Skilled Working Class," in Bulmer, pp. 131-60; Parkin,Class Inequality, pp. 93 ff.
14. Parkin,Class Inequality, p. 95.
15. Giddens, pp. 101, 188; Dahrendorf, "Recent Changes," p. 244; Stephen Castles and
GodulaKosack,ImmigrantWorkersand Class Structurein WesternEurope (New York, 1973), p.
472. Various terms are used by differentwritersto referto the "new workingclass," the "new
middleclass," the "service class," etc. These differencesin terminologyreferto slight differences
in the compositionof this group, andI have triedto indicatethis in the essay whereit is appropriate.
For generalconvenience, however, I have used the "new middleclass" as a label for this group.
16. Dahrendorf,"Recent Changes," pp. 127-28; Lipset, "The ChangingClass Structureand
ContemporaryEuropeanPolitics," Daedalus (Winter 1964), 271-303; Dahrendorf,ConflictAfter
Class, passim.
17. Thomas Stark, The Distributionof Personal Income in the United Kingdom, 1949-1963
(Cambridge, 1972), p. 56; Dorothy Wedderburn,ed. Poverty, Inequality, and Class Structure
(New York, 1974), p. 62; RichardF. Hamilton,Class and Politics in the UnitedStates (New York,
1972), p. 509; Goldthorpe, "Social Stratificationin IndustrialSociety," in Lipset and Bendix,
Class, Statusand Power, p. 652; Mayerand Buckley, pp. 69-70; GabrielKolko, WealthandPower
in America (New York, 1962), pp. 3, 128, 132; RichardM. Titmuss, Income Distributionand
Social Change (London, 1962), p. 198.
18. Dahrendorfmaintainedthat company stock "is dispersed fairly widely" in advanced
capitalistcountrieson the basis of the fact that8 percentof the populationin the United Statesown
stock. Dahrendorf,Class and Class Conflict, p. 42. As Kolko shows, not only hasthe percentageof
ownershipand the concentrationof shareholdingsremainedconstantduringthe last half-century,
but aboutthree-fifthsof all stock is owned by 4 percentof all stockholders.Kolko, pp. 50-51. In
Britain, 81 percent of stocks are owned by the top 1 percent of those ranked according to the
distributionof personalwealth. Titmuss,p. 113. See JohnWestergaardandHenriettaResler, Class
in a Capitalist Society: A Study of ContemporaryBritain (London, 1975), pp. 156 ff. Also
Westergaard, "Sociology: The Myth of Classlessness," in Blackburn, ed. Ideology in Social
Science (London, 1972), pp. 122ff.
19. Wedderburn,p. 218; Kolko, p. 132.
20. Westergaardand Resler, p. 61; Hamilton, p. 509.
21. Wedderbun, p. 219. "The balance of class advantages in Western Europeansocieties
cannot be said to have undergonea majorchange in the last threedecades or so." Parkin,Class
Inequality, p. 136; Giddens, p. 149.
22. Dahrendorf,Class and Class Conflict, p. 222; Mayer and Buckley, pp. 135-36.
23. Dahrendorf,Class and Class Conflict, p. 315; ConflictAfter Class, p. 20.
24. Hamilton,Class and Politics, p. 326. One of the reasons for this bias was the underlying
assumptionof investigatorsthatupwardsocial mobilitymeantthe abandonmentof previouslyheld
values and the adoptionof new ones. This assumptionwas one of the cornerstonesof the argument
for the emergenceof a "middle-classsociety." As Parkinnotes, this assumptionis dubiousand, at
best, a gross simplification;Class Inequality, p. 52.
25. Parkin,Class Inequality, p. 53. ThomasFox and S.M. Miller, "Intra-CountryVariations:
OccupationalStratificationand Mobility," in Lipset and Bendix, Class, Status and Power, pp.
574-81.
26. Westergaardand Resler discuss some of the methodologicalproblems associated with a

242
Richard Ashcraft

non-contextualtreatmentof social mobility, especially one thatignoreshistoricalpatternsand such


factorsas the timingof occupationalshifts in relationto the totalperiodof employmentfor members
of various social groups;pp. 286 ff., 309, 326-27.
27. Hamilton, p. 353 and passim.
28. Parkin,Class Inequality, p. 56; Westergaardand Resler, p. 280.
29. Dahrendorf,Class and Class Conflict, p. 315.
30. WestergaardandResler, pp. 316, 320-24; Westergaard,"Sociology," p. 130; Giddens, p.
169;JaneMarceau,"EducationandSocial Mobility in France," in Parkin,ed. TheSocialAnalysis
of Class Structure, pp. 205-35. Parkin does point out, however, that some improvement in
educationalopportunitiesfor children of working-classparents has occurredin those European
societies whereSocial Democraticgovernmentshavebeen in power;Class Inequality,pp. 110-13.
31. Westergaard,"Sociology," p. 126; Westergaardand Resler, p. 316.
32. Marceau,p. 232; Bottomore, Classes, p. 53.
33. Parkin,Class Inequality, p. 14.
34. Hamilton,p. 154. AlbertSzymanski, "Trendsin the AmericanClass Structure,"Socialist
Revolution(July-August1972), 101-122, esp. 11; WestergaardandResler, pp. 72-73, 104, 291.
35. Szymanski,p. 111. Outof the totalnumberof families in which bothhusbandsandwives are
employedin the UnitedStates, in 62 percentof thecases, both hold blue collarjobs. In 30 percentof
the two-earnerfamilies, the husbandis a blue collar worker, while the wife is in a white collar
occupation.Hamilton,pp. 180, 509. The percentagesare aboutthe same for Britain.Westergaard
and Resler, p. 104.
36. Szymanski, p. 112; Westergaardand Resler, pp. 291 ff.; Andrew Levison, The Working
Class Majority (New York, 1974).
37. Giddens, p. 198. Between 1910 and 1960, employment in agriculturedeclined from 31
percentto 6 percent,while white collaremployees increasedfrom21.1 percentto 40. 1 percent.The
percentageof those employedin manuallaboroccupationsremainedconstantthroughoutthe period
(47.9 percentto 48.9 percent). Mayer and Buckley, p. 146.
38. Since this statementis liable to misinterpretation,let me make it clear thatI do not mean to
assertthatthereis any necessaryconnectionwhich unitesthese methodologicaltraits.Rather,I am
simply maintaining,as an empirically groundedobservation, that these methodologicaldevices
are, as a matterof fact, persistentlyrelied upon to supply the formof the argumentas it appearsin
the writings of Bell, Huntington,Dahrendorfand other theorists of the postindustrialsociety.
39. I have triedelsewhereto indicatethe relationshipbetweenthese methodologicalpresupposi-
tions and Weber's substantivetheory of the social structure,and the polemical characterof his
argumentvis-a-vis thatof Marx. RichardAshcraft, "MarxandWeberon Liberalismas Bourgeois
Ideology," ComparativeStudies in Society and History (March 1972), 130-168. A good example
of Weber's polemical viewpoint, along with some of the majortenets which form the basis of the
contemporaryneo-Weberiananalysisof capitalism,can be foundin his speech on socialism to the
Austrianarmyofficers in 1918, reprintedin J.E.T. Eldridge,ed. Max Weber(London, 1971), pp.
191-219.
40. Giddens, p. 96. Speakingof the futuredevelopmentof capitalism, Marx wrote "that the
middleclass will grow in size andthatthe workingproletariatwill makeup a constantlydecreasing
proportionof the totalpopulation(evenif it grows in absolutenumbers).That, in fact, is the course
of bourgeois society." This passage and a numberof similar citations from Marx's writings are
presentedin MartinNicolaus' article, "Proletariatand Middle Class in Marx:HegelianChoreog-
raphyand the CapitalistDialectic," Studieson the Left, VII, no. 1 (1967), 22-49. Nicolaus argues
thatMarx'stheoreticalanalysisof capitalismnecessarilyleads to a recognitionof the growthof the
middle class.
41. KarlMarx,Theoriesof SurplusValue, 3 vols. (Moscow, 1963), vol. I, pp. 152, 293, 393,
396-97. It is clear that the productive/unproductive distinctionrepresentsfor Marxa "conceptual
difference" in the meaningof "labor" and is absolutelyessential for understandingthe capitalist
system; vol. I, pp. 165, 293, 396; vol. III, pp. 426, 432.; cf, James O'Connor, "Productiveand
UnproductiveLabor," Politics and Society, V, no. 3, 297-336.
42. AndreGorz, ed. TheDivision ofLabour:TheLabourProcess and Class Strugglein Modern
Capitalism (AtlanticHighlands[N.J.]), pp. 159-89; Nicos Poulantzas,Classes in Contemporary
Capitalism (London, 1975), pp. 20, 94, 210-11, 231 ff. For the view that all wage earnersare
proletarians,see Szymanski, p. 113.

243
Comparative Politics January 1979

43. Erik Olin Wright has written an extensive critiqueof Poulantzas'position on this issue,
pointing out the theoreticaland political implicationsof the size of the working class when the
criteria employed by Poulantzas are used to define class boundaries. "Class Boundaries in
Advanced CapitalistSocieties," New Left Review, XCVIII (July-August 1976), 3-41.
44. Marx, Theories of Surplus Value, 1, p. 392 ff.
45. Castles and Kosack,ImmigrantWorkers,p. 2; Goldthorpe,"Class, Status, and Party," p.
358.
46. Castles and Kosack, p. 480; Goldthorpe,p. 357.
47. Poulantzas,p. 152; Gorz, p. 124;Castlesand Kosack, p. 473; Westergaardand Resler, pp.
75, 292; Szymanski, p. 109.
48. The essay by StephenMarglin, "Whatdo Bosses do?" in Gorz, pp. 13-54, places this issue
in the historicalcontext of the developmentof capitalism.
49. Stanley Aronowitz, "Does the United States Have a New Working Class?", in George
Fischer, ed. The Revival of AmericanSocialism (New York, 1971), pp. 188-216, esp. p. 208.
Goldthorpewarnsthat"the thesisof white-collarproletarianizationis likely to prove as empirically
questionableas thatof workingclass embourgeoisement;""Class, Status, andParty," p. 355. For
Giddens' skeptical remarks,see pp. 188-96.
50. Goldthorpepointsout thatwhite collar tradeunionmilitancyis quiteoften fueled by a strong
resentment against blue collar manual workers, from whom the former wish to distinguish
themselves; "Class, Status, and Party," p. 357. See also Giddens, pp. 188-92.
51. Hamilton, "The Marginal Middle Class: A Reconsideration," American Sociological
Review (April 1966), 192-99.
52. Hamilton argues that the defection of non-manualvoters to the left is likely to be more
importantthan the conversion of manualvoters to political conservatism;Class and Politics, p.
193. "The strikingfact of Europeanworking-classpolitics," accordingto Parkin,"is the long term
stabilityin electoralsupportfor left-wing parties;"Class Inequality,p. 129. See also Lipset, "The
ChangingClass Structure," p. 278-79.
53. FrederickEngels, Introduction,The Class Struggles in France, 1848-1850 (New York,
1964), p. 27.
54. Poulantzas,pp. 207, 241-42, 287. See also Wright's critique of Poulantzas.
55. Wright, p. 40.
56. Lipset, p. 286.
57. Dahrendorf,Conflictafter Class, p. 22; Bell, CulturalContradictions,p. 245. As Samuel
Huntingtonobserves, it is somewhatdifficult to be precise about the political implicationsof the
theory of postindustrialsociety, since its supportershave devoted little attentionto this specific
issue; "PostindustrialPolitics: How Benign Will It Be?", ComparativePolitics., VI (January
1974), 163-91.
58. Parkin,Class Inequality, pp. 113 ff.
59. Dahrendorf,Conflict after Class, p. 21; Lipset, op.cit., p. 271.
60. The relationshipbetween these two themesis discussedin Westergaardand Resler, op.cit.,
pp. 398-400.
61. Dahrendorf,"Recent Changes", pp. 246-7.
62. Huntington,p. 177; Dahrendorf,pp. 250-1, 262.
63. Dahrendorf,p. 264.
64. Giddens,p. 111-12. The empiricalbasi'sof this propositionis exploredby the authorsof the
essays in Working-ClassImages of Society.
65. Because Giddens distinguishes between Weber's two meanings of "rationalization," he
does not acceptWeber'sview thatthe rationalizationof socio-economic life throughbureaucratiza-
tion is inevitable, andcertainlynot thatthisprocessmakesthe aims of socialism "utopian." On the
other hand, since he does not agree with Marx that revolutionaryclass conflict will establish
socialism, his analysis and descriptionof "neo-capitalism" presupposesthe ability of the stateto
"regulate" class conflict, the outcome of which is, in fact, the proliferationof the state bureau-
cracy. Giddens, in effect, is in practicalbut not theoreticalagreementwith Weber's projectionof
the bureaucratizationof social life. Giddens, pp. 278-94.
66. This, however, is not Poulantzas'meaning.
67. Ian Gough, "State Expenditurein AdvancedCapitalism,"New Left Review (July-August

244
Richard Ashcraft

1975), 53-92; T.F. CrippsandR.J. Tarling,Growthin AdvancedCapitalistEconomies, 1950-1970


(Cambridge, 1973).
68. JamesO'Connor,TheFiscal Crisis of the State (New York, 1973); AndrewGlyn and Bob
Sutcliffe, British Capitalism, Workersand the Profits Squeeze (London, 1972).
69. Parkin,Class Inequality, pp. 93 ff., 163; cf. Bulmer, p. 5.
70. Douglas A. Hibbs, Jr., "IndustrialConflict in AdvancedIndustrialSocieties," American
Political Science Review (December 1976), 1056, 1058.
71. I am using the terms "paradigm"and "puzzles" in the sense in which they are formulated
by Thomas Kuhn, The Structureof Scientific Revolutions (Chicago, 1962).

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