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Chapter 9. Class Consciousness and Class Conflict . Introduction: Class Consciousness. What is class consciousness? It includes all of the following: Awareness of membership in a group defined by economic position. Sense that this shared identity creates common interests and a common fate.

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Chapter 9


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    1. Chapter 9 Class Consciousness and Class Conflict

    2. Introduction: Class Consciousness • What is class consciousness? It includes all of the following: • Awareness of membership in a group defined by economic position. • Sense that this shared identity creates common interests and a common fate. • A disposition to take collective action in pursuit of class interests. • Although revolution is rare, class struggle is common. • Revolution includes slave revolts, violent strikes, riots . • Class struggle includes union organizing activity. © Pine Forge Press, an Imprint of SAGE Publications, Inc., 2011

    3. Introduction: Class Consciousness, cont. • The following causal sequence will inform our discussion of this chapter: Objective Class Position  Class Consciousness  Class-Oriented Political Behavior © Pine Forge Press, an Imprint of SAGE Publications, Inc., 2011

    4. Marx and the Origins of Class Consciousness • One of Marx’s major objectives was to isolate the social conditions that encourage class consciousness. • Factors he regarded as especially significant include: • Concentration and communication • Deprivation • Economic insecurity • Alienation at work • Polarization • Homogenization • Organization and struggle © Pine Forge Press, an Imprint of SAGE Publications, Inc., 2011

    5. Marx and the Origins of Class Consciousness, cont. • The revolutions that Marx’s theory anticipated in the advanced industrial countries never occurred. • However, class-based revolutions in industrializing agrarian states were a characteristic feature of 20th century history. • Marx did correctly identify many of the key sociological processes in the development of class consciousness. © Pine Forge Press, an Imprint of SAGE Publications, Inc., 2011

    6. Richard Centers and Class Identification • Contemporary interest in the concept of class consciousness is based on the idea that it connects objective class position and political behavior. • The assumption embedded in this concept of class consciousness is that people who recognize and articulate their class position are more likely to promote their class interests. © Pine Forge Press, an Imprint of SAGE Publications, Inc., 2011

    7. Richard Centers and Class Identification, cont. • Centers (1949) found in most public opinion surveys when individuals were asked to identify their social class in a forced, close-ended fashion with lower-, middle-, and upper-class options, most people indicated they were middle class. • This was particularly true in a famous survey conducted by Fortune magazine in 1940. • When working-class was added as an option in a nationally representative sample of adult white men, Centers found the majority of respondents indicated they were working-class. • He concluded Americans did not like the term “lower class” and not that most Americans thought of themselves as middle class. © Pine Forge Press, an Imprint of SAGE Publications, Inc., 2011

    8. Richard Centers and Class Identification, cont. • Centers regarded occupation as the principal basis of class identification. • Subsequent scholars have confirmed this view noting that individuals do indeed use their occupation in determining to which social class they belong. © Pine Forge Press, an Imprint of SAGE Publications, Inc., 2011

    9. Richard Centers and Class Identification, cont. • Where Centers' studies of class identification only considered men, subsequent studies have included women. • These studies have typically found that class identification of working wives is influenced by both their own and their husbands’ occupations, though the influence of the husband’s job is typically stronger. • The wife’s attitudes toward gender roles is a key factor in influencing whether she uses her husband’s occupation for her sense of class identification or her own. • Women who subscribe to traditional gender roles are more likely to base their class identity on their husband’s occupation . © Pine Forge Press, an Imprint of SAGE Publications, Inc., 2011

    10. Richard Centers and Class Identification, cont. • Centers showed that political opinions were affected by class identification. • Political opinions are influenced by both objective class position (measured by wealth) and subjective class consciousness (indicated by class identification). • When consistent with objective class position, class identification strengthens the effect of class. © Pine Forge Press, an Imprint of SAGE Publications, Inc., 2011

    11. © Pine Forge Press, an Imprint of SAGE Publications, Inc., 2011

    12. Bott: Frames of Reference • Elizabeth Bott (1954) pointed out that “people do not experience their objective class position as a single clearly defined status.” • An individual’s self-perception in a stratification order is a combination of the following: • Actual experiences in a wide variety of contexts in many membership groups. • Verbal theories about society, usually vague and somewhat contradictory commonsense notions which filter down from the theorizing of intellectuals and propagandists. © Pine Forge Press, an Imprint of SAGE Publications, Inc., 2011

    13. Elections and Democratic Struggle • Class conflict is especially evident in two realms: • Electoral politics • Labor relations • Exit polling in recent elections has shown a strong relationship between income and party vote. • Members of the Working Class more often support Democratic candidates, where members of the Upper- Middle Class and Upper Class tend to support Republican candidates. © Pine Forge Press, an Imprint of SAGE Publications, Inc., 2011

    14. Elections and Democratic Struggle, cont. • The political power of organized labor has declined considerably as its ability to mobilize a declining union vote has resulted in a Democratic party less attentive to its needs. © Pine Forge Press, an Imprint of SAGE Publications, Inc., 2011

    15. © Pine Forge Press, an Imprint of SAGE Publications, Inc., 2011

    16. Class, Party and Support for Social Programs • Most members of the Working Class in America tend to identify with the Democratic party. • Majorities of Americans favor increased spending on education, health, child care, Social Security, and “aid to the poor.” • Perhaps unsurprisingly, support for these issues is strongest among those Americans at the bottom of the occupational structure. © Pine Forge Press, an Imprint of SAGE Publications, Inc., 2011

    17. © Pine Forge Press, an Imprint of SAGE Publications, Inc., 2011

    18. © Pine Forge Press, an Imprint of SAGE Publications, Inc., 2011

    19. Class and Political Participation • Since a majority of Americans DO support liberal spending on social issues and a majority of the public is inclined toward the Democratic Party, why is it that liberal Democrats are not consistently elected to office and liberal measures are not regularly enacted? • The generally more conservative Republicans toward the top of the class structure are more likely to be better informed politically and to be more politically active than those toward the bottom of the class structure. • Those toward the top of the class structure also contribute more money to political campaigns, and they do so more often. © Pine Forge Press, an Imprint of SAGE Publications, Inc., 2011

    20. © Pine Forge Press, an Imprint of SAGE Publications, Inc., 2011

    21. Trends in Class Partisanship • Evidence suggests that class, defined by occupation, continues to be politically significant. • Lower-income voters have become more likely and higher-income voters less likely to identify as Democrats and vote for Democratic candidates in national elections. • It may be that individuals are becoming more aware of the diverging fortunes between a small group of privileged Americans at the top of the class structure and those Americans in the Middle and Lower Classes whose prospects have declined in the Age of Growing Inequality. © Pine Forge Press, an Imprint of SAGE Publications, Inc., 2011

    22. © Pine Forge Press, an Imprint of SAGE Publications, Inc., 2011

    23. Class Conflict and the Labor Movement • Organized labor in the U.S. has tended to focus on securing union recognition, economic security, and decent working conditions rather than on making fundamental changes in the system. • This has contributed to formation of a rather weak class consciousness among America’s Working Class. • Employers have also played an instrumental role in suppressing union formation by exploiting differences of race, ethnicity, and skill level among workers. © Pine Forge Press, an Imprint of SAGE Publications, Inc., 2011

    24. Class Conflict and the Labor Movement, cont. • By 1938 the right to union representation had been written into law through the National Labor Relations Act, also known as the Wagner Act. • The Wagner Act also prohibited employers from interfering with union formation and set up a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to ensure compliance. © Pine Forge Press, an Imprint of SAGE Publications, Inc., 2011

    25. The Postwar Armistice:Unions in an Age of Shared Prosperity • During the decade following World War II, business leaders essentially accepted the existence of unions. • However, business leaders were adamant they retain the right to manage. This meant controlling issues such as: • Investment (including plant openings and closings), • Product design and production methods, and • Pricing of final products. © Pine Forge Press, an Imprint of SAGE Publications, Inc., 2011

    26. The Postwar Armistice:Unions in an Age of Shared Prosperity, cont. • During this period the labor movement became satisfied and unaggressive. • Labor came to play a more dynamic role in national electoral and legislative politics than it did in the workplace. • The labor lobby played a major role in obtaining passage of liberal legislation in such areas as civil rights, health care, minimum-wage protection, public employment programs, nutrition programs for the poor, and occupational health and safety. © Pine Forge Press, an Imprint of SAGE Publications, Inc., 2011

    27. Labor in Decline • Union membership in the U.S. had been declining since the mid-1950’s; however, it dropped drastically during the 1980’s. • By 2008 only 12.4% of all wage and salary workers were union members. • The American labor movement is at its weakest since the 1920’s. © Pine Forge Press, an Imprint of SAGE Publications, Inc., 2011

    28. Labor in Decline, cont. • Capitalist opposition to union activity has increased over the past three decades. • Businesses now routinely secure the services of labor consultants who apply social scientific knowledge in an attempt to reduce the strength of unions and the likelihood of union success. © Pine Forge Press, an Imprint of SAGE Publications, Inc., 2011