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Class, State and Ideology an Introduction to Marxist Social Science

by: Deron Effertz

Class, State and Ideology an Introduction to Marxist Social Science SOC 621

Marketplace > University of Wisconsin - Madison > Sociology > SOC 621 > Class State and Ideology an Introduction to Marxist Social Science
Deron Effertz
GPA 3.77

Erik Wright

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Erik Wright
Class Notes
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This 6 page Class Notes was uploaded by Deron Effertz on Thursday September 17, 2015. The Class Notes belongs to SOC 621 at University of Wisconsin - Madison taught by Erik Wright in Fall. Since its upload, it has received 47 views. For similar materials see /class/205167/soc-621-university-of-wisconsin-madison in Sociology at University of Wisconsin - Madison.


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Date Created: 09/17/15
Class Counts Student Edition Erik Olin Wright CAMBRIDGE n UNIVERSITY PRESS Maison des Sciences de l Homme 10 A general framework for studying class consciousness and class formation In one way or another most class analysts believe that at the core of class analysis is a relatively simple causal structure that looks something like the diagram in Figure 101 There is of course much disagreement about precisely how to conceptualize the arrows in this causal stream Do they mean determines or shapes or imposes limits uponquot Is there a clear sense in which the horizontal causal stream in this structure is quotmore important or more fundamental than the unspecified other causesquot At one extreme orthodox historical materialism claimed that one can broadly read offpattems of class struggle directly from the class structure and these in turn determine the fundamental course of history in the long run at least class structures are thought to determine class struggle and class struggles in conjunction with the development of the forces of production to determine trajectories of social change At the other extreme most nonMarxist class analysts as well as some Marxists view the class structure as at most providing us with the vocabulary for identifying potential actors in class struggles class structure does not however necessarily have a more powerful role in determining actual patterns of class struggle than many other mechan isms ideology the state ethnicity etc and class struggles are only one among a host of changeproducing factors In this chapter we will explore the elements on the left hand side of Figure 101 quotClass structure gt class struggle I will propose a general model of the relationship between class structure and class struggle which captures both the core traditional Marxist intuition that class structures are in some sense the fundamental determinant of class struggles but nevertheless allows other causal factors considerable potential weight in explaining concrete variations across time and place The core of the model is an attempt to link a microconception of the 185 186 Class counts Other causes Other causes Class structure quot quot Class struggle quot Soclal Change Figure 101 Simple core model of class analysis I ll relationship between class location and class consciousness with a more macrolevel understanding of the relationship between class structure and class formation In section 101 of this chapter we will set the stage for this model by brie y elaborating the contrast between micro and macrolevels of analysis Section 102 will discuss the de nitions of a number of the core concepts which we will use especially class formation and class con sciousness This will be followed in section 103 by a discussion of the micromodel the macromodel and their interconnection 101 Micro and macrolevels of analysis The contrast between micro and macrolevels of analysis is often invoked in sociology and much is made about the necessity of moving back and forth between these levels but frequently the precise concep tual status of the distinction is muddled I will use the terms to designate different units of analysis in which macrolevels of analysis are always to be understood as aggregations of relevant microunits of analysis The paradigm for this usage is biology organisms are aggregations of interconnected organs organs are aggregations of interconnected cells cells are aggregations of interconnected cellular structures cellulaf structures are aggregations of interconnected molecules The expression are aggregations of in these statements of course does not simply mean haphazard collections of but rather structurally interconnect ed sets of A given macrolevel always consists of relations among the relevant constituent microunits What precisely do we mean by relations among micro units This term is often imbued with arcane meanings I will use it in a fairly straightforward way to designate any systematic pattern of interactions among the microunits Relations can thus be strong well ordered and systematic involving intensive and repeated interactions among con St1tuent microelements or weak and rather chaotic involving few and A general framework 187 Table 101 Logic of micro and macrolevels of social analysis Levels of Constituent Nature of Examples of analysis subunits relations relations Microsocial individuals inter individual friendships level relations pointofproduction class relations Meso social interindividual bounded organizations firms families level relations and networks unions schools relations among inter individual relations Macrosocial organizations relations among nations economies level organizations erratic interactions among those elements To analyze any unit of analysis therefore is to investigate the nature and consequences of these relations among its subunits In specifying any hierarchy of nested micro to macrolevels therefore we need to define the relevant subunits and the nature of the relations among them One way of understanding the hierarchy of units of analysis in sociology is represented in Table 101 and Figure 102 The microlevel of sociological analysis consists of the study of the relations among individuals Individuals are the constituent elements within these relations but it is the relations as such that are the object of study of micro level sociological analysis The study of interactions among siblings or between bosses and workers are thus both microlevel social phenomena The individuals within these relations of course can also be consid ered units of analysis and the relations among their constituent parts can also be studied The study of such intro individual relations is the proper object of human biology and psychology The analysis of individualsquaindividuals is thus at the interface between sociology in which the individual is the unit within microrelations and psychology in which the individual is the macrolevel within which relations of various sorts are studied The mesolevel of social analysis consists of the investigation of relations among interindividual relations The units characteristic of such relationsamongrelations are normally what we call organiza tions although looser units such as social networks would also consti 188 Class counts Symbols 0 H H Hi i 1 H 1 Iquot m Motions ndprodty downunion Mm mm was on relHons Huang orgmh om MICROLEVEL O q gt O i O O 1 I MESOLEVEL T O O HO 0 14 90 H o O H O L MACROLEVEL i if M are I 0 90000 Figure 102 Micro meso and macro units of analysis tute a mesolevel of analysis The macrosocial level of analysis then consists of relations among organizations and other forms of mesolevel units At the most macrolevel the world system consists of relations among nations and economic regions A general framework 189 Dividing up the units of sociological analysis in this way is of course highly stylized and oversimplified Depending upon one s theoretical purposes one can add many intermediate levels of analysis to this simple schema Organizations for example can be analyzed in terms of the relations among a series of suborganizational units offices branches departments and each of these in turn can be analyzed in terms of the relations among sets of interindividual relations The micro macro distinction understood in this way should not be confused with the abstractvconcrete distinction While it often seems that microanalysis is more concrete than macroanalysis since it deals with apparently concrete entities quotindividualsquot one can perfectly well develop very abstract concepts for dealing with microanalyses as is often done in rationalactor models or quite concrete concepts for dealing with macroanalyses as occurs in many historical analyses of institutional development Individuals are not inherently more concrete than firms or societies any more than cells are more concrete than organisms In terms of class analysis the concept of class location is a preemi nently microlevel concept individuals at least in capitalism are the typical units that occupy the class locations defined by class structures although in special cases families may be the relevant units The capitalist class location and the workingclass location are defined by the social relations of production that link individuals in these locations together The microanalysis of class locations therefore should not be seen as an alternative to the analysis of class relations locations are always specified within relations To be in a class location is to be subjected to a set of mechanisms that impinge directly on the lives of individuals as they make choices and act in the world There is some debate as we will see in section 102 below over what is most salient about these micro mechanisms attached to the locations within class structures should they primarily be thought of as determining the material interests of individuals Or shaping their subjective understandings of the world Or determining the basic resources they have available to pursue their interests In any event to develop a concept of class at the microlevel of analysis is to elaborate the concept in terms of the mechanisms that directly affect individuals within class locations The term class structure then is the way of designating the set of class relations and locations within different units of analysis One can speak for example of the class structure of a firm Some firms are run by 190 Class counts a single capitalist entrepreneur who hires a few managers and a homo geneous set of workers Such a firm has a quite different class structure from a large corporation with a hierarchically differentiated managerial structure an external board of directors representing rentier capitalist stockholders and a segmented working class One can also speak of the class structure of a country or even perhaps of the class structure of the world capitalist system Some capitalist societies for example will have a huge middle class others a small middle class The size of the middle class is an attribute of the society itself and depends upon the specific way in which all of the firms of that society are organized and interconnected All capitalist societies will have state apparatuses and private rms and among private firms some will be small and some large The size of the quotmiddle class in the society as a whole will depend upon the specific mix of these kinds of mesolevel employment organizations 102 Basic concepts The models we will be discussing revolve around a number of inter connected concepts of class analysis class structure class location class Interests class experiences class consciousness class formation class practices and class struggles Some of these concepts especially class structure have been given considerable discussion in previous chapters so we will not discuss all of them in detail here I Class structure and class location I will use the term quotclass location as a microlevel concept referring to the location of individuals and sometimes families within the structure of class relations whereas I will use the term quotclass structurequot as concept referring to the overall organization of class relations in some more macrolevel of analysis typically an entire society To say that someone is quotinquot a managerial class location is to claim that they are embedded in a set of interindividual interactions relations in which they are empow ered to give various kinds of commands either directly to their subordi nates ie supervisory powers or indirectly via their control over production decisions Class structures are aggregations of all of the relations among these microlevel class locations at some more macro level of analysis A general framework 191 Class formation I will use the expression quotclass formation either to designate a process the process of class formation or an outcome a class formation In both cases the expression refers to the formation of collectively organized social forces within class structures in pursuit of class interests If class structures are defined by the antagonistic social relations between class locations class formations are defined by cooperative social relations within class struc tures Strong solidaristic relations in which individuals are prepared to make significant sacrifices for collective goals would be one form of class formation but class formation can also be more narrowly instrumental without strong solidarities binding people together Class formations are important because they constitute a crucial link between class structure and class struggles Of course class struggles may also involve various kinds of con ict between people acting strictly as individuals in uncoordinated ways but since the capacity of indivi duals especially those in exploited classes to pursue their class interests is so weak when they act alone people constantly attempt to forge various kinds of collectivities to enhance their capacity for struggle In these terms class formations are important above all because of the ways in which they shape class capacities and thus the balance of power within class struggles Understood in this way the contrast between class structure and class formation is similar to the traditional Marxist distinction between a class in itself and a class for itself The class in itself for itself distinction however was linked to a teleological notion of the inevitable trajectory of class struggle within capitalism towards the full revolutionary formation of the proletariat The expression quotclass formation in contrast does not imply that the collectively organized social forces within a class structure have any inherent tendency to develop towards revolutionary organiza tion around fundamental class interests Class formation is thus a descriptive category which encompasses a wide range of potential varia tions For any given class or group of class locations one can speak of quotstrongquot or weak class formations unitary or fragmented class forma tions revolutionary counterrevolutionary or reformist class formations Typically class formations involve creating formal organizations espe cially political parties and unions which link together the people within and across different locations in a class structure but class formation is by no means limited to formal organization Any form of collectively constituted social relations which facilitate solidaristic action in pursuit 192 Class counts of class interests is an instance of class formation Informal social networks social clubs neighborhood associations even churches could under appropriate circumstances be elements of class formations The extensive research on the role of social clubs in coordinating the interests of the ruling class for example should be regarded as documenting one aspect of bourgeois class formation Class formations should not be thought of as simply in terms of the forming social relations among people within homogeneous class loca tions in a class structure The forging of solidaristic relations across the boundaries of the locations within a class structure are equally instances of the formation of collectively organized social forces within class structures Class formation thus includes the formation of class alliances as well as the internal organization of classes as such For example populism to the extent that it provides a context for the pursuit of certain class interests can be viewed as a form of class formation that forges solidaristic ties between the working class and certain other class locations typically the petty bourgeoisie especially small farmers in the American case Class practices Class practices are activities engaged in by members of a class using class capacities in order to realize at least some of their class interests quotPracticequot in these terms implies that the activity is intentional ie it has a conscious goal class practices implies that the goal is the realization of class based interests Class practices include such mundane activities as a worker selling labor on a labor market a foreman disciplining a worker for poor performance or a stockholder buying stocks or voting in a stockholders meeting But class practices also include such things as participating in a strike or busting a union Class struggle The term class struggle refers to organized forms of antagonistic class practices ie practices that are directed against each other While in the limiting case one might refer to a class struggle involving a single worker and a single capitalist more generally class struggles involve collectivities of various sorts Class formations not atomized individuals are the characteristic vehicles for class struggles Class struggles there fore generally refer to relatively macrophenomena Given the antago A general framework 193 nistic nature of the interests determined by class structures class practices of individuals will have a strong tendency to develop into collective class struggles since the realization of the interests of members of one class generally imply confrontation against the interests of members of other classes Class consciousness I will use the concept of class consciousness to refer to particular aspects of the subjectivity of individuals Consciousness will thus be used as a strictly microconcept When it figures in macrosocial explanations it does so by virtue of the ways it helps to explain individual choices and actions Collectivities in particular class formations do not have consciousness in the literal sense since they are not the kind Of entities which have minds which think weigh alternatives have preferences etc When the term class consciousness is applied to collectivities or organizations therefore it either refers to the patterned distribution of individual consciousnesses within the relevant aggregate or it is a way of characterizing central tendencies This is not to imply of course that supraindividual social mechanisms are unimportant but simply that they should not be conceptualized within the category consciousness And it is also not to imply that the actual distribution of individual consciousnesses in a society is not of social significance and causal importance It may well be but a distribution of consciousnesses is not consciousness 1 Understood in this way to study consciousness is to study a particular aspect of the mental life of individuals namely those elements of a person s subjectivity which are discursively accessible to the individual 3 own awareness Consciousness is thus counterposed to unconsciousness the discursively inaccessible aspects of mental life The elements of consciousness beliefs ideas observations information theories prefer ences may not continually be in a person s awareness but they are accessible to that awareness This conceptualization of consciousness is closely bound up with the problem of will and intentionality To say that something is discursively 1 This is by no means the only way that class consciousness has been understood in the Marxist tradition In particular Lukacs 1971 1922 seems to attribute the category class consciousness to the class of workers as a collectivity not to the empirical individuals who make up that class For a discussion of Lukacs views on this see Wright 1985 242


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