Max Weber Section One
Max Weber and Social Stratification
This Document is divided into Two Sections and Four Parts as indicated below
Click here for Professor Robert Van Krieken on Max Weber on Class, status, and party
Click here for Max Weber’s key contributions to Sociology
Click here for Weber and the parcelling out of the soul
Click here for an article by Professor Frank Elwell
The following five items are more detailed
Click here for article from Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy
Click here for 5 detailed lectures on Max Weber the fifth of which is on Weber’s Theory of Class
Click here for a critical assessment of Max Weber
From Max Weber H. Gerth and C.W Mills [A detailed assessment of Max Weber with an anthology of his work]
Click here for Max Weber: Economy and Society [Weber’s own work]
Part One: The Life of Max Weber
Part Two: Max Weber and Social Stratification
- Max Weber and Capitalism
- Max Weber and Social Class
- Max Weber and Social Status
- Max Weber and Party
- Max Weber and Social Closure
- Max Weber, Karl Marx and Revolution
Part Three: The UK Class Structure Neo-Weberian Approaches
- The Embourgeoisement Theory, The Affluent Worker Studies, and Their Aftermath.
- Theories of the Underclass.
- The Oxford Social Mobility Study and the NS SEC Class Schema
- The NS-SEC and Recent Changes in the UK Class Structure
- The NS-SEC and Long Term Changes in the UK Class Structure
- Neo-Weberian Approaches to Social Status
- Max Weber, Gender, and the NS SEC
- Max Weber, Ethnicity and The NS SEC
- Max Weber and Social Stratification: Summary Conclusions
The Life of Max Weber 1864-1920
Max Weber was born in 1864 into an affluent, upper middle class family in which his father was a well- connected lawyer and National Liberal parliamentarian. His childhood was generally unhappy and tensions within the family probably contributed to the nervous instability which was to plague him throughout much of his adult life. After a somewhat dissolute beginning, he distinguished himself as a gifted student of Law and History at the Universities of Heidelberg and subsequently the University of Berlin. He was appointed to a lectureship at the University of Freiburg in 1894 and to a Professorship of Political Economy at the University of Heidelberg in 1896 at the at the early age of 32. He then succumbed to a severe nervous breakdown which forced him to relinquish his professorship and he was unable to return to teaching [albeit only briefly] until 1919. However, between 1897 and 1919 he nevertheless produced very significant work on the nature of Sociology, the Sociology of Religion, and its relationship to the development of capitalism, the increasing significance of rationalisation and bureaucratisation in modern society and the nature of social stratification all of which has resulted in Weber coming to be regarded as one of the [white, male,] Founding Fathers of Sociology.” Weber was able also to use his established academic reputation to encourage several German universities to introduce academic Sociology courses for the first time
Weber was a lifelong liberal. Along with many other German intellectuals, he had initially supported German involvement in the First World War on the grounds that it was necessary to defend German national culture and ensure that Germany would play a significant role in future international affairs, Aged 50 he volunteered for military service at the beginning of the war and was appointed to organise military hospitals in the Heidelberg area but by 1917 he became increasingly critical of German military policy and called for democratisation of the German Constitution including the introduction of universal suffrage. He then represented Germany at the Versailles Peace Conference [ where he rejected the assignment of “war guilt to Germany] and acted as an advisor to the committee which drafted the post-war liberal Weimar Constitution [although Weber’s support of considerable powers for the German President has attracted criticism.
Weber had argued that the Russian Revolutions of 1905 and 1917 were unlikely to be successful and strongly opposed the leftist Spartacist uprising in Germany in 1918.Regarding the leaders of the Spartacist Movement Weber commented that” Liebknecht belongs in the madhouse and Rosa Luxemburg in the zoological gardens”. He stood as a parliamentary candidate of the liberal German Democratic Party but failed to secure election and returned briefly to academic work at the Universities of Vienna and Munich before succumbing to the “Spanish Flu” and dying in 1920.
Part Two: Max Weber and Social Stratification
- Marx, Weber and Capitalism.
- Max Weber and Social Class
- Max Weber and Social Status
- Max Weber and Party
- Max Weber and Social Closure
- Max Weber, Karl Marx and Revolution
- Marx, Weber, and Capitalism
I shall be making several comparisons between Marxist and Weberian analyses of capitalist class structures, and it is therefore important to bear in mind that Marx and Weber had significantly different perspectives on the nature of capitalism. In Marx’ theory economic factors and specifically the development of contradictions s between the forces of production and the social relations of production were the main drivers of the transition from feudalism to capitalism. Weber, however argued that ideological factors and specifically the development of the Protestant ethic were much more significant for the development of western capitalism than had been suggested by Marx although Weber did accept that economic factors also did play an important role in the development of western capitalism.
Marx saw capitalism as a dynamic system which generated the resources which would be necessary for future socialist advance but argued also that it was an exploitative, unequal, unjust social system in which contradictions between the forces of production inhibited the possibility of rising living standards for all but at the same time created the potential for the collapse of capitalism and the revolutionary transition to socialism.
Weber, however, saw rationalisation and bureaucratisation as the key features of capitalism and believed that the capitalist free market provided the best economic mechanism for the achievement of economic growth and rising living standards for all. Rationalisation and bureaucratisation in both the private and public sectors would promote overall efficiency but Weber also recognised that this would come at a significant cost. Thus, Weber believed that it was necessary to distinguish between two types of rationalisation: between formal rationalisation [Zweckrationalitat: the rational consideration of the means of achieving a given objective] and substantive rationalisation [Wertrationalitat: [the rational consideration of different values]. Weber believed that the rational consideration of different values would be neglected as attention focussed on formal rationalisation which involved the rational consideration of the most efficient means of achieving given objectives. Thus, in our own time attention might focus on the most rationally efficient means of producing fast cars, fast foods, fashionable clothing, and frivolous mass entertainment rather than on the rational consideration of whether these ends are ultimately desirable.
Also, the trend toward greater rationalisation would lead to increased bureaucratisation in both the private and public sectors which might make for increased efficiency but at the cost of reduced individual freedom, autonomy and creativity as individuals are constrained by bureaucratic rules and regulations. Furthermore, the controllers of these bureaucracies would accumulate excessive powers which might well be used against the interests of citizens and workers. Individuals are forced to work and live a mere cogs in a machine or in Weber’s well known phrase “in an iron cage” ] as illustrated in this extract from The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism [ which is quoted in the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy]
No one knows who will live in this cage (Gehäuse) in the future, or whether at the end of this tremendous development entirely new prophets will arise, or there will be a great rebirth of old ideas and ideals, or, if neither, mechanized petrification, embellished with a sort of convulsive self-importance. For the “last man” (letzten Menschen) of this cultural development, it might well be truly said: “Specialist without spirit, sensualist without heart; this nullity imagines that it has attained a level of humanity (Menschentums) never before achieved” [Weber 1904–05/1992, 182: translation altered].
Whereas Marx believed that the revolutionary transition from capitalism to socialism and ultimately to communism was both desirable and possible, Weber believed that such revolutions were unlikely [given the nature of capitalism and the nature of the working class within capitalism [on which see below] and undesirable because they would serve only to increase the powers of the new state socialist bureaucracies over the working class resulting in the continuing alienation of the working class. Instead, Weber called for the strengthening of liberal democratic political institutions although he remained pessimistic as to the prospects for human progress. Not for nothing has Max Weber been described as a “liberal in despair.”
Given Weber’s commitments to the principles of liberalism and the nature of his overall approach to sociological theorising it will come as no surprise to discover that he was in several respects critical of Marxist theories. It has sometimes been suggested, rightly, that his criticisms applied especially to what have been seen as the simplified and overly economic determinist versions of Marxism which were available in the early C20th and propounded most notably by Karl Kautsky, who at the time was the most influential theorist within the German Social Democratic Party. However, as we shall see, it seems unlikely also that Weber would have sympathised with the more subtle interpretations of Marxism which became available from the 1930s onwards as more of Marx; previously unpublished work became available.
Weber’s theories of social stratification were outlined two fragmentary articles in Economy and Society  These theories were similar in some important respects to Marx’ theories but it is the differences between Marxist and Weberian theories which have provided much of the overall context for ongoing theoretical debates around social stratification up to the present day.
Whereas Marx claimed that social class in capitalist societies was by far the most significant dimension of social stratification in that it also determined [or at least heavily influenced] the distribution of social status political power ,Weber argued that the three dimensions of social stratification [ social class, social status, and “party”] were to some extent independent and that the extent of their independence in different societies and at different times should be carefully studied. It was entirely invalid to claim, as Marx had done, that differences in social status and political power derived almost entirely from differences in social class position.
By Social Status Weber meant the degree of social honour, prestige or respect accorded to an individual within society and by “party” Weber meant not only political parties but also other social institutions through which power is exercised such as pressure groups, churches and clubs and societies.
By "Party" Weber meant not only political parties but all the institutions involved in the distribution of political power including also pressure groups, charities, clubs and societies, of which political parties and pressure groups especially could be seen as exercising some considerable degree of political power.
Weber defined Power the chance that an individual in a social relationship can achieve his or her own will even against the resistance of others and claimed that class, status and party were all “phenomena of the distribution of power in that individuals can exercise or be unable to exercise power because of their social class position, their status position and their position within social groups. Weber also distinguished carefully between Power and Authority as is outlined here.
However, it is important to note also that Weber, like Marx, recognised the ownership of property was one key determinant of class membership and that Weber, like Marx, was a conflict theorist who certainly recognised that conflicts of interest which might exist between the dominant economic class and, especially, the working class. Yet for Weber, ownership of property was not the only determinant of class membership; social class differences were not the only basis for social conflict; and, for a variety of reasons, Weber believed that class conflicts were was likely to be more muted than was the case in Marxist theories.
- Max Weber and Social Class
Click here for Professor Robert Van Krieken on Max Weber on Class, status, and party
Max Weber’s thoughts on patterns of social stratification were published in two short, fragmentary articles entitled Status Groups and Classes and Class Status and Party.
In Status Groups and Classes, Weber states that a Property Class is primarily defined by property difference and a Commercial Class is defined primarily by the marketability of services provided. A Social Class is made up of “the totality of all those class situations within which individual and generational mobility is easy and typical. Within the category of property class Weber distinguished between positively privileged property classes, negatively privileged property classes and intermediate property classes. Positively privileged property classes are typically rentiers who derive income from invested wealth which enables them to accumulate further wealth and to afford expensive consumer goods. Negatively privileged property classes have no property and are “the unfree, the declassed, debtors and paupers.” In between are the intermediate property classes who make an income from their property and or their acquired skills. Some members of the commercial classes and of the proletariat may also own limited amounts of property.
Weber then refers to Commercial Classes which are again subdivided into positively privileged commercial classes, negatively privileged commercial classes and intermediate Commercial Classes. Weber states that positively privileged Commercial Classes are typically entrepreneurs of various kinds but also professional workers such as lawyers, physicians, and artists and also workers with monopolistic qualifications or training. Negatively privileged Commercial Classes are typically labourers with various qualifications: skilled, semi-skilled unskilled. Intermediate classes within the Commercial Classes include “self-employed farmers, craftsmen and frequently public and private officials” and members of the “liberal professions and the labour groups with exceptional qualifications.
In this schema, therefore, Weber distinguishes essentially between Property Classes and Commercial Classes each of which are subdivided into positively privileged, negatively privileged and intermediate classes which clearly gives rise to a very large number of “classes”. However, he then refers to 4 Social Classes where a social class “ makes up the totality of those class situations within which individual and generational mobility is easy and typical”. [Weber’s terms ”individual and generational mobility” would nowadays be called intragenerational and intergenerational social mobility]. These social classes are discussed in more detail In Class Status and Party.
Weber’s Classes [From Estates and Classes]
|Positively Privileged Classes||Intermediate Classes||Negatively Privileged Classes|
Weber’s Social Classes [From Estates and Classes]
) A "social class" makes up the totality of those class situations
within which individual and generational mobility is easy and typical
Social classes are
a) the working class as a whole— the more so, the more automated
the work process becomes,
b) the petty bourgeoisie,
c) the propertyless intelligentsia and specialists (technicians, various
kinds of white-collar employees, civil servants — possibly with consider-
able social differences depending on the cost of their training),
d) the classes privileged through property and education.
Click here for Weber’s article Class Status and Party
- Marx claimed that social class in capitalist societies was by far the most significant dimension of social stratification in that it also determined [or at least heavily influenced] the distribution of social status political power
- Weber argued that the three dimensions of social stratification [ social class, social status, and “party”] were to some extent independent and that the extent of their independence in different societies and at different times should be carefully studied. It was entirely invalid to claim, as Marx had done, that differences in social status and political power derived almost entirely from differences in social class position.
- By Social Status Weber meant the degree of social honour, prestige or respect accorded to an individual within society and by “party” Weber meant not only political parties but also other social institutions through which power is exercised such as pressure groups, churches and clubs and societies.
- By "Party" Weber meant not only political parties but all the institutions involved in the distribution of political power including also pressure groups, charities, clubs and societies, of which political parties and pressure groups especially could be seen as exercising some considerable degree of political power.
- Weber defined Power the chance that an individual in a social relationship can achieve his or her own will even against the resistance of others and claimed that class, status and party were all “phenomena of the distribution of power in that individuals can exercise or be unable to exercise power because of their social class position, their status position and their position within social groups.
- Weber also distinguished carefully between Power and Authority as is outlined here.
- Max Weber and Social Class
- Karl Marx never provided a full definition of the concept of social class and Max Weber’s account of social stratification is itself fragmentary and incomplete, However the main elements of Weber’s analysis of social class may be summarised as follows.
- As shown above in the extract from Estates and Classes, Weber defines a social class as “the totality of those class situations within which individual and generational mobility is easy and typical” and this leads Weber to posit the existence of 4 social classes. These are: the dominant property owning class, the petty bourgeoise, the propertyless white collar workers [ which include the intelligentsia and the working class
- Weber states that “Property and lack of property are the basic categories of all class situations” and this gives rise to his first social class, the dominant property owning class which contains both rentiers and entrepreneurs whose ownership of capital provides them with a privileged market situation in finance and the production of goods and services.
- Among propertyless workers, an individual’s market situation depends upon his/her abilities, skills and qualifications relative to the demand for them and in Max Weber’s theory it is an individual’s market situation which determines his/ her economic class position and hence his/her income, fringe benefits, opportunities for upward social mobility. Also, since exact market situations vary between different individuals a very large number of economic classes exists in Weber’s class schema.
- However, Weber then combines this large number of economic classes into 4 social classes within which “individual and generational mobility is easy and typical” but between which it is difficult. Thus, rentiers might easily become entrepreneurs and vice versa; professionals might become executives and unskilled workers might become skilled workers but mobility between the 4 social classes would be more difficult and this is the factor that causes Weber to distinguish between the 4 broad social classes.
- Thus, it is argued that whereas in the Marxist theory class analysis focuses on the ownership and non-ownership of property, which, according to Marxists, results in class exploitation at the point of production Weber focuses much more on the role of differences in individuals' market situation as generating social class differences in the distribution of income, fringe benefits, promotion prospects and pension rights. Thus, for example whereas Marxist theories emphasise the extent to which both non-manual and manual employees are to varying extents exploited under capitalism, Weberian theories emphasise the differences in market situation and hence in incomes, fringe benefits and promotion prospects between non-manual and manual employees. One’s Social class position would then have a very significant effect on one’s life chances: one’s current and future living standards, one’s health, one’s educational prospects.
- Weber also noted that within his 4 main social classes there would also be significant differences in interests [say between entrepreneurs and rentiers in the dominant economic class] and differences in skills, qualifications, and incomes within his three other social classes and that such differences would inhibit the growth of class solidarity, Class solidarity would be reduced also by the existence of status differences within social classes.
- With regard to these 4 social classes Weber did not automatically assume that the property owning upper class were also a politically dominant ruling class; he expected the growth of the middle class as a result of the increased importance of science and technology, the increased complexity of management and the growth of the welfare state; and he did not he expect the working class to be a revolutionary class partly because the differences and divisions within the working class would undermine the prospects for class solidarity and the growth of revolutionary class consciousness
- Marx initially predicted that as economic crisis intensified the size of the intermediate social strata would decline as many of their members would either fall into the Proletariat or rise into the Bourgeoisie thus giving rise to the polarisation of the two great classes: the Bourgeoisie and the Proletariat. However, Weber also expected the growth of the middle class due to the increased importance of science and technology, the increased complexity of management and the growth of the welfare state all of which would lead to the increased bureaucratisation of society and to the growth of white collar work. It should be noted, however that in his later work, Marx did predict the growth of the intermediate strata and modern Marxists have analysed the nature of this growing middle class in considerable detail. In particular, the intermediate strata have been analysed in detail from a neo-Marxist perspective by E. O Wright and you may click here for some additional information on his work.
- Some modern Marxists have also suggested that one should not equate the growth of non-manual employment with the growth of the middle class because routine non-manual clerical work has to a considerable extent been proletarianised such that many clerical workers can more accurately be described as members of the working class rather than as members of the middle class. However, many non-Marxist sociologists have rejected the theory of the proletarianisation of the clerical worker.
- Max Weber and Social Status
- Weber believed also that social status was an important dimension of social stratification. An individual's social status is a measure of his/her rank, honour, prestige or social standing within a community which may be, at least to some extent, independent of his/her social class position. According to Weber status groups evolved when groups of individuals were able to define themselves as socially superior for example on the basis of their aristocratic family lineage, or on the basis of their leadership position within a religious community or on the basis of their political training which gave them access to political power within state bureaucracies. These status groups [or estates of the realm in the case of the nobility and clergy] were then likely to try to preserve their high status by restricting their contact with lower status groups, by adopting styles of dress and speech, particular leisure activities, particular forms of education for their children, by associating primarily with members of their own status group and by restricting access of lower status individuals to their own high status group
- Weber emphasised that social classes would be highly fragmented partly because each social class contained a variety of different economic classes and because within each social class there would be different status groups within different interests. In his analysis of status groups Weber took examples mainly from precapitalist societies such as the Knights of European Feudalism, the Chinese Mandarins, and the Japanese Samurai although he did also refer to the high social status of the UK aristocracy in the early C20th. but increasingly neo-Weberian sociologists have focused upon the importance of gender, ethnicity, age, sexuality, and disability as determinants of status within the community.
- While Weber noted the existence of status groups in pre-capitalist societies, he argued that in capitalist societies social class differences are more significant than status differences and that in most cases social class differences would be the key determinants of social status differences. Thus, broadly speaking higher levels of wealth and/or income will usually be associated with high social status although there are exceptions related to how these high levels of wealth and income are earned.
- Thus, to some extent historically aristocratic families might have been accorded higher social status than those [the so-called nouveaux riches] s who were accumulating high levels of wealth and income through trade and industry; some occupations such as the priesthood, the legal profession, the medical profession [ including both doctors and nurses] and even the teaching profession might be accorded higher social status than say pop stars, professional sportspersons, and bookmakers.
- Also, in any case there might not necessarily be a consensus within a given society as to the relative social status of different occupations. For example, within the manual working class skilled manual occupations might be accorded relatively higher social status than many non-manual occupations whereas within the middle and upper classes the reverse might be true.
- It should be noted also that the relative status associated with different occupations might change over time. For example, the growth of state education has almost certainly resulted a in the reduced social status associated with clerical work and it may also be that insofar as there has been a generalised decline in deference in contemporary capitalist societies the higher social status accorded to, say, bankers and politicians may well have fallen especially in the aftermath of the Credit crunch of 2008 and the MPs expenses scandal in the UK.
- Weber did briefly refer to relationships between social status and caste systems and to the strong possibility in some cases that some ethnic group might attain higher social status than others, but neo-Weberians have focused in much more detail on the status disadvantages based upon age, disability, ethnicity, gender or membership of the LGBTQ community and argued that such patterns of disadvantage must be addressed just as forcefully as issues of class disadvantage.
We may conclude that broadly speaking in capitalist societies social class differences based upon income, wealth and occupation are well correlated with social status in that higher social class individuals generally enjoy higher social status and that there are relative few cases where high levels of income and wealth and high social status do not coincide.
However, it is also the case that in capitalist societies social status differences based upon gender, ethnicity, age, disability, and sexuality continue to have significant effects on individuals' social class locations and consequently on overall life chances life chances and as will be indicated below, neo Weberian sociologists have given considerable attention to these social status divisions.
Max Weber and Party
- As mentioned above Weber's 3 categories of social stratification are class, status and party but by "party" Weber meant not only political parties but all the institutions involved in the distribution of political power including also pressure groups, charities, clubs and societies, of which political parties and pressure groups especially could be seen as exercising some considerable degree of political power. Weber's analysis also focused on the State which is seen as the set of political institutions which arbitrates among the different, sometimes competing claims emanating from the political institutions listed above.
- Weber has provided very important definitions of the State, Power and Authority and has also analysed the competing bases of Authority distinguishing between Traditional, Charismatic and Rational Legal Authority. These issues are described more fully in this document where the concept of Power is also considered further, mainly via the brief consideration of Stephen Lukes' study "Power: a radical view."
- Whereas Marx argued that under capitalism it was the nature of the capitalist class structure which determined the distribution of political power such that the economically dominant Bourgeoisie were also a politically dominant ruling class which through various mechanisms also dominated the political institutions of the state, Weber argued that the key feature of modern societies was not that they were capitalist but that they were subject to forms of rationalisation which resulted in the growth of complex state bureaucracies. Consequently, Weber rejected the Marxist theory that the Bourgeoisie was not only an economically dominant social class but also a politically dominant class which indirectly controlled the State and argued instead that political power in modern industrial societies resided directly with state bureaucracies which were in effect to a considerable extent controlled by a state elite which exercised considerable autonomy vis a vis the capitalist class.
- Weber saw the growth of bureaucracy as a necessary process which would enable the increasingly complex problems of modern industrial societies to be addressed rationally but at the same time feared that the routinisation involved in the growth of bureaucracy would lead to a situation where existing rules and methods would inhibit the development of original approaches to problem solving as bureaucrats became more concerned with their own career prospects than the search for more original approaches to problems solving. Bureaucracy, he said would become an "iron cage" and result in "the parcelling out of the soul".
- However, Weber also hoped that in the newly emerging liberal democratic regimes of the early twentieth century the powers of the state bureaucracy could to some extent be restrained via effective parliamentary scrutiny of their activities and via the existence of competing political parties and pressure groups. Weber, therefore, could be seen as an early contributor to theories of the state based upon the ideas of pluralism although it has been suggested that the overall approach which he favoured was most likely to develop in the direction of elite pluralism rather than classical pluralism given the extent to which political parties and pressure groups each seemed highly likely to be dominated by their leaders rather than their rank and file members. Radical democrats have argued that Weber's approach to politics saw a very limited role for the active involvement of individual citizens in the political process and that Weber saw them as essentially incapable of playing such a role: Weber was clearly a believer in representative democracy rather than radical participatory democracy although he did also recognise some of the limitations of the former. He was in some respects " a liberal in despair" believing that liberal democracy offered the best prospects for human happiness but that the hopes of liberal democracy might be disappointed in practice.
- Max Weber and Social Closure [ Based on Marxism and Class Theory: A Bourgeois Critique by Frank Parkin 1979]
In his study Marxism and Class Theory: A Bourgeois Critique 1979] Frank Parkin, who was a renowned expert on Max Weber, sought to relate Weber’s concept process of social closure to the patterns of social stratification which existed in the 1970s
Social closure refers to the various processes by which dominant social groups [be they social classes, status groups, political groups or other organisations] retain their economic and or social and or political privileges at the expense of subservient social groups. Thus, in Marxist terms it can be argued that the Bourgeoisie practices social closure vis a vis the proletariat via its ownership of the means of production but, as Frank Parkin pointed out, once we turn to Weberian Theory it is clear that many other forms of social closure are possible.
- It can be argued that the white “race” has discriminated via institutional and ideological racism in various ways against the black “races” in South Africa in the era of Apartheid in order to exclude them from political power, civil rights and a fair share of economic resources.
- The caste system is associated mainly with the Hindu religion in India, but various types of caste system are in operation in several countries of South Asia. They adversely affect the life chances of lower caste people in several ways. For further information click here and here and here
- It can be argued that Northern Irish Protestants have similarly excluded Northern Irish Catholics from their fair shares of political and civil rights and economic resources.
- It can be argued similarly that in patriarchal societies men exclude women from their fair shares of political and civil rights and economic resources.
- Various forms of social closure may also be applied to older workers, to the disabled and to the LGBTQ community
- Other forms of social closure can occur between and within given social classes
- There was a time, say, in the late C19th when newly rich industrialists were socially excluded from the higher reaches of society because they were seen to lack the status which derived from aristocratic breeding.
- Within the professions long periods of training are required before full qualification. This training may well be necessary to master the technical complexities of the professions, but it is argued also that the costs of long periods of training serve to socially exclude potential applicants from poorer while helping to sustain the high salaries of those who can afford the training,
- It is also argued that long periods of apprenticeship similarly restrict employment opportunities and serve to maintain wage differentials between skilled and unskilled workers.
- It is argued that discretionary employment practices [which have also sometimes been tacitly accepted by mainly White trade unions] have helped to ensure that skilled manual employment is more likely to be accessed by white workers rather than BAME workers.
Frank Parkin then states that in order to analyse social closure in more detail it is necessary to refer to social exclusion [which refers to all the examples above where an advantaged group seeks to close off resources and opportunities from a subservient group and social usurpation which refers to the attempts of subservient groups to improve their social situation relative to that of advantaged groups. Social usurpation would refer to both moderate and radical attempts by the proletariat to improve their situation but also to the struggles of unskilled workers to achieve a measure of social mobility within an existing capitalist class structure and to the attempts of the aged, BAME members, the disabled, disadvantaged religious groups, the LGBTQ community and women to advance their social situation.
Thus. supporters of Weberian theories of social stratification would argue that the emphasis on social closure which involves both social exclusion and social usurpation provides a more useful framework for the analysis of social conflict than does the Marxist over-emphasis on the centrality of class conflict. They argue also that it offers a fuller analysis of the State which must resolve many conflicts which are not class-based as well as the conflict between capital and Labour.
Against this Marxists would continue that class conflict is THE central social conflict in capitalist society and that it is to a considerable extent the capitalist system which is ultimately responsible for many other conflicts in society.
[In his study Frank Parkin discusses Social Closure in more detail and more recent technical articles have also been published but I shall not pursue these further complexities here]
Another application of the concept of social closure can be found in Stephen Ball’s study Class Strategies and the Education Market; The Middle Class and Social Advantage . Stephen Ball summarises his approach in the statement that “the viewpoint adopted might broadly be described as something like “Weber meets Bourdieu” [p15] and in chapter three of the study he combines the Weberian concept of social closure [as developed by Frank Parkin] with the Bourdieusian concepts of economic, cultural and social capital to show that when middle class parents use their economic, cultural and social capital to improve their children’s educational prospects they are in effect utilising a strategy of social closure which denies educational opportunity to working class children.
Max Weber, Karl Marx, and Revolution.
- Weber's analysis of political power combined elements of pluralism deriving from the plethora of competing political parties and pressure groups parties and elements of elite theory deriving from his view that state bureaucracies exercised considerable political power in their own right and independently of the existence of a capitalist class.
- Consequently Weber argued that since the modern societies and particularly modern states would become increasingly bureaucratic it would be necessary for processes to be developed within liberal democratic political regimes which would enable parliamentary representative to control the activities of state bureaucracies although he recognised that such control would not be easy to achieve and recognised that the growth of bureaucracy would be an important factor undermining individual freedom.
- As indicated above Weber believed that the working class was a highly fragmentary class and saw no necessary reason why it would develop the class solidarity, revolutionary class consciousness and political activism predicted by Marx. Furthermore, even if the working class did develop in ways predicted by Marx, Weber believed that Marxist style revolution would serve merely to increase the powers of new One Party State bureaucracies at the expense of the Bourgeoisie but with no increase in the political powers of the Proletariat whose political powers, if anything, would decrease.
- Following the Russian Revolution of 1917, the subsequent development of the USSR State seemed to prove that Weber's predictions had been correct on this count, but Weber was not the first to make such predictions: similar assessments of the likely consequences of Marxist inspired communism had been made by anarchists throughout the latter half of the c19th.