Reconfigurations of Class and Gender

Reconfigurations of Class and Gender

Reconfigurations of Class and Gender

Reconfigurations of Class and Gender

Synopsis

At a time when social commentators are increasingly likely to assert the "death of class" as a source of social inequality and conflict, this far-reaching volume reasserts the significance of class and gender for understanding socioeconomic conditions. Rather than declining in importance, class and gender processes are being transformed by social and economic changes associated with postindustrialism, including the entrance of women into the labor market in ever greater numbers, a shift from manufacturing to services, and the rise of part-time employment.

Moving away from the narrowly focused debates that have characterized much recent class analysis, the contributors to this book urge a nuanced approach that focuses on the specific institutional contexts of class-gender relations in various advanced industrial nations. Class and gender relationships in each country are contextually embedded, they argue, in such issues as the differences in welfare-state regimes, the varying availability of flexible forms,of employment, and the degree to which the labor market is politically regulated.

The essays analyze the class and gender bases of economic inequality in ways that are sensitive to nationally specific institutional conditions. Two introductory chapters set the terms of the theoretical analysis and provide a framework for thinking about the relationships between gender and class. The remaining chapters offer comparative, cross-national analyses that investigate empirical examples of the links between class and gender relations, including the changing gender composition of the middle class, gender differences in access to managerial positions, the social ramifications of flexibleemployment arrangements, the links between paid and unpaid work, and the increasing feminization of poverty.

The contributors include Gunn Elisabeth Birkelund, Wallace Clement, Rosemary Crompton, Paula England, Siv Overas, Ra

Excerpt

As the title suggests, this is a book that argues that class and gender processes in contemporary societies are currently being transformed. It is also a book that asserts the basic empirical interconnectedness of social relations of class and gender. Both the transformation of class and gender relations and their empirical interconnections have their origins in a basic shift in the institutional characteristics of the advanced societies, a shift that is captured by the move from talking about industrial societies to postindustrial ones.

As several commentators have argued (e.g., Block 1990: chap. 1; Esping-Andersen 1993b), much social analysis of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries was underwritten by a master concept of “industrial society” or “industrial capitalism” within which social processes were played out. From this perspective, industrial society provided the organizing context for undertaking sociological analysis, and the characteristics of industrial society informed the development of concepts and theories within sociological research. The industrial society framework had a number of characteristics that implicitly informed orthodox Marxist and Weberian class analysis. Economic activity was based on the production of goods, not services. Work was organized along Fordist lines, with mass production, a hierarchical division of labor, and highly routinized blue- and white-collar jobs with predictable careers and life chances. Male participation in wage labor was almost universal, and the male life course consisted of an orderly progression of education, full-time continuous employment, and eventual retirement. Within the household, women were responsible for the private provision of services and the reproduction of wage labor (Esping-Andersen 1993b; see also Clement and Myles 1994: chap. 1).

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