The American Class Structure

The American Class Structure

The American Class Structure

The American Class Structure

Excerpt

Among the myriad books on American society, few if any resemble the present one. Professor Kahl's treatment is at once sound and lucid (a rare combination), and his topic is one that has seldom if ever been handled in such a comprehensive and yet empirical manner. The book brings together in a well-organized way the research findings, increasingly numerous in the last thirty years, which have illuminated the American class structure. There is scarcely a topic in social science more deserving of such a synthesis.

That the class structure forms a fundamental feature of any society has often been recognized. Historians of the Middle Ages, for example, whatever their theoretical predilections may be, invariably find it necessary in analyzing Medieval society to deal with the clergy, the nobility, the bourgeoisie, and the peasantry. Students of indigenous India generally make reference to the caste system, just as observers of precommunist China must usually refer to the gentry. As in these societies, so in the United States. To understand ourselves we must be aware of the various strata, of the determinants of membership in these strata, of the motives and attitudes that go with social position and with changes in position. These are realities which affect every aspect of life, and which cannot be understood exclusively in economic or political terms. To look at our system of stratification is to look at ourselves in a way that cuts across the traditional disciplines and brings out new perspectives otherwise missed.

Curiously, however, there has sometimes been a tendency in historical, economic, or political writing to avoid coming to grips directly with class phenomena. It almost seems as if the facts of human inequality are too unpleasant to the social scientist, so that he loses his objectivity or his courage. Even the Marxians, who have used the class struggle tenaciously as their point of departure, have comforted themselves with the thought that inequality could ultimately be eliminated.

Nowhere has this proclivity to evade the subject of class been more apparent than in the United States up to thirty years ago. In part this . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.