Occupation and Class Consciousness in America

Occupation and Class Consciousness in America

Occupation and Class Consciousness in America

Occupation and Class Consciousness in America

Synopsis

Eichar begins by establishing theoretical distinctions relating to "occupation" and "class." He next looks at basic job characteristics and examines occupational self-direction and its relation to class consciousness. From a review of recent literature, the author develops a set of hypotheses relating to the impact of occupational self-direction and alienation on class consciousness. Interpreting his findings, Eichar points out significant differences in the impact of alienation and occupational self-direction depending on the level of class consciousness. Offering solid empirical analysis and careful review of the new class theories, as well as more traditional views of the relationship between work and political attitudes, this study will be of interest in political sociology, Marxist studies, industrial psychology, management theory, and related fields.

Excerpt

Early in my undergraduate experience, I happened to read Sombart Why Is There No Socialism in America? (1976). This examination of "American exceptionalism" generated a long-term, general interest in working class attitudes and behavior. Several years later, as a graduate student at Columbia in the late 1970s, I participated in a seminar on social stratification. Here, I became interested in the efforts to revitalize the concept of class by restoring its Marxian thrust, and I was especially convinced by the argument that class refers to something more than a group of occupations. Ultimately, this experience generated an interest in both the conceptual and the empirical relationship between class and occupation. This book represents the merging of these two interests. I have attempted to examine the relationship between occupation and class by focusing on the impact of occupation on working class consciousness and political orientation.

Neither the relationship nor the focus just mentioned is new to sociological curiosity. Instead, each is staple fare in the fields of class and stratification research. in fact, the fields are rich enough to have produced a number of competing hypotheses, with some writers pointing to alienated workers as the most class conscious and others pointing to the incumbents of new, skilled occupations, such as technicians and engineers. But as is generally the case with subdisciplinary specialization, most development has come from elaboration upon elements within certain theoretical parameters. As a result, the opposing theories and predictions that emerge are limited by the accepted range of conceptualization and concommitant means of operationalizing key concepts. in fact, it may be that these internal limitations contribute to the opposing predictions.

What I have attempted to do is to infuse the debate with new blood in the form of the literature of organization and management theory, industrial psychology, and the research program of Melvin Kohn over the past twenty years. Together, theorists in these various strains have collectively produced "job characteristic theory," an attempt to revitalize the concept of occupation by focusing on the content of the work experience. My general goal is to provide an assessment of the use of this theory in the analysis of political outcomes. My specific goals are to explore, at the conceptual level, how job characteristic theory can . . .

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