Class and Politics in the United States

Class and Politics in the United States

Class and Politics in the United States

Class and Politics in the United States

Excerpt

The principal aim of this work is to provide an assessment of some dominant claims in the contemporary social sciences. The claims in question presume to describe the behavior of the various classes in society. In particular, this work focuses on the supposed malaise of the "lower-middle class" and the presumed intolerance and political incapacity of blue-collar workers. The main corollary of these assertions, one that came to full fruition in the 1950s and early 1960s, holds that the established elites together with the upper-middle classes are the guardians of the democratic arrangement, the defenders of civil liberties, the protectors of the poor and dispossessed, and, in general, the capable and responsible managers of the entire social enterprise. The researches reported here indicate that these claims are, to say the least, subject to considerable doubt.

A second major position that is assessed in this work is the pluralist theory, or, more specifically, that refinement of the pluralist theory that argues the incapacities or dangerous character of "the masses" and suggests, as a consequence, a need to restrict the actual processes of government to the educated, talented, and the presumably capable elites. The research directed toward the questions of class and politics, clearly, also has relevance for the assessment of these claims.

A third major position that will be given at least some attention here is the "mass society" viewpoint. In the leftist or critical variant, it is held that "the masses" are either bought off by the ruling classes or are manipulated into an acceptance of the going arrangements. This acceptance is the result of shrewd and calculating usage of the mass media on the part of the ruling elites. As will be seen, this view also proves to be inadequate, or, more accurately, it is seriously misleading.

A number of other strands of intellectual development will be discussed for purposes of criticism, or elaboration, or to provide an explanation for some of the findings.

The theoretical orientations that are considered here have been criticized in numerous other contexts. Much of this criticism, however, has been of a purely analytic character. In this respect the present work differs sharply from its predecessors; the main basis for the assessment to be presented here is empirical--it involves bringing evidence to bear on the major claims of those theories. The effort, moreover, goes beyond the task of assessment to the pre-

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