Class in Twentieth-Century American Sociology: An Analysis of Theories and Measurement Strategies

Class in Twentieth-Century American Sociology: An Analysis of Theories and Measurement Strategies

Class in Twentieth-Century American Sociology: An Analysis of Theories and Measurement Strategies

Class in Twentieth-Century American Sociology: An Analysis of Theories and Measurement Strategies

Synopsis

Grimes provides an overview and critique of the major theories, conceptualizations, and measurements of class inequality, drawing exclusively on scholarly literature published by American social scientists in the 20th century. The volume proposes a framework for interpreting and understanding the theories and methodologies used by scholars to study class inequality, posits two "schools" of sociological theory-order and conflict, and concludes that there is evidence of a "convergence" among contemporary perspectives on class inequality.

Excerpt

The subject of this book, class inequality, is unavoidably ideological, and, as a consequence, each of us approaches it with certain "takenfor-granteds" that derive from our own unique experiences as incumbents of class positions. My own interest in the subject has its origins in my youth in a Southeast Texas oil "boom" town during the early post-World War II period in American history. in those heady days of American world economic and political hegemony, like most Americans, we were bombarded with a number of key messages that were a part of the conventional wisdom of that period in the nation's history: that America was rapidly becoming a "classless" society; that economic prosperity was within the grasp of all; that success depended upon achievement rather than ascription; and, relatedly, that each of us, regardless of class, race/ethnic, or gender background, had the same opportunity for success. My peers and I, the sons and daughters of (white) working-class families, absorbed these messages like sponges and they quickly became a part of our world views.

However, as we began to move out of our neighborhood environment and encounter the larger world, we began to notice discrepancies between the messages we had internalized and the realities we confronted in our everyday lives. in my own personal experiences within this larger environment, class differences, in particular, seemed to play an increasingly significant role in influencing the life chances of myself and those around me. the effects of class, both subtle and blatant, were apparent to me in a number of different contexts--not only in my family's relative material circumstances, but at church, at school, in politics, and in various social and leisure activities as well. At almost every turn, I found myself and my peers (not to mention our parents) suffering disadvantages relative to our middle- and upper-class counterparts.

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