Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Sociology

Personal Take on Some Engaging Books from the Past Decade

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Sociology

Personal Take on Some Engaging Books from the Past Decade

Article excerpt

On a recent sabbatical in New Zealand, I learned something of the vicissitudes of scholars who live and work in small countries. In New Zealand, there are only four universities with sociology departments. Scholars there who write books which analyze national questions and which are vital to the establishment of the discipline in NZ can expect print-runs measured in several hundreds of copies -- if they can find a publisher at all! What motivates such scholars? Obviously, they are not driven by financial considerations, since these are negligible. They undertake their work to enlarge the discipline's grasp of New Zealand, its changes and its developments compared to related societies. As John O'Neill says in a different context, borrowing from Mauss, people in receipt of a gift from previous generations are compelled to return something back to the same society. In this country, we too have a small market and I thought as we moved into the new millennium, it might be appropriate to celebrate some of the monographs which colleagues have published in the past decade and to identify how they have tried to enlarge our discipline and our understanding of society.

Some of my choices are volumes that most colleagues would acknowledge immediately, while others are gems which have attracted little of the attention I think they deserve. They fall into two general areas -- works about Canadian society in some substantive way, and works written by Canadians which focus on the cognitive structures of societies more generally.

Class, Gender, Age and Language

Clement and Myles's Relations of Ruling: Class and Gender in Postindustrial Societies (1994) is an ambitious comparative analysis of how changes in postindustrial capitalism have transformed social classes. It is based on the Comparative Project on Class Structure and Class Consciousness originally initiated by Erik Olin Wright and employs social surveys from Canada, the US, Finland, Norway and Sweden in the early 1980s. Clement and Myles conclude that in addition to the persistence of the 19th century conflict between classes of capital and labour, there has been a revival of the old middle class (the small time entrepreneur, investor, landlord and consultant), and the advance of a large new middle class consisting of managers who lack ownership of the means of production but who exercise control and surveillance of labour. Postindustrial societies have been marked by a massive shift from wealth earned by primary production, building, transportation and manufacture, to societies dominated by the service sector (fast food and merchandising chains) but also including the highly skilled information sectors associated with the welfare state -- schools, health care, and social services. The latter occupy a precarious place in the class scheme ("the aristocracy of labour") since their skills and life chances have little in common with the traditional blue collar working class.

The rise of postindustrial classes has also been accompanied by tremendous changes in gender. As women have moved from unpaid domestic circumstances into the labour market they often face a "double day" of labour resulting from their continuing responsibility for domestic work at home. They struggle not only with class tensions but "relations of ruling" (a term borrowed from Dorothy Smith) that are rooted in patriarchy and the dominance of men both at home and at work. Here the circumstances across the various nations yield important differences. In contrast to the expansion of low paid service jobs in the private sector in North America, the welfare state in the Scandinavian countries has created demands for high paid, public sector service jobs. In both cases, the issues for women have not been limited to better pay and working conditions but involve pay-equity, affirmative action and sexual harassment policies to combat sexual exploitation. Since unions often have different gender constituencies, this has created conditions for conflict between labour unions, and has resulted in many of the issues of gender and environment being advanced outside the labour union framework. …

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.