Key Problems of Sociological Theory

By John Rex | Go to book overview

VIII
CONFLICT AND THE ANALYSIS OF CLASS

CLASS AND STATUS

I N the last chapter it was inevitable that we should become concerned with the problem of social classes. For in one of its usages the term 'class' has been defined very largely in terms of conflict situations of a disruptive type. But it will be instructive now to approach the problem from the other side, starting with the problems which have arisen in the actual empirical study of class, in order to see how far these problems are understandable in terms of the theoretical models we have been discussing.

The most striking fact about studies of 'social class' in contemporary sociology has been the confusion of two analytically distinct conceptions, on the one hand the concept of class as used by Marx, and on the other the concept used by Lloyd Warner and others to refer to hierarchical status groupings in small communities. So, for instance, one sometimes hears sociologists speaking of Warner refuting Marx, and, on the other hand, Marxists have often tended to regard acceptance of Warner's conclusions as a central sociological heresy. By contrast, for some at least of the great European sociologists, there was no question of these two concepts being confused. Weber and Tönnies, especially, distinguished clearly between them, and any theoretical approach to the problem of class can do no better than to go back to the distinctions which they draw.1

It must be pointed out at once, however, that the two concepts

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1
See Bendix and Lipset, Class, Status and Power ( 1954), pp. 49-74.

-136-

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