The American Class Structure

By Joseph A. Kahl | Go to book overview

I
The Dimensions of Class

ALL COMMUNITIES DIVIDE THEMSELVES INTO THE FEW AND THE MANY. THE FIRST ARE THE RICH AND WELL-BORN, THE OTHER THE MASS OF THE PEOPLE. . . . THE PEOPLE ARE TURBULENT AND CHANGING; THEY SELDOM JUDGE OR DETERMINE RIGHT. . . . GIVE, THEREFORE, TO THE FIRST CLASS A DISTINCT, PERMANENT SHARE IN THE GOVERNMENT. THEY WILL CHECK THE UNSTEADINESS OF THE SECOND, AND, AS THEY CANNOT RECEIVE ANY ADVANTAGE BY A CHANGE, THEY THEREFORE WILL EVER MAINTAIN GOOD GOVERNMENT.

Alexander Hamilton [1]

THOUGHTFUL MEN have recognized the importance of social classes since the beginnings of Western philosophy. They knew that in every society men were unequal: some had more money or more influence or more prestige than their neighbors. And the philosophers realized that the differences between men were more than personal, for they created a stratification hierarchy. In it large groups or classes of people shared certain positions that gave them interests in common with their equals but different from groups who were above them or below them. Finally, it was clear that many of the acts of men in society were consequences of their class interests. As Hamilton said, the rich sought social stability to preserve their advantages, but the poor worked for social change that would bring them more of the world's rewards.

This book is an analysis of the class structure of the United States today. It examines the distribution of money, prestige, and the other stratification variables among the different classes in the country. It will point out the ways in which the variables react upon one another; how, for instance, a man's income affects his beliefs about social policy, or how his job affects his choice of friends or a wife. And it will explore the question of movement from one class to another; for a society can have classes and still permit individuals to rise or fall among them.

In order to measure the several dimensions of the class structure-- and we cannot understand how they influence one another if we cannot measure what we are talking about--it is necessary to define them with precision. The way to do that is to take a backward glance at the

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The American Class Structure
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Introduction v
  • Preface ix
  • Contents xiii
  • Tables xvii
  • Figures xviii
  • I - The Dimensions of Class 1
  • References 16
  • II - Position and Prestige 19
  • Conclusions 47
  • References 49
  • III - Occupational Prestige and Social Change 53
  • Conclusions 85
  • References 87
  • IV - Income, Wealth, and Style of Life 91
  • Conclusions 119
  • References 122
  • V - The Web of Interaction 127
  • Conclusions 153
  • References 154
  • VI - Class Consciousness and Political Ideology 157
  • Conclusions 180
  • References 181
  • VII - Classes as Ideal Types: Emergent Values 184
  • Conclusions 215
  • References 218
  • VIII - Ethnic and Race Barriers 221
  • Conclusions 247
  • References 248
  • IX - Succession and Mobility: the Occupational Base 251
  • Conclusions 271
  • References 272
  • X - Succession and Mobility: Motivation and Education 276
  • Conclusions 293
  • References 294
  • Index 301
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