The American Class Structure

By Joseph A. Kahl | Go to book overview

penditures spent on clothing went up as the total expenditures went up; thus obviously the absolute amount went up much faster. As soon as people had money to spare after feeding and housing themselves, they bought fancy clothes for adornment beyond protection. Similarly, for people whose total expenditures were the same, business and professional folk spent a higher proportion for housing than did clerical workers, and clerical workers a higher portion than did blue-collar workers.


CONCLUSIONS

Social stratification exists within a framework of economic stratification. Our present economic system is one of capitalistic enterprise based on private ownership of property and competition for the rewards of the market. There are social limitations on every phase of the economic system, however. Property cannot be used entirely as desired by the owner; the community sets limits as to what he can and cannot do. Property being taxed differentially, large owners pay more than small ones. Inheritances are controlled and taxed by law. The accumulation of individual property into the corporate collectivities that do the big work of production and exchange is controlled by a changing law that adjusts to shifts in the public conception of common welfare. It has always been thus: the value system of a culture defines property and to some degree controls its relative distribution among individuals. Then it permits some freedom of individual action, and the resulting distribution of incomes becomes one of the prime causes of invidious distinctions between individuals. These distinctions of income and prestige produce an unequal distribution of consumption goods, of power, of life chances.

As our industrial economy has matured, the role of individually owned property in the productive system has weakened. Farmers and businessmen continue to exist and thrive, but an increasing portion of work is done within the framework of large corporations that are "private enterprises" only by virtue of semantic liberality. They are a new species of social institution and have changed our way of life. They create a vast pool of semiskilled workers who float from one job to another as corporate production expands and contracts, and an increasing group of educated technicians in engineering and management who direct the labor of the workmen. All are employees, none owners. Their places in the system depend upon the rules of bureaucratic entry and promotion; business is coming more and more to assume the shape of the government civil service. A man chooses the basic level within which he will work by the amount and type of schooling he gets; the rest depends upon bureaucratic competition. Ownership of these mammoth organizations is dispersed among millions; control is concentrated in 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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