Heterogeneities: Race, Gender, Class, Nation, and State

By Robert Ackermann John | Go to book overview

CLASS

Class is an important explanatory term in social, political, and economic theory. But classes are interior to social theory, even if theory is informal, and different theories talk about completely different notions of class. Because there are so many different notions of class, class seems to have a less natural grounding in material reality than either race or gender. Indeed, where discrimination is wanted by some group, and already given notions of race and gender will not draw the dividing line that is wanted, new notions of class can always be constructed to plot any separation that prejudice requires.

The citizens of many societies have internalized traditional social class distinctions along with whatever racial and gender distinctions are normally acquired during socialization. Class distinctions may be coded into speech and dress in such a way that expected class behavior is integrated into social appearance. By comparison, the notions of economic class given in economic theory seem highly abstract. They project economic similarities onto people who might otherwise seem rather heterogeneous, and so they threaten once again to embody logics of exclusion. Economic class is frequently invoked to explain puzzling features of modern capitalist society because traditional forms of social class marking seem to have lost their predictive power under capitalism.

If gender and race attributes can often be read at a glance in concrete situations by cultural natives (it doesn't matter that the reading is incorrect on occasion), economic class can be difficult to assess. It is difficult to put particular individuals into appropriate economic classes without having privileged information, such as income levels, or detailed knowledge of how income has been obtained. Economic class thus seems more abstract in its concrete employment than the notions involved with race and gender.

It often comes as a surprise for people to learn that they belong to a certain economic class, and that this positioning is involved with cer-

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Heterogeneities: Race, Gender, Class, Nation, and State
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents ix
  • Preface xi
  • Starting Point 1
  • Racism 9
  • Benign Racism 31
  • Gender 53
  • Class 79
  • Nation 103
  • State 131
  • World System 153
  • What to Do 179
  • FURTHER READING 205
  • Index 209
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