Social Structure and Mobility in Economic Development

By Neil J. Smelser; Seymour Martin Lipset | Go to book overview

6
CHANGES IN OCCUPATIONAL STRUCTURES

WILBERT E. MOORE, Russell Sage Foundation

ONE OF THE most direct links between modes of economic production and social structure is, of course, in labor force participation and types of economic activity. As an economy shifts from decentralized "subsistence" production to interdependent production of a wide range of goods and services, the human or social counterpart is a series of shifts in work roles. Here I want to explore various facets of this transformation, identifying several interdependent but analytically distinct "processes" of change. I shall use the concept "occupational structure" in a broad sense to include a number of ways whereby economic performance roles are differentiated and organized.*

Since the focus will be on structural changes in the course of economic modernization, some introductory comments are in order regarding the view of social change that informs the subsequent discussion.

The degree to which changes in economic structure determine other changes in societies may have been exaggerated by analytical models that attend to interdependencies but not to autonomous variability in sub-systems. Thus attempts to generalize about the social consequences of economic development and to increase the precision of predictive generalizations, though laudable, may encounter some unbreechable barriers. Differences in pre-industrial social patterns do have lasting consequences, and there are options in politico-economic regimes. Precise replication of historic changes may not be expected in some aspects of contemporary modernization because the experience of the past may be forthrightly adopted or rejected, with resulting changes in both timing and sequence.

____________________
*
I wish to express my thanks to W. Lee Hanson, whose written discussion of the original draft emphasized the economic bases for changes in labor demand; to Mrs. Karen Many, for helpful editorial suggestions; and to Neil J. Smelser, who pointed out the interdependence of processes of structural change.

-194-

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