Class, Ethnicity, and Social Inequality

Class, Ethnicity, and Social Inequality

Copyright Date: 1990
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Class, Ethnicity, and Social Inequality
    Book Description:

    In Class, Ethnicity, and Social Inequality Christopher McAll discusses the increased juxtaposition of ethnically distinct groups in the same social environments which has resulted from labour migration since the Second World War. He shows that, in the context of competitive labour markets where the boundaries between ethnic groups can be viewed in terms of ethnicity, social relations can easily degenerate into ethnic conflict.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6215-8
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. CHAPTER ONE Introduction
    (pp. 3-8)

    The problem posed at the outset is as follows: to take a selective look, first, at what has been said about class and ethnicity, and second, at the interplay between class and ethnicity in different social contexts and at different periods, with the aim of finding out what the relationship between the two might be in the overall context of the generation and maintenance of social inequality. This implies the formulation of a theoretical model in which class and ethnicity as concepts are satisfactorily defined both in themselves and in relationship to each other within the context of a specific...


    • CHAPTER TWO The Hostile Opposition of Interests: Class in Marx
      (pp. 11-19)

      Marx’s theory of class is indissociable from his theory of production and relations of production. I therefore begin not by looking at class itself but at the best single presentation of his more global theory of capitalist production and its antecedents: volume 1 ofCapital.In beginning withCapitalone is also in line with the prescription of Marx and Engels in theGerman Ideology, where they attack the young Hegelians for attempting to understand society solely at the level of ideas. For Marx and Engels, consciousness derives from activity in the world. So it is not from law, religion,...

    • CHAPTER THREE Neither Central nor Absent: Class in Weber’s Economy and Society
      (pp. 20-30)

      InEconomy and SocietyWeber seeks to understand and explain human action.¹ There are two principal ways in which action can be understood: as a concrete case where two or more individuals act towards each other on the basis of certain specific motives, or as a pure type of action. The study of history, since it is concerned with the explanation of events, is concerned with the first of these alternatives, the elucidation of concrete cases of action. Sociology, by contrast, is concerned with pure types of action – that is, it abstracts from concrete actions those aspects that are sufficiently...

    • CHAPTER FOUR The Spectre of Class in Non-Marxist Social Science
      (pp. 31-42)

      In this chapter I look at the work of two sociologists whose concepts of class are opposed not only to that of Marx and contemporary Marxism but also to each other, in that one of the two writes explicitly to demolish the other’s theories. We need to keep in mind, therefore, the dual distinction that on the one hand characterizes their work as non-Marxist and on the other sets their two approaches into mutual opposition within the current of non-Marxist social science. Talcott Parsons’ work belongs to the school of social theory that characterizes itself as structural-functionalist. Ralf Dahrendorf s...

    • CHAPTER FIVE Theory and Experience: Class in Contemporary Marxism
      (pp. 43-55)

      By “contemporary Marxism” I refer, obviously enough, to a body of thought that derives its principal inspiration and orientation, whether explicitly or implicitly, from the work of Marx. The form that that orientation can take, however, is subject to considerable variation. It can consist of an empirical study of contemporary or past social conditions within the general framework of a Marxian approach – that is, using the concepts elaborated by Marx as the basic tools for understanding society without necessarily attempting to question or refine those concepts. Alternatively, it can be more specifically concerned with refining Marx’s concepts, or those concepts...

    • CHAPTER SIX Class Replaced: Ethnicity in Non–Marxist Theory
      (pp. 56-68)

      If class lies at the heart of the Marxist theory of society while being largely peripheral in the core areas of non-Marxist theory – with certain exceptions – ethnicity presents us with much the same picture, but in reverse. For mainstream Marxism, as we shall see in a subsequent chapter, the question of ethnic identity is relatively uninteresting alongside the phenomena that are held to be characteristic of different social systems and generative of the different types of social inequality that exist in those systems. There is a distinction to be made between the way in which people interpret the existence of...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN The Players and the Masks: Marxist Approachers to Ethnicity
      (pp. 69-82)

      I have placed the various approaches to class in contemporary Marxism on an axis running from empiricist to abstractionist, according to whether the primary concern is the experience of class or its conceptualization.¹ There is, however, no disagreement within Marxism as to the reality of class as a phenomenon. In theCommunist ManifestoMarx and Engels state that “the theoretical tenets of the Communists are not based in any way on ideas [or] on principles invented or discovered by some social reformer or other. They are just general expressions of the actual relations in an existing class struggle, a continuing...


    • CHAPTER EIGHT With or Without Class? The Problem of Pre-industrial Society
      (pp. 85-97)

      The question of whether or not classes exist in pre-industrial society depends, naturally enough, on how one defines class. According to the Weberian definition, there are classes in such societies, given the existence of a market and different categories of people who have different capacities to command goods and services on the market according to their possession or lack of property, or their occupying some commercial or professional position. Without such market relationships there are no classes. Equally, according to Marx’s definition, where there exists a category of persons who appropriate the surplus produced by others without themselves being producers,...

    • CHAPTER NINE In Search of Identity: Ethnicity and the “Boundaries” of Social Anthropology
      (pp. 98-110)

      In looking at non-Marxist theories of ethnicity, I identified two opposed conceptualizations: ethnicity as embodying the totality of a group–s identity, irrespective of whether that group was or was not in contact with othergroups; and ethnicity as a boundary phenomenon between groups, a set of markers by which one group differentiates itself from another.¹ This latter conceptualization of ethnicity was already described by Weber, whoconsidered ethnic labels to be used by groups for, among other reasons,monopolistic closure.² For Weber any apparent difference is suitablematerial for the ethnic labelling of one group by another, or, more importantly, for self-labelling, defining...

    • CHAPTER TEN Coming into the Open: Capitalism and the Emergence of Class
      (pp. 111-123)

      The distinguishing feature of capitalist relations of production, as opposed to all forms of productive organization that precede them, is that they involve the emergence of class in the full Marxian sense of two self-conscious and politically organized opposed classes, with various other classes struggling to hang on to their privileges or being forced into alignment with one or other of the two main classes. A principal interest of E.P. Thompson, for example, is to understand the process whereby the underlying precapitalist class structures of the eighteenth century, which coexist with a variety of vertical alignments, patron-client relationships, and what...

    • CHAPTER ELEVEN Ethnicity’s Revenge: Labour Migration and Racism in Industrial Societies
      (pp. 124-137)

      In the last two chapters I have looked at the construction of identity through opposition as one aspect of what is understood by ethnicity, and at the coming into existence of class in the full Marxian sense, along with the development of capitalist relations of production. With reference to the Scottish Highlands, this latter process was characterized as one of class structure replacing clan structure, or rather, as the coming into the open, in the form of conflict between a crofter working class and the classes of landlords and capitalist tenant farmers, of an underlying class structure that, in its...

    • CHAPTER TWELVE From a Train Window: Ethnicity and the Landscape of Class in Britain
      (pp. 138-150)

      Labour migration, whether within states or between them, creates two simultaneous possibilities: the possibility that the mass of direct producers will be brought together so as to be able to associate politically and thereby stand some chance of gaining political and social control over the process of production, and yet the possibility for division within that same working class, based on differential role and reward allocation between and within sectors and on the congruence between those divisions and the ethnic markers that are themselves the result of labour migration. Such divisions are underscored by the monopolistic closure exercised by different...


    • CHAPTER THIRTEEN A Sense of Belonging: Capitalism and the “Nation-State”
      (pp. 153-164)

      We have, on one axis, been moving from the past to the present, and on another from the periphery to the centre, and these movements through time and space have been accompanied by the intertwining of class and ethnicity. I now turn to the role of the state in capitalist society in relation to class and ethnicity, and begin by looking at some aspects of the Marxian and Weberian notions of the state.

      Marx was primarily concerned with the developed capitalist mode of production and with the way in which that mode of production developed from earlier systems. The central...

    • CHAPTER FOURTEEN Keeping the Old World Going: Multiculturalism and the State in Canada
      (pp. 165-178)

      Multiculturalism as a way of understanding Canadian society emerged in the 1960s in the context of the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism. The report of the commission, published in 1970, does not, however, present Canada as primarily and essentially multicultural but rather as composed of two dominant cultures, those of the “anglophone and francophone societies.”¹ Alongside those two dominant cultures and their associated languages are the variety of subordinate languages and cultures that the various immigrant groups have brought with them (native peoples being excluded from the mandate of the commission).

      The commission considers the significance of these various...

    • CHAPTER FIFTEEN Collective Containment: Ethnicity and the Colonial Frontier
      (pp. 179-190)

      The confrontation between an exploding, urbanized, industrial civilization, constantly in need of raw materials and expanding markets in which to sell those raw materials transformed into finished products, and the more localized, repetitive, and traditional societies that preceded and surround it is, first, a material one. It begins with the exchange of material goods in the form of a long-distance trade in exotica, bringing, for example, spices, silks, and cloisonne-ware to late medieval Europe. It continues with the extraction of raw materials for transformation by industrial societies, as well as the more organized production of those same exotica for consumption,...

    • CHAPTER SIXTEEN The Dark Rose: Ethnicity, Resistance, and the Idea of Nationhood
      (pp. 191-200)

      According to the nineteenth-century ideology of Social Darwinism, the evolutionary pinnacle on the top of which the members of the English ruling class found themselves rose in inverse proportion to the chasms in which they discovered the various peoples subject to their oppression.¹ Things did not, however, look the same from the other side. If Social Darwinism was the necessary ideological framework in terms of which the colonizer could get on with the business of repatriating primary resources and extending territorial boundaries with a clear conscience, on the other side, and in the charged atmosphere of political and economic subordination,...


    • CHAPTER SEVENTEEN Structural Seclusion: Making Social Inequality Possible
      (pp. 203-215)

      In the various theoretical approaches to class and ethnicity, we can distinguish between class and ethnicity as analytical constructs that can help us to make sense of complex social structure, and class and ethnicity as ways in which participants in society consciously represent that society to themselves and act in accordance with that representation. This corresponds to the normal distinction between the analyst’s construct and the cognitive perception of the actor, which Mitchell, for example, describes as being of “entirely different epistemological status.”¹ In the case of Marxist approaches to class, however, the situation becomes complex. Here the distinction is...

    • CHAPTER EIGHTEEN The Tangled Foliage
      (pp. 216-224)

      In the pursuit of an adequate social explanation of the phenomena referred to in different theoretical contexts by the concepts of class and ethnicity, I start out from two basic principles: the specificity of concepts within theoretical systems, and the specificity of phenomena within social systems. According to the first principle, a given concept only means something in the context of the theoretical system wherein it was formulated. It is as impossible to produce hybrid concepts of different theoretical origins as it is to blend theoretical systems.

      The importance of this principle is evident in relation to class. In each...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 225-250)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 251-262)
  11. Index
    (pp. 263-295)