The Conflict View of Stratification A. Conflict, not function, is the basis of social stratification. 1. Every society has limited resources and in every society groups struggle with one another for those resources. 2. When a group gains power, it uses that power to extract what it can from the groups beneath it. 3. The dominant group takes control of the social institutions, using them to keep other group s weak and to preserve for itself the best resources. B. Marx 1. Focuses on the economy BUT the social relations in the economy Why? According to Marx, economic production is the center of social life because we must produce in order to survive. A persons place in society, their relationships to others, and their outlook on life are shaped by their work. 2. What relationships do people have to the economic structure a. Bourgeoisie (capitalists) - own the means of production b. Proletariat (workers) - sell their labor power to the owners of the means of production in order to earn a wage. 3. These groups have competing interests: a. Capitalists reap profit (expropriate surplus) by paying workers less than the resale value of what they produce. Their interest: keep wages down and resist legislation that strengthens labor (unions). b. Workers Sell their labor in order to earn a living wage 4. Mode of production = 1) manner in which production takes place (application of technology to nature) + 2) the class and property relations that develop out of production. a. Three modes of production: 1. FEUDALISM small landowning aristocracy exploits the labor of a peasant majority 2. CAPITALISM dominance of owners of industry over the mass of industrual workers 3. SOCIALISM technologically advanced, classless society of the future in which all productive property would be held in common. 5. superstructure a. Mode of production is the main determinant of a society's superstructure of social and political institutions and ideas. He uses this concept of superstructure to answer the question: How do privileged minorities maintain their positions and contain the potential resistance of exploited majorities? b. Marx's response: The class that controls the means of production typically controls the means of compulsion and persuasion (the superstructure). 6. Ideology a. Marx most significant contribution to social science b. human consciousness is a social product. Social experience is not homogeneous in a class based society. The tendency is for members of each group to regard their own particular class interests as the true interests of the whole society. c. One class has the power to impose its self-serving ideas on other classes. Hence, those that dominate production also dominate the institutions that produce and disseminate ideas such as schools, mass media, churches, and courts. "The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas" d. All ruling classes develop an ideology to justify people's relative positions. This ideology not only helps prevent the ruling class from feeling guilty about possessing wealth in the midst of deprivation, but also affirms its position in power by seducing the oppressed into false consciousness. e. False Consciousness: Marx's term for the mistaken identification of workers with the interests of capitalists. Ex. The ideology encourages the oppressed to believe that their welfare depends on keeping society stable so they support laws against their own interests and even sacrifice their children as soldiers in wars designed to support the entrenchment of the bourgeosie. 7. Social Change and the Dialectic a. Class struggle is the basic source of social change. Each epoch creates within itself the growth of a new class that eventually seizes power and creates a new epoch; thus change is explained by an internal dynamic called the dialectic. b. How does social change occur? Class consciousness 1. an awareness of membership in a group defined by a relationship to production, 2. a sense that this shared identity creates common interests and a common fate, and 3. a disposition to take collective action in pursuit of class interests. c. Class-in-itself: members share a social position but are unaware of their common situation. d. Class-for-itself: members are aware of common interests, they engage in militant action focused on goals that they conceive as being in direct opposition to those of other classes - they are defined by that opposition. e. Marx Prediction: workers will revolt when class consciousness overcomes ideology. At first the struggle may be covert but, ultimately will break into open resistance.
E. Later Conflict Theorists: 1. Mills, Dahrendorf, and Collins They argue that conflict between capitalists and workers in only one of the conflicts - groups within the same class compete for scarce resources, thus conflict is between many groups (e.g. young v. old; women v. ment). 2. Groups within the same class compete for power, influence, wealth, education, housing territory, and prestige - whatever benefits society has to offer. This results in conflicts between the young and old, labor unions and business, producers and consumers, women and men, and racial and ethnic groups. F. Unlike functionalists conflict theorists hold that just beneath the surface of what may appear to be a tranquil society lies overt conflict - uneasily held in check.
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