Classes in Modern Society

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Thomas Burton Botto, usually known as Tom Botto and published as T.B Botto

❰PDF / Epub❯ ☀ Classes in Modern Society Author T.B. Bottomore –
  • Paperback
  • 83 pages
  • Classes in Modern Society
  • T.B. Bottomore
  • English
  • 11 April 2017
  • 9780394704142

10 thoughts on “Classes in Modern Society

  1. says:

    A somewhat dated but important in its day volume on the role of social class in contemporary society the book was published in 1966.

  2. says:

    To read about class and stratification, Botto s book is efficacious one.

  3. says:

    After reading the Independent s obituary to Professor Botto see link here I was moved to read one of his texts and managed to get this quite cheaply online and only recently got round to reading and writing this short selection of notes This is most definitely a classic text, that sums up a key area of sociological thought, although very narrowly Generally, it is a decent primer but people should look elsewhere for a comprehensive treatment of class such as Fiona Devine s fantastic text, Social class in Britain and America , which comprehensively details the key debates from a contemporary point of view, that has the richness and analysis that this lacks Or Barrington Moore s work on the construction of western democracy vs totalitarianism Thomas Sowell s latest text Wealth, Poverty and Politics goes into stratification historically and looks at various underlying causes and explanations for divisions in society, again comprehensive The ideas in this volume are quite well rehearsed and will probably seem very familiar to well read first second year undergraduate students in Sociology The Nature of Social ClassesBotto in 1955, using what would become the title of this book, wrote an essay concerning class structures It eventually went out of print and his conclusions were underdeveloped He later wrote this text publishing it a decade after his initial essay as a way to examine fully the sociological theories behind class and to look at the changing social conditions that were happening within the industrial countries at the time of writing He was quite a prolific sociologist, particularly within the Marxist school of thought and wrote numerous texts on interpreting the work of Marx alongside various themes that emerge from a close attention to those texts such as status, elites and power This was his first major text, a short but densely packed engagement with class ostensibly from theoretical positions that were prevalent in the early 1960s The problem with the text is that it focuses very narrowly on the forms of analysis that Marx developed and so by omission is not an accurate view point on the sociological views concerning class in the time period It shouldn t be surprising that he takes this view, given where he is coming from as a sociologist who engages with Marxist ideas, but I will explain the main ideas developed throughout I also am not entirely convinced that his analysis merits anything new or original in deviating much from its source material either, which is a shame given the depth that was around at the time Due to his theoretical position, I use the Marxist parlance in these notes, despite not wholly supportive of the underlying connotations.His starting point is that the division of society into classes or strata which are arranged into hierarchies of power, prestige and or wealth is a prominent and almost universal feature of social structure 11 Ancient theorists often tried to find rationalizations of the established order, typically religious doctrine which provided an origin for social ranks, such in the caste system within Hindu mythology It has only recently and by recently the author means the time of the book, 1965 became a concern for scientific study, particularly after the French and American revolutions Egalitarianism as interpreted in various ways by nineteenth century thinkers, implied a rejection to hereditary privilege and the inevitability of social ranks The revolutions of the late 18th and early 19th century were directed at legal and political privileges which were layovers from feudalism and when they were successful they fostered greater civil and political rights alongside equal opportunity A key starting point therefore is that social ranking seems to be universal and our concern with analyzing it became pronounced after various egalitarian legislative revolutions took place.Another starting point is that industrial societies had saw the growth of citizenship alongside countries taking steps to mitigate the effects of laissez faire capitalism with centrally planning and regulating certain aspects of the economy so as to control the distribution of wealth and income Another aspect is that social services being provided by the state was or less a commonality, so welfare programs providing a safety net There were key differences between the two types of industrial societies The Soviet Eastern Europe societies vs western capitalist societies at least theoretically on the face of it In Soviet style economies, the claim was made that with the abolition of the private ownership of the means of production, there was a construction of a society which was classless and premised on socialism 13 Western capitalism being dominated as it is by private industrial enterprise meant the converse, again theoretically Botto explains that the Soviet claim of classlessness was not examined closely by even the most ardent of Soviet critics, who focused instead on the most blatant elements of their social system such as repression of personal freedom and the ways in which terror was used in the Stalinist era 13 It was clear however, that new types of social rule emerged in these societies that was not predicated on the same foundations as status was in Western societies A new ruling class emerged The book begins on these foundations, exploring how with the movement towards egalitarianism how this affected social hierarchy in industrial societies and the differences between them and finally how this influenced the development of modern industry in 1965 Stratification is used broadly to refer to castes, estates, social classes and status groups 15 Botto notes that the boundaries between these forms are debatable and highly controversial which is a point that rings true today There are general features that are indisputable such as that a system of ranks is a human contrivance or product and is subject to historical changes 15 Botto uses Rousseau to explain the two differences in human inequalities that exist in society The first is natural physical because they are established by nature so age, health, mind, soul and the second is moral or political inequality A distinction which is extremely dated and not reflexive of the various ways society reinforces divisions that are apparently due to natural means, such as the inaccessibility of our streets to those with physical impairments Other factors include basic geography, which isn t mentioned here alongside individualistic cultural factors Whilst many reject these points because often they are expressed in a deterministic way, it is worthwhile to point out that social divisions in society can often be as a result of the culture and geography and it is a point that is not mentioned or stressed much at all T H Marshall is quoted as saying that class teaches members of a society to notice some differences and to ignore others when arranging persons in order of social merit 16 and this point, is interesting to observe, particularly when concerning inheritance It is not very well known but inheritance was a point of contention even for Durkheim and so radical engagement with it is not solely the concern of Marx Botto touches on inheritance stating that the social class system is not as meritocratic as presumed due to the reliance on establishing a person s social standing by birth irrespective of his particular abilities 16 A problem though is assuming divisions based on wealth rather than on production Membership of social class is fluid than membership of a caste or estate You are likely to leave the social class you were born into, when compared to other restrictive frameworks Social class as an economic base is regarded as a common sense point but theorizing has moved beyond those confines by looking at social capital etc According to this text, Marx adopted a notion of class which was widely used by historians and social theorists He was concerned with fitting this notion into the wider framework of his theory on social change and the development of a particular social system 18 Marx s contribution was to show how the existence of these classes, were bound up with the particular mode of production historically and that within the capitalist society, the conflicts and contradictions present will lead to the victory of the working class and an eventual classless society 18 His idea therefore was thus focused on social development through class conflict culminating in a new type of society Marx noted that history is nothing but the creation of man himself by human labor As Botto explains, Social classes originated with the first historical expansion of productive forces beyond the level needed for mere subsistence, involving the extension of the division of labor outside the family, the accumulation of surplus wealth and the emergence of private ownership of economic resources 19 Marx and Engels discuss the various epochs that society has went through and note primitive communism, ancient society slavery , feudal society serfdom and modern capitalism wage labor as the principal historical forms society has taken These changes occur due to class struggle and by the victory of one class over others The conflict shows the incompatibility between different modes of production Marx believed in an evolutionist way that new epochs emerge from old ones, their existence is matured in the womb of the old society This is vital for understanding his theoretical assumptions justifications and shows how he understands how history and society develop concurrently A point that Foucault would later reject in his analysis of history Marx believed that the working class would overthrow the bourgeoise in a quick space of time, because he thought that large scale factory production would be very favorable to the development of class consciousness 21 , a point that he was clearly and demonstratively wrong on Botto discusses some of these criticisms on page 22 1 Marx placed too much preeminence on social class and class conflict when explaining the major historical changes in human society and so neglected other important social relationships So he underestimated the importance of nationalism and the conflicts that exist between nations in history as did Comte and Spencer This according to Botto, was shown most spectacularly in applications of Marxist theory leading up to the first world war, when socialist parties, supported the war that was waged by their governments It can be suggested that nationalism as a social bond was effective in creating a semblance of community than class was 23 Another useful critique is the sense that Marx s understanding of class does not frame particularly well when applied to different historical situations such as the Asiatic form of society and whilst this isn t a critique of Marx generally, it was a a well reasoned critique of Marxists who failed to adequately apply his model hypothesis The point here is probably true of the time period but ultimately is not a cause for concern when looking at the endless pieces of Marxist analysis on various historical situations modes of production Another critique of Marx s ideas on class was the idea that the gulf between the bourgeoise and the proletariat would increase and that the middle classes would disappear The distribution of the national income changed as did a greater standard of living for those at the bottom of society due to the rise of capitalism Botto explains that Marx s argument was not concerned with suggesting that workers would get poorer under capitalism, but rather their wealth would be less in relation to the wealthy Current trends show that Marx s ideas presented in the communist manifesto concerning the oppositional divide between two classes is becoming apparent with the disappearance of the middle class due to the divide between the rich and poor It was however a serious critique of Marx s work in the 1960s due to the post war boom and the growth of the new middle classes 25.Despite all these critiques of Marx offered, the author retains the Marxist analysis For example on page 61 Only in the modern capitalist societies however does a situation occur in which the contending classes are reduced to two clearly demarcated groups , a point clearly dismantled by Weber and others.Max Weber, who offered a different perspective to Marx, noted different modes of stratification which coexisted in modern society, such as social prestige and honor, alongside social class Political power was also treated as an individual phenomenon 26 Weber s prestige stratification amended the Marxist analysis by interposing a range of status group in between the two major classes, thus making the distinctions complicated and realistic in my view He also offered a form of stratification which was not determined by property ownership or wealth alone and the forms of competition between this area of stratification is not conflict but rather emulation Weber thought that class and status stratification coexisted and one or the other was accentuated with changes in technology or the economic condition Sociologists in the 60s were beginning to suggest that status may be important than class position but Weber s initial suggestion was subtle and nuanced Dahrendorf noted in his text Class and Class Conflict in Industrial Society , that the coincidence of economic conflict and political conflict no longer exists in post capitalist societies 27 , a term interestingly enough that was being developed over 50 years before Paul Mason s laughable attempt at describing a new social order in 2015 Industry and society are disassociated in post capitalist societies, where as they are entangled and deeply relational previously Industry is institutionally isolated within their own sphere of society, rather than affecting the whole While Botto attempts to rubbish these claims, it is Dahrendorf that appears to be right when placing these ideas within our current network society Another critique put towards Marxist ideas of class, is the composition and cohesion of the class structures the bourgeoise and the proletariat Another undeniable statement here is that the composition of these groups changes often due to an increase generally in social mobility while this does vary from year to year, decade to decade, it is generally stated that the material standard of living has increased massively , a wider diffusion of property ownership so the democratization of the mortgage market and so on It therefore calls into question the thesis that the bourgoise is the ruling class, due to the constant changing composition of said class and due to the nature of universal suffrage, it is harder to assert that one class controls or rules over another The working class is not homogenized as Marx suggested, but rather heterogeneous and diversified, even when deskilling is factored in It does not dismiss Marx s initial point regarding the ways in which a ruling class can control and manipulate things however as it can be modified to look at the ways in which a plutocracy has been established due to legalized bribery taking place in which politicians are bought and sold by special interests Whilst Botto suggests that all these critiques of Marx do not constitute a new thesis, I believe given hindsight, they do Classes in Industrial SocietyAfter discussing social class broadly, Botto focuses on Soviet and capitalist societies and the differences similarities between them when it comes to stratification While Botto noted similarities in the occupational structure and in the general shape of their social stratification, but he noted differences obviously in the political regime and social doctrines 33 R.H Tawney is quoted as saying that the English class system arose from a blend of crude plutocratic reality with the sentimental aroma of an aristocratic legend , which created the gentleman ideal and thus the snobbishness of the English middle classes Anthony Sampson is quoted also as saying that the aristocracy were much richer than they seemed, because with Democracy came discretion and as such the countryside was full of millionaire peers So there is a general principle of discretion, but also a haughtiness that is predicated on gentlemanly mythlore The famous Rowntree study is used to look at social conditions and poverty of the poor, whilst an interesting discussion of taxation is provided on page 35 To conserve wealth, the upper classes relied on discretionary trusts, expense accounts, capital gains etc and often tax avoidance was common, particularly due to the 75% tax rate on incomes over 10,000 a year in 1948 the % was only 8% in 1913 35 It is generally stated that the welfare state, or the social state as Bauman calls it in his works, is a key factor in establishing the English social classes Another factor in the advance in the material conditions of the working class was the rapid growth of national income brought about due to the market economy thus a thesis of embourgeoisment is advanced 37 38 The nature of poverty has changed accordingly with it being confined to particular groups such as older people an workers in certain occupations or regions who have been left behind due to technological progress 37 This explanation is not wholly complete, but this is due to hindsight Social mobility increased as a result of economic development but also due to the changing organizational structure 38 in white collar jobs and professions The most social mobility occurred between levels which are close together, so between the upper levels of the working class and the lower levels of the middle class Movement from the working class up to the upper class, is very limited 38 Botto notes the effects of social capital by citing a study which stated that than half of a sample of directors of large public companies revealed that they began their careers with the advantage of having business connections in their family The extension of educational opportunities in educational reform in the post war boom is also cited as a reason for the extension of social mobility in Western classed societies 39 The Educational act of 1944 for example is noted With these exceptions, it is noted on page 40 that most people remain in their class of origin but this contradicts points made earlier in the text regarding social mobility The problem with this is how we measure social class and often using a particular scale over another has a serious effect on how we determine the extent of class The working class of today in general due to the gross national product being substantially larger than previously, are richer than their parents, their grandparents and so on This might be changing but the trajectory has remained quite consistent.

  4. says:

    A set text for Uni One step removed from Management Science.

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