Max Weber Socia Stratification
So, while the above quotation may be a rather hackneyed phrase (to me and countless long-suffering sociology examiners, if not to you, since you’re probably encountering It for the first time), it does sensitive us to a couple of major ideas (my advice here is to remember these ideas and forget about trying to sneak the quotation into your exam).
- That Weber addressed many of the same concerns addressed by Marx.
- That Weber came to substantially different conclusions to those interpreted by Marx.
While this should come as no great surprise if you’ve been studying sociology for some time (and I would suggest that it’s probably a good idea to have gained some experience In handling sociological ideas and concepts before you attempt to tackle he concept of social stratification In any depth) – sociologists frequently Interpret evidence In radically different ways It should alert you to the fact that there are a number of clear differences between the ideas, arguments and conclusions put forward by Weber and Marx in relation to social stratification.
The task of these Notes, therefore, is to help you understand and evaluate both Weeper’s ideas and their relationship to Marxist ideas. Before we continue any further however, It might be useful to note that, for theoretical purposes, I’ve classified Weber as a “Conflict Theorist”, for three good seasons:
A. Firstly, because that is my interpretation of his general sociology.
B. Secondly, because he talks In terms of the way In which social structures condition unman Detonator. Deer recognizes ten way In wanly structural relations denotable at the level of social class, status and power affect human behavior and consciousness and his interpretation of this relationship makes him, I would suggest, rather different to Interactions sociologists.
C. Although Weber puts more emphasis than most structuralism sociologists on the importance of human consciousness and subjectivity, he does not make this the coco of his research.
On the contrary, like most Conflict theorists, Weber analyses the nature of human consciousness within a structural context – he may have come to different conclusions to Marxist Conflict theorists, but he appears to have more in common with the latter (in terms of his central sociological concerns) than with Interactions perspectives.
However, since the whole “perspective question” is such a significant one in relation to A-level sociology, this might be a good place to note a number of points raised by Mary Maynard (“Sociological Theory”) in relation to the whole idea of “sociological respective”… A. How Social Stratification Is Defined. Unlike Marx, Weeper’s analysis of social stratification was not rooted in or linked to any attempt to formulate a general “historical analysis” of social development.
While, in common with Marx, Weber argued that “class stratification” had a clear and important economic dimension, he believed that two other related dimensions of stratification, namely: a. Status and b. Party (or political power) needed to be included if a full analysis and understanding of the rich social variety of different forms of social stratification was to be obtained. Thus, as has been suggested above, in order to understand the relative significance of Weeper’s “three dimensions of stratification”: a. Class b. Status and c.
Party we need initially to know how they are both defined and inter-related and, in order to do this we need to further understand that all three dimensions are, for Weber, rooted in the concept of power. If you are unsure about how Weber (and others) have defined and used the concept of power then it would be useful to work your way through the Notes on “Concepts ere” In ten “Power Ana Politics” section AT ten course Detour you go any Turner since the following assumes you have a basic understanding of Weeper’s use of the concept of power).
Central to Weeper’s analysis of social stratification in all its forms was the idea that we need to understand two basic things: Firstly, how societies are organized in hierarchical systems of domination and subordination (in terms of both individual and collective hierarchies). Secondly, the significance of power in the determination of social relationships based upon domination and subordination. In this respect, there are two basic dimensions to the concept of power that we need to understand: a. The possession of power:
According to Weber, the ability to possess power derives from the individual’s ability to control various “social resources”. These resources can be anything and everything and might include things like: Land, Capital, Social respect, Physical strength, Intellectual knowledge, In basic terms, the definition off “social resource” is simply something that is both socially desirable and in some sense limited (that is, it can be possessed by some but not others). As I hope you will appreciate, this concept of “social resource” is both: 1 . Extremely flexible (almost anything can qualify as a social resource) and 2. Liable to vary in time (for example, at different points in the historical development of a society) and space (for example, between different societies / cultures).
Activity Give examples of “social resources” that have varied in their significance in both time and space. For example: Time – In our society in the asses, ownership of a television was a form of power since it conferred status upon owners of this social resource. Nowadays, because television ownership is not limited, no such status is given to ownership of this resource. Space – In our collects, meal doctors are generally well-pal Ana nave Nell status
This is not true of all societies (the old Soviet union being a good example). B. The exercising of power: The ability to exercise power takes a number of different forms, but all involve the idea that it means the ability to get your own way with others, regardless of their ability to resist you. In terms of understanding the relationship between power and social stratification, Weber theorized the various ways in which societies are organized in hierarchical systems of domination and subordination using the following major concepts: 1 . Class Power (Class): This was theorized by Weber on the basis of “unequal access to material sources”.
For example, if I possess something that you want (or, better still from my point of view, need) then this makes me potentially more powerful than you. I am in a dominant position and you are in a subordinate position because I control access to a desired social resource. A classic illustration here is the relationship between an employer and employee. Explain this relationship on the basis of control of resources / power. 2. Social Power (Status): If you respect me or view me as your social superior, then I will potentially be able to exercise power over you (since you will respond positively to my instructions / commands).
In this respect, social status is a social resource simply because I may have it while you may not… 3. Political Power (Party): This form of power is related to the way in which the State is organized in modern social systems (involving the ability to make laws, for example). If you can influence this process of law creation then you will be in a potentially powerful position. Thus, by your ability to influence a decision-making process you possess power, even though you may not directly exercise that power personally.
Political parties” are the organizational means to possess power through the mechanism of the State and they include not Just formally organized parties, but any group that is organized to influence the way in which power is exercised legitimately through the machinery of the State. For example: Status groups (political organizations that exist to protect the social status of a particular group Walton society – Tort example: I en Brattles Meal Escalation) Interest groups (political organizations that exist to advance the interests of a particular section of society by attempting to influence the way decisions are taken by government).
Give some examples of: a. Status groups: b. Interest groups: What this means, therefore, is that if you are in a position to influence a decision- making process then you are in a position of power. By your ability to influence this process you possess power, even though you may not directly exercise power. Obvious examples here might be exercising power through your ability to influence: a. Political parties (for example, through donating money to them). B.
The making of laws (for example, through ownership of the mass media, your influence with a party in government). In our political system, political parties are organized to possess power through the Achaeans of the State. As I’ve suggested above, this involves not only formally organized political parties, but also any group that is organized to attempt to influence the way in which power is (legitimately) exercised through the agencies of the State (pressure groups, status groups, interest groups… . One of the strengths of this approach to the understanding of social stratification is the fact that it identifies three separate – but inter-dependent – dimensions of stratification: namely class, status and power. It’s important that you don’t see these three dimensions of stratification as “either / r” categories (that is, an individual as either economically powerful (class) or socially powerful (status) or politically powerful (party)).
In the “real world” each dimension tends to be very closely related to one another such that: People who are economically powerful tend also to have a relatively high standing in the community (status) and are able to use these two forms of power to influence the political process in some way (for example, attempting to influence the government into passing laws favorable to such people). Slung ten concept AT “values”, snow now we can apply tens concept to unreason TN allegations between class and status in our society.
This separation between class, status and power was not unique to Weber, since if you think about it for a moment, we have seen that Marx was well aware of these three different forms of power. Like Weber, Marx viewed these dimensions of stratification as: a. Theoretically distinct and b. Empirically inter-dependent. What this means, in simple terms, is that we can define these dimensions separately for the sake of theoretical convenience / clarity, but it is impossible to separate them empirically in the “real world” of human social interaction.
Where Marx tended to differ from Weber was in the basic emphasis he placed upon each of the three dimensions – the economic dimension was, according to Marx, the most significant one, since possession of economic power invariably leads to the possession of status and political power. In this respect, we have already seen, in an earlier Study Pack, the way in which Marx related economic power to status and political power when he talked about the distinction between “infrastructure” and “superstructure” in society. To which of these areas, according to Marx, does each dimension of power belong?
Weber was, of course, also aware of the problems involved in the personalization of these three concepts, since it is evident that: High class, High status and High power are most commonly found together in our society (it is unusual, for example, to find someone who is immensely wealthy without their also enjoying high social status and political power). However, where Weber differed from Marx was in the relative emphasis that he placed upon the significance of each dimension of stratification. As we have seen, class forms of stratification (your relationship to a means of production) tended, for Marx, to be most significant.
The focus of Mar’s analysis tended to be on the “system as a whole”, rather than the individual problems of placement within that system. Weber, on the other hand, was more concerned to analyses the way in which social systems were stratified “at the level of individuals / social groups” – the way in which, for example, people doing much the same sort of work could have quite different levels AT status Ana / or power. In this respect, we can see here two things: a. The importance of “theoretical perspective”.
Both Marx and Weber were looking at the same things, using very similar incepts. However, their analysis and conclusions tended to differ mainly because they were concerned to explain different things. B. Marx and Weber were in many ways complimentary to each other, sociologically, in the sense that they both tell us useful things about the nature of social stratification. Marx tells us something about the general nature of social stratification (a kind of “macro picture”). Weber tells us something about the specific nature of social stratification (a kind of “micro picture”).
In this respect, this difference is reflected in terms of their overall theoretical respective, whereby Mar’s “conflict approach” can be contrasted with Weeper’s “conflict perspective” on the basis that the former emphasized the importance of “social structure” (the way in which individual behavior is conditioned by the general structure of social relationships) while the latter emphasized the importance of “social action” (the ability of individuals to influence the nature of their social relationships in sociologically significant ways).
Since Weeper’s conception of “social action” is important, it might be opportune here to digress slightly by outlining some f the major elements in Weeper’s approach to the understanding of the social world… Social Action Theory: A Hibernia Perspective. Max Weber is a difficult sociologist to pigeon-hole in perspective terms (for reasons that will become clear in a moment), since he doesn’t fit neatly into the usual “Structuralism / Interactions” dichotomy so beloved of sociology textbooks. However, in terms of this dichotomy, Weber is closer to the “Conflict Structuralism” perspective since it is clear that in much of his sociological analysis he focuses upon the way in which the structure of people’s relationships influence (but not determine) people’s behavior.
The “confusion” over his theoretical status largely stems from the fact that Weber concerned himself with the attempt to make sense of the “rational basis” of the choices of behavior made by individuals in their daily lives; that is, he attempted to analyses human behavior at an individual level within the context of a clear sense of structural constraint (the “choices” we make about how to behave socially are clearly contralto others). A Day ten structural relationship wanly we Don Tort Ana are Tort For Weber, therefore, society is created through social interaction (it is not something hat is “naturally given”) and such interaction involves the conscious behavior of thinking, reflective, individuals. People, in effect, make choices about their lives, their group memberships and so forth and these are neither pre-determined nor pre- destined.
As we have seen, power was a very important concept for Weber and he used it to explain the way in which societies both change and remain relatively stable and orderly. Social change, for Weber, came about in many ways: a. Purposeful social action – people thinking about the nature of society and acting purposefully to develop and change the way they live. . The “unintended consequences” of social actions – for example, wars bring about social change in ways that may not have been intended by their participants… . Economic conflicts that marry both purposeful social action and “unintended” outcomes. In this respect, we can see that, unlike Marx, Weber emphasized the way in which social change could come about in ways that did not simply involve class conflicts (as we see when we look at his analysis of the relationship between social change and the role of religion). In this sense, therefore, power struggles occur throughout society and, while economic power is a crucial variable in this struggle, it is not the only one.
Powerful groups other than social classes may arise within a society from time to time and the power struggle between them may involve interests that are not specifically economic. In this respect, Hibernia sociology is sometimes seen as a “pluralist perspective”, in the sense that societies are invariably seen to involve a variety of different groups (“a plurality”), each possessing (or competing for) greater or lesser forms of power. As we have already seen, such groups may be of the class, status or party variety (or, more usually, a combination of each) The basis of each group is:
Class – the relationship each group has to the means of economic production, in addition to a variety of factors such as technical skills and educational qualifications that affect an individual’s market situation independently of the ownership / non-ownership of property. B. Status – a group that is related on the basis of a “parity of esteem” (a group of equals), ten Oasis Tort wanly Is a group’s “pattern AT consumption” (or “Testily”). C. Party – a group that is organized in some way for the taking / exercising of political power. Such groups may be class based, but they may also draw their membership from a variety of social classes.
On the basis of the above, social stratification represented, for Weber, the way in which the distribution of power in any society becomes “institutionalized” – that is, starts to assume a relatively stable pattern of social behavior that exists over a long period – and the economic aspect (class) was considered to be neither more nor less important in terms of stratification than the status and party dimensions. To understand why this should be so we need to look briefly at the different sociological tauter of the concepts of class, status and party. . Economic class, for Weber, was considered to be an objective sociological / political category.
That is, it was a “statistical” category to which people could be sociologically allocated on the basis of their market situation. While people could, of course, be conscious of belonging to a particular economic class, Weber argued that this was not assured; Just because, as sociologists, we can objectively allocate people to a particular category doesn’t mean that: a. People accept that they belong to that category.
For example, someone who can be classified as “working class” on the basis of their “objective market position” as a road sweeper may (subjectively) believe themselves to be middle class – and this will have important social consequences for their social behavior. B. People placed into the same objective category necessarily think and act in similar ways. One major problem for Marxist is the fact that class is such a central theoretical concept in their analysis. Class is more than Just a “statistical category”; it is the expression of a whole set of norms, values, beliefs, interests and so forth.
In this respect, to (over)simplify the situation, each class in capitalist society has its own set of class interests – the proletariat’s interests involve taking-over the means of production and holding them “in common”, while the interests of the bourgeoisie are basically to prevent the proletariat doing Just that. Whereas the ruling class recognize their basic class interests, a problem arises when the proletariat do not seem to recognize their class interests – when, in effect, they show no overwhelming desire to overthrow the bourgeoisie.
For Marxist, the robber here is how to explain why something has not happened in the way that it should be happening / should have happened. In short, based upon the assumption that the proletariat should see it to be in their interests to throw off their exploitation Day ten Doorbells, Marxist nave to explain winy ten proletariat nave not Addenda predicted – and to do this they have employed a variety of concepts (false consciousness, ideological indoctrination and so forth) to try to explain the shortfall between prediction and reality.
According to Weber, on the other hand, we must avoid the trap of assuming that, cause people can be objectively assigned a particular class their “failure” to act in ways that further their “objective class interests” have to be explained in terms of such concepts as “false consciousness” or “ideological distortions” introduced through a ruling class control of various agencies of colonization (education, mass media, etc. ). People may appear to act in ways that are not in their interests for a variety of reasons and we can only understand these reasons by looking at the (subjective) dimensions of status and party.
The concepts of status and party add a subjective dimension to social stratification, n terms of the fact that they allow Weber to theorize an element of conscious social organization that is related to – but also separate from – economic class. In this respect, we can see the basis for some of the theoretical confusion that tends to surround the pigeon-holing of Weber, in the sense that his form of “conflict structuralism” includes reference not simply to social structures but also to the subjective consciousness of individual social actors.