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What’s Class Got to Do With It?

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Let me admit right off; most of this book went way over my head. I’m not an economist, nor a sociologist, and, as far as I can tell, that is the target audience. What’s Class Got to Do With It? is a collection of essays that seek to expose hidden issues of class conflict both in the American economic system as well as globally.

I found myself slogging through jargon filled verse trying to wrap my brain around the complex concepts presented in each essay. Admittedly, some of the essays were more difficult than others, depending on the writing style of the individual author. This is not to say I didn’t learn anything, though.

The goal of the book is to help you come away with a better understanding of how class struggles continue to perpetuate as global corporations seek to gain profit at the expense of the working class. The authors seem to define capitalist as someone within a company who holds power and has an influence on what the working class can do, gets paid, etc. I find this a flawed premise, as anyone, working class or elite, can have capitalistic goals or ideology. Business elite might have been a better term.

Class is shown to be dependent on a number of things including race, gender and political influence. It is shown that large corporations are increasing the number of people in the working class by taking on many low wage employees all over the world. Developed nations prosper at the expense of developing or under developed nations.

Do I recommend this book? That’s hard to say. It is a very difficult read for those of us without much education in economics. A good background in Marxist theory might prove useful. The book takes a decidedly liberal view, so approach it with your own opinions ready to be challenged if that is not your leaning.

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  • http://paperfrigate.blogspot.com DrPat

    The problem with “class conflict” arguments is that the “classes” Marx wrote about really don’t exist in the same sense anymore. The edges of such classes as bourgeoise, elite and proletariat were already eroding even as Marx formulated his arguments, and have been further devastated by wide-spread access to education, investment and communication.

    That’s why it’s no longer unusual for children of shopkeepers or farmers to become Ivy League professors and CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, while children of Harvard professors and corporate officers become fry cooks and Fry’s clerks.

  • http://www.angel-and-soulmate-selfhelp.com/blog.html Angela Chen Shui

    Thanks, hadn’t heard of this book. Reminds me of an Introduction to Politics class! ;-)

    If I remember correctly, Marx’s ‘class’ argument was about access to the means of production. Worldwide, people who are poor are still having children who as adults, do not themselves own any part of the means of production. There is improved access now theoretically but actual, real access that allows upward class mobility depends upon the quality of access. For example, greater access to education generally has not solved the issue of ‘equal’ access to quality education.

    Until there is equal access to quality education for all, ownership of the means of production will remain limited and perpetuate class differences.

  • http://paperfrigate.blogspot.com DrPat

    Angela, the book title says it is about American society. The authors apparently argue out-sourcing to other countries (“large corporations… increasing the number of people in the working class by taking on many low wage employees all over the world”) and expose “hidden class conflicts” without assessing how many Americans now are capitalists, in the real sense of owning stock and investing capital in those means of production.

    Just going by the review, of course…

  • http://www.ilovecynics.com Roger Asbury

    While the title stresses American society, it does actually examine the impacts of globalization on the world economy. They do have an awfully narrow view of who or what a capitalist is, though. This also seems to vary between the contributors to the book.

    My review is hampered by the fact that I had a tough time interpreting the meaning behind the copious amounts of jargon and economic concepts I was unfamilure with. A good dictionary or encyclopidia (or google!) is handy.

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    Marx’s concept of class was already erroneous at the time he was writing. While it was applicable to some of the traditional continental European societies, particularly Germany, the model of rigid social classes had already broken down to a large extent in England and was non-existent in the United States.

    What Marx failed to understand is that the upward mobility inherent in a democratic, free market capitalist society works to break down classes and establish advancement based on merit rather than class. Marx’s viewpoint was really very limited.

    Dave

  • http://www.angel-and-soulmate-selfhelp.com/blog.html Angela Chen Shui

    ok, Dr. Pat… ‘”hidden class conflicts” without assessing how many Americans now are capitalists, in the real sense of owning stock and investing capital in those means of production.’

    How many Americans would you say are capitalists in that sense… %wise or straight stats?

    Dave, I’m sorry, I’m still reeling by some of the comments on the “What Am I” or “Who Am I” post that I didn’t see when I posted rather lightly yesterday and saw earlier today.

    In relation to what you said here…
    ‘rigid social classes had already broken down to a large extent in England and was non-existent in the United States.’
    are the verbs a bit off? Are you speaking of the future or something?

    Wouldn’t you say that both societies still have ‘rigid social classes’?
    And ‘establish advancement based on merit’… so how come women experience, every day, that wonderful glass ceiling no matter how hard and how well they outperform men, if the system ‘inherently’ allows excellence to rise to the top?

    Are you saying that the boys are no longer the real power brokers?

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    >>In relation to what you said here…
    ‘rigid social classes had already broken down to a large extent in England and was non-existent in the United States.’
    are the verbs a bit off? Are you speaking of the future or something?< <

    Yes, the verbs are off, but I'm talking about the past. Make the 'was' a 'were'.

    >>Wouldn’t you say that both societies still have ‘rigid social classes’?< <

    Good lord no. Both have great upward mobility, lateral mobility, freedom to do pretty much whatever you're capable of.

    >>And ‘establish advancement based on merit’… so how come women experience, every day, that wonderful glass ceiling no matter how hard and how well they outperform men, if the system ‘inherently’ allows excellence to rise to the top?<<

    There isn’t a glass cieling, so much as there are established roles for women which guide them into middle management and limit their salaries. For the most part women choose to follow these career paths. There’s also the basic biological limitation on womens advancement. When a portion of the female population puts careers on hold to have kids that’s going to set their advancement as a group back behind men, keep average salaries lower, etc. There’s no basic, systemic limitation on advancement for women. There are plenty of female CEOs, company owners, board members, top executives, etc. Nothing in the system keeps them out of those positions, and genders are certainly not classes in any traditional sense.

    Dave