Sociology Proletariat (Working Class)
by
Yunus Kaya
  • LAST MODIFIED: 20 September 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756384-0089

Introduction

The prevalence of wage labor has been a defining characteristic of modern societies. Following the Industrial Revolution, the people who sold their labor for survival in the newly emerging modern societies were usually labeled as the “working class” or the “proletariat.” Originally used by Romans to label citizens with very little or no property, the term “proletariat” was adopted by Karl Marx to categorize the working class in the newly industrialized European societies, and since then the two terms have been used interchangeably. The initial dominance of industrial work made the working class synonymous with manual work. However, as service-sector employment expanded and the number of people employed in white-collar occupations increased, the definition of “working class” also changed. Today, although there are serious debates and disagreements about the definition of “working class,” or even its very existence, many scholars define the term as comprising people who earn their living through wage labor, who do not own any assets or capital, and who do not possess workplace authority. Over the years, scholars have argued that working classes differ from the rest of the societies they belong to with their politics, culture, family structures, and the conditions they live in. However, it is also not possible to talk about a single and unified working class in any society, as working classes are divided through the lines of gender, race, and ethnicity. Today, working classes all over the world are struggling with the challenges of globalization and new technologies, although the specific challenges they face differ in developed and less developed countries.

General Overviews

Although it is hard to find comprehensive reviews or introductory texts on the working class, a few studies provide insights into the literature on the working class, and they shed light on the contemporary issues and challenges faced by the working classes. For example, Wright 2005 reviews major theoretical approaches to social class in general and the working class in particular. Roberts 1990 compares the literatures on proletariat and peasants and provides a comprehensive review of the literature until 1990. Arnesen 2007; Zweig 2012; and Mishel, et al. 2009 draw a compelling picture of working-class Americans and the various challenges they face. Bourdieu, et al. 1999 includes analyses of various aspects of the French working class, while Perrucci and Perrucci 2007 debates various effects of the new technologies and the global economy.

  • Arnesen, Eric, ed. 2007. Encyclopedia of U.S. labor and working-class history. 3 vols. New York: Routledge.

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    These volumes include more than 650 entries that cover the history of the American working class from the colonial era to the present. They contain articles on a vast number of issues, such as race and ethnicity, gender, slavery, regions, occupations, working-class culture, labor unions, and resistance.

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    • Bourdieu, Pierre, et al. 1999. The weight of the world: Social suffering in contemporary society. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.

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      Although this is not strictly an analysis of the working class, it reviews and discusses many problems and challenges faced by the working class in France. The authors who contributed to this volume discuss many issues, including racism and discrimination, working-class culture, religion, deindustrialization, and social exclusion. Originally published in 1993 as La misère du monde (Paris: Seuil).

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      • Mishel, Lawrence, Jared Bernstein, and Heidi Shierholz. 2009. The state of working America: 2008–2009. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Univ. Press.

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        This work is the latest edition of The State of Working America, which has been published biannually by the Economic Policy Institute since 1988. Each volume includes an updated review of issues that are faced by working-class Americans and their families. It provides a comprehensive coverage of variety of issues, such as wages, education, health, and inequality.

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        • Perrucci, Robert, and Carolyn C. Perrucci, eds. 2007. The transformation of work in the new economy: Sociological readings. Los Angeles: Roxbury.

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          A very helpful source book and comprehensive reader on the new economy and the contemporary challenges faced by all working people, including working classes. The reader is divided into five sections: “Historical Background for the New Economy,” “How Globalization, Technology, and Organization Affect Work,” “The Changing Face of Work,” “Work and Family Connections,” and “Emerging Issues.” Can be used in upper-level undergraduate or graduate courses.

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          • Roberts, Bryan R. 1990. Peasants and proletarians. Annual Review of Sociology 16:353–377.

            DOI: 10.1146/annurev.so.16.080190.002033Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

            As an Annual Review article, it provides a comprehensive survey of the literature on the working class. It compares peasants and proletarians with regard to differences between them in political action, social structure, and demographic behavior, and discusses the effects of contemporary changes in economies and labor markets. Also includes references to various important works in the literature.

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            • Wright, Erik Olin, ed. 2005. Approaches to class analysis. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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              This edited volume comprises six essays on different theoretical approaches to class analysis, as well as a review essay by the editor. It is a good overview of the different theories in the field, and it can be very helpful in an upper-level undergraduate or a graduate class.

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              • Zweig, Michael. 2012. The working class majority: America’s best kept secret. 2d ed. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Univ. Press.

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                A comprehensive and sometimes provocative account of the working class in the United States. It emphasizes the importance of the social class in understanding the social structure and work life in the United States. It discusses many issues, including the underclass, globalization, family, and the role of government. It also includes a useful section labeled “Working Class Resource Guide.”

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                Classic Works

                A number of works over the last century and a half laid the groundwork and dominated the discourse on the working class, its origins and formation, and its transformation in later years. Marx 1992 has shaped the thinking on the working class and inspired political movements and revolutions. Marx 2009 helps us to understand the origins and the evolution of Marx’s thinking on the working class. Marx and Engels 2011 is one of the most influential texts on the position and politics of the working class in modern industrial societies, and it became a blueprint for working-class activism and radicalism. Engels 2009 explains the condition of the working class in mid-19th-century England, and the work significantly influenced Marx 1992. Weber 2009 provides the one of the most influential critiques of Marx 1992. Thompson 2000 is arguably the most important text on working-class formation. Goldthorpe, et al. 1975 examines the improvements in earnings and living standards among the working class in the post–World War II era, and its implications. Braverman 1998 discusses the strategies of control in the modern workplace and the inclusion of service-sector occupations to the working class. Buroway 1991 argues that control of the working class goes beyond technology and deskilling, as explained in Braverman 1998, and that the working class has embraced the values of capitalism.

                • Braverman, Harry. 1998. Labor and monopoly capital: The degradation of work in the twentieth century. 25th anniv. ed. New York: Monthly Review Press.

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                  This book examines the strategies of control in the capitalist industrial production. It emphasizes the role of technology in the control and deskilling of the working class as a result of this type of production. It also attempts to include service-sector employees such as retail and clerical workers in the definition of working class. Originally published in 1974.

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                  • Buroway, Michael. 1991. Manufacturing consent: Changes in the labor process under monopoly capitalism. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                    Manufacturing Consent embraces and criticizes the work of Braverman 1998 (and of Marx 1992). Buroway argues that capitalism has been able to create consent among workers that goes beyond the simple use of technology or suppression. He postulates that the working class embraced capitalistic values through an “illusion of choice.” Originally published in 1979.

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                    • Engels, Friedrich. 2009. The condition of the working class in England. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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                      One of Engel’s earlier works, and arguably the most important. Originally published in German in 1845. It contains his observations on the condition of the working class in England, particularly in Manchester and Liverpool. It significantly influenced Marx and started their lifelong collaboration.

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                      • Goldthorpe, John H., David Lockwood, Frank Bechhofer, and Jennifer Platt. 1975. The affluent worker in the class structure. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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                        Originally published in 1969, this is the third book in the influential “Affluent Worker” series by Goldthorpe, et al. It assesses whether improvements in the living standards of the working class in the post–World War II era gave it a middle-class character. The authors conclude that the working class continued to possess distinct characteristics.

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                        • Marx, Karl. 1992. Capital. Vol. 1, A critique of political economy. London: Penguin.

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                          Originally published in 1867 in German as Das Kapital, this is Marx’s seminal and most important work, in which he explains his dialectic approach to the origins, structure, and future of the capitalistic society and the proletariat, which he calls historical materialism. It is published in three volumes, but the first volume arguably contains the most important aspects of his work.

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                          • Marx, Karl. 2009. Wage-labor and capital. Gloucester, UK: Dodo Press.

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                            Published earlier than Marx 1992, originally in 1847 (in German), this work contains Marx’s earlier attempts to explain the determinants of wage and profit in the capitalist system, and it introduces the concept of alienated labor.

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                            • Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. 2011. The communist manifesto. New York: Penguin.

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                              Considered one of the most influential texts in the history of humankind. The Communist Manifesto is a call to the working class for action and revolution, as it explains that the suffering of the working class originates from the very nature of the capitalist system, and that the only way to alleviate it is to overthrow the capitalist system and replace it with socialism. Originally published in 1848 in German.

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                              • Thompson, Edward P. 2000. The making of the English working class. New York: Vintage.

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                                Pioneering and influential study on working-class formation. It delivers a detailed and comprehensive account of the formation of the English working class and the factors that contributed to this process. It goes beyond the economically deterministic view of Marx 1992 to include the role of law, religion, and other institutions. Originally published in 1963.

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                                • Weber, Max. 2009. From Max Weber: Essays in sociology. Edited by H. H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills. New York: Routledge.

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                                  An English-language collection of Weber’s works, which were originally published in German. In these essays, Weber explains his ideas on modern society and its structure. He builds on Marx 1992, but adds status and party to social class while explaining the social stratification in modern societies. Since then, Weber’s ideas have been seen as the main critique of and the alternative to Marx 1992. First published in 1946.

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                                  Data Sources

                                  There are not any institutions or initiatives that collect or offer data exclusively on the working class, and the disagreements on the definition and measurement of “working class” (also see Measurement) inhibit comprehensive data collection efforts. Nonetheless, many international, regional, and national institutions publish data that can be used in research on working classes. For example, the International Labour Organization provides very comprehensive international data on work and employment, while Eurostat is a good source of data for the members of European Union and candidate countries. In the United States, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics is the main source of historical and current data; and the International Labor Comparisons program at the US Bureau of Labor Statistics provides international data and comparisons with the US labor force. The Historical Labor Statistics Project provides valuable historical data for working-class research in the United States. Finally, Carter, et al. 2006 is one of the main sources of historical data on the working class in the United States.

                                  • Carter, Susan B., Scott S. Gartner, Michael R. Haines, Alan L. Olmstead, Richard Sutch, and Gavin Wright, eds. 2006. Historical statistics of the United States: Millennial edition. 5 vols. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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                                    Originally published by the US Census Bureau until 1975. It is now being published by Cambridge University Press, and provides valuable historical data on issues such as wages, strikes, employment and unemployment, and unions. Available online by subscription or on a pay-per-view basis.

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                                    • Eurostat.

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                                      Eurostat is the official statistical agency of the European Union, and it provides detailed and standardized information on work and employment for member states and some of the candidate countries. However, most of the data it provides is contemporary.

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                                      • Historical Labor Statistics Project.

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                                        Initiated in 1990 by the Economic History Association, this data source offers historical data on American workers between 1874 and 1920 in twenty-nine states, on issues such as working conditions, living standards, demography, and household economy.

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                                        • International Labour Organization.

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                                          The International Labour Organization is the most comprehensive source of international data on work and work life. Through its LABORSTA Internet site, the International Labour Organization provides monthly and annual data for nearly all countries around the world on a variety of parameters, such as occupational groups, gender, unemployment, wages, strikes, and migration.

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                                          • US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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                                            The US Bureau of Labor Statistics is the main source data for working-class studies in the United States. It provides detailed historical and contemporary data on all aspects of work and employment, including status at work, wages, workplace injuries, race, and gender.

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                                            • US Bureau of Labor Statistics. International Labor Comparisons.

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                                              This is a useful source for international data on work and employment, although it is not as comprehensive as the data provided by the International Labour Organization. It offers data for many countries around the world, and compares their parameters to the United States.

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                                              Journals

                                              Many general sociology journals frequently publish articles on the working class and related issues, but very few journals publish research solely on the working class. For example, International Labor and Working-Class History and Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas publish articles on working-class histories and current issues. In addition, more generalized journals such as Work and Occupations, Research in the Sociology of Work, and Work, Employment and Society regularly publish articles on the working class or on issues relevant to the working class.

                                              Formation and History

                                              A good understanding of the history and the formation of the working class, which was also an essential aspect of the classic texts in the field (see Classic Works), is essential for conceptualization of the contemporary working class and related issues. Toynbee 1956 provides a historical background to the concept of proletariat. Thompson 2000 is one of the most important and influential accounts of working-class formation. Hobsbawm 1984 sheds light on the many important issues in the history of the working classes. Benson 2003 and Lynch and Campling 1998 present detailed accounts of working-class history and life in Britain and Ireland. Katznelson and Zolberg 1986 compiles several important essays on class formation in the United States, France, and Germany. Tilly 1984 highlights the demographic processes that were instrumental in working-class formation in Europe.

                                              • Benson, John. 2003. The working class in Britain, 1850–1939. London: I. B. Tauris.

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                                                A detailed account of working-class life in Britain from the mid-19th century to World War II. It provides valuable information on wages, standard of living, housing, family, and the labor movement during this period. It was originally published in 1989 in hardcover.

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                                                • Hobsbawm, Eric J. 1984. Workers: Worlds of labor. New York: Pantheon.

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                                                  This volume contains seventeen essays on working-class history and life. It touches on a variety of issues, including class formation, religion, culture and rituals, and human rights. It focuses on the English working class, but also includes several references to experiences of working classes in other countries.

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                                                  • Katznelson, Ira, and Aristide R. Zolberg, eds. 1986. Working-class formation: Nineteenth-century patterns in western Europe and the United States. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

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                                                    This volume comprises seven essays that explain the working-class formation in France, the United States, and Germany. It also includes two excellent review essays by the editors. It is organized into three parts: France, the United States, and Germany. Can be used in graduate classes.

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                                                    • Lynch, John, and Jo Campling. 1998. A tale of three cities: Comparative studies in working-class life. London: Macmillan.

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                                                      A Tale of Three Cities explains and compares the working-class life in Belfast, Dublin, and Bristol. It highlights the diversity in the working class and working-class experiences.

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                                                      • Thompson, Edward P. 2000. The making of the English working class. New York: Vintage.

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                                                        Originally published in 1963, this is a seminal, and arguably the most influential, account of working-class formation. It systematically examines many factors that contributed to the formation of the English working class.

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                                                        • Tilly, Charles. 1984. Demographic origins of the European proletariat. In Proletarianization and family history. Edited by David Levine, 1–85. Orlando, FL: Academic Press.

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                                                          This study contends that the increase in the size of the European proletariat between the 17th and 19th centuries was in part caused by the demographic processes of fertility and mortality. It is a useful source on the noneconomic processes in the formation of working classes.

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                                                          • Toynbee, Arnold. 1956. A study of history. Vol. 5, The disintegrations of civilizations. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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                                                            This study defines the masses that are ruled by the “dominant minorities” as the “proletariat.” It classifies the marginalized sections of societies as the “internal proletariat,” while the conquered people constitute the “external proletariat.” It is a detailed and helpful historical account of the domination and exploitation in nearly all civilizations of the world throughout the premodern history. Originally published in 1939.

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                                                            Deindustrialization

                                                            By the mid-20th century it had become evident that the blue-collar proletariat was shrinking in size as service-sector employment expanded rapidly, which made it harder to define the boundaries of working class (also see Measurement). Bell 2001 makes one of the most influential cases for the emergence of a service-sector-based economy and social system. Braverman 1998 and Lash and Urry 1996 both contend that fundamental changes happened in the relationship between labor and capital in the second half of the 20th century. Bluestone and Harrison 1982 provides significant statistical evidence on the deindustrialization of the United States, while Wright 1976 emphasizes the importance of understanding the expansion of white-collar employment for class struggle and socialist politics. Finally, Linkon and Russo 2003 details the effect of deindustrialization on workers and their communities in the case of Youngstown, Ohio.

                                                            • Bell, Daniel. 2001. The coming of post-industrial society: A venture in social forecasting. New York: Basic Books.

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                                                              This volume is usually considered to be the groundbreaking work on deindustrialization and postindustrial society. The third chapter of the book, which attempts to explain the class structure of the postindustrial society, is especially relevant to working-class analyses. Originally published in 1973.

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                                                              • Bluestone, Barry, and Bennett Harrison. 1982. The deindustrialization of America: Plant closings, community abandonment, and the dismantling of basic industries. New York: Basic Books.

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                                                                This study analyzes the decline in American industry between 1950 and 1980, including its impact on the working class, with significant statistical evidence and historical analysis. The authors contend that, driven by the desire to increase profits, managers of American corporations eliminated most of the blue-collar employment through technology or by relocating jobs to other countries.

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                                                                • Braverman, Harry. 1998. Labor and monopoly capital: The degradation of work in the twentieth century. 25th anniv. ed. New York: Monthly Review Press.

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                                                                  Originally published in 1974, Labor and Monopoly Capital analyzes the methods of labor control that crystallized in the post–World War II era. It contends that these methods, based on modern technology, resulted in deskilling of the workers, and that the deskilling expanded beyond industry to the service sector, resulting in the proletarianization of large segments of service-sector employees.

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                                                                  • Lash, Scott, and John Urry. 1996. The end of organized capitalism. Cambridge, UK: Polity.

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                                                                    Originally published in 1987, this influential study is a comparative analysis of five industrialized nations: the United Kingdom, the United States, France, Sweden, and Germany. It postulates that the fixed and stable relationship between capital and the working class that was established early in the industrialization (organized capitalism) process has been replaced with “disorganized capitalism.”

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                                                                    • Linkon, Sherry Lee, and John Russo. 2003. Steeltown U.S.A.: Work and memory in Youngstown. Lawrence: Univ. Press of Kansas.

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                                                                      This is an analysis of the effects of industrial plant closings on Youngstown, Ohio. The authors explore the effects of deindustrialization at the individual and community level. This study includes a wide variety of information, including pictures and individual accounts. It can be used in both undergraduate and graduate classes.

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                                                                      • Wright, Erik Olin. 1976. Class boundaries in advanced capitalist societies. New Left Review 98:3–41.

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                                                                        This article reviews the debate among Marxists regarding the class position of white-collar employees, and whether they should be considered as a part of the proletariat. It emphasizes the challenge created by the expansion of white-collar employment and the importance of accurately establishing the class position of white-collar employees for class struggle and socialist politics.

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                                                                        Politics

                                                                        Working-class politics has always been an integral part of the working-class literature, arguably due to the revolutionary role attributed to the working class by the Marxist perspective (see Classic Works). Skocpol 2008 is a seminal assessment of the role of working class in the French, Russian, and Chinese revolutions. Arnesen, et al. 1998 and Boyle 1999 provide historical background for working-class politics in the United States, while Sewell 1995 and Savage 2009 do the same for France and the United Kingdom, respectively. Goldthorpe, et al. 1968; Korpi 1983; and Lash 1984 analyze working-class politics in the developed countries in the post–World War II era. Finally, Manza, et al. 1995 presents a comprehensive review of the literature on the effect of social class origin on voting behavior in postwar North America and Europe.

                                                                        • Arnesen, Eric, Julie Greene, and Bruce Laurie, eds. 1998. Labor histories: Class, politics, and the working-class experience. Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press.

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                                                                          This volume is a collection of thirteen essays, by the students of eminent labor historian David Montgomery, on the history of the working class and working-class politics in the United States. The essays cover a wide range of topics, including resistance against government and employers, slavery, race, immigration, and gender.

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                                                                          • Boyle, Kevin, ed. 1999. Organized labor and American politics, 1894–1994: The labor-liberal alliance. Albany: State Univ. of New York Press.

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                                                                            This edited volume comprises ten essays on the labor movement and working-class politics in the United States. The essays cover many aspects of the labor movement in the United States during the 20th century. The topics include class consciousness, auto workers, farm labor, voting behavior, and legal rights. Can be used in graduate classes.

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                                                                            • Goldthorpe, John H., David Lockwood, Frank Bechhofer, and Jennifer Platt. 1968. The affluent worker: Political attitudes and behaviour. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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                                                                              This study examines the voting behavior and political affiliations of the working class in the post–World War II era United Kingdom, a period in which the working class enjoyed significant improvements in working conditions and lifestyle. The findings reveal that the working class was still loyal to the Labour Party in that period.

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                                                                              • Korpi, Walter. 1983. The democratic class struggle. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

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                                                                                Important analysis of the emergence and the politics of the welfare state in relation to the working class in Sweden, with implications for all developed countries. Korpi criticizes the pluralist, corporatist, and orthodox Marxists schools of thought and advocates a “power resources” perspective. He states that the working class is at a disadvantage against the capitalist class, and he discusses the various ways the working class compensates for this disadvantage.

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                                                                                • Lash, Scott. 1984. The militant worker: Class and radicalism in France and America. London: Heinemann Educational.

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                                                                                  The Militant Worker assesses the relationship between industrial and political radicalism among workers. It is based on interviews conducted with French and American workers, and includes solid empirical and theoretical analyses as well as comparisons of French and American workers.

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                                                                                  • Manza, Jeff, Michael Hout, and Clem Brooks. 1995. Class voting in capitalist democracies since World War II: Dealignment, realignment, or trendless fluctuation? Annual Review of Sociology 21:137–162.

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                                                                                    This is a comprehensive review article about the impact of social-class origin on voting behavior in postwar western Europe and North America. Surveying the evidence put forward in the literature, this study concludes that in no country was voting behavior completely independent of the social class origin of voters. Can be used in graduate or advanced undergraduate classes.

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                                                                                    • Savage, Michael. 2009. The dynamics of working-class politics: The labour movement in Preston, 1880–1940. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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                                                                                      Originally published in 1987, this is an important study on working-class history and politics in the United Kingdom. It analyzes the local structures that shaped working-class solidarity and politics in Preston, Lancashire, between 1880 and 1940. It shows how workplace solidarities were affected, changed, and sometimes replaced with solidarities beyond the workplace, such as local communities and neighborhoods.

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                                                                                      • Sewell, William H., Jr. 1995. Work and revolution in France: The language of labor from the Old Regime to 1848. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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                                                                                        This is a study of the labor movement in France before and after the French Revolution. It explores the working-class consciousness and solidarity among the French working class, and how it evolved with the revolutions of 1789, 1830, and 1848, by analyzing the language and the symbols used by workers. Originally published in 1980.

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                                                                                        • Skocpol, Theda. 2008. States and social revolutions: A comparative analysis of France, Russia and China. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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                                                                                          Originally published in 1979, this is a seminal comparative analysis of social revolutions, and a critical assessment of the role of the working class in them. It compares the French, Russian, and Chinese revolutions, and contends that the working class did not always play the role attributed to it by the Marxist perspective. Also emphasizes the role of peasants.

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                                                                                          Mobilization and Unions

                                                                                          Mobilization and collective action by the working class, as well the role of organized labor, has always interested scholars. Paige 1997 analyzes proletarianization and the role of working classes in revolutionary movements in Central America, while Collier 1999 investigates the role of the working class in the democratization processes in Europe and South America. Weakliem and Adams 2011 assesses class politics in the contemporary era and the strength of leftist politics and the working class, while Western 1995 investigates the factors that contributed to union decline in western Europe and North America in the 1970s and 1980s. Shalev and Korpi 1980 discusses the historical weakness of working-class mobilization in the United States.

                                                                                          • Collier, Ruth Berins. 1999. Paths toward democracy: The working class and elites in western Europe and South America. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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                                                                                            Paths toward Democracy assesses the role of the working class in the democratization process in European and South American countries. It focuses on the relationship between the working class and other social classes, particularly the elites. It has significant theoretical depth, while providing a comprehensive empirical analysis. Can be useful in graduate and advanced undergraduate classes.

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                                                                                            • Paige, Jeffery M. 1997. Coffee and power: Revolution and the rise of democracy in Central America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

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                                                                                              Coffee and Power analyzes class politics and revolutionary movements in Central American countries such as Nicaragua and Costa Rica. It assesses the process of proletarianization in these countries, primarily in the coffee industry, and the role of working classes in the revolutionary movements, as well as the relationship between them and the elites and corporations who control coffee production. Can be useful both in graduate and advanced undergraduate classes.

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                                                                                              • Shalev, Michael, and Walter Korpi. 1980. Working class mobilization and American exceptionalism. Economic and Industrial Democracy 1:31–61.

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                                                                                                This study compares working-class mobilization and class consciousness and solidarity among the working class to European countries. It carefully distinguishes the actors involved in class struggle, and argues that ethnic and racial tensions and the use of immigrant labor by capitalists has prevented strong and unified political action by the working class in the United States.

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                                                                                                • Weakliem, David L., and Julia Adams. 2011. What do we mean by “class politics”? Politics & Society 39.4: 475–495.

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                                                                                                  This study provides a comprehensive review of the contemporary debate on class politics in the social sciences and the public discourse. It provides a comprehensive analysis of the link between the success and appeal of leftist politics and the working class in contemporary capitalist societies. It can be useful in graduate classes.

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                                                                                                  • Western, Bruce. 1995. A comparative study of working-class disorganization: Union decline in eighteen advanced capitalist countries. American Sociological Review 60.2: 179–201.

                                                                                                    DOI: 10.2307/2096383Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                    This study analyzes the decline of labor unions and collective bargaining by working classes in North American and European countries between 1973 and 1989. Utilizing country-level data and solid statistical analyses, it concludes that several factors, including increasing economic openness, decline of the power of leftists polities parties, and preexisting levels of unionization, contributed to the decline of labor unions in this period.

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                                                                                                    Gender

                                                                                                    Although men have dominated and filled the ranks of the working classes around the world since the Industrial Revolution, women have always been a crucial part of this segment of society. Kessler-Harris 2003, Chenut 2005, and Glucksmann 1990 present the history of working-class women and the significant role they played in the United States, France, and Britain, respectively. French and James 1998 and Lee 1998 tell a similar story about women outside western Europe and North America in analyses of Latin America and China, respectively. Tea 2004 contains numerous valuable accounts by women on the experience of growing up working class. Dunk 2003 and Kimmel 2012 analyze the perceptions of gender and identity among working men in Canada and the United States. Finally, Damaske 2011 analyzes the work attitudes and career aspirations of working-class women from different racial and ethnic groups in the United States.

                                                                                                    • Chenut, Helen Harden. 2005. The fabric of gender: Working-class culture in Third Republic France. University Park: Pennsylvania State Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                      This study investigates the role of French women in the industrial expansion of France during the Third Republic (1870–1940). It explores various dimensions of women’s experience in industry, including culture and politics.

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                                                                                                      • Damaske, Sarah. 2011. A “major career woman”? How women develop early expectations about work. Gender & Society 25.4: 409–430.

                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1177/0891243211412050Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                        This is a study about the intersections of gender, race, and class inequalities. Using data from eighty in-depth qualitative interviews with women from New York City, the author compares the career expectations and work attitudes of working-class women from different racial and ethnic origins in the middle and upper classes. Useful in graduate and upper-level undergraduate classes.

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                                                                                                        • Dunk, Thomas W. 2003. It’s a working man’s town: Male working-class culture. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                          This is a case study of male-dominated working-class culture in northwestern Ontario in Canada. It presents the strategies employed by working-class men against the perceived threat by women and immigrants.

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                                                                                                          • French, John D., and Daniel James, eds. 1998. The gendered worlds of Latin American women workers: From household and factory to the union hall and ballot box. Durham, NC: Duke Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                            This edited volume contains eleven essays about working-class women in five Latin American countries: Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Guatemala, and Chile. It explores many aspects of the working-class experience for women, including workplace control, working-class mobilization, intimate relationships, and domestic violence.

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                                                                                                            • Glucksmann, Miriam. 1990. Women assemble: Women workers and the new industries in inter-war Britain. New York: Routledge.

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                                                                                                              This is an historical analysis of the expansion of women’s presence in assembly-line work in Britain in the interwar period (1918–1939). It emphasizes how women’s entrance into assembly work was gendered from the beginning, and how certain occupations and functions in assembly-line production were defined as feminine.

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                                                                                                              • Kessler-Harris, Alice. 2003. Out to work: A history of wage-earning women in the United States. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                Originally published in 1982, this influential study explores the history of wage-earning women in the United States from the colonial period to the contemporary era. It provides comprehensive statistical information and analysis of working-class women as well as all wage-earning women. Can be used in graduate classes.

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                                                                                                                • Kimmel, Michael. 2012. Manhood in America: A cultural history. 3d ed. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press. .

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                                                                                                                  Originally published in 1996, this study analyzes the history of American men in the face of changing economic and political structures. It shows how the shift from the plantation economy to industry and the rise of white-collar occupations later on, transformed manhood in the United States, including the image and self-worth of working-class men. It can be used in both upper-level undergraduate and graduate courses.

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                                                                                                                  • Lee, Ching Kwan. 1998. Gender and the South China miracle: Two worlds of factory women. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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                                                                                                                    Analyzes the role of women in China’s recent export-oriented industrialization. Focuses on companies in Shenzhen and Hong Kong, and discusses the role of the exploitation of women’s labor in the success of export-oriented industries in these two areas.

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                                                                                                                    • Tea, Michelle, ed. 2004. Without a net: The female experience of growing up working class. Emeryville, CA: Seal Press.

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                                                                                                                      This edited volume contains numerous real-life stories in which working-class women describe their experience of growing up in working-class families. Although not strictly an academic study, this volume provides rich insights and material on working-class women and their experiences. It can be useful in undergraduate classes.

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                                                                                                                      Race

                                                                                                                      Although presented early on as unified entities, the working classes have always been demarcated along ethnic and racial lines. Bonacich 1972 presents an influential model for explaining the tensions between workers belonging to dominant and marginalized groups. Roediger 1999 explains how the white working class in the United States erected racial boundaries to prevent other groups accessing their privileges. Freeman 1979 analyzes the tensions between the immigrant and domestic workers in France and Britain in the post–World War II era, while Lamont 2000 studies the perceptions of class boundaries and solidarity with the minority members of the working class in the United States and France in the last decades of the 20th century. Kelley 1996 discusses the ways the African American working class dealt with and resisted discrimination. Wilson 1980, however, contends that the significance of race and racial boundaries declined in significance, and that the color-blind changes in the economy and society can better explain the plight of some African American workers. Finally, Berger and Smith 1999 explores the interplay between class and ethnic and racial loyalties during the nation-building process in several countries around the world.

                                                                                                                      • Berger, Stefan, and Andgel Smith, eds. 1999. Nationalism, labour and ethnicity: 1870–1939. Manchester, UK, and New York: Manchester Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                        This edited volume contains several essays on the dynamics of nationalism and ethnicity among the working classes around the world, especially during the nation-state building process. The countries analyzed in the essays are Britain, Germany, France, the United States, Russia, Spain, Australia, South Africa, and India. Can be useful in graduate classes.

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                                                                                                                        • Bonacich, Edna. 1972. A theory of ethnic antagonism: The split labor market. American Sociological Review 37.5: 547–559.

                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.2307/2093450Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                          This study provides a detailed and influential model for understanding divisions in the labor market through ethnic and racial lines. The model includes three actors (employers, cheaper labor, and more expensive labor), and explains how more expensive workers try to split the labor market based on ethnicity to protect their privileges, while the employers use cheaper labor to keep labor costs down.

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                                                                                                                          • Freeman, Gary P. 1979. Immigrant labor and racial conflict in industrial societies: The French and British experience, 1945–1975. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                            This is a comparative study of immigrant workers and the racial tensions their presence created in France and Britain in the post–World War II era. It is a well-documented analysis that compares and contrasts economic structures and government policies in these two countries.

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                                                                                                                            • Kelley, Robin D. G. 1996. Race rebels: Culture, politics, and the black working class. New York: Free Press.

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                                                                                                                              A comprehensive exploration of working-class culture and politics among African Americans in the late 19th and 20th centuries. Kelley explores many interrelated issues, such as resistance against racism and discrimination, working-class art and music, and poverty. Can be used in undergraduate and graduate classes.

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                                                                                                                              • Lamont, Michèle. 2000. The dignity of working men: Morality and the boundaries of race, class, and immigration. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                A comprehensive analysis of class consciousness among working-class men in the United States and France in relation to race and religion. It is based on in-depth interviews and helps to build a deeper understanding of class boundaries and the limits of working-class solidarity in contemporary French and American societies. It can be used in upper-level undergraduate and graduate courses.

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                                                                                                                                • Roediger, David R. 1999. The wages of whiteness: Race and the making of the American working class. Rev. ed. London: Verso.

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                                                                                                                                  First published in 1991, this is an influential and widely cited study on race and racial formation among the working class in the United States. It presents a detailed account and analysis of the emergence of whiteness as a boundary-setting racial category following the abolition of the slavery and the rise of American industry.

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                                                                                                                                  • Wilson, William J. 1980. The declining significance of race: Blacks and changing American institutions. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                                                                                                                                    This influential and controversial study contends that, although still relevant, racism and discrimination has declined in significance, and that the continuing existence of a marginalized urban poor among African Americans, labeled as “underclass,” can be better explained by changes such as deindustrialization and urban decline. Wilson also argues that two black working classes emerged as result of these changes: one that is well-trained, organized, and affluent; and another that is unorganized and marginalized.

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                                                                                                                                    Family

                                                                                                                                    Working-class families have unique characteristics, and they have faced unique challenges as economic and social structures have continually changed since the Industrial Revolution. Levine 1984 and Seccombe 1993 explore the changes in the working-class families in Europe and North America from the Industrial Revolution to the mid-20th century, while Beson 2007 analyzes American working-class families during the period of economic hardship between the two world wars. Rubin 1993 and Rubin 1994 offer a comprehensive account of the many challenges faced by working-class families in the post–World War II and contemporary eras. Legerski and Cornwall 2010 analyzes the impact of the unemployment of the primary male breadwinner on the gender division of labor in families.

                                                                                                                                    • Beson, Susan Porter. 2007. Household accounts: Working-class family economies in the interwar United States. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                      This is a comprehensive study of working-class families between the two world wars in the United States. It explores the marriage patterns, gender dynamics, and survival strategies among working-class families during a time of immense economic hardship and uncertainty.

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                                                                                                                                      • Legerski, Elizabeth Miklya, and Marie Cornwall. 2010. Working-class job loss, gender, and the negotiation of household labor. Gender & Society 24.4: 447–474.

                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1177/0891243210374600Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                        This study assesses the impact of unemployment on the gendered division of labor in working-class families. Using data from forty-nine qualitative interviews conducted with men and women, the authors conclude that there is some change in the share of household work within families following unemployment of the primary breadwinner, though general social structures and institutions prevent drastic change.

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                                                                                                                                        • Levine, David, ed. 1984. Proletarianization and family history. Orlando, FL: Academic Press.

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                                                                                                                                          This edited volume contains five essays on the history of working-class families in Europe and North America by eminent names in the literature. The essays offer significant historical data and solid theoretical analyses, and can be used in graduate classes.

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                                                                                                                                          • Rubin, Lillian B. 1993. Worlds of pain: Life in the working-class family. New York: Basic Books.

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                                                                                                                                            Originally published in 1977, this study is based on interviews with fifty working-class families in the San Francisco Bay Area. It presents the unique challenges that each member of these families faces in the post–World War II period, and contends that these families struggle to achieve and maintain living standards that are taken for granted by the middle and upper classes. Can be used in both undergraduate and graduate classes.

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                                                                                                                                            • Rubin, Lillian B. 1994. Families on the fault line: America’s working class speaks about the family, the economy, race, and ethnicity. New York: HarperCollins.

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                                                                                                                                              This study is very similar to Rubin 1993 in methodology and scope, and explores the challenges faced by American working-class families in the contemporary economy, including the coping mechanisms they employ and many related changes in the family structure.

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                                                                                                                                              • Seccombe, Wally. 1993. Weathering the storm: Working-class families from the Industrial Revolution to the fertility decline. London: Verso.

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                                                                                                                                                Explores the transformation of working-class families from the Industrial Revolution to the mid-20th century. Seccombe analyzes various dimensions of working-class families, including marriage, domestic division of labor, and the schooling of children.

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                                                                                                                                                Culture and Education

                                                                                                                                                Many scholars believe that the working class possesses unique cultural traits that differentiate it from the rest of the society and lead to exclusion and social reproduction. The works listed in this section explores various aspects of working-class culture. Clarke, et al. 2007 provides a solid theoretical background for the study of working-class culture, while the essays in Munt 2000 discuss its different elements. Sennett and Cobb 1993 draws a detailed picture of urban working-class culture in the United States, while Bourke 1994 provides a historical account of working-class culture in the United Kingdom. Bourdieu and Passeron 2000 explains the authors’ groundbreaking theory on social reproduction in the educational system in terms of cultural capital. Willis 2009 presents the author’s influential analysis of working-class boys in the United Kingdom, while Macleod 2009 engages in a similar analysis of the United States. Finally, Plummer 2000 offers insights into the unique challenges that working-class girls face when completing their education.

                                                                                                                                                • Bourdieu, Pierre, and Jean-Claude Passeron. 2000. Reproduction in education, society and culture. 2d ed. London and Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

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                                                                                                                                                  Originally published in French in 1970, this is a groundbreaking study on social reproduction, education, and the cultural traits of social classes. It contends that the cultural traits that children get from their parents, or cultural capital, define their chances in the educational system, and that the children of the working classes are at a disadvantage because educational systems are built on middle- and upper-class values.

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                                                                                                                                                  • Bourke, Joanna. 1994. Working class cultures in Britain, 1890–1960: Gender, class, and ethnicity. London and New York: Routledge.

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                                                                                                                                                    This study is a historical analysis of the working-class culture in Britain at the end of the 19th century and during the first half of the 20th century. It explores the domestic and public life of the British working class, the local communities they built, and their perceptions of British national identity.

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                                                                                                                                                    • Clarke, John, Chas Critcher, and Richard Johnson, eds. 2007. Working-class culture: Studies in history and theory. London: Routledge.

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                                                                                                                                                      Originally published in 1979, this influential study contains twelve essays on working-class culture. The essays discuss different aspects of working-class culture and the literature on working-class culture. Helps to establish a solid theoretical background and can be useful in graduate classes.

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                                                                                                                                                      • Macleod, Jay. 2009. Ain’t no makin’ it: Aspirations and attainment in a low-income neighborhood. 3d ed. Boulder, CO: Westview.

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                                                                                                                                                        This is an ethnographic study of two groups of working-class boys—one predominantly black, the other predominantly white—who live in a low-income housing project. It analyzes their perceptions of school and academic success, and the aspirations for the future among these young men. This edition also includes a follow-up on their situation twenty years after the original research. It was originally published in 1995 and can be useful in both undergraduate and graduate courses.

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                                                                                                                                                        • Munt, Sally, ed. 2000. Cultural studies and the working class: Subject to change. London: Cassell.

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                                                                                                                                                          This edited volume contains fourteen essays on working-class culture. The essays analyze various issues, including class identity, presentations of working class in mass media, race, gender, romance, and sexuality.

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                                                                                                                                                          • Plummer, Gillian. 2000. Failing working-class girls. Stoke-on-Trent, UK: Trentham.

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                                                                                                                                                            This is an ethnographic study based on in-depth interviews and life histories of six educated working-class women. It provides valuable information and insight on the challenges that working-class girls face in the educational system, in their families, and in their communities.

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                                                                                                                                                            • Sennett, Richard, and Jonathan Cobb. 1993. The hidden injuries of class. New York: W. W. Norton.

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                                                                                                                                                              Originally published in 1972, The Hidden Injuries of Class is one of the groundbreaking studies on working-class culture and class consciousness. Based on an ethnographic study in the Boston, Massachusetts, it provides excellent insights into working-class values and perceptions of self-worth. Can be used in both upper-level undergraduate and graduate classes.

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                                                                                                                                                              • Willis, Paul. 2009. Learning to labour: How working class kids get working class jobs. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate.

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                                                                                                                                                                Originally published in 1977, this is one the most influential studies on working-class culture in the social sciences. It is based on an ethnographic study of twelve working-class boys in the West Midlands, UK. It explains that there is a pervasive counter-school culture among the working class that is reproduced in each generation, which prevents working-class children from succeeding at school.

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                                                                                                                                                                Globalization

                                                                                                                                                                The impact of globalization on the working classes has become a widely debated issue, which is also tied to the debates on Deindustrialization. For example, Ritzer 2011 argues that globalization and new technologies have fundamentally changed corporate and social structures, as well as work life. Wood 1995, Brady and Denniston 2006, and Kaya 2010 contend that international trade and investment have decreased blue-collar employment in developed countries while expanding it in less developed countries. Panitch and Leys 2001 and Bieler, et al. 2008 engage in a broader criticism of the global economy, while Sennett 1998 critically analyzes its effects on individuals. Finally, Goldthorpe 2002 provides a comprehensive review and criticism of the claims made in the globalization literature regarding its impact on social class.

                                                                                                                                                                • Bieler, Andreas, Ingemar Lindberg, and Devan Pillay, eds. 2008. Labour and the challenges of globalization: What prospects for transnational solidarity? London: Pluto.

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                                                                                                                                                                  This is an edited volume that includes fifteen essays that critically assess the impact of globalization on workers and labor unions in different countries. The essays cover issues such as informal employment, immigrant workers, and labor unions in both developed and less developed countries.

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                                                                                                                                                                  • Brady, David, and Ryan Denniston. 2006. Economic globalization, industrialization, and deindustrialization in affluent democracies. Social Forces 85.1: 297–329.

                                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1353/sof.2006.0117Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                    This study analyzes the impact of globalization on employment in industry in developed countries. It is a comprehensive statistical analysis of globalization and deindustrialization in these countries, and provides a compact but comprehensive review of the deindustrialization debate as well as the globalization literature.

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                                                                                                                                                                    • Goldthorpe, John H. 2002. Globalization and social class. West European Politics 25.3: 1–28.

                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1080/713601612Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                      This essay is a critical assessment of the claims that globalization has fundamentally changed the class structure of societies. It is a comprehensive review of both the theoretical arguments and the empirical evidence offered in the literature. It criticizes the theories of globalization for lacking a clear definition of social class and social exclusion.

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                                                                                                                                                                      • Kaya, Yunus. 2010. Globalization and industrialization in 64 developing countries, 1980–2003. Social Forces 88.3: 1153–1182.

                                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1353/sof.0.0300Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                        An empirical analysis of the impact of economic globalization on blue-collar employment in less developed countries between 1980 and 2003. It contends that international trade and foreign direct investment contributed significantly to the expansion of blue-collar employment in less developed countries in this period.

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                                                                                                                                                                        • Panitch, Leo, and Colin Leys, eds. 2001. Working classes, global realities: Socialist register 2001. London: Merlin.

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                                                                                                                                                                          This edited volume contains twenty essays that analyze the effect of the global economy on working classes around the world from a socialist perspective. The essays address a number of issues, such as gender, immigration, exploitation, the impact of new technologies, resistance, and organized labor in different countries and regions.

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                                                                                                                                                                          • Ritzer, George. 2011. The McDonaldization of society 6. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge.

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                                                                                                                                                                            The McDonaldization of Society is one of the most well-known, and sometimes controversial, studies in the globalization literature. It uses McDonalds and its corporate strategies on organization of work, workplace control, brand management, and marketing to describe the contemporary economy and the work environment. It contends that McDonalds’ structure and strategies have spread around the world with globalization, and provides contemporary examples of proletarianization in the service industry.

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                                                                                                                                                                            • Sennett, Richard. 1998. The corrosion of character: The personal consequences of work in the new capitalism. New York: W. W. Norton.

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                                                                                                                                                                              The Corrosion of Character compares the contemporary work environment, which is shaped by globalization, restructuring, and flexible specialization, to the post–World War II era. It analyzes the effects of globalization and the new economy on individuals and their lifestyles. It is an excellent addition to undergraduate classes as well as graduate classes.

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                                                                                                                                                                              • Wood, Adrian. 1995. North-South trade, employment and inequality: Changing fortunes in a skill-driven world. Oxford: Clarendon.

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                                                                                                                                                                                This is an influential empirical attempt to explain the effect of globalization, particularly international trade, on industrial employment in both developed and less developed countries. It claims that international trade is instrumental in the decline of blue-collar employment in early-industrialized countries, while contributing to its expansion in less developed countries.

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                                                                                                                                                                                Less Developed Countries

                                                                                                                                                                                The Classic Works and the bulk of the literature on the working class are based on the experiences of the early-industrialized countries located in western Europe and North America, but there has also been a growing number of studies that analyze the working class in countries outside these regions. For example, Portes 1985 and Portes and Hoffman 2003 engage in an influential attempt to analyze the social-class structures of Latin American countries, while Berquist 1986 provides a background on working classes in Latin American countries. Daniel, et al. 1992 explains the roots of proletarianization in several South and Southeast Asian countries. Koo 1990 and Sen and Koo 1992 analyze the impact of rapid economic development on working classes in the “East Asian miracle” economies of South Korea and Taiwan. Finally, Lockman 1994 explains the history of working classes in the Middle East, and Kaya 2008 analyzes the social class structure of Turkey in 1980–2005.

                                                                                                                                                                                • Bergquist, Charles W. 1986. Labor in Latin America: Comparative essays on Chile, Argentina, Venezuela, and Colombia. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  Labor in Latin America is a detailed and compelling study of the working classes in Chile, Argentina, Venezuela, and Colombia in the late 19th and 20th centuries. It helps to build a solid background on Latin American working classes and the effects of economic and political dependency on industrialized economies. It can be helpful in graduate classes.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  • Daniel, E. Valentine, Henry Bernstein, and Tom Brass, eds. 1992. Plantations, proletarians, and peasants in colonial Asia. London: Frank Cass.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    This edited volume contains eleven essays on the history of proletarianization in East and Southeast Asia, providing comprehensive background information on the working classes in these countries. The countries and regions that are covered by the essays are Indochina, colonial India, Java, colonial Malaya, the Philippines, colonial Ceylon, and Fiji.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    • Kaya, Yunus. 2008. Proletarianization with polarization: Industrialization, globalization, and social class in Turkey, 1980–2005. Research in Social Stratification and Mobility 26.2: 161–181.

                                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1016/j.rssm.2007.11.003Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                      This is a comprehensive case study on Turkey that assesses the effects of economic globalization on industrial employment and the social class structure. It analyzes the link between globalization and proletarianization and offers a comprehensive review of social class literature, including the debates on polarization and measurement of social class.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      • Koo, Hagan. 1990. From farm to factory: Proletarianization in Korea. American Sociological Review 55.5: 669–681.

                                                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.2307/2095863Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                        This is a widely cited analysis of proletarianization in South Korea. It emphasizes the differences between the Korean case and the early-industrialized countries, as well as the Latin American countries. It shows that, unlike the developed countries, blue-collar and white-collar employment expanded rapidly and simultaneously in South Korea.

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                                                                                                                                                                                        • Lockman, Zachary. 1994. Workers and working classes in the Middle East: Struggles, histories, historiographies. Albany: State Univ. of New York Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                          This is an edited volume that comprises twelve essays on the history of the working class in the Middle East. It contains essays on the working class in the Ottoman Empire and modern Turkey, Egypt, Iran, and Iraq; and it provides a solid background for understanding contemporary working classes in Middle Eastern countries, as well as analyses of more recent issues and debates.

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                                                                                                                                                                                          • Portes, Alejandro. 1985. Latin American class structures: Their composition and change during the last decades. Latin American Research Review 20.3: 7–39.

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                                                                                                                                                                                            This is one of the seminal attempts to analyze social class structure in the countries outside western Europe and North America, which inspired similar studies afterward. It draws a picture of the social class structure of Latin American countries, mainly in the post–World War II era, using several data sources. It emphasizes the peculiarities of Latin American economies, such as informal employment.

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                                                                                                                                                                                            • Portes, Alejandro, and Kelly Hoffman. 2003. Latin American class structures: Their composition and change during the neoliberal era. Latin American Research Review 38.1: 41–82.

                                                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1353/lar.2003.0011Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                              This study updates and expands the analyses in Portes 1985. It analyzes the social class structure of the Latin American countries in the 1980s and 1990s, which was also the period during which most Latin American countries shifted from protectionist economic policies to more liberal ones. It notes an increase in informal self-employment and micro-entrepreneurship in the region in this period.

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                                                                                                                                                                                              • Sen, Yow-Suen, and Hagan Koo. 1992. Industrial transformation and proletarianization in Taiwan. Critical Sociology 19.1: 45–67.

                                                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1177/089692059201900103Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                This study is similar to Koo 1990 in methodology. It analyzes the rapid and extensive proletarianization process in Taiwan and emphasizes the effect of the predominance of small-scale enterprises in Taiwan’s industrialization.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                Measurement

                                                                                                                                                                                                The definition and measurement of the working class in contemporary societies is a highly contested issue. As a result of Deindustrialization and other changes, the definitions created during and right after the Industrial Revolution (see also Classic Works) cannot be directly used anymore. Any attempt to create a measure for the working class is also necessarily a part of society-level social-class analyses. In the literature, one can identify two major alternative contemporary class schemas. First, Wright, et al. 1998 and Wright, et al. 1982 propose a contemporary interpretation of the Marxist perspective and a blueprint for class analysis. Second, there is the occupation-based class schema presented in Erikson and Goldthorpe 1992 and Erikson, et al. 1979. The International Standard Classification of Occupations (International Labour Organization 2008) is the main building block for class analyses based on occupations. Ganzeboom and Treiman 1996 provides guidelines for converting the International Standard Classification of Occupations (International Labour Organization 2008) into the class schema created by Erikson, et al. 1979 and Erikson and Goldthorpe 1992.

                                                                                                                                                                                                • Erikson, Robert, and John H. Goldthorpe. 1992. The constant flux: A study of class mobility in industrial societies. Oxford: Clarendon.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                  This study is a comprehensive analysis of social class and mobility in western and eastern European countries as well as the United States, Australia, and Japan. It adopts and further explains the class schema created by Erikson, et al. 1979.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Erikson, Robert, John H. Goldthorpe, and Lucienne Portocarero. 1979. Intergenerational class mobility in three western European societies: England, France and Sweden. British Journal of Sociology 30.4: 415–441.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.2307/589632Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                    This is a comparative study of the class structures of three early-industrialized countries. It proposes a social class schema based on occupational groups, which attempts to account for the impact of deindustrialization and changes in the ownership and control of capital. This schema was adopted in many other studies in the following years.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Ganzeboom, Harry B. G., and Donald J. Treiman. 1996. Internationally comparable measures of occupational status for the 1988 International Standard Classification of Occupations. Social Science Research 25.3: 201–239.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1006/ssre.1996.0010Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                      This is a very detailed and helpful overview of the International Standard Classification of Occupations and the class schema created by Erikson, et al. 1979 and Erikson and Goldthorpe 1992. It provides detailed guidelines for converting the 1968 and 1988 versions of the International Standard Classification of Occupations to each other, and to the class schema in Erikson, et al. 1979.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                      • International Labour Organization. 2008. International Standard Classification of Occupations. Geneva, Switzerland: International Labour Organization.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                        Although occupation-based class analysis is criticized by many, it remains one of the major approaches in the field. The International Standard Classification of Occupations is a detailed and a widely accepted classification of occupations. It was created by the International Labour Organizations and went through revisions in 1958, 1968, 1988, and 2008.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Wright, Erik Olin, Cynthia Costello, David Hachen, and Joey Sprague. 1982. The American class structure. American Sociological Review 47.6: 709–726.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.2307/2095208Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                          This study is a comprehensive exploration of the American social class structure from a Marxist perspective. It attempts to adopt Marx’s class analysis to the changes in the structure of capitalist economy and employment, and proposes a blueprint for contemporary class analyses.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Wright, Erik Olin, et al. 1998. The debate on classes. London: Verso.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                            Originally published in 1985, this study is one of the major studies in the contemporary social class and working-class literatures. It further explores the ideas and evidence presented in Wright, et al. 1982. Its methodology has been among the main Marxist alternatives to occupation-based class analyses, and it has been adopted by following studies.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                            Working-Class Studies

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Although the working class has always been an important topic in social sciences, working-class studies crystallized only in more recent decades into a field of study. Russo and Linkon 2005 and Roberts 2007 provide reviews of the contemporary working-class studies and various examples of scholarship on the working class. The Center for Working-Class Studies at Youngstown State University and the Center for Study of Working Class Life were both established in the 1990s and offer a wide variety of sources for research and teaching. The Working Class Studies Association and the Labor and Working-Class History Association promote scholarship on the working class and its history, as well as providing sources for teaching and research.

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