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Class as Conceived by Marx and Dahrendorf: Effects on Income Inequality and Politics in the United States and Great Britain

Robert V. Robinson and Jonathan Kelley
American Sociological Review
Vol. 44, No. 1 (Feb., 1979), pp. 38-58
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2094817
Page Count: 21
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Class as Conceived by Marx and Dahrendorf: Effects on Income Inequality and Politics in the United States and Great Britain
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Abstract

The class theories of Karl Marx and Ralf Dahrendorf, although subject to much theoretical analysis, largely have been ignored in the dominant lines of quantitative research on status attainment and the political consequences of social stratification. This paper attempts to bridge this gap by drawing out some of the implications of Marx's ownership of the means of production and Dahrendorf's authority for both income inequality and politics, by evaluating these implications empirically and by showing how these conceptions of class can be incorporated into the dominant Blau-Duncan model of status attainment. Using survey data from large national samples in the United States and Great Britain, we show that both Marx's and Dahrendorf's class models have important implications for men's income, increasing by almost half the variance explained by the conventional Blau-Duncan model. The income of American women, in contrast, is little influenced by class and this explains a substantial part of the male-female income gap. As Marx, Dahrendorf, and others predicted, class position has a stronger impact on class identification and politics in Great Britain than in the United States. An analysis of the transfer of class position from one generation to the next in Britain suggests the existence of two overlapping but distinct stratification systems, one a class system rooted in ownership of the means of production and authority, and the other a status system based on education and occupational status.

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