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The Relative Permeability of Class Boundaries to Cross-Class Friendships: A Comparative Study of the United States, Canada, Sweden, and Norway

Erik Olin Wright and Donmoon Cho
American Sociological Review
Vol. 57, No. 1 (Feb., 1992), pp. 85-102
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2096146
Page Count: 18
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The Relative Permeability of Class Boundaries to Cross-Class Friendships: A Comparative Study of the United States, Canada, Sweden, and Norway
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Abstract

The structural analysis of classes can be divided into the analysis of class locations and the analysis of permeability of boundaries separating those locations. Marxist analysis of class structure has been primarily concerned with the first of these while Weberian class analysis has focused on the second. We attempt to combine a Marxist structural class concept, which views class locations in capitalist societies as structured by exploitation based on property relations, authority relations and expertise, with the Weberian concern with the ways lives of individuals traverse the boundaries of that structure. We examine patterns of friendship ties across class boundaries in four contemporary capitalist societies: the United States, Canada, Sweden, and Norway. Three empirical conclusions stand out: (1) The property-based class boundary is the least permeable of the three exploitation dimensions; (2) the authority-based class boundary is significantly more permeable than the expertise-based boundary; and (3) patterns of inter-class friendships are largely invariant across these four countries.

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