Prof: Good morning.
Well I think it is high time
that you start thinking about your final paper.
Let me just one more time tell
you what my expectation is. Right?
There are three major blocks in
the course. For each of the blocks there is
a test. You have done two;
one more will be done, last week of classes.
I mean, the idea of the paper
is that you do a little more ambitious work.
You link two of the blocks to
each other. So you compare Hobbes’ theory
of human nature with Durkheim’s theory of human nature,
or Hobbes, Rousseau and Durkheim, or something like
this. Or you look at the question of
power in Hobbes, Nietzsche and Weber.
Do two or three authors,
as such. I also highly recommend you
that you go what excites you the most.
You pick a topic what you find
exciting. If there was anything in this
course what made you excited, write about it.
And you can use earlier essay
topics, what you wrote up; that’s no problem.
That will be a new paper
anyway–right?–because you have to link occasionally quite
distant authors to each other. And talk to your discussion
section leader, or send an email–it can be
very short–just to make sure that you are on the right
And probably your discussion
section leader will give you just a two-sentence response to
say, “Yes this seems to be
fine.” Or, “No you are taking on
too many; there are two many authors.
Why don’t you do only two or
three, rather than five, what you’re suggesting?”
Or, “Well you should be a
little more ambitious.” Right?
This is the kind of feedback
you should expect. And otherwise–let me also say
that one more time–you know us in this course,
we want to make these abstract theories relevant to your life.
So therefore don’t shy away.
If you have opinions,
if you can reflect how the course helped,
or did not help, to understand yourself in
society, do so. Right?
But I think you really should
talk to your discussion section leader, or at least on email,
before you leave for the vacation.
Because I want–when you are
tired of turkey, or you had enough beer and
watching football, and then you want to have fun,
then you can start working on your final paper.
You don’t leave it to the very
end–right?–but you can use your spare time during
Thanksgiving’s break, to get started on it.
And that’s not a big deal.
We want you to do something
like six or, at most, eight pages;
but more like six pages. This is not really much more
than the usual test essays. Okay.
Is that all clear?
Any question about this?
Anyway, we will try to be as
un-bureaucratic about this as in a bureaucratic organization you
can be. All right?
As you have seen in this
course, we were trying to break the rules of bureaucracy,
and hopefully not at the expense of efficiency.
All right, so this is Weber
theory on class. And this is probably–Weber,
next to Marx, is the most influential
theorist of class. And they are also on a
collision course with each other–a collision course in
many ways. I will elaborate on this.
But just to foreshadow,
there are really three fundamentally important issues
where Marx and Weber disagree. Marx, as you recall,
identified classes in property relationship.
The class dichotomy was between
those who owned capital and those who owned only their labor
power. Weber, in contrast,
defines classes on the marketplace, as market
situations. So the relationship–this will
be more complicated–but then the class relationship is
between the employer and the employee;
it is between the manager and the worker, and not the
owner–right?–and the possessor of labor power.
Then Marx also said,
“Well all history of humankind is history of class
struggles.” So Marx has a theory of class
which is overarching the whole human history.
Weber is very specific about
this. Class is a modern phenomenon.
Classes only emerged with the
emergence of the market economy, market capitalism.
Before capitalism they are
not–the stratification system is not based on class,
but it is based on status, and we will talk about the
notion of status a great deal. And finally there is a third
important political difference. Marx believed that class
struggle gets more intense over time, and therefore the
subordinated class eventually will revolt and overthrow
capitalism. Weber believed that–in the
opposite: Class struggle is the most intense in early stages,
rough stages of capitalism, and as capitalism becomes
consolidated and bureaucratized, class struggle is actually
reduced. So these are the three
fundamental differences. And this is the outline of the
presentation today. So first of all I want to talk
about the usual interpretation of Weber, and I want to
challenge this interpretation. If you ever took a course in
which Weber’s theory of class was discussed,
you usually had the interpretation what I present
now. If you go on the internet and
you find what Weber’s got about class, this is what you get.
I disagree with it,
and I will try to show you why this is the wrong approach.
The usual interpretation goes
back to a British sociologist, Runciman, who wrote about this
already in the 1960s– he’s still active actually–and
he interpreted Weber as offering a theory of social inequality in
three dimensions. Again, go on the internet;
ninety percent of internet posting on Weber and class will
give you this view. What are those three dimensions?
Status or prestige is one
dimension; the second is class,
usually defined by income or wealth;
and the third dimension is power.
And therefore if you look at
stratification in society, people can be unequal in any of
these– can be privileged in any of
these dimensions, or all of the dimensions,
as such. Runciman’s conceptualization of
Weber’s theory of class was extremely influential empirical
research. There was a lot of empirical
survey research carried out which was trying to measure how
people fare in these three dimensions.
who was Emeritus Professor, was professor at the University
of North Carolina, created the theory of status
inconsistency. The idea was that people
actually can be high in one of these dimensions,
and relatively low in another dimension.
So, for instance,
you are a professor of sociology.
Then your prestige is sort of
reasonable–probably somewhat higher than average.
If you are a professor at Yale,
it’s sort of even a little higher than average,
substantially higher than average.
Well in terms of income,
if you are a professor of sociology you will be again only
slightly higher than average–will not be very high.
In terms of power,
well you will be very low in the power hierarchy.
At least in the United
States–right?–nobody listens what sociologists are saying.
Students do have
to–right?–and occasionally they have to take a sociology
course. That’s the only power really a
professor exercises. Well if you are a Supreme Court
justice, then your prestige is extremely high;
you are on the top of the prestige hierarchy,
at least in the United States. If you are asking who is the
most prestigious occupation in the United States?
In surveys people will say to
be a Supreme Court justice–right?–to serve on the
Supreme Court. Well in terms of income,
the Supreme Court justices probably don’t do all that well.
They probably do about as
university professors do. Right?
People in public service
usually don’t do all that well. I think probably a governor of
a state is not earning more than a university professor.
But in terms of power they will
be very high. Right?
Supreme Court justices are very
high. Occasionally they can even
appoint–right?–the President of the United States;
if I may crack this joke. Right? Anyway, they are very powerful.
Well if you think about a
Mafioso. The prestige of a godfather,
except in the Mafia, will be very low.
You regard it as criminal.
In terms of income,
will be on the very top. Right?
In terms of power,
well will have some power, but mainly in the Mafia,
not really nationally. You see what they are getting
at? So therefore you can measure
status, class and power as three dimensions.
And it is very helpful to
understand whether the social status is crystallized.
People who have high prestige
also have high incomes and high power,
and let’s say somebody who is sweeping the floor–
right?–will have very low prestige,
very low income and no power at all.
So that is a useful way how to
stratify society for upper-upper class to lower-lower class.
That is the way how Weber
usually has been used. Well I will challenge this.
I don’t think I’m the only one
who does challenges. Anthony Giddens,
I think, gets very close to what I am describing,
though probably he doesn’t stick his neck out as much as I
do. My fundamental argument is that
Weber’s distinction between class and status is a historical
distinction. And this is not accidental that
this is an English speaking person, Runciman,
who reads the notion of status the way how he reads it.
Because if you know a little
German, and you try to read Weber in
German– you know that the word status
is actually translated from the word Stand.
well it can be translated into English as status,
but it’s a not very good translation of the word.
The better translation is
estate. Now if you would translate
Stand as estate, it would become obvious that
what Weber is trying to suggest, that there is something archaic
about status stratification, as distinct from class
stratification, which is a modern phenomenon.
So this will be one of the
major points what I’m trying to make, and will try to show this
from Weber text. Then the question is where is
the third dimension? Right?
As I’ve said,
status and class are historical categories, but where is power?
And when I was working on one
of my books, I was very much attracted to Runciman’s idea,
and tried to interpret Weber this way.
And, in fact,
it appeared to me a great deal to use power as an independent
dimension of the class position. I was trying to understand the
social structure of communist societies, and their power
appeared to be an independent dimension.
So I was looking into the Weber
text, and I read cover to cover
Economy and Society a couple of times,
and I could not find the third dimension.
Read it: it is not there.
So trying to understand what
Weber is getting at, I came to the conclusion that
for Weber power is the dependent variable.
But he wants to explain where
power comes from, and whether power exercised is
exercised on the basis of class privileges,
or whether it is a status type of, or estate type,
of power which is exercised in society.
And this is very consistent
what you already know about Max Weber–right?–type of
authorities, where power comes from.
power–right?–tradition or legal-rational authority?
corresponds to societies based on legal-rational authority.
corresponds to traditional authority.
Well I will elaborate a little
on this– will qualify this somewhat,
primarily because Weber– like in his types of authority
as well– has two balls in the air at the
same time. He has a
macro-theory–right?–of historical variations of
stratification. For him, transition from
traditional society in modern rational societies is a
transition from estate type of stratification to class
stratification. But Weber also has a
micro-theory. He also said,
“Okay, society today is primarily class stratified,
but I can identify status power in modern societies as
well,” just exactly as he does with the types of
authority. Yes, the United States today is
legal-rational authority, but I can spot elements of
traditional authority, or charismatic authority,
operating within legal-rational authority.
Since it is dominantly
legal-rational authority, it will be secondary.
Law will make a difference.
But tradition in this society,
in this very America today, does make a difference.
It is consequential where you
are in society. Traditional authority is
We are all equal before the
law, but in practice where we end up has a lot to do with
tradition, traditional prejudices,
the traditional way how power operates.
The same goes for–he brings
back the idea of status. This is why I said translating
Stand as status is not completely wrong.
It only gets a footnote in the
Weber concept. Right?
The footnote is Stand is
primarily a historical concept for past traditional societies.
But by the way–this is the
footnote– even in contemporary society,
in class stratified societies, there is power occasionally
exercised on the basis of status.
Well and obviously the power
which is exercised by a Supreme Court judge,
or the power exercised by a university professor,
the little one we have–that we may probably in some way try to
change your mind– right?–which is an act of
power, some would say even an act of coercive power.
Bourdieu called it symbolic
I violate your mind;
if I can penetrate your mind and put a new idea into your
This is an act of power.
Well it’s primarily done,
or a great deal done, by status;
that you say, “Well, this is a professor
who has a Ph.D., must know it.”
Then it is really–right?–the
reason why you start believing me has a lot to do with my
status. Hopefully not only the status;
hopefully I can make a good argument and persuade you.
But occasionally–it’s a
mixture why you tend to believe me or disbelieve me.
And the very fact of the
status, what I am incumbent of, has something to do–right?–of
you trying to believe your professors.
So let me work on the notion
how Weber defines classes. And the most important issue
is–the uniquely Weberian idea is that class has to be
identified on the market. And then I will also say a few
words about class interests and how he–to what extent he’s
different from Marx in this respect.
So class and market.
Now here you have famous
definitions. He said class situation is
determined by market situation. Class situation is ultimately a
market situation. And this is very important now,
as follows. Right?
“The effects of naked
possession per se is only the forerunner of real class
he said–or you can say serfs–“are not a class.
They are rather a status
group.” Now here you can
see–right?–the historical uses of the distinction between class
and status. Right?
And also the challenge to Marx.
Those who have property and
deprived from property do not constitute a class.
And the fundamental argument
for this is that in traditional societies it is not really
property which puts you into a high status position.
You being in a high status
position has the consequence that you are wealthy.
So the king or the queen
decides to give you nobility, and gives you an estate.
In capitalism this works the
other way around. In order to become a
billionaire–right?–you don’t have to get the approval of the
President of the United States. Simple enough:
you go to Wall Street, you invest your money smartly.
You start with a thousand
dollars and in no time you have a billion–right?–if you
invested it in a smart way. And then you are in the
class–right?–of billionaires. Right?
So here it is your property,
and your activity on the marketplace, which helps you to
enter the class. Right?
In the aristocracy it was a
legal act– right?–a political act,
by a king or a queen, which made you nobility,
made you a lord, and then as a consequence you
became wealthy. Right?
It’s also interesting,
by the way, that well if you lost your
wealth–there was some poor noble people–
you still retained your status estate privileges.
So if you were nobility,
in most societies, for instance,
you did not have to pay taxes. Now if you lost all of your
estate, because you gambled–for
instance–right?– you wanted to go to Monte Carlo
where you gambled everything away–
then you became very poor. You were still noble and you
still did not have to–right?–pay taxes.
Your status privileges remained.
capitalism. You start fully investing your
money and you lose your money on the stock market,
you cease to be a capitalist. Right?
Then you will have to seek to
find a job. Right?
And since you lost all of your
money, you probably will not find a very good job,
because who wants to hire a loser?
This is also a very important
citation from Weber. He said, “Class position
really means that people have common life chances.”
If you are located differently,
there are positively and negatively–
this is the Weberian point–positively and negatively
privileged positions on the marketplace.
And if you are negatively
privileged in the marketplace, your life chances are not very
If you are positively
privileged in the marketplace, then your life chances are
great. You guys in this room are all
very positively privileged–right?–because you
are getting a Yale degree; and probably a Harvard degree
would be even better for you. Don’t tell Rick Levin that I
said that in class. Right?
But this is about the best
degree what you can have. So you are extremely
well-positioned on the labor market.
Your life chances are great.
You have to make a lot of
mistakes to screw this one. Right?
You are on the right trajectory.
If you are in a community
college–right?–or you are a high school dropout,
then your life chances on the labor market will be lousy.
Especially you are poor,
you are African-American, you dropped out of high school,
well your chances that you will end up in jail before you turn
thirty is, I think, seventy percent.
So–right?–this is life
chances–right?–which in this case, of course it is not only
There is a special type of
status group. Right?
Race, it also plays a
role–right?–in your deteriorating life chances.
Now let me also say that Weber
actually suggests that you can think of classes on every single
market situation. So, for instance,
some people–and myself in my work–have been writing about
housing classes. The differences between the
owner of a house and the tenant who rents this house is a class
relationship–can be interpreted as a class relationship.
very often by the tenants, are seen as
bloodsuckers–right?–because they charge too high rent and
they do not maintain your unit properly.
When you call them and you say
that the water is dripping, and I need a plumber,
they will find excuses why they do not fix your water,
or why they do not fix your heating.
So they are bloodsuckers. Right?
And, as a tenant,
you are in a negatively privileged class position.
But on the other hand Weber is
quite clear that there are two important market positions which
fundamentally define your class position,
and these are the labor market and,
in fact, the capital market, will define whether you are–
have good life chances or poor life chances.
And all other positions,
on other markets, will be a consequence of your
position primarily on the labor market, or on capital markets.
Well this actually brings Weber
and Marx a little closer than it appeared for the first time–
right?–because, as we will see,
Weber does acknowledge that if there is a market economy,
differences in property are very important to creating class
positions. But, unlike Marx,
he emphasizes this is only the case if there is a market
economy in place. Now just very briefly about
class interest and class action. And here he said,
“Well the statement by a talented author”–he
doesn’t tell us who that author is;
I assume it must be Karl Marx–“that the individual
may be in error concerning his interests but the class is
infallible about its interest, is false and
pseudo-scientific.” So he said, “Well the
classes are actually not communities.”
A community may have a kind of
collective understanding. You belong to a class just
because of your position of the labor market,
and you actually–here he subscribes to Adam Smith.
Class members are individuals
acting out of self-interest, and not acting out of
collective interest. But they are in a similar
position, and therefore they have common
class interests, and–surprise,
surprise–occasionally they will act the same way–
right?–because they have a collective interest;
but not as a community, but as rationally acting
individuals, determined by their rational actions–right?–on the
marketplace. And therefore,
he said, “Well classes will really exist–well how can
I tell that the classes really exist?
I can tell if I see classes
acting. Classes materialize in
action–right?– because I speculatively cannot
make any class distinction, but people will make
distinctions for classes by acting upon their class
interest.” Now let’s go on to the question
of status groups; what are status groups?
And well I briefly want to
identify who status groups are, what status privileges are,
and then status stratification and the caste,
and the question of ethnicity in Weber.
So what is a status group?
Well, unlike classes,
status group, or Stande–this is the
plural of the word Stand–are nominally
groups. Status groups means that you
belong to a group–right?–and you have a high esteem,
and you have a solidarity within the group.
You have an honor;
a certain honor is attributed to you when you are in a status
You are initiated–right?–into
becoming a nobleman by an act of the king or the queen.
Well in order to get a
university degree, you are initiated–right?–into
a status group. In a way to earn a university
degree–a Bachelor’s degree, a Ph.D.–is entering in some
ways a status group. It’s not accidental that we
wear these funny medieval robes on those ceremonies where the
degree is conferred on you. And many professions which
require formal university training act as a status group;
like the doctors constitute–right?–a status
group. Like, in some ways,
university professors constitute a status group.
Lawyers constitute a status
group, and they somehow control ethics and entrance into the law
There you have to pass a board
exam if you want to become a lawyer.
And, in fact,
states will make–in California,
if you want to move to California, you want to get a
law degree and you want to move to California,
you will sweat blood–right?–to pass the board
exam. If you want to go to South
Dakota, you will easily pass the board exam.
Because there are not many
lawyers who want to be lawyers in South Dakota,
but there are many lawyers who want to be lawyers in San
Francisco, and therefore the board,
California board, will be much stricter than the
South Dakota board. The same goes for medical
It will be–again you have to
pass exams, and it will be different, depending on the
labor market condition. And it’s very important:
The status honor is expressed with a specific lifestyle.
The way how you dress,
the way how you eat, the way how you behave,
is constituting what is status group.
could wear arms; non-nobles couldn’t.
And well if you are a Yale
professor you wear J. Press. Right?
I mean, not everybody does,
but you can tell this is a Yale professor.
You can see this is a
J.***Press coat. So there
are–right?–lifestyles, what in a way,
even in modern society, constitute status groups.
Even within class
stratification, you have this uniquely
lifestyle specific stuff, what you adapt in order to
belong to this status group kind of subgroup within a class.
So if you are a
“yuppie”–young urban professional,
right?–you get a nice job on Wall Street, you move to
Then you rent out–right?–or
buy a condo somewhere in a Trump building.
Then you want to be driven by a
limo to your workplace. You will be reading Wall
Street Journal, and you will be
going–right?–and you will be having croissants for the
You see what I’m getting at.
You will be dressed in a
certain way. People can tell–right?–this
person must be a broker–right?–on Wall Street.
There are these lifestyle
characteristics what in a way creates an almost status group.
You know each other. Right?
You recognize each other. Right?
There are places where you hang
There are yuppie places.
You look outside and you know
this is a yuppie bar, filled with yuppies.
This is the lifestyle by which
you have status. There are also,
of course, status privileges– which is ideal and material
goods, which is a consequence of you being in that status group,
rather than the source of it. And there are also specific
special employment opportunities,
if you belong to a status group, and it’s being controlled
this way. I mean, the medical profession
is a very good example. And it’s being actually debated
and questioned why on earth do we need a system in which people
have to have registered– do have to have a medical
degree in order to practice medicine?
Why on earth people do have to
have a law degree in order to appear in court and defend
somebody in court? Right?
These are kind of status group
barriers to enter the system. Well the market,
on the other hand, knows no personal distinction.
On the market it matters
whether you are successful or you are a failure.
And therefore if you have these
status group kind of privileges, this is a limitation on the
functioning of the market. Right?
And therefore stronger the
status groups are, it can be a hindrance of free
development of a market economy. And now an idea about caste and
ethnicity. He said if the boundaries
between status groups are particularly sharply drawn,
in that case we can talk about castes.
The caste differences occur,
for instance, when there are prohibitions to
intermarry between castes. Lower castes are usually seen
as polluted, as dirty; you even cannot touch them,
or if you did touch a low class person, let’s say in Indian
culture, you have to go some purification procedures.
And he said status
groups–segregation grows into castes,
that transforms a horizontal coexistence of ethnically
segregated groups into a vertical social system.
This is also very
important–right?–his notion of ethnicity.
It’s a very innovative idea in
writing this around 1920, about this.
The differences are held to be
ethnic, based on the belief that it has something to do with
blood relations. Right?
He does not
believe–right?–that ethnic differences really have anything
to do with blood relations. You have ethic or racial
differences when there is a common belief that blood
relations do matter and are socially consequential.
He doesn’t believe it is.
Now class and status compared.
I am sort of running out of
time; don’t want to operate on–to do
too much on this. The point is–right?–that
there is some kind of stability in status stratification.
Class stratification is dynamic
and conflictuous. This is where his idea will
come from that, that in fact,
class relationships are not becoming more antagonistic over
time, but is becoming less
antagonistic over time. But the point is,
as you can see, that the main point is that
there are two basic stratification systems:
one based on status or Stand,
and the other one is on class stratification.
but there is also a subtype of stratification in a class
stratified society based on status differences.
So what are–he makes a
distinction between different types of classes.
Let me just briefly rush
through of it. He does not negate that there
is actually a class based on property.
There is actually–property
differences can be very substantial, as long as they are
operating in a marketplace. If your property can be sold or
bought– which was not the case under
feudalism– and if there is a labor market
which complements capital markets,
then differences in capital markets is the source of
But the most important
distinction is what he calls commercial classes.
And commercial classes are
based–right?–on the market situation, and particularly
especially based on labor markets.
And therefore the basic class
distinction for Weber, in modern society,
is between management and employees,
rather than owners of capital and owners of labor power;
unlike Marx. And that, I think,
is a very insightful argument, at least an important
qualification on Marx, or probably a useful
replacement of Marx with a better fitting theory to
understand modern societies. Okay, and then there are–he
introduces the notion of social classes.
There is a third type of class
in modern society, which is social class.
And what is social class?
People are in a social class
situation when individual and generational mobility is easy
and typical within that class. And then he said,
“Well what are social classes?”
And interestingly he said,
“Well these examples are– working class is a social
class, the petit bourgeoisie is a social class.”
The basic argument here is
working class is not a commercial class.
Working class–well he’s
writing in the nineteenth century.
But it’s still to some extent
true in the United States today, probably the least so in the
U.S. than in other economies.
Then being working class was
certainly very true in Europe, probably less so now,
but even during the second half of the twentieth century in
Italy and France there was a very strong working class
consciousness. You were proud of being working
class. In the U.S.
the term working class hardly
We are talking about the
working people rather than the working class.
But in Italy or in France there
was a very strong identity of being a working class–very
clearly identifiable lifestyle features.
Not that even,
in fact, in the United States you can’t really–
you usually can tell, I think, with ninety percent
certainty, if you walk into a
tavern–right?–who is a manual worker and who is not a manual
The way how people behave,
the way how people dress, gives you a very good clue.
And in France or in Italy,
to some extent even in the United States,
working class will say, “Well,
it was good enough for me to be a plumber.
Why on earth my son doesn’t
want to be a plumber and continue my business as a
plumber? That’s good enough.” Right?
If it was good enough for me,
should be good enough for my son.
How he understands social class
as distinct from economic class. You become social class when
you will say–well you are in working class and your daughter
is dating a lawyer. Then you will say,
“Can’t you find a decent working class guy?
You want to date with this
egghead?” Again, in the United States it
is much less common. Right?
There is many more marital
mobility across class lines–much less so in Italy or
in France, even today. Anyway, this is social class,
but as you can see, social class in a way bringing
back the idea of status groups. It is a modern version of
status group, what is being constituted as a
social class. because it has a lot to do with
lifestyles, values, culture–right?–and typical
patterns of mobility and aspirations, as such.
Well that’s about it.
Thank you very much.