19 January 2005

Stratification and Inequality


Spring 2005

Robert Max Jackson



            Stratification has long been a prestigious, large field in sociology. Studying inequality is a mainstay of sociology. So central are the ideas developed within stratification that knowledge of them is almost a prerequisite for work in any other area. Even when sociologists are not studying inequality directly, they usually consider how social inequality interacts with the topic they are studying. The centrality of inequality makes it both attractive and daunting for a young scholar seeking research topics and a chance to make a theoretical contribution. In this course, students will try to "discover" stratification anew as a field rich in knowledge and filled with promise for further research.

            In this course we will survey the terrain of stratification theory and research. We can crudely divide all this work into two categories: 1) structural analyses that consider inequality as a key determinant of social organization that influences social history and other components of social structure and 2) micro-level approaches that seek to understand the distribution of class and socio-economic rewards and the processes that lead individuals to fill those positions and receive those rewards (or not). We will review important classic contributions whose ideas serve as maps for all later work and we will selectively assess recent directions of development. The authors will include, among others, Marx, Weber, Schumpeter, Dahrendorf, B. Moore, Blau and Duncan, William Wilson, Davis & Moore, Charles Tilly, Erik Wright, and Bourdieu. This course will try to sketch the knowledge in the field, hopefully serving as a beginning guide for those who choose stratification as an area for the Ph.D. comprehensive exam.

            Besides covering the substance of this area, this course aims to improve students' reasoning and writing abilities. Students will learn how to examine theories critically and reconstruct them as theoretical models distinguished from the texts in which they appear.


            We will run all class meetings as discussions. Every student must come prepared to every class and participate. Written assignments will include short papers throughout the semester and a take-home exam/final paper. All assignments must be handed in on time. I will not give incompletes.

Books Recommended for Purchase

Primary Materials:

David Grusky, Social Stratification: Class, Race, and Gender in Sociological Perspective

Karl Marx, The Marx-Engels Reader

Charles Tilly, Durable Inequality

Max Weber, General Economic History

William Julius Wilson, The Declining Significance of Race

Secondary Materials:

Ralf Dahrendorf, Class and Class Conflict in Industrial Society

Barrington Moore,Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy

Erik Olin Wright, Class Counts: Student Edition

Books out of print but worth buying if you can find a copy anywhere:

Bendix and Lipset, Class, Status, and Power

Anthony Giddens, Class Structure of the Advanced Societies

Joseph Schumpeter, Imperialism and Social Classes

Also recommended as a general resource:

Arthur Stinchcombe, Constructing Social Theories

Course Outline and Readings

Abbreviations for collections:


Grusky – David Grusky: Social Stratification

Wright – Erik O. Wright: Approaches to Class Analysis

BL -- Bendix and Lipset: Class, Status, and Power

HELLER -- Celia Heller: Structured Social Inequality

LSH -- E. Laumann, P. Siegel, R. Hodge: Logic of Social Hierarchies

KEY to readings below:
●●●  Read carefully.
  ●●   Read for ideas, ignore details.
     ●  Optional further reading.

(Note: Some materials are available over the internet.  Click on the appropriate link within the syllabus to reach them.)

I. What do we want to ask about stratification, inequality, classes, and the like? What are the goals of this field?

●●●  Symposium on Inequality, Contemporary Sociology 29 (2000):775-818.

●●●  Grusky: Introduction, 1-51.

●●   Murray Milner, Jr., “Theories of Inequality: An Overview and a Strategy for Synthesis”, Social Forces, Vol. 65, No. 4. (Jun., 1987), pp. 1053-1089.


II. Classes and inequality over time. How are we to conceive the problems of studying classes and inequality as historical entities?

●●●  J. Schumpeter, "Social Classes in an Ethnically Homogeneous Environment." In Imperialism and Social Classes. (read through the first section of "Summary and Conclusions", §20—ignore the last few pages) [a brilliant, albeit flawed, analysis of class]

●  R. Dahrendorf, "On the Origin of Inequality Among Men." LSH: 3-30.

●  D. Wrong, "Social Inequality without Stratification." HELLER: 513-20. [inequality vs. classes]


III. The class analysis of Karl Marx. The starting point for everything written about class, even if by omission.  (See Marx Discussion Questionsfor orienting questions that will guide us in our class discussion.)

●●●  Grusky: Marx and Post-Marxists, 87-131

●●●  Wright: Ch. 1, Wright, “Foundations of a neo-Marxist Class Analysis”

●●  K. Marx, The Marx-Engels Reader. [read in order] Pp. 3-6, 136-142, 203-217, 422-431, 384-415, 473-483, 176-188, 431-438, 594-617, 665-676, 683-717. [everyone's point of reference]

●  R. Bendix and S. M. Lipset, "Karl Marx's Theory of Social Classes." BL: 6-11.

●  Anthony Giddens, Class Structure. Pp. 23-40, 82-98.

●  Erik Olin Wright, Class Counts: Student Edition. Selections [Marxist ideas distilled through a critical and empirical sociological analysis]


IV. The class analysis of Max Weber. Paying homage to political process and history’s burdens.      (See Weber Discussion Questions for orienting questions that will guide us in our class discussion.)

●●●  Grusky: Weber & Post-Weberians, 132-177 [Pay special attention to "Class, Status, and Party," a classic, unfinished analysis that has inspired an extraordinary amount of research and theoretical argument]

●●  Max Weber, General Economic History, emphasize Chs. 3-13, 16B, 17, 22-23, 27-29. [Based on lectures, this overview of economic organization from primitive societies through capitalism shows how Weber thought--read quickly for the ideas, emphasizing Weber's treatment of class formation]

●●  Wright: Ch 2, “Foundations of a neo-Weberian Class Analysis”

●●  Randall Collins: “Lenski's Power Theory of Economic InequalitySociological Theory 22 (2004): 219-228

●●  John Scott, “Social Class and Stratification in Late Modernity” 45 (2002) Acta Sociologica:23-35

●  For an effort to summarize and analyze Weber's General Economic History (which unfortunately neglects class), see Randall Collins, "Weber's Last Theory of Capitalism: A Systematization," Theory & Society 45 (1980): 925-942.

●  Giddens,Class Structure . Pp. 41-81. (for a good general discussion of Weber's class analysis)


V. Political domination and alliances based on inequality. Rule through alliances based on status or between classes. Conflict over authority or goods?

●●●  Grusky: Ruling Class and Elites & Reputation, Deference, and Prestige, 195-254

●●●  R. Dahrendorf, Class and Class Conflict in Industrial Society. Chs 5-6 [a minor classic that tries to abstract and generalize from Marx the role of conflict in group formation]

●●●  Barrington Moore, Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy, Ch. 3 (American Civil War) & Part III (Theoretical Implications and Projections). [classic analysis links political organization to pattern of class alliances]

●●  Michael Hechter, "From Class to Culture," AJS 110 (2004):400-445.

●  T. B. Bottomore, Elites and Society. Excerpts in HELLER: 160-168. [the whole book is worth a look]

●  M. Djilas, The New Class. Excerpts in HELLER: 74-81. [classic on socialist inequality focused on bureaucratic rule--consider its theoretical relationship to Weber]

●  Alec Nove, "Is There a Ruling Class in the USSR?," Soviet Studies 27 (1975): 615-635. {reprinted in part in Anthony Giddens and David Held, eds, Classes, Power, and Conflict: Classical and Contemporary Debates, pp. 588-604, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982.} [critically assesses various interpretations of the soviet "ruling" sector]


VI. Symbolic & Cultural Stratification. How do the ways we think, see, and interact become organized by status and social location and, in turn, organize us into distinctive identities?

●●●  Wright: Ch 4, "Foundations of Bourdieu’s Class Analysis."

●●●  Grusky: Consequences of Stratification, 491-552

●●●  Rogers Brubaker, “Rethinking Classical Theory: the sociological vision of Pierre Bourdieu,” Theory and Society 14 (1985): 745-775

●●  James R. Kluegel & Eliot R. Smith, "Beliefs About Stratification", Ann. Rev. Sociol. 7 (1981):29-56. [What do "normal" people think about inequality?]

●  Paul E. Willis, Learning to Labor

●  David Swartz, Culture and Power: The Sociology of Pierre Bourdieu

●  P. DiMaggio and J. Mohr. "Cultural Capital, Educational Attainment, and Marital Selection." AJS 90 (1985): 1231-1261. [the role of cultural knowledge in the transmission of social standing]

●  R. Robinson and M Garnier, "Class Reproduction...." AJS 91 (1985): 250-280. [questions the role of education and cultural capital for transmission of status in France]


VII. Functionalist analyses of stratification.

●●●  Grusky: Forms & Sources, 55-84; Durkheim, 178-194; Occupational Hierarchies, 255-286. [pay special attention to the Davis & Moore argument, a pivotal functionalist analysis attributing inequality to society's need for talent and sacrifice]

●●●  Wright: Ch 3, "Foundations of a neo-Durkheimian class analysis"

●  W. Wesolowski, "Some Notes on the Functional Theory of Stratification." BL: 64-69.

●  A. Stinchcombe, "Some Empirical Consequences of the Davis-Moore Theory of Stratification." BL: 69-73.

●  D. Wrong, "Functional Theory of Stratification: Some Neglected Consequences." LSH: 132-142.


VIII. Social mobility and status attainment research, Part 1. The study of who gets where, what, and why.

●●●  Grusky: Generating Inequality, 303-389.

●●●  Brian Goesling, “Changing Income Inequalities within and between Nations: New Evidence,” American Sociological Review, 2001, 66, 5, Oct, 745-761

●●   Glenn Firebaugh & Brian Goesling, "Accounting for the Recent Decline in Global Income Inequality", AJS 110 (2004):283-312.

●  S. M. Lipset and H. L. Zetterberg, "A Theory of Social Mobility." BL: 561-574.

●  Blau & Duncan. American Occupational Structure. Pp. 425-442. [birthplace of the status attainment approach]

●  Symposium, "The American Occupational Structure: Reflections after Twenty-five Years." Contemporary Sociology 21 (1992): 596-668. [varied commentators try to makes sense of 25 years of social mobility research]


IX. Caste, race, and slavery in stratification systems: patterns of inequality. How do racial and economic inequality depend on each other?

●●●  W. J. Wilson, The Declining Significance of Race. [the key to this book's insights lie in the relationship between race, class, and political order]

●●●  Grusky: Racial and Ethnic Inequality, 580-591, 623-642, 660-670.

●●  Grusky: Racial and Ethnic Inequality, 555-670, remaining material.

●  Dalton Conley, Being Black, Living in the Red: Race, Wealth and Social Policy in America. [bringing  wealth back in, for sociologists who forgot]

●   M. Jacobsen, Whiteness of a Different Color. [for whom and how and why being “white” changed in American history]

●  M. Omi and H. Winant, Racial formation in the United States. [overview stressing “construction” of race, broad if not deep]


X. Social mobility and status attainment research, Part 2. The study of who gets where, what, and why.

●●●  Grusky: Generating Inequality, 390-488.

●  C. Jencks, et al., Inequality. Pp. 1-41, 64-81, 109-110, 135-8, 158-60, 191-199, 209-232, 253-265. [a lesson on how to become famous while basing your argument on a nitwit reversal of hypothesis testing logic]

●  Carole Shammas, "A New Look at Long-Term Trends in Wealth Inequality in the United States." American Historical Review (1993): 412-431.

●   C. Jencks, "Structural versus Individual Explanations for Inequality." Contemporary Sociology 9 (1980): 762-767.

●  Becker, Gary S. and Nigel Tomes. 1986. "Human Capital and the Rise and Fall of Families."Journal of Labor Economics, 4:S1-S39. [a brilliant economist's influential analysis--can you find the flaws?]

●  C. Jencks, et al., Who Gets Ahead. Pp. 213-231.

●  P. Horan, "Is Status Attainment Research Atheoretical?" ASR 43 (1978): 534-540.


XI. The direct relationship of classes.

●●●  A. de Toqueville, "Relations of Masters and Servants." (From Democracy in America) In BL: 107-111. [a classic analysis comparing authority relations under aristocratic and early capitalist regimes]

●●●  Symposium on Michael Burawoy's Manufacturing Consent: Changes in the Labor Process under Monopoly Capitalism, Contemporary Sociology, 2001, 30, 5, Sept, 435-458. [critically deficient homage, but informative]

●●●  Michael Schwalbe; Godwin, Sandra; Holden, Daphne; Schrock, Douglas; Thompson, Shealy; Wolkomir, Michele, “Generic Processes in the Reproduction of Inequality: An Interactionist Analysis,” Social Forces, 2000, 79, 2, Dec, 419-452

●●●  Guillermina Jasso, “Studying Status: An Integrated Framework,” American Sociological Review, 2001, 66, 1, Feb, 96-124

●  M. Burawoy, Manufacturing Consent. (Selections) [influential marxist study of relations within a factory—better research than theory]

●  Erik Olin Wright and Donmoon Cho, "The Relative Permeability of Class Boundaries to Cross-Class Friendships: A Comparative Study of the United States, Canada, Sweden, and Norway." ASR 57 (1992): 85-102. [what can we discover about class by considering affiliation (or Marx meets Weber in the dead of the night)]


XII. A recent attempt at integrating ideas.

●●●   Charles Tilly, Durable Inequality.  [A brilliant sociologist's challenging effort at a general analysis; you have to figure out what is being said before you can hope to discern the flaws.]