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own human capital that parents invest in their

children through the time and attention they

give them, the better the development of human

capital (that is, educational attainment and personality

advancement) in their children. A series

of studies in this area has demonstrated, for example,

that the outcomes for children of families

with higher amounts of this type of social capital

(two-parent households, parents who spend a

lot of time with their children, and families with

fewer children) tend to do better in terms of,

among other things, success at school, avoiding

teenage pregnancy, and emotional adjustment.

A second strand of research that has grown out

of Coleman’s conception of social capital emphasizes

the value of dense social networks outside

the family. These networks produce relationships

of trust and reciprocity among their members

that, especially in smaller networks, enmesh

members in mutual and mutually beneficial

obligations and provide a powerful form of informal

social control. High degrees of this type of

social capital, for example, foster contexts of trust

in which children are felt to be safe when they are

not with their parents, or valuable goods can be

exchanged without expensive security measures.

Coleman and later analysts used such explanations

to account for why children in Catholic

schools tend to outperform their state school

peers in the United States.

Subsequent research in the Coleman tradition,

most notably that of Robert Putnam, has generalized

the concept of social capital to large communities,

regions, and even nations. Putnam sees

social capital as a public good which is not zerosum

(one person’s use does not diminish another’s).

Like other public goods, such as national

defense, water supply, and public education, that

benefit the entire community, social capital contributes

to overall well-being. According to Putnam,

participation in community groups and

civic associations enhances collective norms and

trust and this in turn has positive effects on democratic

participation and collective well-being.

Using large-scale survey data on individuals’ feelings

of trust and participation in groups and other

public activities (such as voluntary associations

and, most famously, bowling leagues), Putnam

argues that the reserve of social capital in the

United States has become depleted in recent years.

This argument has been applied widely to explain

such phenomena as declining political participation,

neighborhood involvement, and parental

participation in schools, as well as falling church

attendance. Some later analysts have been critical

of this popular treatment of social capital, arguing,

for example, that Putnam conflates key concepts

such as trust, association membership, and

social networks, and that his explanation is often

tautological and provides a weak account of how

social capital is generated. Putnam’s perspective

has nonetheless been a lively source of research

and debate about the broader impacts of social

capital. J E F F MANZA

social change

All societies recognize social change. Three questions

arise: is this change natural and normal?;

what is its source?; and what is its tempo?

Premodern societies regard change as external

and problematic. The way things have been done

in the past is a powerful indicator as to how they

should be done in the present, and this sense of

continuity is understandable. To venerate others

in the contemporary world, one needs to venerate

social capital social change

559


their ancestors, since each of us is a product of the

past – our parents and grandparents, and so on,

physically and culturally produced us – and therefore

disrespect to them is also disrespect for their

progeny.

Such a position, despite its valid and valuable

features, runs the risk of idealizing the past, and it

leads to a paralyzing relativism (whatever happened

in the past was good) and an authoritarian absolutism

(the past reflected a timeless truth that contemporary

society foolishly disregards). It is

important not to take these attitudes at face value,

for veneration of the past is linked to the needs of

the present, and traditionalists may distort the

past in order to justify present practices. Change

is seen as either the tragic disintegration of a

golden age or at best a cyclical process. “There is

nothing new under the sun” and new social forms

replace one another in merry-go-round fashion.

The modern age takes a much less hostile view of

change. Change is seen as natural and necessary –

something that is positive rather than negative.

Each generation faces new and different challenges

to those of the previous one, so that it

seems implausible to imagine that continuity

with the past is all-important. With the European

Enlightenment in the eighteenth century, liberals

begin to postulate a doctrine of progress – change

is celebrated and admired. This doctrine of progress

is contradicted by perfectionism, which

ascribes animating change to a timeless creator,

so that inevitably at some point in the future the

perfect society will arrive. Some conservatives

reject the notion of progress itself as though the

idea is an inherently perfectionist one. It is important

to subject the argument about progress

to an internal critique: it is not that the notion of

progress is problematic, but rather the idea

that this progress has a beginning and an end –

concepts which undermine the dynamism of

change.

The conservative condemns change as a bad



thing, the radical sees it as good, but each position

betrays a numbing one-sidedness. Change to be

meaningful must be expressed through continuity

with the past so that newness can be critically

appraised. Change must be tied to absolute as

well as relative standpoints – do new ideas and

practices help us to govern our own lives in a

more satisfactory fashion? The concepts of selfgovernment

and autonomy express a longstanding

aspiration – inherent in all systems of morality

– and they enable us to decide whether change

is positive and developmental, or negative and

self-destructive.

It is also important to tackle the question of the

source of change. Why do societies change? It is

perfectly true that people develop new ideas and

attitudes – but why? The idealists treat ideas as

autonomous agents with an origin in mystical

genius – either of the outstanding individual or

of a supernatural creator. Materialists rightly

insist that change derives from forces outside the

consciousness of people – that is, change occurs

whether people like it or not. But the problem

with this position is that it is sometimes interpreted

as an idealism turned inside out. Ideas,

from being the source of change, become irrelevant

– change is rooted in technology or physiology.

It is clear that cultural and political

institutions are themselves important agents of

change, but it is also true that what we think is

happening is never identical to what is going on.

Ideas and institutions express this change, but we

should never assume that what the creators of

change intend is the same as the actual outcome.

This is as true as regards changes in the law (see

law and society) as it is for changes in technology

and the forces of production.

But, flexibly and concretely used, the materialist

argument is a powerful one, for it seeks to

locate change in circumstances that operate structurally,

that is, in collective “forces” that people

can never wholly control. Thus, the demand by

women for social as well as political equality arises

not simply because greater equality is a “good

idea.” More and more women work outside the

home and undertake occupations of a nontraditional

kind. This breaks down patriarchal stereotypes,

although it also provokes fundamentalist

backlashes. The point is that, although the change

is expressed in debate and argument, these new

ideas (and new language) cannot simply be understood

on their own terms. They seem plausible

because they correspond to changing realities in

society itself.

What of the tempo of change? Changes are

always incremental in the sense that society is

always evolving. In modern societies this change

is built into structures so that it is seen as natural

and normal: new ideas; new institutions; new

practices. Is this change revolutionary or gradual

in character? This is in a dualism that we need to

overcome, for change is both. Each change is in a

particular area, and affects the operation of society

as a whole. The development of the internet in

contemporary society has enormous implications

for other institutions and ideas – it affects psychology,

ideology, the political system, industry,

education, and the media. It is a revolutionary

social change social change

560


force, but it builds upon previous developments so

that it is both gradual and insurrectionary. It is a

mistake to identify revolutions with transformations

of the state – although these occur as well.

Social change is apparently accidental in premodern

societies, but it is seen as normal in

modern orders. The notion that this change is

governed by higher powers (which are timeless)

is contradictory and seeks to impose limits on

change. Change occurs at every level in society

and those who create change never see the full

implications of the process they instigate. Change

is neither simply evolutionary nor revolutionary:

it is always both. JOHN HOF FMAN

social class

All complex societies are characterized by some

kind of structured social inequality (or stratification

system). The totality of social stratification

will be made up of a number of different elements

that will vary in their importance between different

societies – for example, old age is accorded

more respect in some societies than others. Class

makes a significant contribution to structured

social inequality in contemporary societies. However,

it is a multifaceted concept with a variety of

different meanings. There is no correct definition

of the concept, nor any single correct way of measuring

it. Nevertheless, questions of both definition

and measurement have been endlessly contested

over the years. Broadly, three dimensions of class

may be identified. These are the economic, the

cultural, and the political. The economic dimension

has a focus on patterns and explanations of

material inequality; the cultural dimension a

focus on lifestyle, social behavior, and hierarchies

of prestige; and the political dimension addresses

the role of classes, and class action, in political,

social, and economic change. Common to all

sociological conceptions of class is the argument

that social and economic inequalities are not natural

or divinely ordained, but rather emerge as a

consequence of human behaviors.

Modern ideas of class are inextricably associated

with the development of capitalist industrialism

(or industrial society). The development of capitalism

was accompanied by the emergence of the

“two great classes” identified by Karl Marx and

Friedrich Engels (The Communist Manifesto, 1848

[trans. 1968]) as the bourgeoisie (the owners and

controllers of capital or the means of production)

and the industrial working class or proletariat

(those without capital or access to productive resources

who were forced to sell their labor in

order to survive). This does not mean that industrial

capitalism was ever a two-class society, as

many other groupings, distinguished by a variety

of relationships to both production and the

market, have always existed in capitalist societies.

For example, in the Eighteenth Brumaire (1852

[trans. 1934]), Marx identifies (in addition to the

proletariat) finance, landholding, and industrial

capital (different fractions of the capitalist class),

as well as the peasantry, the petite bourgeoisie

(shopkeepers and small owner of private capital),

and the lumpenproletariat. Thus Marx defined

class in economic and political terms, and cultures

and ideologies were held to be largely determined

by class processes.

A key issue relating to class (deriving largely,

but not entirely, from the work of Marx) is that

of class identity or consciousness. Marx argued

that, as different classes had conflicting interests,

deriving from their position in relation to production

and markets, these interests would find their

expression in political action. Indeed, Marx saw

class conflict as the major driving force of social

change. In preindustrial (feudal) societies, the

dominant class was the feudal aristocracy, whose

power and authority was challenged by the rise of

the industrial bourgeoisie. The conflict between

these classes resulted in the emergence of capitalism.

In capitalist society, Marx argued, the proletariat

(or working class) assumed the role of the

revolutionary class. He argued that the bourgeoisie

exploited the proletariat via the extraction

of the surplus value created by their labor. Marx

predicted that the conflict brought about by

growth of class consciousness and action amongst

the proletariat (its becoming a “class for itself ”),

together with the weaknesses engendered by successive

crises of capitalism, would eventually lead

to the victory of the proletariat and their allies

and transformative social change. These changes

would usher in first communism, then socialism.

The work of Max Weber has also been influential

(Class, Status and Party [trans. 1940]). Like Marx,

Weber emphasized the economic dimension of

class. However, besides property ownership (Marx’s

major axis of class differentiation), Weber also emphasized

the significance of market situations.

These included individual skills and qualifications,

the possession of which will result in enhanced life

chances as compared with those groups possessing

neither property nor skills. Weber’s account of

class, however, was radically different from that of

Marx in that it was not linked to any theory of

history and, although Weber recognized the likelihood

and persistence of class conflict, he did not

see such conflicts as necessarily leading to radical

social class social class

561

social change. Weber also identified the independent



significance of social status (social honor or

prestige), that is, hierarchical systems of cultural

differentiation that identify particular persons,

behaviors, and lifestyles as superior or inferior,

more or less worthy. Weber identified class and

social status as different bases for claims to material

resources. Subsequently, many sociologists

have insisted on the analytical separation of the

two concepts. The class concept, it is argued, describes

the relationships giving rise to inequalities;

it is a relational concept. Hierarchies of

prestige or status, on the other hand, only describe

the outcomes of underlying class processes,

as described in gradational class schemes. However,

as we shall see, although, analytically, class

and status are distinct concepts, there are difficulties

in separating them empirically.

From the nineteenth century onwards, different

class interests, reflecting ownership and market

position, were increasingly represented by a range

of different bodies including the political parties

of left and right, as well as trade unions and employers’

organizations. Thus, there were good

reasons to argue that the interest groupings representing

different classes could be broadly

mapped onto the material groupings identified

by the classic theorists of class – owners and nonowners

of the means of different elements of production,

as well as occupational groupings. By the

late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries

(albeit to varying degrees), the greater majority

of the population in industrial capitalist societies

had come to rely on paid employment of some

kind. Official statisticians (as well as social investigators)

sought to classify these populations in

some kind of meaningful fashion. Increasingly,

the occupational order began to emerge as a

useful axis of classification that gave a summary

indication of standard of life as well as life

chances. In all such schemes, managerial and professional

employees are located at the apex, and

unskilled workers in the lower-level groupings.

Thus the convention developed of describing

the different occupational groupings created by

the application of classificatory schemes as social

classes (for example, the Registrar-General’s sixfold

social-class classification in Britain). Such classifications

were often criticized as atheoretical.

The Registrar-General’s classification, which was

at its inception a scale of social standing, was

held to be a commonsense status scale rather

than a measure of class relations. However, it

proved to be remarkably robust in policy-oriented

research and in the mapping and investigation of

inequalities of various kinds (for example, in

health).


Thus, for many investigators, the occupational

order became synonymous with the class structure.

This assumption did not go unchallenged

and alternative bases of classification were proposed.

John Rex and R. Moore (Race, Community

and Conflict, 1967), for example, developed the

notion of housing classes deriving from variations

in house ownership and tenure, giving rise to

conflicting (housing) class interests. This approach

to class was taken up by a number of urban sociologists

(for example, P. Saunders in Social Theory

and the Urban Question, 1986).

Despite the sociological insistence on the analytical

separation of class and status, material

differences and cultural and social distinctions

are, invariably, intertwined (P. Bourdieu, Distinction,

1979 [trans. 1984]). This has been recognized

in a number of classic case studies focusing on

particular localities (for example, M. Stacey, Tradition

and Change, 1960), and in the “ affluent

worker” series, an influential British study carried

out in the 1960s (John Goldthorpe, David Lockwood,

F. Bechhofer, and J. Platt, The Affluent Worker

in the Class Structure, 1969). The affluent-worker

thesis had argued that, with rising prosperity in

the years after World War II, the wages of

“working-class” employees were now at the same

levels of those of the middle classes (that is, those

around the middle of the occupational structure),

thus a process of embourgeoisement (or “the

worker turning middle class) was held to be

underway. Goldthorpe and his colleagues identified

three dimensions of class, the economic, the

normative, and the relational. They demonstrated

that, although manual workers might have

achieved incomes equal to those of some middleclass

occupations, this was achieved by working

longer hours. Furthermore, patterns of association

and aspirations (for promotion) continued

to differentiate middle-class and working-class

employees; thus their research rejected the

embourgeoisement thesis.

From the 1970s, class theory and research were

affected by a number of different, and sometimes

contradictory, influences. In particular, debates in

class theory became increasingly characterized by

a separation between economic and culturalist

approaches. Theoretical discussions also became

distanced from empirical research, which from

the 1970s was dominated by quantitative class

analysis focusing on occupational aggregates (or

classes) as revealed in large datasets. This employment

aggregate approach was dominated by two

social class social class

562

major crossnational projects, the CASMIN (Comparative



Analysis of Social Mobility in Industrial

Societies) project, led by Robert Erikson and Goldthorpe,

and the Comparative Project on Class

Structure and Class Consciousness, coordinated

by Erik Olin Wright.

The revival of interest in Marxism in the 1960s

and 1970s generated highly abstract theoretical

debates, often with a focus on the contested

middle class. For writers influenced by Marx’s

work (N. Poulantzas, Classes in Contemporary Capitalism,

1975), a key issue lay in the identification of

the actual interests (or location within the class

structure) of the middle classes. As propertyless

employees, they had features in common with

the proletariat, but their labor did not directly

create a surplus (so how could they be exploited?),

and both their levels of material reward, and the

power and authority associated with their employment

situation, served to differentiate them from

the working class. Did their interests, therefore,

lie with the bourgeoisie or with the proletariat?

One reason why this question appeared, to some,

to be crucial was the manifest failure of a unitary

proletarian or working-class consciousness to materialize

in any sustained form in western industrial

societies. Some writers (often influenced by

the upsurge of political activism in France in 1968)

identified elements of the middle classes (for

example, scientific and technical workers) as a

new working class that might assume the revolutionary

vanguard. Others argued that both the

interests and politics of the middle classes lay

closer to those of the employers. Rather than

being in the middle, this class was described as

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