Class analysis and the stability of class relations

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    This paper examines Goldthorpe's attempt to develop a theory which explains the stability of class relations and the generative processes by which class inequalities are sustained in general and the application of rational action theory to the explanation of persistent class differentials in educational attainment in particular. It is argued that Goldthorpe has restricted the remit of his theory to the mobilisation of economic resources and that the importance of cultural and social resources in the reproduction of advantage has been dropped from view. This development derives from his minimalist definition of class in terms of employment relations rather than collectivities of people who share identities and practices. Furthermore, Goldthorpe's reliance on rational action theory has led to an overly materialistic view of how individuals and families mobilise their resources across generations. He ignores the role of norms and values in shaping action and the level of indeterminacy or precariousness by which advancement may or may not be achieved. The implications of these criticisms for the future of class analysis are explored.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)23-42
    Number of pages19
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Feb 1998


    • Class analysis
    • Middle class
    • Rational action theory
    • Resources
    • Social mobility
    • Strategies


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