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Stratified Societies

Macionis discusses explanations of stratified societies including Karl Marx's claim that stratification works against the interests of most people by providing a few people with advantages over others. In Marx's view this invariably produces class conflict between the relatively small group of capitalists (the bourgeoisie) who own the means of production and, therefore, most of the wealth, and laborers, or the proletariat, who own nothing but the labor they can sell to the capitalists. The two groups have separate and opposing interests. The capitalist wishes to make as great a profit as possible and must, therefore, pay as little for labor as possible. In capitalist societies, Marx reasoned, the rich are in constant competition to become richer and accumulate more capital, and this pressure means that the lot of the workers becomes worse as they are squeezed in the name of greater profits. The worker becomes completely alienated and this situation would eventually reach intolerable levels in industrialized societies. At this point, the proletarian mass would revolt and replace capitalism with a communist society featuring group ownership of property and equal rewards for all labor.

Macionis offers four reasons why the predicted revolt never came about: the expansion of the capitalist class with growing middle-class ownership of stocks in large companies; people were enjoying a much higher standard of living and, by the 1970s, white-collar employees began to outnumber blue-collar workers; workers became more organized than they were in Marx's era; and the proletariat had greater legal protections, in the form of laws and regulations and in terms of access to the courts. But this account leaves out one of the strongest factors why, in the United States at least, revolution never took place, i.e., the degree to which people are deliberately misled into believing that they live in accord with the capitalist class and that they...

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Stratified Societies. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 20:42, February 23, 2017, from