Rosemary Crompton Class and Stratification (3rd edition), Polity, 2008; 192 pp.: 9780745638706 17.99 pounds sterling] (pbk); 9780745638690 55 pounds sterling] (hbk)
For the readers of this journal, the centrality of class to most forms of analysis is a given. However, as we know, this is not the case in most social science disciplines. Indeed, in my own areas of academic interest--sociology and social policy--it has been largely off the agenda for some time, although there are welcome signs of a revival, which recent events may have accelerated.
Sociology, in particular, I would suggest, has suffered enormously because of its neglect of class. At a time when a class analysis was needed most, during the neoliberal onslaught of the 1980s and 1990s, sociologists were off exploring the linguistic turn. I am not necessarily criticising this worldview, but it did seem that class had become too hard for many sociologists and that it was easier to instead pore over the works of French academics than engage in the life-changing events occurring outside the academy.
Given the renewed interest in class and its consequences, this third edition of Crompton's book, following on from editions in 1992 and 1997, is timely. It is divided into eight chapters, with the first, 'Setting the scene', providing a brief overview of the context within which debates over class have taken place, and outlining the structure and content of the remaining chapters. The second chapter details the various frameworks that have been developed over time to explore class and stratification, and Crompton notes the distinction between the two terms, which are often used interchangeably. Stratification, Crompton argues, is better thought of as a 'general term which describes systematic structures of inequality', while class describes 'material inequalities and their origins' (p. 8).
The writings of Marx and Weber are outlined in Chapter 3, where Crompton argues that despite the considerable changes that have occurred in contemporary society, these two authors still provide essential insights into the way in which class and stratification impact on people's lives. The empirical accounts which use occupationally derived systems of classifications to measure class structure are outlined in Chapter 4. The chapter then examines the more theoretically based work of Erik Olin Wright in the USA, and closes with coverage of Goldthorpe's contribution to the British debates and the British...