Geoffrey T. Wodtke; Social Relations, Technical Divisions, and Class Stratification in the United States: An Empirical Test of the Death and Decomposition of Class Hypotheses. Soc Forces 2017 1-30. doi: 10.1093/sf/sox012
Recent critiques of class analysis variously argue that aggregate class differences in life conditions and political attitudes have either declined to the point of irrelevance or decomposed into differences based on highly disaggregate occupations. This study empirically evaluates these arguments as they relate specifically to aggregate classes defined in terms of workplace ownership and authority relations, which are conceived to be distinct from both aggregate and disaggregate occupational classes based on the technical division of labor. A number of findings suggest that both the death and decomposition of class perspectives are in need of reconsideration or refinement. First, aggregate classes based on workplace ownership and authority cannot be conveniently disaggregated into smaller occupational classes based on the technical division of labor. Second, aggregate ownership-and-authority class differences in life conditions and political attitudes are statistically significant and substantively large across a wide variety of measures, and these differences are present even within disaggregate occupational classes. Third, aggregate ownership-and-authority class differences in life conditions and political attitudes show no evidence of declining since the 1970s. In fact, the only significant evidence of temporal change suggests a considerable increase in income inequality between positions in the workplace ownership and authority structure. The implications of these findings for class-analytic theory and research are discussed.