Books

Books

CLASS, STATUS AND POWER: A READER IN SOCIAL STRATIFICATION. Edited by Reinhard Bendix and Seymour Lipset. The Free Press. Glencoe, Illinois. 725 pp. $6.

Though designed as a college text, this book is so excellently done that it will interest many people outside the academy. Under three major headings (theories of social stratification; studies of the problem in America; research on the problem in other countries) the editors present selections from about sixty authors, ranging from Aristotle to Lloyd Warner. Since it is neither possible nor desirable to deal with each, or many, of the essays in a review, I want to devote most of my space to an article especially prepared for this volume by Bendix and Lipset. Pointing out that the views of Marx and Engels on social class are nowhere succinctly developed by them, the editors offer their own synthesis in an essay entitled “Karl Marx’ Theory of Social Classes.” It is a splendid effort, but it does not remove one’s wish that those final entries in Volume III of “Capital” had been expanded into a full-scale discussion of class.

In common with most critics of Marx’ analysis of class, the authors of this essay have elided the crucial distinction which Marx makes between class an sich and class fur sich, a distinction which Marx clearly drew between the objective class, i.e., the societal group whose situation is automatically defined by its relationship to the instruments of production, and the class so delimited which has become conscious of its identity and its role in the struggle either to preserve the existing social order or to change it. Classes, Marx observed, exist before or in the absence of class consciousness.

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