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Introducing Rethinking Class and Social Difference: A Dynamic Asymmetry Approach

Rethinking Class and Social Difference

ISBN: 978-1-83982-021-2, eISBN: 978-1-83982-020-5

ISSN: 0198-8719

Publication date: 30 September 2020

Abstract

Social class has long existed in tension with other forms of social difference such as race, gender, and sexuality, both in academic and popular debate. While Marxist-influenced class primacy perspectives gained prominence in US sociology in the 1970s, they faded from view by the 1990s, replaced by perspectives focusing on culture and institutions or on intersectional analyses of how multiple forms of social difference shape durable patterns of disempowerment and marginalization. More recently, class and capitalism have reasserted their place on the academic agenda, but continue to coexist uneasily with analyses of oppression and social difference. Here we discuss possibilities for bridging the gap between studies of class and other forms of social difference. We contend that these categories are best understood in relation to each other when situated in a larger system with its own endogenous dynamics and tendencies, namely capitalism. After providing an historical account of the fraught relationship between studies of class and other forms of social difference, we propose a theoretical model for integrating understandings of class and social difference using Wright et al.‘s concept of dynamic asymmetry. This shifts us away from discussions of which factors are most important in general toward concrete discussions of how these factors interact in particular cases and processes. We contend that class and other forms of social difference should not be studied primarily as traits embodied in individuals, but rather with respect to how these differences are organized in relation to each other within a framework shaped by the dynamics of capitalist development.

Keywords

Citation

Eidlin, B. and McCarthy, M.A. (2020), "Introducing Rethinking Class and Social Difference: A Dynamic Asymmetry Approach", Eidlin, B. and McCarthy, M.A. (Ed.) Rethinking Class and Social Difference (Political Power and Social Theory, Vol. 37), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 1-23. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0198-871920200000037002

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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