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Coming to Grips with a Changing Class Structure: An Analysis of Employment Stratification in Britain, Germany, Sweden and Switzerland

ContributorsOesch, Daniel
Published inInternational sociology, vol. 21, no. 2, p. 263-288
Publication date2006
Abstract

Over the last 30 years, trends such as service sector growth, welfare state expansion and rising female participation rates have promoted increasing heterogeneity within the occupational system. Accordingly, this article argues that the class map has to be redrawn in order to grasp these changes in the employment structure. For that purpose, it develops the bases of a new class schema that partly shifts its focus from hierarchical divisions to horizontal cleavages. The middle class is not conceptualized as a unitary grouping and the manual/non-manual divide is not used as a decisive class boundary. Instead, emphasis is put on differences in marketable skills and the work logic. The schema is expected to more accurately reflect the class location of unskilled service employees and to make visible the political divide within the salaried middle class. This expectation is empirically examined with survey data from Britain, Germany, Sweden and Switzerland. Findings for earnings and promotion prospects indicate that the schema successfully captures the hierarchical dimension in the class structure. Moreover, results for party support and union membership suggest that the schema grasps a salient horizontal cleavage between managers and sociocultural professionals.

Keywords
  • Class analysis
  • Class voting
  • Electoral sociology
  • Employment structure
  • Socioeconomic inequalities
Citation (ISO format)
OESCH, Daniel. Coming to Grips with a Changing Class Structure: An Analysis of Employment Stratification in Britain, Germany, Sweden and Switzerland. In: International sociology, 2006, vol. 21, n° 2, p. 263–288. doi: 10.1177/0268580906061379
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Article (Published version)
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ISSN of the journal0268-5809
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