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Ethnicity and class formation

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Peut, AM (1983) Ethnicity and class formation. Research Master thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Abstract

Theoretical analyses of social inequality often regard ethnicity as a complicating factor, external to processes of class structuration. This has frequently resulted from the attempt to separately analyse various 'dimensions' of inequality, a tradition deriving largely from Weber's distinction between economic classes and status groups. Since ethnic groups are treated by sociologists working within the Weberian tradition as a kind of status group, they are viewed as a mode of group formation which competes with the formation of classes as coherent social entities.
Ethnicity is viewed as a complicating factor precisely because it is often significant in various structures of inequality. Its importance in processes of labour market segmentation, which produces jobs characterised by widely differing wages, conditions of work and career paths, is supported by evidence of the concentration of certain ethnic groups in specific occupations. The thesis argues that these processes of segmentation affect class composition and the internal structure of classes through the introduction of new productive positions and the alteration of existing ones. Consequently, ethnicity is empirically significant in some processes forming the structure of class.
A suggested solution to this theoretical problem is the integration of subjective and objective aspects of class. The view that objective structures are created and maintained regardless of the consciousness and activity of participants is rejected. Rather, consciousness is viewed not only as the product of objective social location, but also as creating and changing objective structures. This allows for the incorporation of ethnicity into explanatory accounts, since ethnicity is referred to primarily with respect to cultural attributes. This includes both the attitudes, norms and values of ethnic group members, and assessments of ethnit groups by others.
The thesis investigates the ways in which ethnicity has been operative in historical processes whereby the labour force in Australia has been supplied, especially in the post-war years. In addition, the generation of new positions in the production process, and the way in which workers have been allocated to them, have also been processes in which ethnicity has been operative. These considerations allow the development of a proposed analytical framework which can be used to examine processes of class formation.
The way in which ethnic factors, interacting with various structural mechanisms, are operative in the crucially important stage of initial allocation of workers to positions, is illustrated by an examination of the labour market experience of Vietnamese migrants in Hobart. The study does not test the argument of the thesis, but rather is concerned to illustrate the theoretical position adopted. The limited evidence available in the study adds weight to the concern to include ethnicity in accounts of processes of class formation. Further research is required in order to more fully test, modify and extend this argument, and proposals for this are offered.

Item Type: Thesis (Research Master)
Keywords: Ethnicity, Labor supply
Copyright Information:

Copyright 1982 the author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s).

Additional Information:

Thesis (M.A.)--University of Tasmania, 1983. Bibliography: l. 139-149

Date Deposited: 03 Feb 2015 03:11
Last Modified: 26 Apr 2017 01:42
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