Class versus Organizations in Society

In Chapter 13 of Organizations and Organizing, Scott and Davis propose different views on whether classes or organizations are the defining decision-making units in society. They say that this is an important distinction because it defines how social scientists tell history over time. So does the makeup of social classes create the rules of the game in society and also the distribution of wealth between individuals? Or is it the organizations that create the structure, which then leads to the way society functions?

Scott and Davis lay out Karl Marx’s argument from the Communist Manifesto, which is one of the most well known works of all time. Marx says “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles” (Scott and Davis, 361). He believes that there is an inherent struggle between the capitalists and the wage laborers, which results from the unequal distribution of wealth in society. Since some people own the means of production and others do not, there will be individuals who are able to exploit others into working long hours for low wages. Because of this, the working class will come to hate the capitalists since they are putting in all of the work and not reaping any of the benefits. As a result, income will become more and more unequally distributed and there will be growing tension between the two social classes.

Scott and Davis briefly touch on Max Weber’s belief that organizations are the most crucial structures in society. Weber argued that certain types of Protestantism, such as Calvinism, had a major influence on the development of capitalism, which differs widely from Marx’s views. However, they did not really talk about Weber’s theories and instead focused on another sociologist.

The authors introduce Ralf Dahrendorf, who argued that Marx’s theories were no longer relevant after the second industrial revolution because of the growth of industrial bureaucracies after this time. These bureaucracies were characterized by a separation of control and ownership, so Dahrendorf essentially believed that there was no longer class conflict between capitalists and workers. As he says, “A theory of class based on the division of society into owners and nonowners of means of production lose its analytical value as soon as legal ownership and factual control are separated” (Scott and Davis, 361).

Although this may be true, I believe that there is still an inherent class struggle in society and I tend to agree more with Marx than with Dahrendorf and Weber on this issue. I have been reading a book for one of my economics classes called The Working Class Majority by Michael Zweig (published in 2000), which discusses how the income distribution between the upper class and working class is growing faster than it ever has before in the United States. Zweig says that the wealthiest Americans have more power over the working class than ever because they have gained power in every aspect of society. They have the means of production and can set low wages for laborers and they have the political power to maintain the basic institutions and rules of the game that exist in our current form of capitalism. In addition, capitalism itself is maintained by the fact that there are always unemployed workers who are willing to work for low wages. Because of this, there is still a class struggle in society today, even if it is different in some ways than the one that existed in Marx’s time. Therefore, I believe that the social classes still have a greater influence on the structure of society than the organizations that make up our world. I think that the makeup of social classes and the unequal distribution of wealth and power has maintained capitalism over time and is continuing to do so today.

*Note this is my response for Question 5

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