Class and Politics in Contemporary Social Science: ''Marxism Lite'' and Its Blind Spot for Culture

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Dick Houtman argues that neither authoritarianism nor libertarianism can be explained by class or economic background, but rather by position in the cultural domain— what he calls cultural capital. Although he examines all of the statistics and arguments of the conventional approaches with care and concern, Houtman convincingly demonstrates that the conclusions drawn from earlier studies are untenable at a more general theoretical level. Despite differences among advocates of class explanations, their theories ...

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Overview

Dick Houtman argues that neither authoritarianism nor libertarianism can be explained by class or economic background, but rather by position in the cultural domain— what he calls cultural capital. Although he examines all of the statistics and arguments of the conventional approaches with care and concern, Houtman convincingly demonstrates that the conclusions drawn from earlier studies are untenable at a more general theoretical level. Despite differences among advocates of class explanations, their theories are based on largely identical research findings—in particular a strong negative relationship between education and authoritarianism. Unobstructed by the conclusions these authors felt called upon to draw from the findings themselves, Houtman configures them in a new way. The hypotheses derived from this new theory allow for a systematic, strict, and competitive testing of original theses without ignoring the value of and earlier research. After demonstrating that authoritarianism and libertarianism cannot be explained by class or economic background, Houtman examines the implications of this argument for today's death of class debate in political sociology. He holds it to be unfortunate that the relevance of class to politics is typically addressed by studying the relation between class and voting. This conceals a complex cross-pressure mechanism that causes this relationship to capture the net balance of class voting and its opposite, cultural voting, instead of class voting. He argues that references to a decline in class voting may be basically correct, but dogmatic reliance on the relation between class and voting to prove the point systematically underestimates levels of class voting and produces an exaggerated picture of the decline.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Why I would expect that serious scholars of theory and methodology will find tremendous satisfaction walking with Houtman through his pithy literature reviews, clearly worded hypotheses, summaries of data and findings, and cogent conclusions, social scientists in psychology, economics, sociology, political science, and political philosophy using any method to study class and culture, especially graduate students and above, will appreciate this outstanding volume.” —Sarah Susannah Willie, Contemporary Sociology "Dick Houtman has an eye for the critical gap in our grand theorizing, and like the classic Dutchman, has filled the gap. This book we must all read to find how better to fill the gaps in our own theorizing about culture, class, and politics." Terry Nichols Clark, University of Chicago
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Dick Houtman is professor of cultural sociology at the Centre for Rotterdam Cultural Sociology at Erasmus University. His most recent work is Things: Religion and the Question of Materiality.

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Table of Contents

Preface
1 "Marxism Lite": Modernity, Industrialism, and Culture 1
2 What Is Actually a "Class"? Martin Lipset and "Working-Class" Authoritarianism 24
3 What About Occupational Self-Direction? Melvin Kohn and "Working-Class" Authoritarianism 47
4 Is Postmaterialism Really Different from Libertarianism? And Can It Be Explained Materialistically? 66
5 Why Are There So Many Postmaterialists in Affluent Countries? An International Comparison 83
6 Who Votes for Whom? And Why Exactly? Class, Cultural Capital, and Voting Behavior 103
7 Has There Really Been a Decline in Class Voting? Class Voting and Cultural Voting in Britain, 1974-1997 121
8 Conclusion: "Marxism Lite" and Its Blind Spot for Culture 145
App.: Secondary Data Sources 172
References 173
Index 187
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