A structural theory of the relationship between class and status group formation is presented. The approach postulates, first, that differences in the solidarity of any objectively defined group are independently determined within by the extent of stratification among these groups and interaction within them. These expectations are confirmed by an analysis of variation in the solidarity of 17 American ethnic groups in 1970. Second, the relative importance of class as against status group divisions in societies as a whole is held to depend upon the degree of hierarchy and segmentation of their respective cultural divisions of labor. Supportive evidence is found in the examination of differences in the strength of class voting among five Australian states in 1964.
This article contends that class politics has receded in advanced capitalist societies during the last century, while cultural politics has increased, and it focuses on social and political institutions, rather than on occupational structure, to explain the shift. Participation in solidary groups has consequences for the social bases of politics, and the political salience of such groups is affected by social institutions that are independent of occupational structure. The first such institution is direct rule. Whereas indirect rule tends to promote class politics, direct rule favors cultural politics. Rapid expansion of direct rule since the 1960s has muted class politics and increased cultural politics. This relationship is not deterministic, however; other institutions can mitigate the effects of direct rule on the social bases of politics.
NORMS OCCUPY A CRUCIAL PLACE IN THEORIES OF SOCIAL ORDER. IN THIS ARTICLE, I discuss some of the contributions and limits of norms with respect to the evolution of social order. The problem of social order—that is, the attainment of cooperation among large numbers of individuals—is fundamental to disciplines ranging from evolutionary biology to economics, psychology, political science, sociology, and anthropology. No one can adequately represent the various approaches to this problem that are taken in all these disciplines. In what follows, I sketch out and assess what I consider to be the main explanations currently at play
Essays on Theory, Collective Action and Social Order
Michael Hechter and Satoshi Kanazawa
Although rational choice theory has made considerable advances in other social sciences, its progress in sociology has been limited. Some sociologists’ reservations about rational choice arise from a misunderstanding of the theory. The first part of this essay therefore introduces rational choice as a general theoretical perspective, or family of theories, which explains social outcomes by constructing models of individual action and social context. “Thin” models of individual action are mute about actors’ motivations, while “thick” models specify them ex ante. Other sociologists’ reservations, however, stem from doubts about the empirical adequacy of rational choice explanations. To this end, the bulk of the essay reviews a sample of recent studies that provide empirical support for particular rational choice explanations in a broad spectrum of substantive areas in sociology. Particular attention is paid to studies on the family, gender, and religion, for these subareas often are considered least amenable to understanding in terms of rational choice logic.
David Siroky and Michael Hechter
Why are some countries prone to ethno-nationalist conflict, whereas others are plagued by class conflict? This is a question that has seldom been raised and rarely been examined empirically. This paper presents a social-structural theory to account for the variable incidence of these two forms of political instability. These two types of conflict result from distinct principles of group solidarity – ethnicity and class – and since each individual is simultaneously a member of an ethnic group (or many such groups) and a particular class, these two principles vary in the degree to which they are mutually exclusive or cross-cutting. The degree of economic stratification between groups and economic segmentation within them shapes the relative salience of each principle of group solidarity in any society and is associated with a characteristic form of political mobilization. In places where between-group inequalities are high, and within-group inequalities low, ethnicity should be the dominant principle of group solidarity and serve as the primary basis of group conflict. By contrast, in countries where between-group inequalities are low, and within-group inequalities high, class is more likely to serve as the dominant principle of group solidarity, and conflicts along class lines are more likely. We test these conjectures with data in over 100 countries on cross-cutting cleavages, ethnic war, and class conflict. The results are supportive of the theory, and provide evidence that how groups are stratified and segmented in societies shapes the type of civil war.
Michael Hechter and William Brustein
The rise of the modern territorial state in early modern western Europe was a spatially skewed process. An endogenous model of the uneven pattern of 16th-century state information is presented. It holds that the geographical distribution of the first modern state structures was largely determined by preexisting regional differences of social and economic organization, differences emanating from the 12th century if not earlier. The model specifies that three distinct regional modes of production existed in 12th century western Europe. These postulated forms of social organization are designated as the sedentary pastoral, petty commodity, and feudal modes of production.
Michael Hechter and Saroshi Kanazawa
This paper seeks to explain why Japan has attained a higher level of social order than comparably developed western national societies. To do so, it distinguishes the attainment of local order in social groups from the global order in national societies. Recent models of spontaneous, self-organizing order are insufficient to account for global order. In contrast to the more popular normative explanation of order in Japan, which holds that a consensus on fundamental values derived from Confucian roots is an essential cause, this paper proposes a solidaristic theory built on rational choice premises.