class awareness

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A term—broadly synonymous with ‘class identification’—referring to the subjective definition and interpretation of social class in the public consciousness. Sociological investigations of class awareness therefore examine the class labels (if any) that are commonly used in popular discourse; the extent to which people personally identify with these labels; which factors determine identification with particular classes; and the implications of class identities for broader political orientations and social behaviour generally. The term has a much wider currency in the United States than in Britain or Europe, mainly because it carries less of the ideological baggage associated with the Marxist notion of class consciousness, although there are obvious overlaps between the two concepts and indeed in the relevant sociological literatures. For example, and rather confusedly, Reeve Vanneman and Lynn Weber Cannon (The American Perception of Class, 1987) argue that lack of an organized working-class movement in the United States does not mean that American workers lack class consciousness—by which the authors mean class images and identities that affect other perceptions of society (in other words class awareness). It is doubtful whether this minimal conception of class consciousness would be accepted by Marxists or other class analysts. A more typical (and probably the best) treatment of the American material is Mary R. Jackman and Robert W. Jackman's Class Awareness in the United States (1983). See also class imagery.

Subjects: Sociology.

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