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Olin Wright Class Counts Notes

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Erik Olin Wright - Class Counts Chapter One: Class Analysis
● Class analysis is based on the conviction that class is a pervasive social cause and thus that it is worth exploring its ramifications for many social phenomena
● Historical materialism claims that 'the overall trajectory of historical development can be explained by a properly constructed class analysis'
● Class structure is one aspect of class analysis. There is also class formation, class struggle and class consciousness
○ class structure is conceptually pivotal to understanding any other strand of class analysis, because it will identify the essential difference between a class and any other group, for example
● Parable of the schmoo etc
○ the preference oredering of workers corresponds to universal human interests i.e. preclass interests
○ the deprivations of the propertyless in a capitalist system are not an unfortunate byproduct of the pursuit of profit, they are a necessary condition for that pursuit
■ this is exploitation: exploiting classes have an interest in preventing the exploited from acquiring the means of subsistence even if this doesn't come through a redistribution of wealth
● Exploitation is defined by three principal criteria:
■ a) the material welfare of one group of people causally depends on the material deprivations of another
■ b) the causal relation in a) involves the asymmetrical exclusion of the exploited from access to certain productive resources e.g. property rights
■ c) the causal mechanism that translates exclusion b) into differential welfare a) involves the appropriation of the fruits of labour of the exploited by those who control the relevant productive resources
○ without the final condition we have nonexploitative economic oppression, in which the exploiters have no interest in the life/well-being of the exploited e.g. settlers/Native Americans
○ exploitation doesn't just define status, but also ongoing interactions
■ the dependency of exploiter on the exploited gives the exploited some power
● We can talk of exploitation in terms of surplus value, but this requires us to define 'the costs of producing and reproducing labour power' and this is difficult
○ if we set it as the empirical cost of living for a person, then an extremely extravagant lifestyle could be called the cost of reproducing labour power
○ if we call it basic subsistence at a culturally acceptable level, then it is a bit arbitrary
○ if we set up a counterfactual model of equilibrium wage rate in an ideally egalitarian society then we get there, but it is looooong
○ so we should generally talk in terms of 'the extraction and appropriation of effort'
● Marxism defines class divisions in terms of the link between property relations and exploitation
○ so slaves and slave masters are classes, because a particular property relation forms a basis for exploitation
○ in capitalism, exploitation is based on property rights in the means of production
■ this generates three classes:
● capitalists
● workers

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