Weber differed only marginally
from Marx when he defined as a class a category of men who (1) "have
in common a specific causal component of their life chances in so
far as (2) this component is represented exclusively by economic
interests in the possession of goods and opportunities for income,
and (3) it is represented under the conditions of the commodity
or labor market." He was even fairly close to Marx's view,
though not necessarily to those of latter-day Marxists, when he
stated that class position does not necessarily lead to class-determined
economic or political action. He argued that communal class action
will emerge only if and when the "connections between the causes
and the consequences of the 'class situation' " become transparent;
Marx would have said when a class becomes conscious of its interests,
that is, of its relation, as a class, to other classes. Yet Weber's
theory of stratification differs from that of Marx in that he introduced
an additional structural category, that of "status group."
of men into such groups is based on their consumption patterns rather
than on their place in the market or in the process of production.
Weber thought Marx had overlooked the relevance of such categorization
because of his exclusive attention to the productive sphere. In
contrast to classes, which may or may not be communal groupings,
status groups are normally communities, which are held together
by notions of proper life-styles and by the social esteem and honor
accorded to them by others. Linked with this are expectations of
restrictions on social intercourse with those not belonging to the
circle and assumed social distance toward inferiors. In this typology
we again find Weber's sociological notion of a social category as
dependent on the definition that others give to social relationships.
A status group can exist only to the extent that others accord its
members prestige or degrading, which removes them from the rest
of social actors and establishes the necessary social distance between
"them" and "us."
there are fairly high correlations between standing in the class
and in the status order. Especially i capitalist society, the economically
ascendant class will, in the course of time, also acquire high status;
yet in principle, propertied and propertyless people may belong
to the same status group. At certain times, an economically weak
element, such as the East Elbian Junkers, may exercise considerable
influence and power because of its preeminent status. Generally,
as much pos-Weberian analysis of American politics has shown, political
behavior may at times be influenced by men who are fearful of losing
their status or who bridle at not having been accorded a status
they think is their due; such influence may be as powerful as class-determined
modes of political behavior.
In Weber's view
every society is divided into groupings and strata with distinctive
life-styles and views of the world, just as it is divided into distinctive
classes. While at times status as well as class groupings may conflict,
at others their members may accept fairly stable patterns of subordination
With this twofold
classification of social stratification, Weber lays the groundwork
for an understanding of pluralistic forms of social conflict in
modern society and helps to explain why only in rare cases are such
societies polarized into the opposing camps of the "haves"
and the "have-nots." He has done much to explain why Marx's
exclusively class-centered scheme failed to predict correctly the
shape of things to come in modern pluralistic societies.
In regard to
the analysis of power in society, Weber again introduces a pluralistic
notion. Although he agrees with Marx in crucial respects, he refines
and extends Marx's analytical scheme. For Marx, power is always
rooted, even in only in the "last analysis," in economic
relations. Those who own the means of production exercise political
power either directly or indirectly. Weber agreed that quite often,
especially in the modern capitalist world, economic power is the
predominant form. But he objects that "the emergence of economic
power may be the consequence of power existing on other grounds."
For example, men who are able to command large-scale bureaucratic
organizations may wield a great deal of economic power even though
they are only salaried employees.
by power: the chance of a man, or a number of men "to realize
their own will in communal action, even against the resistance of
others." He shows that the basis from which such power can
be exercised may vary considerably according to the social context,
that is, historical and structural circumstance. Hence, where the
source of power is located becomes for Weber an empirical question,
one that cannot be answered by what he considers Marx's dogmatic
emphasis on one specific source. Moreover, Weber argues, men do
not only strive for power to enrich themselves. "Power, including
economic power, may be valued 'for its own sake.' Very frequently
the striving for power is also conditioned by the social 'honor'