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United States--Politics and government; Social classes; Social stratification; Class consciousness


Numerous products of recent social science research have revealed the reemergence of what seems to be a traditional pattern in American history, the lack of class consciousness in the political behavior of most Americans (Banfield 1961, Coleman 1957, Rogoff 1951: 406- 420, Rogoff 1953: 347-357, Warner, et al. , 1949).1 While this lack of class consciousness by no means precludes the more subtle influences of socio-economic class on matters political, it does limit the usefulness of the accepted class divisions developed by sociologists and anthropologists in the 1930's and 1940's in understanding the patterns of community politics (Lynd 1937, Parsons 1953: 92-128, Warner 1949). American society is one in which the great majority of its members identify themselves or are identified with the middle class (Parsons 1953: 92-128, Rogoff 1951: 406-420, Riesman 1953, Warner, et al. 1949, Whyte 1953). Furthermore, those who are identified with the upper and lower classes generally play limited political roles, either by choice or because they are excluded from much of the framework of community political life (Baltzell 1957: 172-85, Corey 1945: 1-20, Hyman 1957: 426-442, Lynd 1937, Rogoff 1953: 347-357, Straetz 1958). Indeed the very breadth of the middle class - a consequence of the widespread popular identification with middle class status and the behavior patterns which accompany it - limits its potential internal homogeneity, further weakening the accepted categorization of socio-economic class as a tool for political analysis.

Some of the limitations of class analysis in political research at the community level have been recognized by a number of contemporary social theorists, who have substituted the "cosmopolitan" - "local" distinction as an analytical tool.

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