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Different Collar, the Same Consciousness. Class Consciousness among Manual and Non-manual Workers in Chile

Sun, August 17, 10:30am to 12:10pm, TBA

Abstract

In sociology, the concept of class consciousness is central to understanding the mechanisms through which class inequality leads to political conflict in current advanced capitalist societies. Recently, the research on working class consciousness has been influenced by the debates on the “class status” of nonmanual or white-collar workers—whether they belong to the working or to the middle class and whether they have a more “middle-class” class consciousness than manual workers. As a result, the role that the manual-nonmanual distinction plays in explaining the variations in class consciousness is still a puzzle. In this paper I address this puzzle by analyzing the extent to which this manual-nonmanual distinction is relevant. Drawing upon 36 semi-structured interviews conducted in Santiago, Chile, I demonstrate that the class consciousness of nonmanual and manual workers is essentially the same. This suggests that in advanced capitalist societies the manual-nonmanual dichotomy is not useful for explaining variations in workers’ class consciousness. This also indicates that such a dichotomy should not be used, as some scholars do, as a criterion to draw the “objective” boundary—i.e. the boundary that describes people’s position in the relations of production—between the middle and the working class.

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