In that period of the development of social psychology, scientists were gradually shifting from general propositions about the nature and the character of social inequality towards the empirical research that revealed the real picture of social life. The broad development of empirical research in this field is primarily related to the activities of American sociologists. A large number of studies applying different strategies were focused on class consciousness, i.e. on what people think about class and class division.
The first study held by the subjective method of analysis was conducted in the United States by Richard Centers, who studied class consciousness through the responses from a national random sample. At the subjective method of analysis, people were just asked about the class they assigned themselves to. Using the results of the poll organized by the magazine “Fortune”ť, Centers found out that 80% of Americans consider themselves middle class. In his study, Centers marks that during the survey the respondents were asked to choose among only three possible answers: “upper class”ť, “middle”ť and “lower”ť. Thus, he concludes that if a fourth option – the “working class”ť – was offered, then one half of the sample could easily be attributed to this class, but when the respondents were offered to assign themselves to the “lower”ť class, they started feeling uncomfortable. Overall, the results of such surveys are difficult to evaluate because the answers depend on the way of asking questions.buy essay
As a psychologist, Richard Centers realized that objective class identification should be less important than the subjective one. He stated that the individual’s status and role in regard to the means of production and exchange of goods and services evoke growth in him to a consciousness of membership in a certain social class that has common values, interests, and attitudes. When Centers offered to his respondents to determine their identification by belonging to working, lower, middle, and upper class, he discovered that most of them identified with the working class, the rest predominantly with the middle class, and only few with either the lower or upper class. Moreover, the differentiation of subjective identification with middle class versus working class was more foreseeable of political behaviors and attitudes than was the objective classification or the division into lower, middle, and upper classes.
Further, despite the prevailing Weber’s multiple approach (class struggle has not disappeared, but kind of dissolved in the mass of smaller conflicts), Centers was the representative of a new trend in the Western literature on stratification, in which prestige is considered a leading criterion embodying into a certain collective opinion on the highest/lowest position of individuals or groups. Richard Centers stated that social class is what people collectively believe it to be. The classes are psychological groups, subjective in nature to a large extent, depending on the class consciousness (i.e., on a feeling of group membership), and the boundaries of a class (as a psychological phenomenon) may or may not coincide with the logical boundaries of the objective or stratification sense. It is obvious, that in this case the class struggle is simply immoral.
In general, the researches conducted by Centers in the field of social stratification have had a significant influence on social class theory and research. Centers’ study named “The Psychology of Social Class”ť, which was published in 1949 in the form of a book and which over the past thirty years was reprinted in several languages, brought him a world-wide fame and reputation.