My Case Study
Part 3: Research
Recent studies suggest that Weber’s theory about class, status, and party is one of the most accurate theories found regarding social class.


Weber's Theory of Social Class
Class, Status & Party
Marx saw class divisions as the most important source of social conflict. Weber's analysis of class is similar to Marx's, but he discusses class in the context of social stratification more generally. Class is one dimension of the social structure. Social status, or "social honor," is another. Both are significant contributors of social difference.
Weber's treatment of class and status indicates the manner in which the material basis of society is related to the ideological. Social conflict can result from one or the other, or both. Social action is motivated by both, though in some cases more one than the other. By bringing in status, Weber provides a more flexible view of the details of social differences, and their implications for the lived experience of social actors.
In order to fully understand Weber's perspective on stratification, we need to be familiar with a few general concepts: (i) power; (ii) domination; and, (iii) communal and societal action.
I. Power, Domination, Communal & Societal Action
A. Power
Weber defines power as the ability of a actor (or actors) to realize his or her will in a social action, even against the will of other actors. Power relates to the ability to command resources in a particular domain. Economic power, then, is the ability to control material resources: to direct production, to monopolize accumulation, to dictate consumption.
Societal power includes economic power, social power, legal or political power, and so forth. Although the control of these domains of resources usually go together, they represent different mechanisms of power, and are conceptually distinct.


B. Domination
Domination is the exercise of authority. Possession of power in a sphere results in dominance. Weber articulated three ideal types of domination: charisma, tradition and rational-legal.
Charismatic domination rests on the character of the leader. Through inspiration, coercion, communication and leadership, a particular individual may succeed in occupying a central role in the planning and co-ordination of social action. Charisma, Weber believed, emerges in times of social crisis. People lose confidence in existing forms of authority, and the charismatic leader takes advantage of the crisis. Because it is a personalized form of authority, it tends to be unstable. It does not normally survive the death of the original leader, and it often abandons the leader while he or she is alive. For charismatic authority to be sustained, it must be routinized.
Traditional authority is based on the belief in the legitimacy of well-established forms of power. Tradition implies an inherent, natural, or metaphysical quality in the state of affairs that makes it resistant to challenges by reason. Tradition often functions in a society with rigid forms of social hierarchy, because of the role of social inheritance and custom.
Traditional authority is based on loyalty to the leadership. Power is exercised by commands issued from the leader or leadership group. Officials are obedient to that person or group, and the lines of authority are often unstated and vague. Traditional authority tends not to distinguish between public and private affairs. The task specialization, in terms of the exercise of power, is minimal.

Rational-legal authority is based on a set of rules, and the belief in the legitimacy of the process of rule creation and enforcement. This form of domination is routinized through bureaucracy. It tends to remain independent of particular individuals, because authority resides in the office, or the organizational position of the role.
In the bureaucracy, rational-legal power is exercised on the basis of knowledge and experience, not on personality or custom. Authority functions by means of obedience to the rules rather than persons. Bureaucracy tends to separate the personal and public spheres. Task specialization is extensive within the bureaucracy.

C. Communal & Societal Action
A communal action is oriented on the basis of a shared belief of affiliation. In other words, actors believe that they somehow belong together in some way. Their action stems from, and is co-ordinated by this sentiment. In contrast, societal action is oriented to a rational adjustment of interests. The motivation is not a sense of shared purpose, but rather, a recognition of shared interests.
II. Class
Weber identified three aspects of class: (i) a specific causal component of actors life chances (ii)