Barbara Ehrenreich and Lewis Lapham asked themselves how anyone lives on the wages available to the unskilled. (Introduction: Getting Ready) Roughly four million women were about to taken off welfare reform programs to get jobs that paid $6 to $7 an hour; how will they survive? Barbara wanted to see how the 5 division of Dennis Gilbert and Joseph A. Kahl’s (1993) 6 part class structure handled everyday life without government assistance that she left her regular job and sat out on the journey. Although she has a PH.D in biology, she took the role of a sociologist and invested time, energy, and other resources to take the scientific approach of empirical substantiation. The rules that she set for herself were comparable to the real life struggles and decisions that her coworkers, the working class, faced on a daily basis. I believe the nomothetic question asked in the beginning gave way to ideographic explanations to how and why the working class do what they do and the means to do it. I also don’t think she realized many sociological concepts she encountered. In this paper I will explore some concepts that I saw that were prevalent in her undercover research. Weberian Sociology
The first concept that I immediately grasped was Max Weber’s theory of stratification of equality. Weber’s view of stratification differed from the one-dimensional class theory of Karl Marx. Weber theorized that there are three different factors that help shape class formation, class status, and party. All but the latter of the three were evident in the book. The first notion of Weber’s notion on class stated that people with common occupations, earning approximately similar incomes, constitute a class. (Marger p. 39) In each city that she worked in the living conditions and earnings were about the same, most of her coworkers had living arrangements that involved sharing housing with someone other than their spouse, if they had one. Another trait that was displayed from here coworkers in each city was the proximity of where they lived into relation to where they worked. Transportation plays a key role in life chances for people. If a person is mobile they may go for that higher paying job on the other side of town. Weber’s second theory of social stratification of inequality, status, was made evident while Barbara was working in Maine. While Barbara worked in Maine as a maid she noticed how convenience store clerks, who made $.65 less than she made an hour, look at her and her coworkers as if they were beneath them. Another example of this was when she stated that everywhere she went people looked at the uniform and instantly regarded her and her coworkers as lower class citizens. People saw there green and yellow uniforms like the white and black stripes of a convict and that their style of life isn’t as good as people in their social class. One particular instance when she bought a beer from the grocery store she could feel the cold stares that implied that the reason she had that maid job was because all her money was going to support her alcohol habit; even though Barbara has a PH.D and probably made more money than many of them all they saw was a lower class citizen. Social Mobility
Another sociological concept that prevalent of the working poor that was portrayed in the book was the theory of social mobility. It will be difficult for many of Barbara’s ex-coworkers to ever move into a different class because mobility rates in the U.S. have been on a decline over the past five decades. It is said in America that everyone can lace up their boots and pull themselves out of poverty but mobility is getting harder to accomplish. One factor of mobility is marriage; statistical data has said that women that never marry are 16% to 19% more likely to fall out of the middle class. Barbara worked with three females, Gail, Annette, and Marianne, who all fell into this statistic. Two of the three women lived with boyfriends but since...
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