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The Australian & New Zealand J. Sociology, 1972, 8 (Feb.), 18.

Subjective Class - A Note in Reply to Jones



JOHN J. RAY

I am happy to acknowledge the validity of the points made by Jones (1971) in his comment on my article on the measurement of social class. I would mention, moreover, that in addition to the suggestions made by Jones and myself, a third body of interesting suggestions with Australian relevance are made in a paper by Kondos [1].

I would like to stress, however, that not all the advantages of my new 'Subjective index' are at the conceptual level. It also turned out to have some empirical advantages -- in that it was the only index (either subjective or objective) that predicted both social and psychological variables efficiently. That the concept of class should on theory apply to both realms of discourse goes without saying. Obviously this should be reflected in the index of class we use. This feature then represents the primary advantage of the new index over a simple class self-assignment question. The index might also provide a facility for examining the sort of question favoured by Jones. One could, for instance, as an extra question ask respondents: 'Of the above schemas which do you think is closest to the way class is actually broken up in Australia?'. For this purpose there is nothing sacred about the actual schemas used. One could use the schemas most commonly elicited by Davies in lieu of the ones I have proposed. Using the Davies schemas, one might also perhaps hope to get a satisfactory subjective index analogous to mine -- but the predictive power of this could not of course be known a priori.

Having regard to Davies' results, Jones favours greater use of the label 'working class' in the schemas to be offered. I feel that he has missed the main point of my comment that this is an 'anti-stratification label'. I do not say that respondents will not include it in their hierarchical schemas if asked for details of those schemas. What I say is that its inclusion in an a priori list attracts more responses than alternative terms -- and these responses (choices of the label) are made for the wrong reasons as far as an investigator of (hierarchical) class self-perception is concerned. I believe, in other words, that the inclusion of the term detracts from the validity of a subjective class index.

REFERENCE

JONES, F. L. (1971) 'The questionnaire measurement of social class: A comment'. A.N.Z. Journal of Sociology 7 (October).

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[1] An as yet unpublished paper which is, however, available from its author -- Mr A. Kondos, School of Sociology, University of New South Wales. It is entitled: 'The application of the fixed choice self-rating method in the study of social class in Australia'.

POST-PUBLICATION ADDENDUM

This article is a reply to a comment on the following article:

Ray, J.J. (1971) The questionnaire measurement of social class. Australian & New Zealand J. Sociology 7(April), 58-64.






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