In recent years, the perception that citizens in Western countries like Denmark no longer see class differences in society – indeed that the concept of class has become irrelevant – has spread among researchers and the general public alike. On the basis of theories of class consciousness and the Danish National Election Study 2015, the article shows that this view is false. On the contrary, three out of four respondents in a Danish survey from 2014/15 see society as class divided and a considerable share espouses other elements of class consciousness. Furthermore – and in spite of profound societal changes in the intervening period – results from 2014/15 are, by and large, at the level of responses in a similar survey conducted in 1954.
The impact of social class in modern societies is still contested. Research in voter behavior has demonstrated a declining importance of class on voting, but sociological studies demonstrate that class is still important for lifestyle. One potential reason for this ambiguous role of social class is that people’s understanding of classes and class relations does not fit well with their understanding of modern party competition. Based on analyses of focus group discussions, this article explores how people relate their understanding of social classes in Danish society and their understanding of political parties. The analysis confirms that people still consider the Danish society as being divided into classes, but that they can only reluctantly and with difficulty place the political parties within a landscape of social classes.
Traditional class theories underestimate the ability of welfare institutions to foster support for social redistribution among the economic elite. Analyses show that the economic elite is more opposed to social redistribution than ordinary employees who have no authority in the social division of labor. However, the relationship between economic elite position and attitudes toward social redistribution is relatively weak. Nor is the economic elite instinctively opposed to the political views of the working class – or instinctively in favor of the views of the upper class. The economic elite is both aware of its own interests and supportive of underprivileged groups in society. Finally, the analyses show that personal income mediates the relationship between economic elite position and attitudes toward social redistribution. The empirical analyses are performed on a (postal) class survey fielded in 2015 (n = 1,032).
Working-class support for social democratic parties has declined in Denmark and Western Europe generally. What role have social democratic parties played in the class demobilization? While existing work has considered policy positions, this article focuses instead on the group-based appeals of the Social Democrats. Based on content analysis of six party programs between 1964 and 2015, I find that class appeals have largely been replaced by appeals targeting non-economic groups. Also, the appeals that do concern class-related groups increasingly target businesses at the expense of traditional constituencies like workers, tenants and pensioners. Results imply that party strategy matters for the decline of class politics but also suggest that scholars should adopt a group perspective in future work.
In the light of observations of the decline in class voting, some scholars have suggested that the class variable should be reconstructed in a way that makes post-industrial labor market trends more visible. A leading proponent of this view is Daniel Oesch. In this article we compare the development in class voting according to his class schema compared to a more traditional one, in the Swedish National Election Studies 1968-2014. The results show that the schemas give remarkably similar results, that Oesch’s schema is not markedly better at predicting voting for newer political parties, and that the development in the distribution of positions in the labor market does not make a big difference for the strength of class voting. We discuss the implications of these findings.
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