American social scientists and the domestication of “class” 1929–1955

John Gilkeson Jr

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8 Scopus citations


This essay examines social scientists' newfound interest in the American class system and their changing conceptions of “class” in the years from 1929 until 1955. Specifically, it compares Robert and Helen Lynd's views with those of W. Lloyd Warner. Emphasis shifted in class analysis from occupation and income to social acceptance and cultural lifestyle, and moral outrage over the inequities enshrined in the American class system gave way to a functionalist explanation that class differences were the inevitable by‐products of a complex division of labor. Once the class system was held to integrate rather than to divide Americans, classes came to be seen as rungs on a ladder on which Americans were constantly moving up and down. Divisive connotations were thus played down in this peculiarly American conception of class, and the discovery of class differences was squared with the venerable belief in American classlessness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)331-346
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)


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