Social Classes and Exploitation in the USSR: Reflections from the Perspective of E.O. Wright’s Theory

Publication type Article
Status Published
Occupation: Lecturer
Affiliation: Department of Sociology, University of Granada
Address: Spain
Journal nameSotsiologicheskie issledovaniya
EditionIssue 3

This article offers a theoretical reflection of the nature of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). We refer specifically to those assets control or possession of which can help explain hierarchies within the social stratification system. For this purpose, we examine E.O. Wright’s concepts of social class and exploitation. This neo-Marxist sociologist has indicated that the dominant socioeconomic and political system of socialist societies like the USSR represented a specific mode of production. In this regard, the mechanism of economic exploitation was different from the capitalist mode of production. In a nationalised, centralised and planned economy, control over decisions that preserve the bureaucracy (concerning the organisation of production and distribution) helps to determine the share of social wealth. Thus in the USSR, the higher classes, comprising high-ranking bureaucrats and highly qualified specialists, possessed the economic power to decide the destiny of their socially generated excess and enjoyed a higher level of well-being, defined as the relationship between leisure and work. Had democratisation of the economic management occurred, including greater access among the unprivileged classes to organisational assets, the bureaucrats would have seen their capacity to appropriate social wealth cut significantly. Finally, we question specific means of recruitment to higher positions in the social system of stratification.

Keywordsneo-marxism, organisational assets, skill/credential assets, transitional economic formation, state socialism, “mediocracy”, “bureaucratic meritocracy”
Publication date25.03.2019
Number of characters29070
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