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Conceptual, theoretical and ethical problems in the vertical mosaic Heap II, James Louis

Abstract

The Vertical Mosaic is re-examined and an 'internal' critique of its multiple conceptual, theoretical and ethical problems is provided. Porter's value position in a 1961 essay is outlined and set up as a 'bench-mark' for evaluating the consistency of his 1965 value position. Value inconsistency is discovered in the form of a 'strategy of respectability,' consisting of five 'tactics.' This strategy is then drawn upon throughout the essay to explicate some of Porter's conceptual and theoretical errors. These errors involve his treatment of class, power and democracy. It is argued that Porter's important distinction between "real middle class" and "middle majority" violates his original position on class, and is inadequate for his stated purpose. Furthermore, the theoretical foundations underlying the structure of class are unexplicated. His failure to distinguish between power and authority raises logical and utilitarian problems. Thus the theoretical foundations underlying the structure of power are inadequate. In both the case of class and power he 'transcends' his original definition in the process of doing his analysis. The normative context of his study is found to be ambiguous, but appears to be the theory of democratic elitism. This constitutes a major value inconsistency because this theory rejects democracy as an end and treats it simply as a method. It is in opposition to thoroughgoing democracy, whose normative ends Porter supports. Its method, playing by the 'rules of the game', requires compromise and 'creates' brokerage politics, which Porter dislikes. It fears and does not allow the broadening of social participation, which Porter calls for. Finally, it furnishes a context for Porter's findings which rob them of their import. It is suggested that Porter should have treated democracy as a topic rather than as a resource. This would have allowed him to recognize the error in his rejection of liberal democracy, and would have allowed him to retain thoroughgoing democracy as a critical context with which to evaluate his findings. Furthermore, these findings would have been multiplied if he had simply used elitist democracy heuristically. Such findings and analyses, however, would have required that Porter not operate with a 'strategy of respectability.' The essay concludes with two points, both rooted in the everyday world, and both suggested as programmatic, 'external,' answers to problems in Political Sociology.

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