Beck, Individualization and the Death of Class: A Critique

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

135 Citations (Scopus)


Ulrich Beck has argued that the changing logic of distribution and, more importantly, the ‘individualization’ of social processes in reflexive modernity have killed off the concept of social class and rendered the analysis of its effects a flawed endeavour. The present paper takes issue with this perspective by exposing its key weaknesses, namely its ambivalence and contradiction over what exactly constitutes individualization and the extent to which it has really displaced class, its inconsistent and caricaturized description of what actually constitutes class, its erroneous and unsatisfactory depiction of class analysis, and its self-defeating reasoning on the motors of individualization. The intention is not to conservatively deny that social change is occurring nor to advocate any particular model of class, but only to illustrate the aporias of Beck’s position with the aim of vindicating the enterprise of class analysis.
Translated title of the contributionBeck, Individualization and the Death of Class: A Critique
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)349 - 366
Number of pages18
JournalBritish Journal of Sociology
Publication statusPublished - 2007

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