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The Globalisation of Positional Competition?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 November 2000

Phillip Brown
School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University, Glamorgan Building, King Edward VII Avenue, Cardiff, CF10 3WT, UK. E-mail:
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Positional competition for credentials and jobs has been a major focus of sociological inquiry. However, there has been little attempt to examine the impact of economic globalisation on competition for a livelihood. This is an important question for sociological analysis as centre-left Modernisers, including New Labour in Britain and the Democrats in the United States, assume that globalisation has transformed the nature of positional class conflict. They argue that it is now the absolute standards of educational achievement, rather than the relative standing of credential holders within local or national labour markets, which are of primary importance. Drawing on neo-Weberian theories of social closure, this article will argue that the Modernisers' description of the global labour market and its impact on positional class conflict is seriously flawed. It will also be argued that existing theories of social closure are inadequate and need to be developed in terms of what we call Positional Conflict Theory.

Research Article
© 2000 BSA Publications Ltd

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