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About this book

Ranging from some of the most advanced economies in the world to others with only modest national income, and from well established democracies to countries with lengthy histories as dictatorships, Europe presents the social scientist with a laboratory of different social forms. Colin Crouch here draws on 40 years experience as a researcher on European societies to explore this diversity across such key areas of life as patterns of birth and death, family, gender, migration, religion, work, economy and inequality.
This accessible book is written with students on courses in sociology and political science, and also general readers, in mind. However, it also marks an original contribution to the study of European societies by presenting a new approach to study of social class in post-industrial societies, and by bringing together knowledge of all parts of Europe, including those in the east.

Table of Contents

1. Is there a European society?

Abstract
Many books present the social structures of individual states or more generally those with advanced economies. Far fewer define social structures for world regions, and the exercise might be questioned. That there should be something both coherent and distinctive about an individual country is usually taken for granted, which is why we are not surprised to see studies of the society, politics or economics of particular states. It is usually assumed that the actions of states – government and law – produce certain social characteristics. Taken for granted though it may be, that is in fact quite a strong assumption, as it means accepting that government and law are important in shaping societies. Do states play a part in determining how many children are in the typical family, or the ages at which people typically die? In the next chapter we shall discover that they certainly do, but it is important to recognize that the assumption might at some points be questioned. The nature of that assumption becomes clearer if we ask whether we would expect to find books about the social structure of a geographical entity below the level of the state. There is indeed a more than 1000-page-long sociology of Catalonia, in the Catalan language, La societat catalana (Giner, 1998). Catalonia is a very distinctive part of Spain with a high level of political autonomy, and a government able to make its own laws on many social and economic issues within the framework of overall Spanish law. The idea that a political variable is important therefore remains. Similarly, a British person would probably be less surprised to see a study of the social structure of Scotland than one of Yorkshire.
Colin Crouch

2. The people of Europe

Abstract
The states of Europe are of very uneven size, with populations ranging from a little over 330,000 (Iceland) to 81,000,000 (Germany). A summary of their population sizes for the years 1990, 2000 and 2015 can be found in the Statistical Appendix (Table A.1, column A). The majority of them are no bigger than some regions of the six largest (Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Spain, Poland). Even the largest outside that group, the Netherlands, has a smaller population (16,900,000) than the largest region (or Land) of Germany, Nordrhein-Westfalen (17,500,000). For much of the time we take for granted that these different countries constitute separate entities that we can compare with each other. For many students of politics this is obvious, because national governments and parliaments are their primary units of study. For all social scientists there is also the fact that many of the statistics we use are produced at the level of states: indeed the very word ‘statistics’ derives from ‘state’, as the first uses of calculations of demographic and economic data were those collected for and by governments. For most of this book we shall also follow this practice. But, as discussed at the start of the previous chapter, for sociologists the question must always arise whether the state really is the most appropriate level for exploring data about social behaviour.
Colin Crouch

3. Identities: religion and ethnicity

Abstract
Religion and migration were discussed in the previous chapter because they are seemingly helpful in accounting for differences in basic demographic facts. But that is not the only part that they play in the structure of society. Religion and, for immigrants, country of origin are powerful sources of identity, enabling people to answer the question ‘Who am I?’ in ways that might place them together with some people around them but also perhaps distinguish them from others. It is not possible to study all potential identities of this kind here, even if they might be very important. For example, most people have some idea of the cultural styles with which they identify, and this will affect their taste in clothes, music and other aspects of consumption and culture. For many, participation in a sport or cultural activity, or support for a particular sports team, provides an important sense of who they are. For a smaller number, association with a political party or participation in a voluntary activity provides key answers to this basic question. Personal though they are, such identities can be significant, in giving us strong loyalties, helping us to place ourselves within the general mass of humanity and determining the kinds of goods we buy and events we attend. In societies where religion is declining in importance – which, as we shall see, is the case in most of Europe – identities of these kinds play an increasingly important part.
Colin Crouch

Chapter 4. Europeans at work

Abstract
Human work takes a bewildering variety of forms – even if, as here, we concentrate on paid employment only. Two main ways have been developed by social scientists of organizing this variety to enable us to make sense of it. First is to look at different kinds of products or outcomes of work; second is to examine different kinds of work tasks themselves. In this chapter we shall make use of both approaches in order to draw some conclusions about the character of work in contemporary Europe, searching, as throughout this book, for any distinctive characteristics of European societies among advanced societies in general, and for groupings within Europe. Unfortunately the former task is more difficult to achieve in this chapter than in some others, as most other advanced economies have not yet joined European ones in using a shared international classification system devised by the UN and used by the ILO.
Colin Crouch

Chapter 5. From occupations to classes

Abstract
The different kinds of work that people do have implications for their lives outside the workplace. Work places people in relations to authority that can affect whether they feel among the world’s decision-makers (at various levels) or among those who are usually on the receiving end of orders. The kinds of job that we do often reflect the education that we have had, and this will also have shaped our general cultural environment: the kinds of books we read, the music we listen to and the television programmes, films and plays we watch. This will also have been shaped by our parental homes, and this will in turn have been a major determinant of our education. The workplace is often also an important source of friends, partners and associates, where people meet others similar to themselves, reinforcing all these characteristics. The kinds of work we do therefore strongly shape the kinds of person we become.
Colin Crouch

Chapter 6. Delineating the class structures of contemporary Europe

Abstract
In the last chapter we identified a strong link between income inequality and the occupational groups to which people belong, which we presented as being a structure of social classes. But what does this really mean for the organization of social life? Sociologists mainly see class as an aspect of social stratification, a term which implies a vertical structure by analogy with the geological idea of strata of different types of rock, deposited in vertical layers over long periods of time. This implies inequality – some are on top, others at the bottom – but the relationship between classes and inequality is complex for two reasons that have long been recognized. First, inequality of income places persons in a long, continuous spectrum. In modern societies with complex labour markets and masses of different kinds of occupation there will very rarely be sharp breaks in that continuum. The idea of classes, on the other hand, assumes the existence of discrete groups separate from one another. Therefore income inequality alone cannot determine class position: only if, along with other factors, it forms groups having distinct ways of life. There was evidence in the last chapter that the main occupational categories can form such groups, because of the link between occupation, education, culture, informal association and other components of lifestyle. Second, although classes are usually seen as ranked hierarchically, it is always possible for individuals in a group that overall is ranked above another one to have incomes and standards of living lower than many members of that second group.
Colin Crouch

Chapter 7. The wider implications of class

Abstract
In the previous chapter we treated class primarily in terms of the power that classes are able to wield, differentiating between on the one hand the conscious and deliberate exercise of a class’s resources and on the other the fact that merely by operating within one’s labour market location one enjoys a certain mix of advantages and disadvantages. Members of a class, it was argued, did not necessarily know precisely what they were doing when they allied themselves with organizational forms of expressing class interests, only that they lent these organizations elements of their strength, perhaps just a regular financial contribution. This discussion, however, begged the question of the extent to which people act, consciously or not, in accordance with what we might expect from them as members of a particular class and how a class identity relates to other identities they hold. In other words, how much does class matter to everyday life?
Colin Crouch

Chapter 8. How many Europes?

Abstract
Each of the preceding chapters has made us aware of the internal diversity of Europe and we have often used a shorthand of sociogeographical groups of countries in order to go beyond a discussion of individual cases. The groupings we have used have been based on the customary usages of the existing literature, but we have now collected enough data on different issues to reconsider those and assess their adequacy for identifying sub-sets of countries within Europe. Before tackling this, we should dispose of the further question whether there are any similarities that unite all or most of the countries of Europe against their principal external comparators: Japan, Russia, the United States and, as at least partly extra-European, Turkey.
Colin Crouch
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