Social Relations in the 1980S

Social Relations in the 1980S

In the 1980s, society was complex and highly differentiated. Social scientists agreed that the traditional Marxist-Leninist description of the workers, peasants, and intellectuals all cooperating to build socialism did not accurately depict modern society. They actively sought new categories to account for the great diversity of life-styles and income sources but as of the late 1980s had not reached a consensus concerning modifications in traditional theories.

Most sociologists spoke of the existence of three major strata in society: white-collar workers engaged in mental labor; manual laborers; and peasants. The white-collar category comprised everyone not involved in physical labor--party and government leaders, intellectuals, professionals and teachers, collective farm managers, artists, business persons, traders, shop owners and specialists such as building contractors. This category constituted 30.3 percent of active earners in 1987, with 14.5 percent classified as professionals. The manual labor category encompassed 61.4 percent of the work force and included skilled, semiskilled, and unskilled blue-collar workers of all ranks and degrees of training and prosperity. The peasantry working on both cooperative and state farms made up 8.3 percent of earners. About 4.6 percent of the work force were also "smallscale producers" of various types.

A survey taken in 1981 revealed the surprisingly widespread nature of small-scale agricultural production among virtually all social categories and occupations; 62.7 percent of active earners lived in households that cultivated at least small gardens of fruit trees or vegetables. A smaller but still substantial number of active earners were involved in animal husbandry. Sociologists were uncertain about whether or not this phenomenon was a temporary phase in industrial development or a new category of agricultural worker.

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