Erik Olin Wright

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Erik Olin Wright
Erik Olin Wright giving a lecture at the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv (March 13, 2013)
Born (1947-02-09) February 9, 1947 (age 67)
Berkeley, California, U.S.
Nationality American
Fields Sociology
Institutions University of Wisconsin–Madison
Alma mater University of California, Berkeley
Known for Analytical Marxism, Class analysis
Influences Karl Marx
Max Weber
Göran Therborn

Erik Olin Wright (born 1947, in Berkeley, California) is an American analytical Marxist sociologist, specializing in social stratification, and in egalitarian alternative futures to capitalism. He was the 2012 President of the American Sociological Association.[1]


Erik Olin Wright, born on 9 February 1947 in Berkeley, California, received two BAs (from Harvard College in 1968, and from Balliol College, University of Oxford in 1970), and the PhD from University of California, Berkeley, in 1976. Since that time, he has been a professor of sociology at University of Wisconsin - Madison.[2]


Wright has been described as an "influential new left theorist."[3] His work is concerned mainly with the study of social classes, and in particular with the task of providing an update to and elaboration of the Marxist concept of class, in order to enable Marxist and non-Marxist researchers alike to use 'class' to explain and predict people's material interests, lived experiences, living conditions, incomes, organizational capacities and willingness to engage in collective action, political leanings, etc. In addition, he has attempted to develop class categories that would allow researchers to compare and contrast the class structures and dynamics of different advanced capitalist and 'post-capitalist' societies.

Wright has stressed the importance of

  1. Control over and exclusion from access to economic/productive resources,
  2. Location within production relations,
  3. Market capacity in exchange relations,
  4. Differential control over income derived from the use of productive resources and
  5. Differential control over labor effort in defining 'class', while at the same time trying to account for the situation of expert, skilled, manager and supervisory employees, taking inspiration from Weberian accounts of class and class analysis.

According to Wright, employees with sought-after and reward-inelastically supplied skills (due to natural scarcities or socially constructed and imposed restrictions on supply, such as licensing, barriers to entry into training programs, etc.) are in a 'privileged [surplus] appropriation location within exploitation relations' because, while they are not capitalists, they are able to obtain more privileges through their relation to the owner of the means of production than less skilled workers and harder to monitor and evaluate in terms of labor effort. The owner(s) of the means of production or their employer in general therefore has to pay them a 'scarcity' or 'skill/credential' rent (thus raising their compensation above the actual cost of producing and reproducing their labor-power) and tries to 'buy' their loyalty by giving them ownership stakes, endowing them with delegated authority over their fellow workers and/or allowing them to more or less be autonomous in determining the pace and direction of their work. Thus, experts, managers of experts, and executive managers tend to be closer to the interests of the 'bosses' than to other workers.

Erik Olin Wright's work includes Class Counts: Comparative Studies in Class Analysis (Cambridge, 1997), which uses data collected in various industrialized countries, including the United States, Canada, Norway and Sweden. He is a professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Selected books[edit]


  • Wright, Erik Olin. (1973).The Politics of Punishment: A Critical Analysis of Prisons in America. New York: Harper & Row.[4]
  • Wright, E.O. (1978). Class, Crisis, and the State. London: New Left Books.
  • Wright, E.O. (1979). Class Structure and Income Determination. New York: Academic Press.
  • Wright, E.O. (1985). Classes. London: Verso Books.
  • Wright, E.O. (1997). Class Counts: Comparative Studies in Class Analysis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.[5][6]
  • Wright, E. O. (2010) Envisioning Real Utopias, London: Verso, 2010.[7]

Collected works[edit]

  • Wright, Erik Olin, Janet C. Gornick, and Marcia Meyers. Gender Equality: Transforming Family Divisions of Labor. London: Verso, 2009. ISSN 9781844673261
  • Fung, Archon, Erik Olin Wright, and Rebecca Abers, et al. . Deepening Democracy: Institutional Innovations in Empowered Participatory Governance. The real utopias project, 4. London: Verso, 2003. ISBN 978-1-85984-466-3 This is part of the Real Utopias Project
  • Wright, Erik Olin. Approaches to Class Analysis. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005. ISBN 978-0-521-60381-2 [8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "American Sociological Association". Retrieved 15 June 2012. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ Meiksins, Peter F. "A Critique of Wright's Theory of Contradictory Class Locations". In Wright, Erik Olin. The Debate on Classes. New York: Verso Books. pp. 173–183. ISBN 978-1-85984-280-5. 
  4. ^ WorldCat
  5. ^ WorldCat
  6. ^ WorldCat
  7. ^ WorldCat
  8. ^ WorldCat

External links[edit]