Variation in structuralist and individualist explanations among classes in Hong Kong

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-118
Journal / PublicationSociological Spectrum
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1999


An essential test for the significance of class examines variation in people's explanation for social reality. This explanation usually comprises two independent dimensions, structuralist explanation and individualist explanation. Whereas structuralist explanation emphasizes causal factors in society and social structure, individualist explanation concerns causal factors in the individual. Class theory predicts that members of the working class are more favorable to the structuralist explanation and less favorable to the individualist explanation than are members of middle and employing classes. Furthermore, it primarily proposes that the differential explanation results from one's experience from work conditions, for instance, work alienation. This study tests these hypotheses explicitly with data collected from 276 married couples from Hong Kong. Results of structural equation modeling are in favor of hypotheses concerning effects of class and their mediation through work alienation. These effects appear to be more consistent than those of competing predictors including income, home ownership, education, age, gender, and religion. These findings illustrate the plausibility of the learning-generalization model in interpreting class effects.