Dahrendorf, Ralph(1928-) German-born sociologist, now a member of the British House of Lords, who has spent much of his working life in the UK, including some time as the Director of the London School of Economics. He is best known for his influential work Class and Class Conflict in an Industrial Society (1959), in which he proposed a reworking of traditional conceptions of class based on ownership (or non-ownership) of the means of production, replacing these with a definition of class in terms of patterns of authority. Dahrendorf retains the concept of class conflict, although he notes that in most developed capitalist societies this has undergone a process of INSTITUTIONALIZATION (see also DECOMPOSITION OF CAPITAL, DECOMPOSITION OF LABOUR). He has also written a number of comparative works examining CITIZENSHIP and democracy in modern society, including Society and Democracy in Germany (1967) and The New Liberty (1975). He has rejected as Utopian the idea that conflicts of interest based on differences in POWER can ever be removed, but has argued that the existence of CITIZEN RIGHTS and extension of EQUALITY OF OPPORTUNITY has the potential to reduce and control them.
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000