This article focuses on the role of class analysis in envisioning a better world, in both the past and the present. It critically reflects on class research conducted in the second half of the 20th century in Yugoslavia, and contemporary class research from selected countries of former Yugoslavia, in order to explore the place that class analysis as systemic critique occupied and occupies in a socialist and capitalist context. This approach is informed by Wright’s (2015) evaluation of different forms of class analysis through the game metaphor. According to Wright, whereas Marxist class analysis questions “what game to play,” Weberian class analysis engages with “the rules of the game” and Durkheimian class analysis examines “moves in the game.” Our historical case study of Yugoslav scholarship on class during state socialism illustrates that, despite its role in sanctifying the status quo, class analysis also drew on both Marxism and Weberian inspired life-chances research as tools for systemic critique. On the other hand, our review of post-Yugoslav class research suggests that, currently, class analysis as an instrument for the critique of capitalism is not prominent. Indeed, in contrast to the late Yugoslav period in which sociology engaged class analysis in order to question what game should be played, the post-socialist 1990s and 2000s brought a silencing of Marxist left critique, while sociologists transformed their research into what Wright (2015) would describe as struggles over the rule of the game: problematizing the variety of capitalism that emerged in post-socialism rather than capitalism itself.

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