Social Class As A Society Based On Social And Economic Status

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This essay will explore the notion of social class and whether it is still relevant within today’s society. The Oxford Dictionary defines social class as ‘a division of a society based on social and economic status’ and is measurable in terms of stratification and inequality. Stratification suggests people are ranked hierarchically according to their attributes such as income, wealth, power, age, gender and status, whereas, inequality explains the difference between people in terms of their abilities and rewards

The Functionalist, Libertarian and Egalitarian models all attempt to explain stratification. The Functionalist model argues that social inequality is necessary in modern society, as long as recruitment is based on merit, with
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Theoretical concepts on class include the ideas of Marx, Weber and Bourdieu. For Marx, “wage labourers, capitalist and landlords, form three great classes of modern society.” (Marsh, 2013, p158) Marx saw class as a way of understanding how society and history interact. A person’s class can affect them in ways they are not conscious of. It operates as a social force that influences, opportunities and governs relationships. Marx used this to explain the opposed interests between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. The bourgeoisie own the means of production, meaning they can protect what they have, whilst the proletariat sell their labour for little value, exercising much less power. (Marsh, 2013)

Hughes (1984) stated that, ‘Weber regarded power as the primary relationship between unequal groups in society’. Power can be divided into three spheres of activity – class, status and party. (Marsh, 2013, p160) Class situation is determined by the shared life chances that people enjoy as a result of the value of their skills and possessions in the market place. Status defines how a community judges someone’s social status according to cultural standards such as education, occupation, speech and dress. Party is when people organise themselves into political parties that represent their economic interests. (Marsh, 2013)

Bourdieu suggests that our place in the hierarchy is influenced by a range of resources at
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