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Social class is no longer relevant in modern Britain. Discuss

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Introduction

´╗┐Social class is no longer relevant in modern Britain. Discuss Social stratification refers to the hierarchical arrangement of individuals into divisions of power and wealth within a society. Social class, which is sometimes called social differentiation, describes a group of people within a society who possess the same socioeconomic status. Since the industrialisation of Britain, stratification has been based on social class. Postmodernist sociologists such as Pakulski and Waters believe that social class is no longer relevant in modern Britain: ?It is simply, for us, an obvious truth that class can no longer give us purchase on the big social, political and cultural issues of the age?. (Pakulski & Waters, 1996, pp. vii, line32) They argue that in the late twentieth century, Britain has changed to a ?status-conventional? society, a move away from the traditional economic class society that has defined industrial Britain in the past. This type of ?status? society is based on cultural rather than economic differences and has four key features: Culturalism - stratification is based on lifestyle; Fragmentation - people have different statuses based on their membership of different groups, which can overlap; Autonomization ? people are independent in their values and behaviour and predictions can no longer be made based on their class background or other characteristics; Resignification ? peoples identities are fluid and they consistently change what they see as important. ...read more.

Middle

(Giddens, 2006) Those who have economic control also control politics which again protects their interests and keeps the workers in their place. Marx said there would be three changes in society ? class differences would become more concentrated, for example multi-national corporations would grow and the working class would become more impoverished; deskilling of the workforce i.e. improvements in technology will push jobs into unskilled work thus ensuring the growth of the working class, maintenance of low wages and high levels of unemployment; and economic crisis is inevitable due to the fact that capitalism is an erratic and unstable system. (Haralambos & Holborn, 2004) Marx believed that the proletariat have a false class consciousness i.e. a flawed view of their society and their position in it and they have been fooled into thinking that capitalism is fair. He predicted that the middle class would disappear and the two classes would polarise, widening the gap between them and will culminate in communism when the workers realise their position and start a revolution. Max Weber agrees with Marx up to a point. He acknowledges the importance of class in society but believes that class is related to labour market position and that status can be a source of privilege or disadvantages as well as a basis for the formation of social groups. Weber, like Marx saw the division of class between owners and non owners but could see significant differences in the market position of non owners. ...read more.

Conclusion

John Westergaard said ?consumer power, after all, is money power: quite simply, the rich and the comfortably off have much more of it than ordinary wage-earners, let alone the poor who are out of wage work?. (Haralambos & Holborn, 2004, p. 87 line 7) Beck has been criticised for exaggerating the shift from society in which risk stemmed from scarcity to one where risks affect all classes. Alan Scott argues that even in pre-industrial times the rich could not isolate themselves from all risks; they would have been affected by problems such as crop failure and disease. Scott also argues that in modern society money can give protection from risk, people will move away from polluted and seemingly dangerous areas if they can afford to do so. (Haralambos & Holborn, 2004) So in conclusion, social class is still very much prevalent in modern Britain. While other factors are important in gaining life chances, it cannot be argued that being born into a privileged position of high economic power will give an individual a better chance in life. Those with more money, live in better areas with better health care facilities, better educational institutions and better leisure facilities. These all equate to better life chances. Those with disabilities will come up against barriers to their life chances as will those from different ethnic backgrounds and whether they are men or women but class will always play a key part. ...read more.

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