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Are issues of Social Class still relevant in modern society?

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Introduction

Are issues of Social Class still relevant in modern society? Explore the issues involved, with reference to the original ideas of Karl Marx and more recent concepts such as the notions of a 'middle class' and an 'underclass'. According to the writings of Karl Marx in the 1860s and 1870s, 'class' conflict, rooted in the economic realities of differential relations to the means of production, flowed into every aspect of social life, including work, education, politics, family and religion. Marx considered that all societies, apart from the most simple, were made up of two major social 'classes' - the bourgeoisie; being the most powerful 'class', owning the 'means of production' (land, factories etc.) and the proletariat; the least powerful 'class', being forced to sell their labour in order to make a living. In a capitalist society, the capitalist 'class' or bourgeoisie, is the ruling 'class', owning more property and wealth, therefore enabling them to defend and retain what they hold; and the working 'class' or proletariat, which Marx considered as the subordinate 'class', exercising much less power and control in every aspect. Marx considered that each 'class' pursued their own interests, and that throughout history, the two major 'classes' would be fundamentally opposed. 'The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of 'class' struggles....The modern bourgeois society, that has sprouted from the ruins of feudal society has not done away with 'class' antagonisms. ...read more.

Middle

More funding has been requested for schools in 'deprived' areas, following a much publicised report by Sir Donald Acheson in 1998. The report, commissioned by Health Secretary, Frank Dobson,identified that children from disadvantaged backgrounds do not in general, achieve as much as other children, and are more likely to suffer long bouts of unemployment or settle for badly paid jobs. In May 2000, the much publicised case of Tyneside schoolgirl Laura Spence, who was refused entrance to study medicine by Oxford University, bought to light statistics that over 85% of those who go to the 'top' British universities come from families in the top three income groups. This suggests that socio-economic background, not potential, still plays an important part in influencing people's life chances. Although Oxford dons fiercely deny the allegations, Government ministers are currently considering 'equality themes' and are announcing various initiatives aimed at opening up the UK's top universities to students from less privileged backgrounds. The Leader of the House of Lords, Baroness Jay, defended the governments approach to the Laura Spence affair, stating; " ...a very important peculiarity of Oxford University, and indeed Cambridge University, which is that they still only take about half of their entrants from schools which are in the state system, when as we all know over 90% of kids in this country go to state schools". A three-year 'Aimhigher' programme is intended to provide invaluable information and practical support to young people from families with no tradition of going to university. ...read more.

Conclusion

One could argue this 'observatory' initiative is nothing more than a cleverly co-ordinated 'glossing over' technique, publicly launched by the government as a 'playing for time' exercise in the absence of any genuine or pertinent plan of action to tackle and cut health inequalities. To be, (or to appear to be) 'above board' the 'observatories' findings will be published on a dedicated website - www.pho.org.uk. Unfortunately and ironically, members of the 'underclass' to whom this information could be of great value, may not have access to this information, as the afore mentioned government initiative, aimed at providing computers to the 'less well off', has not got underway - at the time of writing. In conclusion therefore, social 'class' does appear to remain one of the causes of social divisions in contemporary Britain. The evidence, with regard to health, housing and education, suggests that social ranking predominantly organised on the basis of breeding, wealth and ownership, can equate to vast differences in citizenship entitlements. Researchers in the field of 'social mobility' have concluded that the inequalities of opportunity have not decreased since the Second World War however; other divisions such as gender, race and ethnicity are equally important. Policies intended to eradicate social inequalities have often fallen short of their overall objectives and worked in the interests of the 'higher classes'. As the lower 'classes' struggle to overcome barriers that deny them access to higher income opportunities, the 'qualification' levels are raised and the opportunities are closed off. The development of effective intervention prevention strategies, to eradicate these 'differences will, undoubtedly, require innovative approaches. ...read more.

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