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In this essay, I would try to critically evaluate Weber's contention that class, status and party are distinct entities and cannot be resolved under the single concept of class.

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Introduction

Unlike Karl Marx's view that the society could be simply stratified into different classes, Max Weber argued that there should be three main dimensions in social stratification: class, status and party. In this essay, I would try to critically evaluate Weber's contention that class, status and party are distinct entities and cannot be resolved under the single concept of class. Though Weber agreed with Marx that in capitalist society, the ownership and non-ownership of the means of production is a very important factor to determine different classes, he considered the market situation as an important one as well and defined a class as a group of individuals who share a similar position in a market economy, and by virtue of that fact receive similar rewards. (Haralambos, 2000, p36) Weber classified the capitalist society generally into four classes: the propertied upper class, the propertyless intelligentsias (white-collar workers), the petty bourgeoisie and the manual working class. The members of the top class always possess property through birth, inheritance or education, and the propertyless intelligentsias are employed by the top class to run their businesses or high-ranking state employees such as university teachers. Petty bourgeoisie are small businessmen and the manual working class are those who maintain their living by selling their labour. Weber differentiated the situations of propertyless classes mainly according to the skills and services people could offer. ...read more.

Middle

They share similar life style and make collective action for their share interests or objectives, for example, preventing outsiders from interacting with them, which was called "social closure" by Weber. An extreme example is the caste system in India. No one is allowed to marry a person from another status group by the law, so no one could join into another group. Similarly, in South Africa before 1992, there was an apartheid system that kept people from different race apart. Another typical example is that in modern Britain, some specific occupations always only accept people educated in public school and only the children from high status family could go to public schools. This is called elite self-recruitment. Property, which is the key element of class, will be the qualification of status in the long run, so status and class are closely linked, but they differ at the same time. A class could be divided into a few different status groups sometimes. Margaret Stacey distinguished the manual working class in 1950s into three status groups: the respectable working class, the ordinary working class and the rough working class. Though the rough working class always has the similar income with the ordinary working class, they belong to different status groups. So economic factor does not determine status solely. On the other hand, sometimes the members of a status group could come from different classes. ...read more.

Conclusion

This is a much more complex theory that is much closer to the reality nowadays, but to some extent, it could not understand the crucial importance of the ownership of the means of production so that the significance of class as a way of analyzing social inequality is reduced. Also, as there are so many different groups in the society due to Weber, and the groups can fragment further, so it is difficult to differentiate between them. But, on the other hand, many people choose to use it because sometimes distinctions simply in the ownership of property could not analyses the problems well. Moreover, Marxists cannot accept two views of Weber's that status and party could equal value to class and social divisions could be based on race or gender that belong to status rather than to class differences. They think that Weber ignored the existence of oppression experienced by some social groups. Weber also argued that the working class is consisted of various groups so that there is no unified class consciousness and there is social mobility existing in working class which is very difficult to occur. At last, a serious failure made by Weber is that when he explained the social stratification, he seldom considered of the class position of women and members of ethnic minorities in terms of conflict within society. (Griffiths, 2000, p22) As my evaluation, Weber made a great leap in the studies of social stratification after Marx, but his theory is still not completely right and good enough due to the concrete social situation he lived. ...read more.

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