• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Is class a useful concept in explaining social action? It has been argued that social classes are dying - how can this be?

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

Is class a useful concept in explaining social action? It has been argued that social classes are dying - how can this be? Herbert Blumer (1962) stated that "the organisation of human society is the framework inside of which social action takes place". In this essay I will look at sociological theories presented by Marx and Weber defining and explaining the concept of class and a brief evaluation of functionalism before considering the degree to which it can be used to explain the actions of individuals and groups within a society. I will then explain why there is now the belief that social classes are "dying", yet emphasise that class differences remain highly evident. Working with Engels, Marx (1962) asserts that the course of human history is greatly focussed around the struggle between classes. Examples range from the patrician and plebeian in biblical times to the lord and serf in 17th century feudal societies - this shows that throughout time, the oppressor and the oppressed have stood in constant opposition to each other. Although not ever precisely defining the 'class concept', for Marx class relationships are integral production relationships, i.e. the patterns of ownership and control. So for a capitalist society the two key classes are 'bourgeoisie' (the owners and controllers) and the 'proletariat' (the labour force), though he did recognise that actual society was composed of a multiplicity of classes. Crompton (1998) gives the example of him identifying numerous classes such as the industrial and petty bourgeoisie, financiers and 'lumpenproletariat' in his account of 'The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte' (1962). ...read more.

Middle

believes is the "best known and most widely used way until 2000" into categorising social classes. Here five classes are used based solely upon the job of the head of household's associated skill group, ranging from doctors and solicitors in Class I (Professional) down to road-sweepers and refuse collectors in Class V (Unskilled Manual). A number of problems with this model have been highlighted, such as it excludes the wealthy upper class living off stocks and shares and groups outside paid employment, and that it assumes the unemployed continue to enjoy the same status and lifestyle as when they had a job. However, it can still be considered as quite a useful model for highlighting differences in social action depending on the class of the individual: One could fairly assume that income and skills category are directly proportional - excluding anomalies such as unemployment, an individual with better skills can obtain a better paid job. For example those with a university degree such as teachers and managers (Class II - Intermediate) are likely to be earning more than those without in the class below (Class III - Skilled Non Manual / Manual), such as shop assistants and factory workers. Social action of an individual can be considered as quite directly related to wealth, since the degree of affluence influences lifestyle choices and attitudes. For example, whilst those at the bottom of the class hierarchy may, as Davis & Moore suggest, prioritise on trying to work themselves out of poverty (for example a family trying to show their child the importance of gaining 5 Grade C qualifications at GCSE), the more affluent who do not suffer such hardship may act to ensure their offspring receive the best possible education, for example paying for public school. ...read more.

Conclusion

Note that the key Marxist theory is based on industrial capitalism, and thus could be seen as somewhat outdated today. However, there is the important assertion made that the death of class does not mean the end of social division and conflict, with post-class societies possibly being even more crippling and destabilising than class societies, and certainly not necessarily meaning social harmony. So once again there is the problem of defining class, and like Weber these authors have recognised that social conflict is not solely a result of different classes. In conclusion, whilst Marx & Weber may have presented very interesting sociological theories regarding class, their significance may be somewhat diluted today since the focus upon industrial capitalism and production relations was arguably a more dominant concept in their time of writing. Whilst there does indeed appear to be 'blurring' between class boundaries, and often less significance of class contrasts, diverse behaviour and social action depending on class does remain evident - one cannot deny the massive contrasts in behaviour and social attitudes of the working and upper classes of 21st Century UK. As a final matter of interest, it may be useful to analyse the class structure and concepts of other societies, since many of the academic theories here appear to relate only to Britain or western Europe. For example, India's strict caste system remains in place, greatly influencing social action and restricting mobility (eg marriage between different castes is still widely disapproved), and class is salient in some African and Latin American societies which have not reached an advanced economic level. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Sociology section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE Sociology essays

  1. Karl Marx and Max Weber have different views upon social class in contemporary societies.

    Both propertied and propertyless people may be members of the same status group and make social demands on each other, if they share the same specific style of life. 'The way in which social honor is distributed in the community is called the status order.'(Holton, 1989)

  2. Comparisons and contrasts between the theories of Karl Marx and Max Weber on social ...

    Further, Marx observed, there was a struggle between classes over the proportion of wages to profits (Waters and Crook, 1993:176). Since they differ about whom has the right to the surplus value that is generated in capitalist production, there is an in-built class struggle between them.

  1. The Fundamental Differences Between Functionalism, Marxism and Social Action Theory.

    Marxists say that society is based on exploitation and that this in turn leads to conflicts of interest. Unlike functionalists Marxists do not believe that social order is reached through a value consensus, but a false ideology. Karl Marx is quoted as saying ideology is a distortion of reality, it

  2. SOCIAL INEQUALITIES- CASTE AND CLASS

    According to Jayaraman, such jobs as 'leather-working and barbering' are considered the lowest jobs (beside that of course of the Harijan's). Marriage in a caste system is probably the most severe. There are barriers in place where higher caste members cannot marry lower caste members.

  1. social action v social structure

    All these things help to maintain social order. Evaluation It could be argued that the consensus view is flawed because it does not take into account a persons free will. But it can also be seen that Society does have to work together to run smoothly, people need to co-operate and come to agreement on everything in life

  2. Are issues of Social Class still relevant in modern society?

    Despite increasing prosperity in the UK, statistics suggest substantial differences between the health and life expectancy of people in opposing socio-economic 'classes', specifically since the 1980s. In his report, Sir Donald Acheson identified certain groups where policies could be implemented to reduce the imbalance.

  1. What problems are associated with trying to measure social class?

    it is not in the interest of the bourgeoisie, also they are not given the same life chances as the bourgeoisie, for example the education that those in the top professions receive is argued to be better than those in the lower professions.

  2. Free essay

    Discuss the view that health inequalities can be explained by lifestyle choices made by ...

    biological differences with men (Kane 91), secondly that women are isolated in domestic work therefore more susceptible to depression (Brown and Harris 1978) and that thirdly women lead healthier lifestyles for example don't drink as much alcohol as men. Working class women also make less use of the health services

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work