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Stratification and Working Class Decline

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Introduction

Stratification and Working Class Decline A large amount of the sociological debate on social class has focused on whether the working class is in decline or more recently if they are perhaps becoming middle class. Modern politicians often suggest that we are living in a "classless society", Tony Blair in 2000 stated that the "class struggle has ended." Karl Marx (1818-83) however believed that there are two classes in a capitalist society, the bourgeoisie, who owns the means of production and the workers, who are exploited because they could only survive by selling their labour power to the bourgeoisie. Marx's immiseration thesis predicted that class divisions would become more polarised as intermediate classes merged with either the bourgeoisie or sink into the working class. Max Weber (1864-1920) distinguished class groupings into four categories, these being the propertied class, the property less white-collar workers, the petty bourgeoisie and the manual working class. Weber predictions in sharp contrast to Marx were that the changes in industry would lead to a diversification amongst the classes which would in turn cause the middle class to expand rather than polarise into the working class. ...read more.

Middle

This was the theory of proletarianisation. (The middle classes were converging with the working class.) Crompton and Jones (1984) (Sociology review November 1995) put the point forward the majority of the de-skilled work was carried out by women. Gallie (1994) argue that because women are frequently found in part time jobs this will further decrease the quality of women's jobs in terms of skill. Kirk McMann (The making of a British underclass, 1992) argued that this situation was creating an "underclass." A study conducted by Routh (1980) found that manual workers declined from 79% of those in employment in 1911 to just under half in 1971. This decline can be seen to be connected to the advanced technology that has revolutionised the workplace. More recent evidence by Benyon and economist Keith Cowling (1998) argue that this decline does not necessarily mean the end of the working class. Looking at the service sector Cowling claims for example McDonalds or taxiing are another source of manufacturing for a "new working class." ...read more.

Conclusion

As mentioned most politicians would like us to believe that we live in a classless society. Tony Blair believes that the majority of British people are middle class. A recent ICM opinion poll (Guardian 12/99) revealed that British people now see themselves as middle class, with the people describing themselves as working class down from 54% to 41%. Serge Mallet (1963) said that the working class has become too difficult to define and it seems that forty years later the same sentiment may still apply. As to the question on whether the working class is in decline, the evidence would seem to point at yes it is. Whether the working class is becoming middle class however is one argument that sociologists have different views and definitions about. Certainly work conditions and wages have become almost indistinguishable and more people perceive themselves as being middle class. Due to the demands of the free market economy, changes in working conditions and the introduction of advanced technology the working class has become a fragmented and less distinctive group, but they are still identifiable. ?? ?? ?? ?? 1 ...read more.

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