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Views and theories on social class

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Introduction

In Volume III of capital, Marx dedicated a chapter to social class however, it was never finished (McLellan, 2000). Like most terms Marx used class in quite a liberal and perhaps loose manner. It is, however, possible to extract a definition of the concept of class from his writings. According to Marx, social class are groupings of social agents, defined principally but not exclusively by their place in the production process, ie: in the economic sphere. (Nicos Poulantzas, 1975). In other words, class is determined by its relationship to the means of production. By this what is meant is that a class is determined by its ownership or non-ownership of means of production, that is, of raw materials, factories and land. Although in Marx' theory there were two main classes in society, which were the Bourgeoisie (or capitalists) who are the owners of capital, purchasing and exploiting labour power, using surplus value from employment of this labour power to accumulate or expand their capital. The other class was the proletariat who were owners of labour power (the ability to work), and mere owners of labour power, with no other resources than the ability to work with their hands, bodies, and minds. Since these workers have no property, in order to survive they must work for an employer. This means working for a capitalist employer in an exploitative social relationship. ...read more.

Middle

Although Weber accepts Marx's view that class is founded on objectively given economic conditions, he sees a greater variety of economic factors as important in class formation that are not seen by Marx. According to Weber, class divisions developed from economic differences that have nothing directly to do with property, including skills or qualifications which affect the type of job people are able to obtain. Those with a professional occupation, would earn more than say people in blue-collar jobs (the working class). The qualifications they attain make themselves a lot more'marketable' than others without such qualifications. At a lower level, among blue-collar workers, skilled craftsman are able to secure higher wages than the semi or unskilled. Here, Weber agrees with what Marx is saying in that those who own more, the bourgeoisie, are of a higher class than the labourer who for example work on the land, however Weber perceives it to be a lot more complex. For example; the landowners would be considered upper class, but those who manage the land would be seen as higher than those who actually do the farming; and then they would be considered higher than those who clean up afterwards. What Weber is trying to depict is that there are many levels of skills, almost a hierarchy of workers, and by this ladder, the levels of skills and thus the sum of pay will increase. ...read more.

Conclusion

Yet the view that there is no longer a distinguishable upper class is questionable. John Scott who had described the three sectors of the upper class in the nineteenth century as landowners, financial entrepreneurs and industrialists, and the changing nature of the upper class, has today changed shape but preserves its distinctive position. Senior executives in large corporations may not own their companies but are often able to accumulate shareholdings and these connect them both to old-style entrepreneurs and to 'finance capitalists'. Whilst looking at the number of theories put forward by sociologists we can see that there is not one round outlook on social class. The sociologists have incorporated one an others work within their own, nevertheless they then go on to expand and develop on what they believe to be acceptable. Weber agreed with Marx to some extent however he felt it was too simplistic, and that the class system was a lot more complex than that. Wright used both Marx and Weber's theory and came up with his own theory. If there are so many views and theories on social class, how can possibly be straightforward enough to measure it. We cannot say that one is better than the other or one is right and the other wrong. Who is right? We can't answer that. Therefore there would be extreme problems in measuring social class. ...read more.

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