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Class and Identity

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How does class influence identity in the contemporary society? Class is a significant factor within the economic structure of our society. In this assignment, I intend to explore the influences class has on our identities within the world we live in. In considering different theories, I will examine the ways in which economic structure shape our identities and discuss how class helps to define us as to who we are. Class is a term that is used to distinguish a group of people within society, who share the same economic status, which determined by their occupation and income. It is used to classify and represent us either as 'poor', such as, a single mothers in receiving state benefit. 'Working class', such as, building labourers, and 'middle class' such as, doctors or owners of small business. These representations of social class can be embraced or rejected by us, which suggests that our occupation and income influences our identity with relation to how we see ourselves and how we perceived by others. ...read more.


(Woodward, 2004, p.96) For example, an extract of writing by a former coal miner, John Greaves, who worked at Goldthorpe mining pit, portray his account before 1984, where he identified and made sense of himself by being part of coal mining community. Subsequent of the pit closure, John not only lost his identity but also his sense of belonging. (Woodward, 2004, p.29) Although the concept of class within identity is contested, there are two main theories, written by Karl Marx (1818-1883) and Max Weber (1864-1920), which help us understand the link between social class and our identities. Both theories express that class is embedded in the economic structure, which defined as capitalism. However, for Marx, capitalist society produced "two great warring and hostile camps"(Marx and Engels, 1848, p.49), which he calls 'bourgeoisie'- ruling class and 'proletariat'- working class. He predict that big business would exploit or squeeze out small-scale capitalists, such as shop owners and self-employed, which will ignite a conflict and class-consciousness within society through collective identity. ...read more.


al}. A different survey made in 1996 has shown that two- thirds of the interviewees believed that 'there is one law for the rich and one for the poor' and 'ordinary people do not get their fair share of the nation's wealth' {Adonis and Pollard, 1998 p.11}. Therefore, individuals see their class position as a barrier to their abilities and growth. (Woodward, 2004, p.95) In conclusion, class has been a major influential source of identity. It is a social term used to represent and associate us to a certain group with the same economic status through our occupation and income with relation to what we do and have and who we are, which not only gives us a sense of belonging but also justify our existence. However, our economic structure as well as our occupation and income changes over time and evidence show that in the past our social class identification were determined by communality work base as collective identity, where as our society of today shifted to individuality and our social class identification rely upon our life style and consumption. ...read more.

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