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

Outline and asses the Weberian explanations of the changing structure in the contemporary UK

Free essay example:

Outline and asses the Weberian explanations of the changing structure in the contemporary UK

In the last century the class structure in the UK has dramatically altered. In 1911 80% of employment was within a manual sector, meaning that under the registrar-generals model of social stratification they would have been described as working class. By 1995 according to Savage 67.3% of the population would be considered to be middle class. This was due to the closure of the heavy industries throughout the 1980’s and the increase in service occupations. The structure of the upper class has changed dramatically, as the ‘nouveau riche’ experience intragenerational movement the old upper class face loosing their birthrights due to issues such as inheritance tax. Furthermore women now form a bigger proportion of the workforce because of the emancipation of women which was caused by feminist movements and the feminisation of the workplace due to the reduction of manual work.

Weber furthered on originally Marxist ideas, claiming that an individual’s class arises from the person’s market situation, meaning there is a division between those who have considerable property meaning they can live off the proceeds and the propertyless that have to sell their labour. However Weber furthered this, as of course, within the propertyless there are those who are able to sell their labour for a higher price, and unlike Marx, Weber saw that more than just different occupational groupings could form classes. Weber argued that some but not all of power originated from wealth. Other sources of power could be created from status groups, a person’s ethnicity, gender, age, nationality which would result in them sharing similar lifestyles. Power could also originate from political power or influence; this was named parties by Weber. Weberianism would suggest that as traditional working class jobs reduce in size individuals take on middle class professions, which lead to an increase within class due to better economic positions and access to more political power.  

Marxists argue that there are just two classes, a ruling class and a subject class. Class is based upon the individual’s relationship to the means of production, the same as Weberianism, however Marxism asserts the importance that it is not a fair system based upon meritocracy as Right Realism and Functionalism might suggest. The ruling class, or bourgeoisie, exploit the subject class, the proletariat, keeping the proletariat falsely class conscious. This means that the proletariat does not realise they are being exploited and believe in the myth of meritocracy that hard work will lead to success. Marxists may argue that the changing class structure is due the bourgeoisie creating a further illusion of meritocracy, making it appear as though a meritocracy exists as there is a chance to be upwardly mobile through hard work. Therefore changing social structure is merely an illusion created by the bourgeoisie. However Marx predicted a polarization of the classes, which with the increase of the middle classes would appear to have not occurred.

Weberianism argues against this, claiming that wealth does not always lead unequivocally to wealth. For example a big money lottery winner may not have any party, or belong to any status group and therefore not be of high status. Whereas a vicar who earns little money has higher party and is part of a high status group. Marxists argue that gender and ethnic differences are essentially rooted in class differences, whereas Weberians, feminists and writers on ethnicity see them as separate and distinct. However both Marxism and Weberianism stem from the idea that social stratification results from a struggle for scarce resources in society.

Functionalists claim that social stratification is due to a necessary and functional hierarchy system that allows for a meritocratic society in which with hard work and education anyone can achieve status. This would suggest that social mobility is due to the meritocratic society and that individuals have to work harder to gain status creating a progression of society. This has led to better education, for example the increased amount of university education within contemporary UK. Furthermore Davis and Moore argue that there is only a limited supply of individuals that have the talent to require the most important positions and therefore there will always be the less skilled working classes. New Right realists confirm the functionalist idea that hard work can lead to achievement, and it is entirely opposed by Marxism. Even though Davis and Moore claimed that class is proof of a meritocratic society that has been highly criticised due to long running institutions such as the old boy network, that help those with connections and not necessarily those with the best skills. This reaffirms the Weberian perspective, claiming that a person’s social group can affect their status and therefore social class.

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Sociological Differentiation & Stratification section.

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

Related AS and A Level Sociology Skills and Knowledge Essays

See our best essays

Related AS and A Level Sociological Differentiation & Stratification essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    Outline and asses sociological explanations for workplace inequalities between men and women

    5 star(s)

    are often not the breadwinners they can easily return back to their invisible roles within the family. Furthermore due to the accepted housewife and mother gender role women are more likely to accept temporary or part time work so they can still manage to fulfil their mother roles.

  2. Assess the view that cults, sects and new age movement are fringe organisations that ...

    Susan Atkins who in traditional society was a normal, well thought out girl proceeded with these murders because Charlie told her to. Now would she have done this in modern society if someone told her to? Probably not. This shows how influential one person and a new religious movement such as a sect or cult can be.

  1. Assess the causes and consequences of changes in the UK population

    Also, society has become child centred and childhood has become socially constructed to be an important period in a person's life and therefore family size has decreased due to the need for 'quality' not 'quantity'. Fertility rate refers to the number of children that women of childbearing age have in any one year.

  2. Outline and asses sociological explanations of ethnic inequality.

    John Rex and Sally Tomlinson, feel that 'The underclass' is a suitable term for describing ethnic minorities in Britain. That said that immigrants simply came to Britain to fill in the unattractive low skilled jobs in the manufacturing industry as well as the low skilled service industries when Britain was experiencing a shortage of labour.


    in Southeast Asia and particularly in their potential impact on political processes. This concern must be understood against the background of two developments - on the one hand the more or less rapid economic growth in and industrialisation of Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and, now apparently Indonesia as well; and on

  2. Biological and Social Constructionist explanations of Gender development

    The biological approach also argues that these chromosomes decide whether the individual will grow up to be masculine or feminine. The sex chromosome pair associated with females is XX, while the sex chromosome pair associated with males is XY. Although it is very unusual some babies may be born with atypical (abnormal)

  1. Gender and Education. Explanations of gender differences in subject choice notes.

    *also set of rules* 1. Teaching specialist skills Cooperation of every single item usually involves the cooperation of many different specialists. This cooperation promotes social solidarity. Each specialist should have knowledge and skills to perform their role. Durkheim argues education teaches individuals the special knowledge and skill they need to play part in social division of labour.

  2. Diversity in Contemporary British Society

    their believers to follow a way of life which shapes not only their personal lives and relationships but also the way they contribute to wider society. In a few cases, members of a religious group will believe that it is inconsistent with their spiritual practice to become involved in the political process.

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