Social Mobility

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Essay – Social Mobility Q Explain to what extent social mobility is a feature of social class in the UK in the 21st century. Use two contrasting theories and relevant studies in your answer. (2009)

Inequality exists in all societies, sociologists concern themselves with social inequality including social prestige, economic privileges and power. Stratification, in particular social stratification is different. Stratification shows that inequality is rife in society and the inequality is also structured in the form of strata. In Britain there are many differing class stratification systems, two of these class stratifications are the Hindu Caste System and the Social Class System. Class stratifications vary from each other greatly. One difference is that you would receive greater legal freedom as well as political freedom. It also isn’t as reliant on religious justification, it is seen as an open system in the form of social mobility. Social mobility determines in terms of social class how flexible our society is for individuals to move between the class groups. There is a number of ways that class can be defined, the theoretical approach as opposed to the descriptive approach. Secondly, it can be approached either subjectively or objectively. Lastly the registrar general classification and the market research classification. Class stratification is very difficult to define. Normally it is based purely on occupation, although massive changes in employment have made defining it much harder. Recently there has been the occurrence of Class De-Alignment due to change in industry. Thatcherite policies also impacted Britain greatly, across varies areas such as the sale of council houses, privatisation of businesses, legislation concerning unions and the public sectors decline. All of these areas have all shaped how socially mobile an individual can actually be. Class Stratification has a multitude of sociological perspectives, one such theory is Functionalism. Functionalism is a structural consensus theory. Feminist theorists such as Durkheim and Parsons, believe that social class is a system of meritocracy where those who apply themselves and work hard will rise to the top leaving all the people who are lazier to stay down at the bottom. This means that social mobility is pivotal as if people don’t move freely, then Britain is not democratic. Other functionalist theorists such as Davis and Moore, argue that those jobs which are found at the high end of the social class structure are the most sought after and depended on. E.g. you need a lot of training and skill to be an efficient lawyer as people are depending on you fighting their case, whereas a job like a cleaner requires very little skill and the majority of people could do that job. Functionalists tend to argue that a system involving social classes was inevitable and we all buy into this system willingly. One strength of Functionalism is the idea of a meritocratic system; this is shown in the media with figures such as Alan Sugar and Richard Branson building their empires out of nothing. Also the idea that jobs at the high end of the scale being more depended on and difficult explains the reasons as to the class system that we have. Functionalism is strong when highlighting the relationships between the different sections in our society and also explains the potential for social mobility. Although sociologists, such as Tumin rebel against the notion of a meritocratic “level playing field”. He looks to private schools for evidence that money can provide your child with a better chance in society. This proves that there is no such thing as an equal start and that institutions such as schools prevent social mobility. Tumin also refutes the functionalist claim of a “small pool of talent” as it is irrelevant due to only a small number of people being required to do these techinically difficult and...
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