Ways of Determining Social Class
The determination of social class is a topic which has been the subject of several studies:-
Karl Marx (1818-1883) believed that in all stratified societies, there are two major social groups, a ruling class and a subject class, the bourgeoisies and the proletariat. These relations involve exploitation and domination of one class over another (Haralambos 2000 pg 37)
Marx argued that the structure of society was based around ongoing conflict, the more antagonistic the better and he was convinced that Capitalists would collapse under the weight of their own contradiction and would be replaced by Feudalism and Communism. Marxists still believe that we live in a two class society.
Auguste Comte (1798-1857) was a French Philosopher who believed that society had progressed through a number of evolutionary stages and feared the social integration of pre industrial society was breaking down and wanted to make sure the Capitalist Class remained dominant. (http://www.blupete.com/Literature/Biographies/Philosophy/Comte.htm) Max Weber (1864-1920) saw class in economic terms between those who own the means of production and those who don't and that social stratification results from a struggle for scarce resources in society, not only economic resources but prestige and political power as well. Weber distinguished that there were four class groupings in a capitalist society. 1.The propertied upper class
2.The property less white collared class
3.The petty bourgeoisie [e.g. shopkeepers]
4.Manuel working class
(Haralambos 2000 pg 37)
Weber also observed that there were different status groups within a class: Weber's Tripartite Model
Class: economic struggles over interests in the market
Status: groups efforts at closure, exclusion or usurpation, to maximise their prestige or social standing
Party: Political "party-organised" efforts to wield power by influencing decision Marx and Weber saw class in economic terms and both recognise the key class division as related to ownership of property. . Some sociologists draw on one or the other but many sociologists find something useful in all of them looking for alternative categories of social stratification.
The Register Generals A-E Classification is the official social classification in the UK this system is widely used to assess the British Population and clearly based on Weberian theology of a multi layered society A Upper Middle Class
B Middle Class
C1 Lower Middle Class
C2 Skilled Working Class
D Working Class
E Those at lower level of subsidence
(Sweeney/Etherington/Lewis et al (2003) Sociology and Scotland: Introduction Unity Publications) This now outdated model has been replaced with a new alternative method of official classification and contains 17 classifications measured by employment status. They no longer say Socio-economic; instead sociologists talk of social economic groups and how they are layered. We also have classification by name [M.O.N.I.C.A.] and Post Codes where social class can be a rough indicator and may be used for advertising and marketing purposes. Names in society tend to be fashionable and children are often named after popular celebrities in the media such as Kylie, Emily, Beyonce, William, Jamie. For other people a name may be one that is traditionally handed down through generations such as Bill and Jimmy and be linked to social class and help to denote someone's age or even religion. Basil Bernstein (1924-2000) attempted in the 1950s and 1960s to explain the differences in educational achievement between middle-and working-class children in terms of home background. He established himself by saying something very significant about language which was that middle classes were outperforming the working class, that language and accent are judged in social...