Introduction to Sociology and Community Development
Lecturer: Dr Denys Delany
IS NEW ZEALAND/AOTEAROA A CLASSLESS SOCIETY? DISCUSS – IF SO WHAT DEFINES THIS STRUCTURE? – IF NOT WHAT IS THE MAIN BASIS OF SOCIAL STRATIFICATION IN NEW ZEALAND/AOTEAROA?
13th April 2007
49 Alfriston Road, Manurewa, Auckland Phone:
021 102 9454
I declare the following to be my own work, unless otherwise referenced, as defined by Unitec New Zealand’s policy on plagiarism. This essay will argue that New Zealand/Aotearoa is not a classless society. Moreover, it will also be demonstrated that New Zealand is a stratified society of which class is only one part, and that gender is the basis of social stratification. This discussion will begin with a definition of some key terms. In determining that New Zealand is not a classless society, the historical definition of class will be examined and then developments in New Zealand’s society explored to ascertain the place class occupies in contemporary New Zealand society. At this point the discussion will revert to the position that gender is the dominant form of stratification and evidence will be provided to support this. Throughout the essay the effect of the industrial revolution will be explored as a mechanism that contributed to both class and gender consciousness. In concluding, an explanation of my own socially constructed perspective which has informed the position I have adopted will also be offered.
Before proceeding with this argument, it is first necessary to define two key terms used in discussing this topic: class and stratification. Stratification refers to the hierarchical organisation of groups within a society and the social inequality this produces (Jary & Jary, 2005). Stratification and class utilise such similar terminology in their analysis of structured inequalities that class analysis and social stratification often are inseparable concepts. Class is a term that has complex implications but at its simplest level, and echoing stratification, is also defined in the Collins Dictionary of Sociology as the hierarchical distinctions that exist in society (Jary & Jary, 2005). Sociologists agree that all societies are stratified in some way. A simple distinction between the two terms is that stratification can exist independently of class, but class and stratification are inseparable, since class is a form of stratification. The effect of stratification on any society is that by its hierarchical and divisive nature it marginalises and disadvantages those outside of the dominant discourse and favours those who conform to that discourse. It forms distinct groups of people and is exclusive in nature, creating an “us and them” paradigm.
Marx argued that class was the fundamental form of social stratification and that the control of economic resources and wealth defined class structure. Moreover, Marx argued that class was determined by an individual’s relationship to the mode of production. Marx developed his theory after analysing the structure of society, which resulted from the capitalist economy created by the industrial revolution. The two distinct classes this relationship formed were based on the exploitation of the proletariat by the capitalists (McLennan, Ryan & Spoonley, 2004).
Marx’s definition of class prevailed to a certain degree throughout the 19th and 20th centuries and many theorists adopted elements of his definition, although his position of class as being the fundamental form of stratification has been challenged. Weber agreed with Marx that economic relations were a determinant of class, but argued that inequality could not just be explained in terms of ownership and property, and that in addition, status and party must also...
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