Apply Marxist theories on social stratification and social mobility to today’s Hong Kong with examples.
“I had a dream my life would be,
so different from this hell I'm living, so
different now from what it seemed!
Now life has killed the dream I
dreamed.” This song “I Dreamed a
Dream” is sung by Fatina in the movie
Les Miserables(2012). In the movie,
Fatina dream her world can be full of
love, justice, and equality. However,
after oppressed by foreman and other
workers, she is fired and starts being a
prostitute. Fatina struggles for her dream in her whole life, but still she cannot realize her dream due to the reality. She is a reflection of many underprivileged in Hong Kong. They work hard but earn little, fight for dream but fail etc. From 19th century to recent, from France to Hong Kong, why there are still so many people cannot change their life? In my opinion, the view of Marxists about social stratification and social mobility can answer this question. In this paper, Marxists’ views about social stratification and social mobility, the social stratification in Hong Kong, as well as the social mobility in Hong Kong will be introduced.
Marxist theory on social stratification and social mobility
Social stratification is a ranking system which category people in a particular rank of the hierarchy in society by predictable rules, so that some people have more power, prestige and so on than others (Kerbo, 2006, p. 228; Macionis, 2011, p.224). In Marxist’s view, there are two classes in society: bourgeoisie and proletariat (Grusky, 2001, p.92), and the “rule” which classify people into certain groups is about the ownership of means of production such as money, manpower and land (Grusky, 2001,
p.94). Usually, bourgeoisie owns the
means of production and oppresses the
proletarian to maximize their profit
(Macionis, 2011, p.98). Therefore, in
stratification is an unfair resources
division system that only benefits few
people, especially the bourgeoisie, but disadvantages proletariat (Macionis, 2011, p.235).
Social mobility is the movement (can be upward or downward) of the position in social hierarchy of individuals (Grusky, 2001, p.225; Macionis, 2011, p.303). If the social mobility is high, people are easier to change their rank in the social hierarchy due to their personal achievements or failures.
Social stratification in Hong Kong
If the income level is used as an indicator to measure the social stratification, the degree of inequality in Hong Kong is quite high because the Gini coefficient in 2011 Hong Kong is 0.537, which represents there is a serious wealth gap between bourgeoisie and proletariat (Lui, & Boehler, 2012). As a result, there is a conflict between bourgeoisie and proletariat.
Using 2013 Hong Kong dock strike as an example, in this incident, due to the poor working condition and salary, many port workers went on strike in the Kwai Tsing Container Terminal to fight for better working condition and salary (McCafferty, Pang, 2013). In my point of view, this is a case that can be applied Marxist’s social-conflict theory. This theory states that because of the modernity, the class society is formed. However, Karl Marx thinks that the core of the modernization is about inequality which is only benefiting to capitalist economy (Macionis, 2011, p.573). In this case, as a working class, port workers are always exploited by the capitalist class because the capitalist class wants to maximize their profit. For example, before the dock strike in 2013, the salary of the port workers is around $50
per hour which is far lower than
1997’s salary ($62.5 per hour).
Besides the low salary, port workers
also face some inhuman treats, such
as no toilet on site, no time for meal,
no break time, and no overtime pay
(Radio Australia, 2013). For me, in
this case, the boss of those port
workers wants to maximize the profit by...
References: Lui, M., & Boehler, P. (18 June 2012), Hong Kong’s Wealth Gap Widens Amid
Aging Population, Inflation
McCafferty, Georgia; Pang, Esther (4 April 2013). "Hong Kong dock strike cripples
world 's third busiest port"
Wang, Jasmine (19 April 2013). Li Ka-Shing’s Striking Port Workers Lose Jobs as
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