Higher sociology 2014/2015Watch this thread
Social stratification is where people are layered (like rocks) (eeeewwwwww, I think there may be a better way of putting this, it sounds like a mass grave), they are layered in terms of wealth, status, power etc. Social class is a type of stratification. (good) The term describes how society is put into layers, or classes. People are categorised in terms of wealth, where they're from/ live, their parents, status, and power. Class stratification used to look like a pyramid with a very small amount of rich at the top, the middle class in the middle, and the working class making up the largest proportion of society. However in recent history this pyramid has transformed into a tear drop shape with the largest section of society now being in the middle class. (good) This has been caused by increases in the working classes pay over time which has turned them into consumers. Because of their new found consumerism the working adopted middle class values and lifestyles to math their income. (good) However class systems in the UK are described as an “open class system” and is made up of two aspects; social mobility, and social closure. Social closure is the idea that the upper classes are out of reach from those in lesser classes and movement into their class is impossible. (good) People are inevitably confined to their class by their accent, where they grew up , and education. Conversely Social mobility is the ability to move up and down the class system. An example of this is the american dream - the idea that if you work hard you can achieve anything, a testament to the capitalist system. Social stratification is another key aspect of social class. The concept focuses on how society is divided up into layers; some at the top, whilst others are at the bottom. The UK is possibly the best example of the class system in the world today. In the UK your accent defines a lot about where you're from and what class you belong to. The trend tends to be the more southern the accent the more well off you are. (Kind of – but there are regional southern accents that are looked down on too – Strong London accents, Bristol, Cornwall – I think it is more to do with the strength of your regional accent) People with a posh accent in the UK wouldn't tent to socialise with someone from Middlesborough. (this is too sweeping a statement) There was outcry when Steph joined the BBC Breakfast show. Her accent was from the North east of England and as a result many people didn't think a person of her strata should belong on the number 1 breakfast show in the UK. Social stratification can exist in terms of; class, gender, ethnicity, age, disability, and caste. The higher up the layer in class the better life chances exist. These include; health, wealth, life expectancy, infant mortality, housing. (good) Two different theories on social class are those of Marxism and Functionalism.
Functionalism is a theory which believes every party of society has a purpose and works together like a machine. They accept that inequality is a natural cause (feature) of the capitalist system. American sociologists Kingsley David and Wilbert Moore in 1945 also argued that class stratification existed in every known society and that everyone has their jobs/roles appointed to them depending on their class. Functionalists believe that society has certain functional prerequisites in order to survive, such as maintaining regular patterns of behaviour and providing goals which can be attained. Functionalists believe that social stratification serves a purpose as part of the greater “body”. Order is created by ‘Value consensus” (good) which is where people work together for the good of society. Functionalists are mainly concerned with the contribution of class stratification to the maintenance and well being of society. (good) Parsons suggested that those who preform successfully in terms of societies values will be ranked highly and will receive rewards or wealth. The idea behind this view is that if you work hard then you will be rewarded. The very essence of capitalism. Parsons pointed to America and its “American Dream’ in which through hard work and determination anyone can become wealthy. However Wilkins and Picket studied societies around the world and found America to have the lowest level of social mobility. (good) So the American Dream is just the carrot dangling in font of the donkey trying to make it move faster and work harder. Functionalists believe that the class someones born into does not affect their life chances. However this is not the case as if someone is born into chaotic circumstances - the biology of stress - then they are more likely to turn to a life of crime and be in poverty them selves. ( you have to say where this is from – good to use Dr Harry – but you must be clear) Parsons argued that if people make full use of the opportunities given to them then it can readers inequalities. Functionalists believe that inequality between different social classes is important for society for two main reasons; Inequality is created by different rewards that people receive. Therefore those who carry out the important tasks which create lots of money should be rewarded higher, i.e. a surgeon should get paid more than a cleaner because the surgeon made best use of the opportunities that was offered to him/her (good) . The second reasons is it gives those in lower classes something to strive for. Therefore if you want someone to study hard there must be some economic reward for it. (good) Marxists would argue against this by saying its for the good of the system - communism -. Functionalism has been criticised for just being an acceptance of the capitalist system. (At this point you start to get a bit confusing – the thing with sociology essays is t is best to keep the structure simple, as really you are providing commentary on different viewpoints – rather than making an argument yourself – this is I suppose the big difference with politics. Best to do a para on functionalism – what it means, then do a para on strengths of the theory, then do a para on weaknesses, then do a para on a study that fits with the theory – what its findings were, then do a para on the strengths and weaknesses of the study – you probs wouldn’t have enough to do two separate paras on strengths and weaknesses of the study. Sociology essays are quite formulaic like that) They believe capitalism is the final stage of history. However capitalism is criticised for its inequality. The Uk for example is a very class based society and is one of the most unequal societies on earth. Japan has combated inequality in its capitalist society by increasing the minimum wage, decreasing the maximum wage, and taxing big businesses. (good – but you haven’t said where this info is from, nor how it relates to the point you are making Another problem with the functionalist idea of social class is that it believes that hard work can solve anything. However theres many examples that education isn't creating a fairer society. John Westergaard studied the ruling class in Britain in 1976 and found that the top 10% had more wealth than the bottom 40% combined, in 1995 he updated his work and found out that privately owned wealth in the top 5-10% had substantially grown, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. (good) Functionalism is also criticised for maintaining inequalities by promising better employment to those in the lower classes if they work hard then through social mobility they can rise and earn greater capital. But however at the same time there has to be a large manual sector to be able to carry out the low paid jobs in order to keep value consensus. (good) Functionalism is criticised by many as just being an acceptance of capitalism. It promotes inequality and encourages those to work hard to better them selves - hard working families, as David Cameron always puts it- and if they don't then they will just be criticised on shows like Jerry Springer to make out that these people are failures and we should hate them. Thus Functionalists believe that hard work gives people the ability to become socially mobile and move up the class system. They believe inequality is essential as it allows those at the bottom to try and better them selves and work hard.
Good – but I am afraid you will have to be a little less opinionated and passionate – or at least frame your opinions within a more objective structure.
Marxists on the other hand have a very different idea behind social class. Marxism is a conflict theory which the ideology behind it is that revolutions bring about change and that The conflict between the big businesses and the workers leads to inequality. (good) Marx points to the idea of the two main classes, the bourgeoise and the proletariat. Through out history (only during this stage of history – there were other classes before this one) the bourgeoise have kept control over the proletariat (workers). This control has been present through out all stages of history, from as far back antiquity when the master owned the slave. (good) Through time this changed into capitalism with the business and the workers relationship. The mode of production is there for where the power lies. Marx believed that ownership of the infrastructure (means of production) decided which class you belong too. (good) The infrastructure is kept together by the superstructure(good) which makes the workers believe its natural to be oppressed, giving them a false class conscience. (good) Marx saw two major divisions in his life timing as a result his theory is seen as a two class model. The divisions are: Those who owned the means of production (the bourgeoise). These people had control over society as they could manage how work was carried out and how raw materials were used. They regularly exploded the workers (proletariat). The proletariat owned nothing and the only way they could survive was to become workers and work for the bourgeoise. As they had very little and no power the bourgeoise would exploit them. (good)
Exploitation of the proletariat is evident in the sense that the bourgeoise must make a profit from them, so pay them less than the worker is worth. (good) The costs of means of production must also be taken into account. Therefore exploitation occurs and increases as the capitalist system constantly wants to increase profit. This means that the ruling class must make the worker produce much more and lowering their pay. The consumer must also pay more than the product cost to produce, so therefore the proletariat is hit twice, once as a worker and then again as a consumer. (good) The workers are fed lies and propaganda to spread in order to keep the bourgeoise in charge and earning the money they do. They are told things like; we are democratic, capitalism is freedom, we should educate other third world countries of our class system. This is all part of the bourgeoise plan to keep them in power by brainwashing the workers and preventing a revolution. (good) However figure heads like Russell Brand is calling for greater equality and regularly engaging in debates about why such great inequality exists. He is branded a “nutter” and rumours spread. This is to keep the workers from thinking that the system is working and is healthy. Marx predicted that as the owners accumulated wealth from charging high prices and keeping the workers under paid, huge inequality would arise. This is exactly what happened. In the UK the average income of the richest 10% was almost 12 times that of the bottom 10%, up from 8 times in 1985. (good – but say where you got this from)
Marx believed that history was a progression, and each stage of history there would be a revolution where the proletariat would become class conscience and revolt against the bourgeoise. He believed that the final stage of history would be communism. Marx believed as the gap between the bourgeoise and the proletariat got wider a process of polarisation would occur, which would lead to the workers realising they are being exploited and as a result they become class conscience (conscious). (good) The proletariat would group together as a class and take action in ending the oppression. However the phrase ‘history has not been kind to Marx” has been conjured up quite a lot. All the recent communist societies have collapsed and turned into capitalist societies.
Marxism has found its way into the 20th century the bourgeoise as company directors and civil servants, whilst the prostate (?!) are the cleaners, and garbage men. However according to a functionalist point of view the garbage men could be seen as more functionally important than company directors as they are preventing the build up of waste which can cause disease and illness. They would see everyone as having their function
Marx work was updated by John Westergaard and Henrietta Resler in 1976. They came to the conclusion that even though history had not been kind to Marx (in the sense that theres been no revolution yet), class was still the main form of inequality in the UK with a ruling class making up the 5-10% richest. The ruling class had a considerably greater amount of wealth than the bottom 30%.
Marxism has been criticised for being too economically deterministic. Theres not yet been a revolution and as a result capitalism appears to be the longest surviving political system. (good) Neo Marxists would argue that we are trapped in this stage where we buy into consumerism which keeps our minds away from the real exploitation thats occurring in the world which prevents any sort of revolution taking place. (good) Marx also neglected ethnicity and gender. (good) This is probably as a result of the time he was living in. When Marx lived the white male was the key player in the world, women could not vote or work and the same applied to ethnic groups such as Africans who were mostly exploited into slavery.
Despite these criticisms, the Marxist perspective is correct in arguing that a persons class is largely based on their class they were born in rather than their own talents and abilities. A study which supports this was carried out by Goldthorpe (between 1972- 1986) who found that there had been no significant reduction in class inequalities, in fact inequalities had increased. (good)
The “Oxford Mobility Studies” conducted by John Goldthorpe was conducted to see if there had been changes in social mobility since the Glass study in 1954. Goldthorpe sampled 10000 men between the age of 20-64 in England and Wales. Women were not included because they generally lived at the same income as their husband. Using a two class scale Goldthorpe categorised men in seven class scale according to their income levels and job position. These classes were usually grouped into three groups; service class, intermediate, and workers. Goldthorpe looked at two measures of mobility; Absolute ( total movement up or down the class system) and relative ( a persons chances of getting into class one relative to each other). The study found that most mobility was short range, this meant that relative mobility from the lower classes was much lower than those in the intermediate class. (good) The majority of children born into a working class environment/house hold, only 1/3 became upward mobile. (good) The vast majority of professionals were from a middle or upper class background whilst only 30% of working class made up the professional sector.Downward mobility was declining however more men from working class backgrounds were unemployed. This could be as a result of Margret Thatcher closing down a lot of the manual industries like the coal mines and opening up greater opportunities in the service sector though the introduction of call centres. (good) Goldthrope came to the conclusions that long range social mobility had increased since WW2, suggesting that society had become more open. However it was argued that this increase could be down to changes in the occupational structure of the UK; deindustrialisation lead to fewer traditional working class jobs and more banking and administrational jobs. There was not enough children in the service class to fill all the new jobs so people were drafted in from the lower classes that made them upwardly mobile. (good) The working class now had a much better chance of moving upwards. In 1900 sons of miners had a slim chance of becoming middle class, but by 1970 their chances of upward mobility had improved considerably.
You have described the main findings of this study really clearly – well done!
Relative mobility rates on the other hand has not been so fortunate. At the time Goldthorpe's conducted his study there was space at the top jobs however this spaces were much more likely to be granted to those from middle and upper classes opposed to those in the lower. Goldthorpe expressed his findings in terms of the 14 rule. This rule means that whatever the chances of a working class boy has of getting to class 1 a boy in intermediate is twice as likely and a boy from the service class is four times as likely. (good)
Goldthorpe was correct in his findings that mobility prospects had improved after WW2 however there was still little change in the mobility prospects of those in lower classes moving up into the higher classes. Britain was still as closed as its always been so equality of opportunity had not been achieved. Goldthorpe concluded that there had been no significant reduction in class inequalities. (good)
Marshall, Rose, Newby, and Vogler, all conducted a study on social class in Britain in 1988 referred to as the “Essex Study”. The study deliberately used Goldthorpe's 7 class scale to see if mobility rates had improved after 1972. They collected information on both men and women. Findings were based on the class of the respondent and the class of their parents at the same age as the responder. The study found high rates of upward mobility overall. For men the rates were very similar to those in the Oxford mobility study. However for women there was evidence of upward and downward mobility into non-manual work. Large numbers of women were working in non manual jobs such as admin and clerical positions. Even when people start in the service class, the working class background they were born into still drags them down. Research showed that 84% of men from the service class who started they career in the service class were still there when interviewed. (good) Only 64% of working class men from the working classes who started work in the service class remained in it. Working class women also found it hard to tay in the upper class. 77% of women from the service class who started work in the service class were still init when interviewed and only 43% of women from the working class who started their career in the service class stayed init. innit
The conclusions that were reached were that expansion of the professional (white collar) jobs, after deindustrialisation, explained the high rate of absolute mobility. It realised that intergenerational mobility rates were similar for both men and women as both are affected by the class they were born into. However absolute rates were different due to the high amount of women in class 3. (good)
Goldthrope’s “Oxford Mobility Study” was criticised by Michelle stanworth in 1984. She argued against it as it was deeply sexists and classed women according to their husbands/fathers occupation. (good) She argued that women need their own study conducted as their mobility rates are very different from men. Goldthorpe is criticised for ignoring the existence of small elites in class 1. Studies that focus on the small amount of elite's in class 1 find higher degrees of social closure. (good) Another critic of the Oxford Mobility study was Peter Saunders. He criticised it for stressing relative rates and not absolute rates. Saunders thought that Goldthorpe was very pessimistic as any movement upwards is a positive change compared to the class they starter in. Saunders also argued that intelligence was an inherited characteristic and that the reason behind poor relative mobility was the fact that the working class passed on their lesser intelligent genes to their children. The power of the people is genetic. The Essex study is a more up to date study which has taken into consideration women instead of just classing them based on their husband job title. The Essex study incorporates the term “chief childhood supporter” which justifies that the class someone is born into has a long lasting effect in the workforce and it affects men and women the same. (good)
The answer to the statement posed “It is debated whether social class is still relevant in the UK today” is a simple one, yes. Class is fundamental to British society, from the accent you have to the area you lve in. Class is evident though out British society. Both the studies support the Functionalist view point with the idea being that if you work hard then social mobility will occur however there are hidden boundaries which prevent full social mobility.Functionalists accept inequality as its believed that everyone must have a part to play in society with the lower down the hierarchal ladder preforming the tasks we all take for granted and then those positions higher up the ladder are occupied by the professionals who the majority have been brought up in a middle/upper class background and had a good education. Social mobility studies demonstrated the importance of class as they found though the use of the 14 thesis that relative mobility for the working class was twice as low as that of someone in the middle class and 4 times as low as that of someone in the service class. We can therefor conclude that social class still exists in British society and that a persons life chance is still strongly related to the class they were born into. (good)
Well done Connor – this is an excellent essay – I think your second half is much stronger than the first, as you really seem to get the structure with the second bit, and you perhaps lack a little bit of objectivity in the bit about functionalism. I have put some comments in along the way for you to work on.
This shows great understanding, it is detailed and well written, with some difficult concepts clearly defined. Good work!