The Defining Of The Social Class Sociology Essay Example
The Defining Of The Social Class Sociology Essay Example

The Defining Of The Social Class Sociology Essay Example

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  • Pages: 7 (1873 words)
  • Published: July 29, 2017
  • Type: Essay
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This essay focuses on societal category as defined in the Collins Internet Linked Dictionary of Social Work 2006. The author examines how social class influences a person's life opportunities in contemporary Britain and takes into account power dynamics inherent in different social categories. Contrasting ideologies about class are explored, and discrepancies in life opportunities enjoyed or foregone by individuals belonging to differing social strata are highlighted through data and evidence. Social class can be described either as a categorization of professions or a system based on wealth distribution and ownership within society. Essentially, it is a hierarchical ordering of individuals based on economic factors, cultural norms, or employment status, with each category being ranked vis-a-vis one another. Societal stratification refers to individuals' differing perceptions of the tiers they belong to within society - originally b


orrowed from geological layering terminology. In medieval ages, monarchs were at the top followed by baronial lords and knights while the majority of people were classified as provincials or helots under the estate system or feudal system in place.Various societies have established different societal systems that differ from social classes, which involved being born into a specific estate with no social mobility. For instance, in India's caste system, individuals believed in reincarnation and accepted their position in society accordingly. Slavery also exemplifies powerful stratification where one group is entirely dependent on another to the point of life or death. Although slavery still exists today, it has caused division between slaves and slave owners as slaves were constantly bought and sold and poorly treated. In Britain today, the social structure is predominantly based on class; however, there are debates about its definition.

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Karl Marx believed it could be split into two groups: the middle class/nobility who controlled production and natural resources versus the working class/laborers who only had their labor to sell for money. Max Weber supported Marx's main division but proposed a four-tier system that distinguished between capitalist classes owning production while the working class sold their labor.In Britain, society is commonly viewed as having a three-tier social structure consisting of upper, in-between, and lower categories. Individuals within these categories may identify themselves as being either upper or lower. The in-between category comprises educated professionals and highly skilled individuals, while the upper category includes nobility and those with power and influence. Sociologists also recognize a lower class made up of long-term unemployed individuals or those with limited job opportunities who rely on government benefits to survive. The Office for National Statistics employs an eight-tiered system of socioeconomic categorization from NS-SEC1 (Higher managerial/professional occupations) to NS-SEC8 (Never worked/long-term unemployed), with NS-SEC8 effectively representing the lower class. Each group has its own unique customs and norms such as entertainment preferences, beliefs and values, as well as communication styles which further distinguish their members. A person's category can sometimes be inferred by their speech or clothing - hence the famous saying "An Englishman's way of speaking absolutely classifies him."When he speaks, he can make another Englishman dislike him. The impact of social class on people's lives affects numerous aspects, including life opportunities such as longer life expectancy, improved health, decreased child mortality, healthier diet, advanced occupational status, better housing, more frequent and diverse vacations, access to private or high-quality education and an increased likelihood of educational achievement. Along with

social class, ethnicity and gender also significantly affect these opportunities. Sociologists have noticed a shift from the working class to the middle class due to increasing household incomes and property ownership resulting from higher standards of living. According to Haralambos and Holborn (2004), this shift is due to improved standards among the working class. Power play is characteristic in class divisions which has an influence on life opportunities. Anthony Giddens (born 18th Jan 1938), British sociologist suggested that power can be used by those in power to exploit less powerful individuals and give them access to limited resources. Marxists believe upper-class individuals use their power for oppression towards lower-class individuals. Harris S states in Study Guide Sociology Pg120 that "Power is the ability to accomplish your purposes against resistance." Without power there would be chaos therefore it is essential for society.Max Weber, a German classical sociologist, identified three types of legitimate power. The first is rational-legal authorization, which is based on written regulations and obedience to rules rather than an individual. This type of power is held by the government and enforced through bureaucracy, such as the Inland Revenue collecting taxes. The second type is charismatic authorization that comes from personal qualities of an individual to inspire and influence others; for example, Adolf Hitler used his personal appeal and oratorical skills to persuade others to follow his political ideology of National Socialism. Finally, traditional authorization is based on historical precedent often found in monarchical systems.

According to's Power and Politics Unit P2: Theories of The State source cited "power" should be viewed as a characteristic of different types of social organization and relationships instead of

being considered as an entity in itself. A person's access to limited resources or life opportunities are influenced by the social power they possess or their social class holds. For instance, the working class has limited financial power relying on labor market for resources while upper-class people have more wealth with greater influence over accessing resources.

Social workers' rational legal authority granted by society's regulations helps protect vulnerable members of society.They utilize AOP/ADP Anti-Discrimination and Anti-Oppressive Practices to combat societal inequalities within a hierarchical society, promoting inclusivity and improving quality of life for various communities. The social worker bears responsibility in providing essential information and guidance to parents of foster children, enabling them to access their rights. Societal inequality is considered a common feature of human societies, some viewing it as an inevitable outcome of societal structure while others see it as unacceptable class development. Capitalism and right-wing political views advocate for a free market where individuals can ascend based on their material assets, regardless of their starting point. British conservative tradition exhibits unique characteristics such as social hierarchy, the monarchy, the House of Lords, patriarchal family structures, possessions, and natural class systems. Inequality is widely believed to be natural and socially necessary while poverty carries no shame. Socialists or Marxists acknowledge that the chasm between ruling classes and working classes makes competition impossible on equal grounds; they consider society accountable for promoting brotherhood among all members with selflessness towards achieving equality as an ultimate goal.The discourse concerning class ideology revolves around the question of whether a hierarchical societal structure, in which an affluent elite dominates most of the power and resources while an underprivileged labor

force provides cheap labor, is a natural result of human societies. Alternatively, it considers if a more equitable system founded on resource sharing and demand should be sought after for developed societies. The debate on this matter is ongoing. According to Weber's traditional view, social groups are classified according to their lifestyles, with lifestyle as much a choice as influenced by opportunities available to people. Cockerham et al.(1997: 32) posit that chance is socially determined and social structure comprises opportunities arrangements. Lifestyle choices are not arbitrary behaviors but rather deliberate decisions swayed by life prospects accessible to individuals. One crucial impact of societal status on life opportunities concerns child mortality rates from injuries; despite overall diminishing trends over the past century and halving in the last two decades, significant variations remain across socioeconomic classes as depicted below in the table from research conducted by British Medical Journal on death due to child injury based on socioeconomic groupings.Table 1 presents data on the mortality rates of children aged 0-15 years in the eight National Statistics Socio-Economic Classification (NS-SEC) categories from 2001-3. Results show that children from NS-SEC8, whose parents were either unemployed or had never worked, had a mortality rate over 13 times higher than those in NS-SEC1, the highest social group. There was a noticeable increase in mortality rates per 100,000 as social class declined except for the top two categories which showed negligible difference with only a variance of 0.3 per 100,000. The relationship between social class at birth and a child's chances of survival is evident while considering undetermined deaths: such deaths were more common among children born to families belonging to the

lowest social class by up to 32.6 times compared to those in higher classes. It is important to note that this study only focused on deaths resulting from injury and not poor health or hygiene. One child was excluded because their NS-SEC data was missing.(Source: BMJ. 2006 July;333(7559):119).Despite attempts to bridge the gap between upper and lower class education, instruction remains a primary factor creating disparities in life opportunities. Children from working class families tend to perform worse in educational benchmarks, while Looked after children (LAC) are particularly disadvantaged by poverty, poor housing, unhealthy diets and low levels of educational achievement. These factors can have significant impacts on personal, social and employment prospects throughout their lives. Many young people leave care without reaching their full potential due to lack of opportunity and motivation for academic success. This perpetuates poverty and reinforces the class system. According to Cunningham.J and Cunningham.S (2008, page 45), it is unjust that children inherit disadvantages from their parents as this determines life prospects rather than individuality.Looked-after children face a higher risk of exclusion from school, inadequate GCSE qualifications and less chance to continue their education. They often experience attachment disorders before starting school, which makes it challenging for them to trust others or connect with them. Furthermore, poor nutrition, missed medical appointments and low self-esteem can hinder their learning abilities and confidence. Looked-after children change schools frequently, take more time off school and may become primary caregivers for younger siblings due to parental neglect. The "Every Child Matters" initiative aims to eliminate the disparities faced by disadvantaged children by encouraging all child welfare agencies to work together effectively. Overall, this essay

provides evidence that social class influences life opportunities as the mortality rate is significantly higher in lower-class families than in other categories. Private education perpetuates this system by providing access to powerful positions and financial rewards for the upper classes.Children from lower class families, those in care, and working-class households are more susceptible to injury and social isolation. This puts them at risk of being trapped in a cycle of corruption. Victoria Climbe's case is an example of how individuals can exploit the care system and abuse children without consequences based on their knowledge of the system. The Laming inquiry found that Victoria experienced malnourishment, physical abuse, poverty, and neglect before her death. It was shocking to discover that many agencies failed to protect her resulting in her tragic demise. The recommendations from the inquiry were aimed at ensuring seamless services for children so they could reach their full potential with opportunities for a better future. The objective was to provide equal opportunities for all children regardless of their background or status as being looked after while illuminating inadequacies in service integration and bureaucracy that maltreaters could exploit. Ultimately every child must be supported and encouraged towards a positive life outcome through this law.

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