Class

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  • Created on: 16-01-15 19:51

Functionalist/structural-functionalist approaches

Durkheim/Parsons

- Look at consensus/social solidarity
- Societies 'work' because they have shared values & cultures

- Value of:

1) Achievement
2) Equality of opportunity

- Social divisions are under-theorised
- Claims of 'universalistic values'- but whose values are these actually?

- Education system encourages an acceptance of the 'natural' meritocratic order of things
- Intelligence is rewarded
- W/c kids get w/c jobs (because they're lacking in talent/effort) 

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Marxist/'conflict' approaches

- Althusser/Bourdieu
- Bowles & Gintis

- Equality of opportunity as an illusion
- School only serves to legitimate an unequal system
- The connection between IQ and educational attainment is weak 

- There is a 'correpsondence' between social relationships in the workplace/those which exist in the education system

- 'Hidden curriculum' produces a docile, subservient workforce
- W/c kids get w/c jobs because the hidden curriculum tricks them into doing so

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Learning to Labour- Willis (1977)

- Ethnographic research
- Looked at 12 young men in a Midland comprehensive school
- Followed 'the lads' through last 2 years of school and into work
- Aimed to gain an in-depth understanding of their everyday behaviour- the 'counter-school culture' from their POV

Rejection of the 'educational exchange'

 - Subversion of authority
- Avoided work; avoided lessons; disruptions in/out of the classroom; preferred 'having a laff'; contrasted themselves with the 'ear'oles'
- When questioned why they don't be like the 'ear'oles' and gain CSEs, they answered 'they don't get any fun do they'

Inversion of values

- Notion of 'respect' is inscribed with a different meaning:
1) Teacher calls the lads rude, and 'God help their kids' who will be the same if not worse
2) One of the boys responds that their kids will be outspoken, and not 'submissive ******* twits'

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...

'Adult' behaviour

1) Smoking- and being seen to smoke
2) Fashion and sex- differentiation from the 'ear'oles': the lads were sexually experienced and fashionable, and therefore superior
3) Drinking- last day drunkenness as the 'final victory' over the school

- One lad: "we've been through all life's pleasures and all its ******* displeasures"
- But a conformist pupil has "known none of it", and has never been in a pub or with a woman
- Work = realisation of adult status

Why do w/c kids get w/c jobs?

-  If w/c kids really did accept that they were so stupid that it was fair and proper that they should spend the rest of their lives doing factory/manual jobs, 'they'd scarcely rate a score for being alive'
- Counter-school culture involved complex/subtle skills equal to those required in the classroom
- Some of the lads were clearly academically capable
- 'Hidden curriculum'- the lads are constantly aware of this, and constantly antagonise it by resisting/subverting authority

Structure, agency and culture

- The lads prepare themselves for the world of work
- They recognise that the school is not meritocratic- refuse to contribute to their own educational suppression
- Resistance posed by counter-school is a 'penetration'- but only symbolic resistance, like subcultural style 
- Correspondence between counter-school culture and factory shop floor culture
- E.g. controlling the work process, sticking together in front of bosses etc. 

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Conclusions

+ Class reproduction is a contested process
- In contrast to the smooth process of reproduction advocated by structuralist Marxists

+ Individuals are not passive
- They reproduce existing structures
- But this is with struggle, contestation, and partial penetration of those structures

+ Central role of the cultural sphere in the reproduction of social structures
- Culture does not simply 'reflect' social structure, but is central to its reproduction

+ If w/c kids on their way to work did not believe the logic of their actions for themselves, no-one outside, nor outside events, could convince them

+ Importance of 'cultural and subjective processes' in determining people's actions and ultimately, their social positions

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2: The Changing shape of class

- There is a changing nature of work:

1) Deindustrialisation/globalisation
2) Emergence of service economy
3) W/C no longer tied to old material bases

- Changing nature of consumption:

1) Emergence of a 'mass' consumer society
2) Shift from 'absolute' to 'relative' deprivation

From consciousness to ambivalence

- Savage et al.: We are undecided about our own identities, but not about others
- Class identities are thus simultaneously:
1) Ambivalent
2) Structured/coherent

- Skeggs: Identifies a tension between:
1) An older version of class as collective, explicit and oppositional
2) The new analyses which work with classas cultural, individualised and implicit

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Sociology of Bourdieu

- Bourdieu sees class reproduction/divisions as not just due to economic differences, but on the differential distribution of different forms of capital

1) Economic: property, possesions, income and wealth
2) Social: social connections (friends, relatives, colleagues etc.) which provide access to various 'goods' (work, information etc.)
3) Cultural:
a- Institutionalised: institutionally proven competencies/qualities (e.g. qualifications)
b- Objectified: cultural goods indicating the qualities of their owner (clothes, cars, books etc.)
c- Embodied: long lasting dispositions of the mind & body
4) Symbolic: any form of capital which is recognised by wider society as legitimate (status, respectability, honourability, competency etc.) 

- Accumulation of cultural capital costs time
- Time must be invested in the person
- E.g. Speech patterns, food preferences, bodily manner etc.

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Bourdieu's theory of class distinction

- 'Taste' is a function of class background
- The ways that people reveal their taste through lifestyle and consumption indicates their status in the social world
- Allows them to distance themselves from, or associate themselves with, social groups
- According to Bourdieu, taste gives 'a sense of one's place'
- Guides those of a certain social group to places/occupations fitting of their position
- Takes place through different forms of cultural capital which are internalised as dispositions/cognitive structures
- Social structure is not just 'out there', it's inside us
- We reproduce it through our choices/actions 
- Tastes/consumer choices that lie outside our dispositions ('habitus') are rejected

Symbolic economy: All forms of consumption, and the acts of distinction that underpin them, produce a symbolic economy, in which some forms of taste/consumption are valued above others

Symbolic violence: When dominant groups possessing symbolic capital delegitimise or devalue the cultures of dominated groups

Mis-recognition: When dominated groups recognise the judgements or qualities of dominant groups as 'legitimate' or 'good taste'

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Millington & Edensor (2009)- Xmas lights

Xmas lights have become a sit of class conflict.

- Mobilised around ideas about taste/community
- Comment on chavscum.co.uk: "Blinged up scummy chav house"
- Comment on news website: "Tasteless, tacky, and an embarassment to the neighbours"
- Comments say more about the identity construction practices of forum contributors
- Concern to delegitimise 'others' indicates anxiety about social position
- Mixture of disgust and condescension 
- "I am so glad I have the money and am not forced to live in local authority housing"- comment on chavscum.co.uk
- "Outdoor decorations need not be tasteless"- comment on BBC news website

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Skeggs: 'Sex and the city' vs. 'Sex and the w/c'

- Representations of female sexuality have shifted
- But the challenge presented to social perceptions of propriety leads to the drawing of new lines of what is/isn't acceptable
- Skeggs argues that propriety is drawn along class lines
- Sex and the city is OK, sex and the w/c is not

'Becoming respectable'

- One of the most universal signifiers of class
- Informs how we speak, who we speak to, how we classify others, what we study and how we know who we are (or are not)
- Respectability usually the concern of those who do not have it
- Respectability would not be a concern if the w/c had not been consistently classified as dangerous, polluting, threatening, revolutionary, pathological and without respect
- It would not be something to desire, to prove and to achieve, if it had not been seen to be the property of 'others'- those who were valued/legitimated
- Respectability is rarely recognised as an issue by those who are positioned with it/normalised by it/do not have to prove it
- For the 83 white w/c women of Skegg's study, respectability is always an issue

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Symbolic violence/misrecognition (w/c women)

- Skeggs looked at how w/c women deflect negative stereotyping and moral/aesthetic judgements
- Women in the study complained that they constantly have to think about what others will think of them when they put on clothes:
"Do I look dead common? Is it rough? Do I look like a dog?"
- Complain that all their life they've wanted to say "Look, I'm as good as you"

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Conclusions

+ Unlike Willis' lads, Skeggs' women 'disidentify' with working-classness

+ However, like the lads, they 'contest' their subordination (by being respectable)
- But do this in a way which only reproduces their position

+ Structure/agency: everyday classifying practices impose limitations

+ But it's important not to see those on the receiving end as passive victims of it

+ Also important to see that not everyone 'misrecognises' in the ways we might expect

+ Xmas light displayers see themselves as 'upholding tradition' in the 'spirit of xmas', thereby generating a sense of community

+ Taste is not an issue

+ Neighbours will say "I know it's Christmas now cos you've got your lights up"

+ "Christmas is about sharing, and this is a way of sharing and doing something for the community, for people other than myself"

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3: Is there an underclass?

McDonald (1997):
- Sees an underclass of people at the bottom of the social heap
- Believes they are "structurally separate" and "culturally distinct" from traditinal patterns of 'decent' w/c life

- But is the 'underclass' just the latest version of the 'underserving poor' narrative that goes back to the 1830s
- Might be seen as a lifestyle choice instead

- The Sun published an article declaring war on benefits claimants that are "robbing hard-working Sun readers of their cash"
- Claims it's because they cannot be bothered to find a job/claim to be sick even when they're perfectly capable
- Prefer to sit at home watching widescreen TVs paid for by "you"

Underclass: Origins of the debate

Myrdal (1962): Uses the term to refer to an excluded minority made economically redundant through technological process under capitalism

Auletta (1982): 'Undeserving Poor'- saw underclass as a culturally/economically excluded group of drug addicts, drunks, drop-outs and drifters, street criminals and long-term welfare dependents

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...

Murray: The Radical Right

- Most influential writer on the 'underclass'
- Direct impact on policy in USA
- Indirect influence on shifting the debate in UK
- UK books based on 'poor communities' in Glasgow and Liverpool
- Argues that 'over-generous' welfare policies have created incentives to failure
- An 'other type' of poor people is taking over, he claims

- Early warning signs included:
1) Rise in unemployment
2) Rise in crime/illegitimacy
- Argument based on notion of 'economic rationality' 
- Notion of 'cultural reproduction': a distaste for work is passed from one generation to the next

Black (2008)

- Warned that families who haven't worked for generations are creating a terrible legacy
- Thousands of children are growing up in families where their parents and grandparents have never worked
- Children might begin to see unemployment as normal

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Structuralist interpretations

- Westergaard (1992): 'Victims of circumstance'- structural factors such as a lack of opportunities to find work, exposure to drinking/drug-taking etc. plus changes in the structure of employment are to blame
- Example: 'Ghetto poor' live in a comercially abandoned place where pimps, drug pushers and unemployed street people have replaced working fathers as socialising agents
- The ghetto poor thus develop cultural responses (e.g. the development of local drug economies)
- But this still points to a 'culture of poverty'

Social exclusion

- A shorthand term for what can happen when people/areas suffer from a combnation of linked powers
- E.g. unemployment, poor skills, low incomes, poor housing, high crime environments, bad health and family breakdown
- Focus on structual problems and notion of social exclusion as a 'process' seems to move away from victim blaming
- Tony Blair (2005): Stated that social exclusion is "more harmful to the individua" and "corrosive for society as a whole" than material poverty

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New policies for 'Broken Britain' from conservativ

- Government believes that we need to encourage responsibility and fairness in the welfare system
- Means:

1) Providing help for those who cannot work
2) Training/targeted support for those looking for work
3) Sanctions for those who turn down reasonable offers of work/training

- Want to ensure that receipt of benefits for those able to work is conditional on their willingness to work
- Will re-assess all current claimants of Incapacity Benefit for their readiness to work
- Will investigate how to simplify the benefit system in order to improve incentives to work

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'Poor work' in Middlesborough study

MacDonald & Marsh

- 'Willowdene' has all the key markers of the underclass status
- But respondents have very 'normal' values in relation both to work and to family
- Very strong commitment to work despite enormous difficulties attached to finding/keeping work, pay levels, conditions of employment, and relations with employments
- Getting and keeping of jobs was a driving force, "irrespective of pay and conditions"
 - Reasons included:

1) Enjoying working- something to do, meet new people
2) Would be embarassed going to the 'dole office'
3) Don't like the idea of a lazy life
4) Wanting to support family
5) So their children can feel proud of them and have nice things

Getting by in poor neighbourhoods

- Social capital is crucial for M&M's respondents in many spheres
- E.g. getting jobs, being a young mother (childcare, advice/support, a positive sense of identity)
- Generally 'getting by'
- "If you're stuck, someone will help you" (e.g. neighbours, lending money)

Forrest & Kearns: Close family ties, mutual aid and voluntarism are often strong features of poor areas. They help people "cope with poverty, unemployment and wider processes of social exclusion."

'Getting on'
- MadConald et al. (2005): People might not leave poor neighbourhoods due to familarity with the place, strong inclusion, supportive family/social networks, meant that most saw no reason to leave Willowdene  

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Conclusions

+ Neighbourhoods for poorer people often serve as 'bonding'social capital that allows people to 'get by' (Kearns & Parkinson, 2001)

+ Notion of an underclass diverts attention from government culpability, presenting 'public issues' of policy failure as 'personal issues' (Craine, 1997)

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Comments

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