Social Class inequalities

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Postmodern views on social class

PILKINGTON- Modernity ( the period before postmodernity) - dominance of capitalism, consolidation of the modern state, rationality.

POLEMUS- Supermarket of styles

WATERS- Conspicuous consumption, people are enticed by advertising to conspicuously consume, and buy the image they want to portray.

BAURILLARD- Hyper-reality and consumption, as we consume more we move away from social relationships to relationships with what we consume.

LYOTARD- 'Metanarratives' such as marxism, functionalism and weberianism are no longer able to explain the social world. No one explanation is truer than another.

PAKULSKI AND WATERS- Class is dead; people are no longer interested in social and economic relationships of class.

BRADLEY- Globalisation, new identities are created by globalisation; due to the number of different identities and cultural groups.

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Functionalist views on social class

Functionalists argue that inequalities have a purpose- they are functional for society.

DURKHEIM- Society needs specialists to undertake various jobs. Harmony can be achieved by a division of labour whereby people have different jobs. Some jobs have a higher status than others and greater rewards and power. People would accept this as long as they could see that the system was fair. Conflict may occur but could be controlled through socialisation. Disharmony may occur when people felt the system was not fair, for example, when large bonuses are paid to bankers during a recession. 

 In industrialized societies stratification and therefore inequality, exists on the basis of which roles are agreed to be the most important and therefore the most funtional for society. The agreement occurs because people are socialized into the shared norms and values of society, initially by the family, and subsequently by education and other agents of socialisation. The value consensus that results is what holds society together and it gives social order. Sharing a common identity gives people a sense of purpose and commitment to the maintenance of society. These values also give people common goals such as to work hard.  

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Marxist views on social class

Marxism is a macro theory, which means they are concerned with the structure of society. 

MARX- A few wealthy and powerful poeople, the bourgeoisie, own the means of production and the rest just own their own labour power. The bourgeoisie exploit the proletariat by keeping their wages as low as possible. Order and stability exist in society because the ruling class exercise power over all other groups. The elected government acts on behalf of the bourgeoisie; they implement laws to protect their property and determine working practices. Capitalism survives because the inherent inequalities are either not recognized or are accepted as just. If people cannot recognise their own exploitation, this is called false class conciousness.

BOWLES AND GINTIS- Students' experience of school is alienating. School specifically prepares students for their future as workers in a capitalist system. They argue that school does not prepare everyone in the same way; it prepares them according to their future position in society. They argue that schools are not meritocratic and that claiming that they are is part of the ruling class ideology persuading people that inequalities are fair.  

BRAVERMAN- Argued that inequalities in the workplace are exacerbated by certain factors. He argues that there has been de-skilling of white-collar jobs; they have become proletarianized. Technology has been one of the causes of this. The same has happened to some professions. Teachers are an example, they are told what to teach and when.

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Neo-Marxist views on social class

GRAMSCI- used the concept of hegemony to describe the ideological control the dominant class have over the masses. He argued that the bourgeoisie control the working class by controlling ideas. The ideas of the ruling class have become the dominant ideas. He also argued that the ruling class could not rely on false class conciousness, since there was evidence that some people understood their exploitation, and at times challenged it, such as strikes. He argued that there are divisions in classes and the state can exploit these divisions in order to maintain ruling class hegemony. 

The infrastructure is the mode of production and social relations are inextricably linked to this. In a capitalist economy, social relationships are articulated via money.  The proletariat sell their labour power to the capitalists, in doing so, they implicitly accept they will exploited and oppressed. The superstructure reproduces the class inequalities located in the infrastructure and legitimates them by the transmission of the dominant ideology. 

argues the education system does this so successfully that the working classes accept the system is fair. He also that most ruling classes rely on the ideological state apparatus to persuade people that inequalities are fair, but the repressive state apparatus is always available if it proves necessary.

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Neo-Marxist views on social class (cont.)

WRIGHT-control is now important as well as the relationship to the means of production. By control Wright meant control labour, of investment and of the means of production. Some non-manual occupations are in a contradictory class position. They are between two classes, the one above having more control and the one below having less. Managers oe those with substantial control are in a position to exploit others even though they themselves are exploited by the owners of the means of production.

Bourdieu argues that class inequalities are reproduced by the education system. The system values the cultural capital of the middle classes. hey are able to impose their habitus on the education system, giving their children an advantage. 

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Functionalist views on social class (cont.)

DAVIS AND MOORE- Society needs the most talented people to perform the most skilled jobs and therefore has to pay them accordingly and give them higher status. There is meritocracy and the most able will, through theexamination system, be allocated the most important jobs. Their class position will reflect this role allocation. There is an expectation that the most talented will be prepared to make sacrifices early on in order to be educated and trained, and for this they will be rewarded later. The examination system will 'sift and sort' people into appropriate jobs. This means the system is legitimated. The stratification that results will ensure that those at the top work to maintain their position and those lower down try to better themselves.

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