Sociology Topic 1

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Upper Class Advantage

Snider – the state is reluctant to pass laws which disadvantage corporations so the middle classes are rarely subject to the same levels of control and policing as the working classes.
Conklin – corporate crime and white collar crime are largely ignored which advantages the middle classes.
Hood - suggests that judges are more likely to be lenient where the accused is ‘similar to them’. Judges are overwhelmingly white, middle aged, middle class and male, so they are more likely to be lenient with the middle class.
Gillies - middle class mothers have more time and cultural capital which they use to advantage their children in terms of education. 
Elite Theory
Young and Wilmott – middle class women are more likely to have escaped domestic drudgery as more likely to be in symmetrical families.

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Working Class Disadvantage

•Children born to parents in the bottom class have a 1% chance of going to university, whereas 80% of those in the top class go.
•Life expectancy at birth has increased over the past 30 years among all social classes, but the greater gains have been made by the middle classes. The life expectancy gap between professionals and unskilled manual males is 7.4 year. (The Guardian 2009)
•Unskilled manual workers are twice as likely to die before men in the professional classes. 
•Infant mortality rate (live births who die before the age of one) is doubled in the working classes in comparison to the middle classes
•Manual jobs are paid less than non-manual jobs. Numbers of jobs in the manual sector are declining.
•Unemployment rates are about four times higher among unskilled workers than among professional groups
•Hey – working class girls are more likely to be controlled by their peers with regard to sexual behaviour and judged by their looks, whereas middle class girls have more sexual liberation due to their higher levels of social status and power.
•Jackson – Working class youth are more likely to fall into rebellious peer groups of lads and ladettes which lead to underachievement in education.

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Comte believed the scientific study of society should be confined to collecting information about phenomena that can be objectively observed and classified. Comte argued that sociologists should not be concerned with the internal meanings, motives, feelings and emotions of individuals. Since these mental states exist only in the person’s consciousness, they cannot be observed and so they cannot be measured in any objective way.

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Quantitative data are data in a numerical form: for example, official statistics on crime, suicide and divorce rates. By comparison, qualitative data are usually presented in words. These may be a description of a group of people living in poverty, providing a full and in-depth account of their way of life, or a transcript of an interview in which people describe and explain their attitude towards and experience of religion.
Compared to quantitative data, qualitative data are usually seen as richer, more vital, as having greater depth and as more likely to present a true picture of a way of life, of people’s experiences, attitudes and beliefs.

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Participant Observation
Went undercover to see if she could lilve on minimum wage
Worked in 3 different cities
She had to cope for food
Always had to spend over her income, would have been in debt of not for her own bank balance.
75% of those on minimum wage were women.

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British Household Panel Survey

The BHPS is an annual survey consisting of a nationally representative sample of about 10,000 households (half of which were originally recruited in 1991, and half of which have been recruited since then). These households contain a total of approximately 20,000 interviewed individuals. The sample is a stratified clustered design drawn from the Postcode Address File and all residents present at those addresses at the first wave of the survey were designated as panel members, (they did not use anyone living in a residential home or homeless). The overall response rate was about 70% as not everyone agrees to be interviewed. These same individuals are re-interviewed each successive year and, if they split-off from original households to form new households, they are followed and all adult members of these households are also interviewed. Similarly, new members joining sample households become eligible for interview and children are interviewed as they reach the age of 16. Since 1994, children aged 11-15 also complete a short interview.

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Karl Marx (1818-1883) believed that social inequality is not inevitable in all societies, just in capitalism. Under capitalism, he argued, there are only two classes: the capitalists ('bourgeoisie') and the workers ('proletariat'). These classes are defined by their relationship to the 'means of production' (productive resources such as land, factories, machinery, raw materials). Capitalists (entrepreneurs, financiers and industrialists) own the means of production and so they are in a highly privileged and powerful economic position. The workers, on the other hand, do not own productive property and so they can survive only by selling their labour power to employers. It is this basic division, between the owners of capital and the workers, which creates major conflicts. Social Inequality is caused when the bourgeoisie oppress and exploit the proletariat. 

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Neo-Marxism is the term used to describe the work of later Marxists. They have taken Marx’s ideas in many different directions and there is no single neo-Marxist approach. Most seem to agree that culture deserves far more serious attention than it was given by ‘classical’ Marxists. Neo-Marxists generally see culture as a force in its own right, one that cannot be treated as a mere reflection of economic forces 
Bourdieu argues that the bourgeoisie use their cultural capital to maintain their class position. 
Gramsci (1971) explains how capitalists use their superior resources (e.g. control of mass media and education) to win the hearts and minds of workers. (Hegemony)

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Marxist changing class structure

Wilkinson and Pickett explain that polarisation and inequality is bad for everyone as it increases social alienation
Savage (2000) argues that the collective confidence of the working class is being undermined in contemporary society
Westergaard is concerned that whilst differences between the classes seem to have strengthened, the identification people have with their own social class seems to have weakened. He calls this the difference between ‘class in itself’ and ‘class for itself’. 
Braverman argued that many white collar workers were being deskilled, to such an extent that they could be considered 'proletarian' (working class). He called this process proletarianisation. 

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He believed that instead of simply looking at the relationship to the means of production (as Marx does) one should consider the distinction between class, status and party. Weber treated these as separate (but related) sources of power which have direct effects on people's life chances. 
He chose to define class in terms of position in the economic marketplace.
Status refers to the degree of honour or prestige which is attached to social groups in society.
Party When Weber talks about party he is referring to the exercise of power by pressure groups, political parties, trade unions and other organised interest groups.
Weber therefore concluded that there were 4 social classes, (not two as Marx suggested). These are:
1.Manual workers (the working class)
2.The petty-bourgeoisie (self-employed, managers)
3.White collar workers and technicians (the lower middle class)
4.Those privileged through education or property
Barron and Norris (1976) argue that the labour market is divided into two sectors, a primary sector consisting of secure, well-paid jobs with good prospects and a secondary sector characterised by poor pay, insecurity and no ladder of promotion. It is very difficult to move from the secondary to the primary sector. 

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Weber changing class structure

They are particularly interested in how the growth of the middle classes has led to fragmentation.

ONS classes 1 and 2 have expanded considerably in the postwar period as a result of transformations in the economic and occupational structure. 

There is considerable debate over the class position of routine white collar workers. Roberts (2001) shows this in the case of female office workers. Many of these women have modest pay, low job autonomy and poor career prospects

Roberts (2001) takes the view that the female-dominated ranks of routine office workers have never really developed a distinctive class identity

The working class is represented by classes 5,6 and 7 in the ONS scheme. This class has shrunk from 75% of the total population in 1901 to about 43% at the end of the twentieth century. 

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Functionalists believe that inequality is not really surprising or accidental in a country like Britain. Rather, it is something that is systematically generated by the way society is structured and organised. Moreover, a certain level of inequality is necessary or desirable. Indeed, many people seem to support the idea of a meritocracy. A meritocratic system assumes it is the task of social institutions (e.g. schools, workplace) to set up a ‘contest’ to identify and select the most talented people. 

role allocation

functional importance

scarcity of personnel 

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Most people used to believe in Grand Narratives
However, many people believe we have reached a period after this which is known as ‘late modernity’ meaning that people are now moving away from the notion there is one solution or an ideal that will fit everyone. This stage of society’s development is very different to the previous period. People like Giddens believe that we are living in a late modern period.

Lyotard believes that grand narratives are now useless since we live our lives as individuals and therefore post-modernists focus on the deconstruction of groups

Bauman also writes from a post-modern perspective but he believes that contemporary society is divided by inequalities. These inequalities are based upon consumption rather than occupation or relation to the means of production.

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Postmodernism changing class structure

Pakulski and Waters (1996) argue that class diverts attention away from more important areas such as identity, race and gender. In their opinion, postmodern societies are no longer class societies, since production and the marketplace are now of minor significance

Beck and Beck-Gernsheim (1996) describe the trend towards individualisation and detraditionalisation. Class traditions no longer seem so relevant or appealing in an age when people are increasingly forced to exercise personal choice and take their own individual decisions. Traditional certainties have collapsed and the old ‘fixed’ categories of class, religion and gender no longer provide detailed guidance on how people should lead their lives. So, according to Beck and Beck-Gernsheim, people must now create their own lives through their own actions (the ‘do-it-yourself biography’). People increasingly see themselves as individuals rather than as members of a social class.

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