Class and Identity

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The Traditional Working Class

The traditional working class

  • An induvidual's work plays an important part in defining their identity
  • Traditional manual work created a strong sense of one's social-class
  • Working class identity reinforced by the close knit nature of working-class communities and Newspapers, working-men's clubs and the Labour Party
  • Manual workers have a greater risk of redundency and unemployment 
  • Gender roles were very segregated. It was important to a man's identity that he provided for his family, men were clearly the heads of the households
  • Young and Wilmott found that extended kinship networks were important. A range of relatives offer support especially in financial help and in finding work
  • Billington said children were often brought up to have very limited aspirations. Although some working class children benefited from education, many left school at the age of 15/16 to go to work
  • Marxism claims that a working class, with a class consciousness, still exists today
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The New Working Class

The new working class

  • The decline in manual work has led to the formulation of a new working-class identity
  • Work is a means to an end
  • They believe in induvidualism
  • Feminization of the economy and decline in traditional working class industries
  • Expansion of education
  • Change in political ideology in the 1980s, when self-interest was seen as ok
  • Manual workers declined from 79% in 1911 to just under half in 1971
  • General Household Survey states that the working class now stands at 44%
  • Saunders (1990) How we get our money is less important than how we spend it. Home and family is now seen as more important for the working class, which has led to the working class induviduals loosening their ties with the community  
  • Postmodernism - Argue that gender, ethnicity and family interact with consumption and the media images to create our identity today. So class identity is a redundant concept for postmodernists
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The Underclass

The underclass - Murray (1990)

  • Identified a class below the working class, which he called the underclass
  • This group are characterised by a dependency on state benefits

Murray sees the cause for this being:

  • High unemployment
  • High single-parenthood
  • The underclass is being socialised by their parents into a culture of idleness, failure and criminality
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The Middle Class

The middle class

Savage (1995) - four types of middle class identity

  • Professionals
  • Managers
  • Self-employed owners of small businesses
  • Entrepreneural group

Bourdieu (1977) - Marxist

  • Schools are middle-class institutions, run by middle-class teachers for the benefit of middle-class pupils
  • Bourdieu an Passeron (1977) suggested that middle-class culture (cultural capital) is just as important as economic capital
  • Middle class children's habitus provides them with norms, values, knowledge and linguistic skills which fit ideally into the education system
  • This cultural capital is supplemented by the economic capital and by social capital
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The Upper Class

The upper class

The following are considered elements of upperclass lifestyle:

  • Feepaying schooling
  • Private transport
  • Private health care
  • Exclusive social networks

Four reasons for a strong sense of upper class identity

 1. In 1994, 53% of all financial wealth was owned by 5% of the population. This is seen by the upper class as something worth reproducing and protecting                                        2. Many wealthy families are interconnected through marriage. This elite is closed to outsiders (social closure). This is supported by the parents, etiquette is central to this    3. Upper class education, such as Eton, who encourage the values of conservatism          4. The 'old-boy' network is used to build up contacts that further each others' careers and influence

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