Social Inequalities

To find out as to what extent social class not only shapes attitudes, values and beliefs, but also has a significant impact on life chances, I will begin by defining social stratification, social class and life chances. Sociological theories will also be used to help understand society. Education and employment impact on society will also be discussed using journal articles obtained as a guide. To understand social stratification, it is important to make a distinction between social inequality, which refers to the existence of socially created inequalities whereas social stratification is a particular form of inequality.

It refers to the presence of distinct social groups which are ranked one above the other in terms of factors such as prestige and wealth. Using the functionalist theory, we can understand stratification better as this theory views society as a system that is set of interconnected parts which together form a whole. Talcott Parsons (1902- 79). Davis and moore (1945), claimed that all societies have some form of social stratification. George Peter Murdock (1949) maintained that the family exists in every known human society.

All these people seem to suggest that individual families and social stratification meet needs that are common to all societies. I agree with the functionalism theory as it is small groups such as families that make up society as a whole. Each family trying to survive and do better than others in the process bettering the society. For a society to survive, functional prerequisites of society are required as Marion J. Levy (1952) argued that a society would cease to exist if its members were absorbed into another society or involved in a war of all against all. Marion J.

Levy ’ s argument can be challenged. With the shortage of housing, families getting absorbed into another society would be replaced by families searching for accommodation. On the other hand, ethnomethodologists follow Alfred Schutz (1932) in believing there is no real social order as other sociological perspectives assume. Social life appears orderly to members of society only because members actively engage in making scence of social life. According to Zimmerman and Wieder (1971), society go about the task of seeing, describing and explaining order in the world in which they live.

Social class – Savage et al. described social class as social collectivises rooted in particular types of exploitative relationships. These collectivises are groups of people who share levels of income, lifestyles, cultures and political orientations. An example of this could be a group of footballers, would share the same level of income, with similar lifestyles will act or be seen or perceived differently to golf players who are equally rich but may have a different lifestyle to footballers. This can be linked to Marxist theory.

Karl Marx (1818- 83) regarded people as both the producers and the products of society. People are regarded as producers as they make society and themselves by their own actions. People are regarded as products of society in that they are shaped by the social relationships and systems of thought they create. To support Karl Marx ’ s comment on people being a product of society, a real life example could be given where a student joins university for the first time. University can be regarded as a society with different individuals, all trying to achieve the same thing.

It is up to the new student to choose the group he joins and this will affect the student ’ s life at university if in a bad group or good group thereby making the student a product of that society. Life chances- Gerth and mills, (1954) stated that a person ’ s position in a stratification system may have important effects on many areas of life. It may enhance or reduce life chances that is their chances of obtaining those things that are desirable and avoiding those things defined as undesirable in their society. (Max Weber).

To help determine whether in fact social class not only shapes attitudes, values and beliefs, it is important to categorize social class. Social class refers to the persistent social inequalities. Two distinct types of social inequality have been identified by researchers working with two different sociological theories. One theory is derived from the work of Karl Marx the other from the writings by Max Weber, which are somewhat critical of Marx ’ s work. Marxian approach suggests that social class was defined by ownership of the means of production bourgeoisie who exploit the workers who do not own the means of production (proletariat).

Source: the Canadian encyclopedia. Marxian approach can be challenged as it does not refer to occupation or levels of income. Marxian approach regarded everyone that did not own land as proletariat. This would mean that senior managerial administrative and manual working class would be regarded as being in the same class (proletetariat). There is a vast difference between the income and benefits of senior managers compared to manual workers therefore it wouldn ’ t be right to put the two in the same class. Ethnic and gender factors are mportant in differentiating people and in relating them to the general division of labour and inequalities of opportunity and conditions which are associated with it. Another way of categorizing class is by referring to upper class, consisting of property owners (bourgeoisie), middle class consisting of senior managers, middle managers and supervisory and service worker class and finally the working class or lower class consisting of manual workers. A variety of studies have shown that non-manual workers enjoy advantages over manual workers in terms of their life chances.

The office for national statistics (ONS), has compiled a range of statistical evidence on inequalities between classes in England and Wales. (Focus on social inequalities 2004). In 2002, 77% of year 11 children with parents in higher professional occupations obtained five or more GCSE ’ S at grade C or above, compared to 32% of those with parents in routine occupations. In my opinion, the above statistics suggest that parents can also act as role models to their children.

An example is that if a parent is CEO of an organization, he/she will encourage their children to do well at school and reach the same level or above the parent position. Just for being CEO, this parent has set a target level for his/her children which is quit hard to archive but with the parent ’ s income, the child can go to private school and increase life chances. On the other hand, it would be hard for a parent in manual labour to encourage their child to reach CEO position. This child may see this as an impossible task and will settle for the same factory job or aspire to be the factory supervior.

This child ’ s parent income could not be enough to better life chance. Social class does really shape attitudes, values and beliefs and this can be supported by the common American saying “ The American dream ” . The American dream can be explained as a belief and the freedom that allows all citizens and residents to achieve their life chances in the USA. Today, in America it generally refers to the idea that one ’ s prosperity depends upon one ’ s own abilities and hard work. ( wikipedia encyclopedia).

This is a message passed on to all people in America but in my opinion, people from the lower class are likely to believe in the American dream as some form of comfort or assurance that things could get better in future. The journal article below is by Andrew Billen. The Times. London uk. Aug 20, 2007. Pg 19(Full article can be found on Appendix 1) Page 2 In last night ’ s season opener, the fascistically titled the will to win[Robert Winston] fretted at age 7 their fates may already be sealed. Certainly, by the programme ’ s end it looked if the Jesuits knew what they were talking about.

As little William sprinted ahead of the pack to the finishing line of his private school ’ s egg and spoon race, his ambitious mother was convinced he was already the person he would become. “ I ’ m definitely going to win, ” he had confidently predicted half an hour earlier. “ And I ’ m going to come second, ” chipped in his friend, the sort of friend William would need. Down at the other end of Britain, where life chances are more ragged, was [James], whose ambition in life had hardened up: he wanted to be a robber.

His answer to a dumbed-down IQ test question, “ what do you do if you find a wallet on the floor? ” was “ take it home ” . Despite this, James ’ s IQ was found to be just a touch below average. If only he had been clever enough to choose different parents. His father had scampered when he was an infant, leaving his mother Carol, struggling. This article points out that a child born in an upper class family will have better life chances as they will be able to attend very good schools or private schools thereby bettering their chances of succeeding.

Page 2 Aspects of life such as income play an important part in achieving life chances as pointed out by the article below taken from Allister Heath. Sunday Business London (UK) Jun 26. 2005 pg 1. The writer noted that the UK is plagued with low social mobility; and that this is partly due to the strong and increasing relationship between family income and educational attainment. The proportion of children from the poorest fifth of families born during the early 1980s obtaining a degree has increased from 6% to 9%, while the graduation rate for the richest fifth has risen from 20% to 47%. Full article can be found on Appendix 2) Social class still exists at present as most of what we do on a daily basis is determined by how we perceive or wish to perceive ourselves. Eg, the cars we choose to buy, friends we choose etc. Jonathan Moore, UK BBC Publication, 18/12/2007 I fully agree that social class does in fact have a significant impact on life chances. The functionalist theory did describe society as a system that is set of interconnected parts which together form a whole. This brings out the fact that society is divided into different classes and that inequalities do exist.

William, in the journal article was positive he would win because of his up brining from his parents not to accept second best. His parents, through their jobs have set a target for William which will affect his life chances. REFERENCES Martin Holborn and Mike Haralambos, sociology themes and perspectives, seventh edition, 2007. Tony J. Watson, sociology ,work and industry, third edition, 1995. Mike Noon and Paul Blyton, the realities of work, second edition, 2002. Keith Grint, the sociology of work, third edition, 2005. The times. London(uk): Aug 20, 2007 pg 19. Sunday Business. London(uk): Jun 26,2005 pg 1.

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