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The Social Class of the Brithish and American Societies - Essay Example

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This paper emphasizes that social classes can be detrimental to people, because they depict the disparity of power among class divisions. Social classes also show differences in status and privileges that impact how people perceive themselves and how others “classify” them too…
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The Social Class of the Brithish and American Societies
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Sociology 29 August The Social es of the British and American Societies is a complex term used since the eighteenth century to describe distinct social groupings, which at some point in history described the British society. Social classes are distinguished based on inequalities with regards to power, authority, wealth, lifestyles, life spans, education, religion, working and living conditions, and culture (Cody). Social stratification arose due to obvious differences noted between people. These divisions, however, were not contained to the British Empire. The class system of social divisions evolved and spread all over the world, with different benchmarks set for class distinctions, and this resulted to several social classification systems for different societies. Social inequalities formed three distinct social classes during the nineteenth century for the British society, which are the upper class, the middle class and the lower class, but in the United States, six distinct social classes are identified: upper class, new money, middle class, working class, working poor and poverty level (SparkNotes.com). The upper class in British society is composed of the “rich” people who include the aristocrats by inheritance, as well as those individuals who “achieved” living standards that are comparable to the former, such as businesspeople, industrialists and professional experts (Cody). American society, however, splits the upper-class category according to “how” they earned their wealth: 1) the aristocrats or the “upper class” who inherited their wealth, and 2) the “new money” social class who are not born with a golden spoon in their mouths and “earned” their finances through their different business and/or professional efforts (SparkNotes.com). This distinction shows the difference between “inheriting” and “developing” one's upper class status. Moreover, British social stratification shows that the workforce with respectable jobs and who are able to sustain an adequate standard of living are labeled as the “middle class”. This class also includes the “working class” (Cody). The Americans, on the other hand, further divide the “middle class” into two distinct classes: the white-collar jobs holders with professional jobs are called the “middle class,” whereas those employed in technical and physical labor sectors belong to the “working class” (SparkNotes.com). This division of the “middle” class differentiates the “learned” or “college-educated” middle class from the low-skilled and none-college-educated middle class. Finally, British society’s “lower class” includes people who are unable to sustain decent living standards and those that lie below the official poverty line that the government has established (Cody). The Americans classify this category again into two: the workforce laborers who are paid meager wages on jobs that do not involve extensive skill acquisition and whose income are still insufficient to meet the basic standard of living are called the “working poor,” while people who are poverty-stricken and have no source of income belong to the “poverty level” class (SparkNotes.com). The American society differentiates the working poor from the poor who are not part of the working class. Across all classes, significant differences are observed due to disparities in the classes’ political influence, educational standing and living standards. The upper class exercises more political power over other classes, due to their wealth and social, political, and economic connections. Similarly, the living standards and educational backgrounds degrade, as people go down the social class ladder in both American and British societies. Apparently, belonging to a certain social class will decrease or increase the chances of social class mobility. The middle class can become the upper class, because of their education and access to resources, but the working and poverty level class will have a hard time achieving the middle and upper class statuses, due to their lack of resources and skills and discrimination against their class. Several classical sociologists describe social class distinctions and their implications to individuals and the society. Classical sociologist Karl Marx offers a different social classification based on people's access to factors of production. According to Marx, there are only two distinct classes of a society and they are the capitalists and the workers. The workers are in control of the skills they offer, while the capitalists control them with wages and contracts. The capitalists have access to wealth and important factors of production, such as capital and land. Karl Marx recognizes these two classes as those who can shape the economic systems of their societies and so for him, his two-class system is the only valid form of social class stratification. This model, nevertheless, consists of a third category called the “petit bourgeoisie” who include the owners of small businesses and are paradoxically included in both categories, due to their dual status in their businesses as owners and workers. Another classical sociologist Max Weber, in contrast with his predecessor Karl Marx, proposes a class distinction based on three factors: power, wealth and prestige. Karl Marx and Max Weber are described as conflict theorists, nevertheless, because they both share beliefs in the inherent conflicts between the upper and lower classes. Emile Durkheim worked on Marx's and Weber's theories. Durkheim’s views are considered as the contemporary version of Max Weber's, since the former supported the latter's ideologies and class divisions. Durkheim, in contrast, evaluated social division through a functionalist view, where he emphasized that social divisions need to be analyzed according to the roles of social objects (Shortell). These factors proposed by early sociologists can all be used as the bases of modern class stratification. Current social classes are products of social objects, power, education, wealth, and access to factors of productions. This paper emphasizes that social classes can be detrimental to people, because they depict the disparity of power among class divisions. Social classes also show differences in status and privileges that impact how people perceive themselves and how others “classify” them too. This form of classification can either serve as an obstacle or a stepping stone for movement in the social class ladder. Either way, social class stratification marginalizes the poor even more, because they are already detrimentally labeled by the society they live in. Works Cited Cody, D. “Social Class”. Victorianweb.org. 22 July 2002. Web. 27 July 2011. SparkNotes Editors. “SparkNote on Social Stratification and Inequality.” SparkNotes.com. SparkNotes LLC. 2006. Web. 27 July 2011. Shortell, T. “Durkheim's Theory of Social Class.” Brooklynsoc.org. n.d. Web. 27 July 2011. Read More
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