Race and class in modern society - Essay Example

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The issue of interracial relations has always been among the most controversial and difficult problems in American society. Racial segregation has a long history in the US, beginning with slavery and evolving into racially separated housing, schooling, busses and trains…
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Race and class in modern society
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RACE AND IN MODERN SOCIETY 2007 RACE AND IN MODERN SOCIETY The issue of interracial relations has always been among the most controversial and difficult problems in American society. Racial segregation has a long history in the US, beginning with slavery and evolving into racially separated housing, schooling, busses and trains. Furthermore, for much of the last century, racial, gender, ethnic, and religious minorities have been facing legal exclusion and unequal treatment. Representatives of minorities were segregated into low paid and less perspective jobs, while some minorities – for example, Chinese or Korean – were legally forbidden to own land. Until the second decade of the last century, even white women were legally deprived of the political rights and in many states they could not enter certain occupational fields, such as law, journalism, and medicine (Danziger & Gottschalk, 1995).
Unfortunately, the issue of racial inequality still remains one of the ulcers of modern society, but at the same time another form of inequality is slowly but steadily becoming even more significant and influential these days: social or class inequality. One popular definition of social class is the following: “social class is a term used to categorize individuals in a stratified social system; social class characteristics are often related to (but may not be limited to) child-rearing practices, beliefs, values, economic status, prestige and influence, and general life chances” (Cushner et al. 2003: 320). The role of class in the modern society of consumerism is literally huge, and it will probably not be an exaggeration to state that race means little as compared to class these days.
Usually when we say that we live in a consumer society, we mean something more than the fact all members of it are consumers – since the dawn of human civilization people have always consumed something. The thing is that members of a consumer society represent an entirely different type of consumers, consumers who made consumption first and the only goal of their lives. This sharp change of social roles introduced the new social structure of the society where all people were treated depending upon their ability to consume.
This phenomenon has introduced and reinforced the new social roles and new principle of social stratification where race plays minor role while the ability to make choices is the most important thing. In general modern society falls into two large groups depending upon the ability to make choices: those who can choose between joys they are offered, and those who obey the choice of others (Bauman, 1998). In other words the consumer society did not bring an absolutely new social structure – its members remained stratified as in any previous society. But it did brought the new principle of that stratification that led to the vast economic inequalities both between countries and separate individuals who live in one country.
However, what is particularly important about this new type of inequality that it seeks to promote and further reinforce itself. Thus, the prominent social thinker Pierre Bourdieu (1984) considered consumption as a “…set of social and cultural practices that serve as a way of establishing differences between social groups, not merely as a way of expressing differences” (340). Evidently, this tendency is very dangerous and should be overviewed by the policymakers both domestically and internationally: the current efforts of the wealthy states to fight poverty in the third world countries is apparently not effective enough to forget about the problem.
Bauman, Z., Globalization: The Human Consequences, Cambridge: Polity Press, 1998.
Bourdieu, P., Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste. R. Nice, trans. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
Cushner, KH, McClelland, A, Safford P 2003, Human Diversity in Education: An Integrative Approach, McGraw-Hill Humanities/Social Sciences/Languages
Danziger, S. & Gottschalk, P. (1995). America Unequal. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. Read More
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