Social Class: Ways To Explore

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Sociologists view society as a hierarchal system that hinges on certain factors such as wealth and the higher the class the more power and privilege that comes with that which tend to lead to inequalities as certain groups and people have more than others. Social class has attributes of the presence of unequal opportunities for different social and ethnic groups and how it affects their lives in many different ways, in this essay I will be looking at social class within the education and crime sectors and sociologists such as Marxists and Bourdieu and what they have to say on social class topic, I’ll also be exploring the difficulties women from an ethnic background and a lower social class face as they could be consisted at the bottom of the social hierarchy.

While looking at education I will explore both the functionalists view and Bourdieu’s view. Functionalists believe that the education system is mostly based how much effort you did in you work and the harder you work, the better the rewards and results. Emile Durkheim supposes that education contributes to social solidarity, which is a crucial factor for society as it ties it together by stating and creating norms and values. He also believed that education contributes to individual’s skills as parents and teachers teach these to them and is something they pick up while being around others. The education system teaches the skills and knowledge required to enable an individual to do a job, Talcott Parsons added on to the theory and suggested that education is a secondary socialisation where schools build on the primary socialisation, which is taught by parents during our earlier years which gets taught in a more formal way, this way the education system prepares children for their adult roles as he believes that schools are a smaller version of society and it assists while they are discovering their talents and helps them build and grow because education helps with individual’s achievement as it rewards high achiever, offers equal opportunity for individuals to have a chance of success and helps children build their talents by providing them material they may not have access to otherwise. However functionalists theory has been criticised as there’s evidence that supports the statement that certain social groups underachieve in schools which suggests that children do not have equal opportunities and their talent is was not effectively developed or the role allocation is not effective, we can see this when looking at the percentage of high achieving children by family background for selected countries; In every country listed we can see that the high income families have a much higher achievement rate compared to both middle and low income families. Some children, parents or both won’t speak or understand English fluently which makes the children and parents that do superior as have and advantage. Bourdieu argues that the cultures that have English as their first language can achieve higher grades and results in comparison to the ones that don’t, attributable to the perceived superiority wherever the children and parents may get blamed for the failure in education. Bourdieu believes that kids born into families who speak fluent English as their first language have a in-built advantage as their culture is nearer to the educational which provides them a bonus to succeed, because there’s no language barrier for them which provides the culture that has English as their first language have a greater understanding of what’s being taught, people from ethnic minority groups are more likely to suffer from international racism not only does this hold them back in education but it also hold their parents back in jobs so it becomes a generational dominos effect where only the privileged white male is seen as superior and can reach a superior level in society. According to Bourdieu the dominant culture group that is known as cultural capital, as a result they receive rewards such as status jobs and higher salaries. He concludes that education is revolved mainly around cultural and social status because the education system is a duplicate of the dominant culture and category system, by doing this we can identify education successes and failures and that justifies the positions of these at the highest and bottom and how they reach their status. However the middle class shouldn’t assume that the higher class is better as the failures are measured in exam success, and that method is in fault with the education system and not the individuals culture as an individuals intelligence shouldn’t be measured through exams and the results because exams are an assessment of how much information your brain can hold and the answer is usually fixed however it won’t express an individuals creativity, talent, wisdom or common sense which are also essential and are factors that schools claim to bring out of their students. Individuals are visual learners and learn by what they see in life and what they experience, this again is unequal as different social groups have different life experiences, which are very important factors for an individual’s growth. Researchers from the University of London’s Institute of education conducted a study on 11,000 different 7 year old children and found that the parents job sector has an influence as parents who were found to have professional and managerial jobs were a minimum of 8 months ahead of pupils from the more socially disadvantaged homes, where parents were often unemployed. Ethnicity and family size were also observed and the results found that parents’ social class had more of an influence on a child’s progress between the ages of 5 and 7 than a range of parenting techniques like reading before bedtime, which proves that social class affects the education system because children from working class backgrounds tend to experience economical hardship more than any other class and are often linked to material deprivation, that these children have been exposed to from a young age. Material deprivation has been linked to underachievement from as early as the 1960s as a lack of money and the things that money could buy with a lack of skills and the right attitude contributed to a child’s achievement in school. These children are unable to have access to the significant educational items, which are commonly needed to achieve higher grades and results such as a computer with Internet access, desks, revision material and textbooks that also assist to disadvantage them.

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Another way to explore social class is by looking crime rates. Working-class individuals are more likely to commit and get caught for crimes that they commit rather than middle or higher-class individuals. Often crimes the lower income individuals, are often violent and linked to theft as they are normally deprived from basic supplies that the higher income homes have compared with crimes such as fraud and tax evasion that the middle class commit because they feel that they aren’t satisfied with the material things they already have and this can turn them materialistic as they may look at the things celebrities and people of a higher class have and feel as if they want or even need them also. However when middle class individuals commit a crime and are arrested they are less likely to be charged with the offence, as they do not fit the imagine of a stereotypical ‘typical delinquent’ and they are better able to present themselves as respectable and co-operate with the officials, consistently reassuring them that they are truly remorseful and they wont be acting out in a rebellious manner anymore. As a result, the middle class delinquent is defined as ill rather than a criminal that has accidentally strayed from the right path but they tend to make amends to society and to fix their image. Marxists agrees and argues that many crimes that the wealthy commit won’t make their way into crime statistics because again the rich are less likely to be investigated or to even become suspects in the first place based on their hierarchy and status in society. The higher class can afford to invest in good lawyers who will get them off or even bribe officials on their behalf. Marxists also investigates white collar crime which means crime committed by the “middle class”, this can be used to describe any crime however it is mostly used for things such as fraud and tax evasion, where the victims of the wrongdoing are frequently disperse and sometimes are unaware that the crime took place. Marxists argue that while working class crime does exist, it is a rational response to crimogenic capitalism, which is the idea that crime is inevitable because of capitalism and this can be interrupted as capitalism encouraging criminal behaviour. Capitalism motivates individuals to pursue self-interest first and this motivates individuals to be materialistic and may get them to aspire for a unrealistic and unattainable lifestyle, which then leads to massive inequality, moreover this, causes higher crime rates within lower classes as they try to reach these standards by any means. Sociologist David Gordon says that Capitalist societies are ‘dog eat dog societies’ this means that each company and person is encouraged to look out for their own interests before the interests of others, the community or the protection of the environment, however this could influence the factors of crime as individuals act in selfish manner. Individuals from lower class backgrounds are more likely to be labelled as criminal than those from wealthier backgrounds, as they have less power and influence in society in order to resist and fight against these labels. Although recent comparisons of 4.3 million offenders in England and Wales whose names appeared in court records or the Police National Computer, disclosed that more than 1.1 million of the 5.2 million people claiming out-of-work benefits had a criminal record which meant 22 per cent of the individuals had been convicted and are more than double as likely to have a criminal record. Charles Murray also made a link between crime and social class, however, in contrast to Marxist, Murray believed that most crime committed by the underclasses is a product of the welfare state and are a segment of society, who had been made lazy and have become dependant on the government’s money and support for doing nothing instead of their jobs as normally criminals won’t be offered many higher paid and higher status jobs. Murray considered the underclass as a subculture, which have different norms and values to the rest of society and that these values tend to be negative (e.g. bad parenting, lack of family values or morals), and this would lead people towards crime. Even though Murray’s views can be criticised for making generalisations about these groups by assuming without any solid evidence. It’s difficult to establish a concrete relationship between crime and social class even though much work has been orientated around the crimes of lower classes and the stats present a clear view that working class people are more criminal, but such statistics are social constructions which has become a norm as many people believe and follow it however the crimes shown are ones which are reported to and by the police which has a disadvantage as crimes could be committed consistently without any acknowledgment and the higher class can hide their crimes easily by themselves and officials.

In conclusion social class has been a massive inflexible part of society and has influenced many aspects and the way we live, in many countries across the world, from the prime of our lives and maturity. Lower social classes usually have an unequal disadvantage from the higher classes. Parents in lower classes won’t have enough money to spend on their children’s education items or enough money to spend on things such as a professional top tutor to help them during exams. Moreover wealthier people have enough to either pay for a professional top lawyer or in some cases enough to bribe officials.  

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