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Social Class

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January 18, 2011
Lecture 2 - Social Class
2 classes that make difference
- capitalist and socialist, always in conflict (Marx)
- divided into rich and poor, exploiter and exploited (Stalin)
- those that have more appetite than dinners, more dinners than appetite (Sebastien
3 kinds of people
- high, middle, low (George Orwell)
- numbers change throughout time, but classes stay the same
- began as Marxist, left it and began to attack it
- with 3 groups, coalitions and cohesion (odd #s), with 2 groups will always be
conflict (even #s)
Capitalist Society
- capitalist society is characterized by conflict, not harmony
- in industrial societies capitalism divides the population into two opposing classes
- the working class has only 3 alternatives
- cooperate with capitalists
- form unions and try to modify social conditions
- make revolutions
- for humans to live, require food to eat
- in order to eat, must sell labour to others
- those that control food control society, have power over all
- who controls means of production, they control those that sell labour to them
- this is what limits working class' power
- Marx believed unions and cooperation could only do little, unions were only a
starting point
- revolutions were required for change
- different means of production for different societies, meant different people in
- social class is different in every society
- differences in social position result from differences in people's relations to the means of
- at both ends of the class ladder, class stability over time is maintained by inheritance
- that is why poverty (and wealth) is self-perpetuating from one generation to the next
- social mobility in modern society, should reduce the self perpetuating nature of
- preserved materially (wealth) and culturally (value systems and lifestyles)
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- different set of opportunities, expectations from wealthy class to poor classes
- reduces effect of social mobility
- dominant ideology - lower class feels its impossible to take action and make
revolution against rich
- dont feel unequal since expectations dont allow for them to dream higher
- the main institutions of society - including inheritance and even education - ensure the
poor stay poor
- for Marx, key question is how members of a social class can gain class awareness
- the question for Marx is, how does a class in itself become a class for itself?
- Marx believed that by getting into the brains of the working class through class awareness
he could make a difference
- class awareness - perceiving a difference
- class consciousness - understanding position, knowing relationship with class and other
- making people realize they have own interests, can band together and make own class
- the development of class-consciousness requires a transition from a class in itself to a class
for itself
- Marx does not put much faith in significant change through peaceful methods - for
example, through unionization and the ballot box
- rich love wars since patriotism
- patriotism = false consciousness
- distracts working class from awareness of class
- Marx believes step between capitalism to communism -> socialism
- communism will provide working class with equal means of production
- Marx argues industrial capitalism carries seeds of its own destruction
- working and living conditions bring people together with others of the same class and
separate them from people of the opposite class
- in these shared living and working conditions, workers will develop a consciousness of
common interests rooted in relations to the means of production
- bringing in many people to a social area in short time - modern society's factories
- will form groups, will realize class consciousness
- even the books we read, the prayers we chant, and the beliefs we hold about the family and
marriage reflect economic life
- Marx's view about ideas and value differ most from those of Max Weber, another founder
of sociology
- fascination of luck and risk taking
- desperate need to escape from boring life circumstances
- mass media controlled by upper class, allows them to exert influence on lower class
- Marx says that religion, education, etc are controlled more by upper class
- people feel more likely to win lottery than to overthrow upper class
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