How does class influence identity in contemporary society?

Essay by cat_miaoow1University, Bachelor's January 2008

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Introduction:Part (b) In order to answer this question we must compare the influence of class in contemporary society against that of earlier times. The earliest time we can do this is from the point when the concept of class first emerged (Marx and Weber). We must also understand what 'class' is.

Social class is a very significant as it can provide us with a sense of belonging. It is however a highly disputed concept within social science. The UK is often seen as a class-ridden society, however there is little agreement over its meaning, measurement, or how it should be used as an explanatory device. It is a subject of continual arguments and it is dominated by two distinguishing traditions of thought - Marxism and Weberianism.

In the nineteenth century Karl Marx produced his theory of class when the British society was going through the 'Industrial Revolution'. Marx theory was only a part in the exploration of a new type of society, the industrial capitalism ((Woodward, 2004, p105).

Marx and Engels suggested that the capitalist society generated two main classes; 'Bourgeoisie', the capital-owning or ruling class who owned the property and took advantage of laborers for their own financial gain and the 'Proletariat' who were the property-less exploited working class.

Marx put forward a notion of collective class identity, where social relationships are constrained by economic structures in a sense that there are divisions between the working and upper classes. Those barriers prevent interaction between the classes which means that there is lesser understanding between the classes which then causes conflict. This then becomes an 'us' and 'them' situation and as soon as that is created it underlines the difference between social groups. Identities are then formed from the differences.

Many sociologists argue that class has lost much of its...