Identity can be defined as 'how I see myself and how others see me.' (Questioning Identity. 2000. p7) An identity involves a sense of belonging, an individual chooses to identify with a group and actively engages in doing so, showing agency. This sense of belonging involves being the 'same' and recognising that others are 'different'. An individual can have multiple identities e.g. gender, supporting a football team; all of these identities make up the individual. Structures such as gender and class, influence, encourage or prevent individuals from identifying with certain groups and therefore shaping the identity.
The class structure always involves some degree of inequality, usually involving material recourses. There are two main traditions within the concept of class and its effect on identity.
The Marxist theory of class clearly shows that the class a person belongs to is the fundamental part of their identity. It theorizes two classes in which all society fits, the owning and the property less.
Marx believed that 'class conciseness is particularly important to our understanding of identity' (Questioning Identity, 2000. p980) this conciseness would occur once individuals came to realise there shared relationship to the means of production (MOP),( Marx believed that class was decided by an individuals relationship with the MOP,) and that some individuals shared a different relationship with this MOP. Class-consciousness would be cemented through collective action and would cause individuals to see themselves as part of a collective, acting and thinking as one within all areas of social contact. Marx believed that class, solely, shapes identity.
Webber also saw class as important when forming an identity. Webber however saw class as a group if individuals with similar market positions i.e. similar opportunities with regard such things as education.
He, like Marx, recognised class divisions, but on a much wider scale.