With Reference to sociological theory, critically discuss some of the changes affecting the class structure of contemporary Britain.
The class structure of contemporary Britain has changed significantly since the writings of Karl Marx and Max Weber in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Far more people now work in non-manual jobs than formerly was the case, but whether or not they have become 'middle class' is a fiercely debated question in sociology.
Marx believed that the working class would become progressively larger. In fact, the working class has become smaller. The income of manual workers has increased considerably since the turn of the century. This rising standard of living is expressed in the increased availability of consumer goods to all classes.
The idea that, as blue-collar workers grow more prosperous, they become more middle class, (known as embourgeoisement) was the basis for a study by John Goldthorpe, et al, in the 1960s.
It became known as the 'Affluent Worker' study. A total of 229 manual workers and 54 white-collar workers were interviewed and compared. Many of the blue-collar workers had migrated to the area in search of well-paid jobs. Compared to most other manual workers, they were highly paid and earned more than most lower-level white-collar workers.
Although Goldthorpe, et al, found that many workers had acquired a middle class standard of living based on their income and ownership of consumer goods, they also noted that affluent workers had an instrumental orientation, whereby they saw it as a means to an end. Their work was repetitive and uninteresting with little direct commitment to it.
Despite levels of affluence compared to the white-collar employees, the workers in the study did not associate with the white-collar workers in their leisure time, and did not aspire to rise up the class...