Discuss ideas of class identity and the concept of 'class consciousness' in relation to i) the upper class and ii) the members of an 'underclass'?

Essay by r_helmUniversity, Ph.D. September 2002

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The main subject of this essay is that of class, notably two components of class, the ideas of class identity and of class consciousness. These ideas are to be discussed in terms of two classes. The upper class and the notion of an underclass, along with the extent to which gender and ethnicity have a bearing on these.

To return to the first statement the overlying subject is that of class. No clear definition has ever been arrived at for this phenomenon, however the majority of sociologists would probably agree with Abercrombie & Ward et al. (2000) that class is: The socioeconomic differences between groups creating differences in material wealth and power. The second thing I wish to say regarding class is that it is a relative concept. To illustrate this, imagine a house on it's own, imagine it with twenty-four bedrooms and a swimming pool. It's still just a house.

Now put next to it a two up two down terrace. Now the first one is a bigger house.

Two of the major social theorists, namely Marx and Weber both agreed on many ideas of class however they differed on what defined someone as a particular class. Marx claimed class is defined by the ownership of the means of production. Whereas for Weber it was the individuals sharing the same causal component of life chances resulting from ownership of capital or generated by training and education (Morrison 1995). These distinctions will be seen as important later in the essay.

At this point I will define some more of the terms that will be often used in this essay.

Firstly for the purposes of this essay class identity will be defined as such: identifiable sociological markers such as economic power, political inclinations, ideology and social and financial status relating to...