The importance of social class is often down to personal opinion, based on factual evidence and individual experience and hearsay. Two extreme groups have strong opinions on social class and the western stratification system in general. These two groups are the Marxists and the Functionalists. Marxists argue that prejudice of the lower classes is all around us. They feel that there are distinct divides between those with power and the rest of the working population. Marxists say that a ‘glass wall’ splits the wealthy from the underclass; the system is fundamentally ascribed. If you are born into a low-income family, you will be at a disadvantage. Poor education, social discrimination, and limited career goals will keep you from enjoying a full and free life: the ‘fat cat’ upper-class use and abuse those who work for them.
They make a profit at the expense of their employees by paying them as little as possible. Marxism is the basis of communism and socialism, two political concepts that oppose class systems, stratification and inequality. Functionalists see our social stratification system as a positive thing. They believe it’s a system that allows society to function much more effectively. People who work hard get higher-class jobs (rewards). This is what motivates the individual to excel; otherwise, people would become lazy. Social class is a way of putting a person into their rightful place. The concept is that those who are genuinely better, more capable and willing than others will assume the roles, responsibilities, and rewards of the power and wealth of the highest positions in society. Functionalists support the idea of equality, that everyone in Britain today has the opportunity and the right to free education and full, open career paths.
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Whether or not class matters is often a personal issue. Legally, discrimination of class is not allowed by corporations. However, it’s easy to mask discrimination in the individual. It often comes down to that those who happen to be in the higher social classes have the resources and money at their command to give them an advantage in life. Sometimes this advantage is what makes or breaks someone going to university, for instance. Politically the country has turned a lot more socialist than it was in the past. The gap between the classes has closed. There will always be exceptions to this rule though, some people still live in poverty right under our noses, and this cannot be denied. However, there is a great deal more opportunity for creating your own social identity than there ever has been. We’ve come a long way since the feudal system.
Some would deny that the traditional working-class still exists. However, the left-wing labour party has changed its image to appear like its right-wing adversaries. Is this symbolic that the underclasses have changed their lifestyle to become more like the upper class? Traditional jobs have been replaced due to global trade, and Britain assumes the role of professional tasks in today’s modern world. This is shown in official figures; manual working-class occupations have fallen from 73.6% to 58.8% of all jobs between 1911 and 1971; this trend has probably continued and been accelerated over the last 30 years to make working-class positions even less common.
Research has been conducted into some general trends in class divisions; it’s becoming apparent that lower classes have less positive aspects of their lifestyle, probably due to less money and different upbringing and environments. The lower classes have a life expectancy of up to 8 years less than the upper classes; more like to fall ill, much more likely to smoke, and shocking research was done into the background classes of successful university entrants. (only 1% from unskilled manual working families). Divorce is higher for the working class, and leisure time is reduced. Those in occupations of lesser status lose out on a lot of benefits. Functionalists would argue that those in this position haven’t worked hard enough to earn anything better; it’s their own fault.
Marxists would say that society has abused the working class for the benefit and greed of the upper class and that they’re trapped in a hole no matter how hard they’re prepared to work. I believe that this question has no clear answer and that any explanation I can give is based on personal opinion and the evidence shown. Indeed, social class matters much less than what it used to, and the legal/political system has taken steps to standardize equality in society. It’s also true that the working class does lose out on a lot of benefits. Based on ‘no’ outweighing ‘yes,’ I believe that everyone in society has the opportunity to change their status and situation if they’re prepared to do what is necessary. It may be more difficult than the functionalists claim, but it’s closer to the truth than the negative view of the Marxists.