The Elite who own the means of production – industrialist or capitalists, and proletarian that earn there living by labouring to elite. Marx believed the unequal structure of society led to a class conscience in turn leading to action by the proletarians. In effect Marx felt that class defined identity. Weber built the idea of stratification that allowed for multiple social positions. He believed that social inequality was measured by three proxies; class, status and party.
The inequality that was reflected through class was concerned with exploitation and the individuals ‘market position’ by this Weber meant skills, qualification and credentials which can effect the type of job a person was able to obtain. He believed the more skilled a person the better opportunity for social mobility they had. He argued that class was not the defining identity, but rather that it was status within a class. During the 1960’s boom Britain saw a rise in consumption. Well paid ‘working class’ people were increasingly adopting a middle class lifestyle through consumption.
Goldthorpe studied class and identities at the Luton car plant and found that there were clear signs that working class identity was being broken down and a new ‘working class’ identity being formed. The new working class were spending more time in the home, playing a key role in the family, becoming privatised and in turn eroding the working class sense of identity. (Woodward2004) Peter Saunders argued that through the 1980’s consumption had become more important than occupation based class identity. A period of restratification was happening where people were defining their class and status through the cars and houses they owned they were now becoming the middle class, whereas those dependant on benefits were now the working class. He identified a divide between the classes on the grounds of private ownership.
Bourdieu’s ideas were slightly different. He agreed on the idea of consumption forming class but also looked at cultural capitol, not money or ownership, but how you fit in socially or culturally to society. These ideas are moving away from the historical class structure of upper, middle and working class and showing that class systems are eroding gradually To conclude the job we do and the place we live shape our identities. The job is no longer secure for life as once believed therefore our work identity is at risk of change.
The move from industrial backgrounds has broken down the sense of collective community and has pushed identity to be much more individual. Social science arguments that support class identities eroding are Goldthorpe, who saw the breakdown of identity in industry, Saunders who felt consumption was the root of class and Bourdieu who looked at social status to form identity. They all believed that the roots of identity are moving and evolving and class is now not such a significant factor.
Woodward K, 2004 Questioning Identity: gender, class, ethnicity, Milton Keynes, Open University. Sherrat, N, Goldblatt D, Mackintosh M, Woodward K, 2004, DD100 workbook 1, Milton Keynes, Open University. DD100 workbook 1, Milton Keynes, Open University.