Class Consciousness

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Class Consciousness

Class Consciousness

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 employment (or lack of it) that typify a social class.

Next the idea of 'class consciousness': Marx used this term to describe the development of conscious awareness among classes that arises due to antagonism between classes during the rise of modern capitalism. In becoming subjectively aware of objective conditions alters the class from a 'class in itself' to a 'class for itself' (Morrison 1995). This leads me onto the notion of social closure as an indicator that class conscious has arisen. Social closure is the idea that a class may act to prevent migration into itself. The rationale for this is that in order for a class to act to prevent migration into itself it must first have an idea of self, i.e. class consciousness.

To define the upper and under classes I can do little better than quote from p557 of Abercrombie & Ward et al. (2000). The upper class:

"A super ordinate social class whose power and privilege derive from ownership of property and control of key economic, social and political institutions."

The underclass

"A disputed concept implying that there is a class of the population with distinct cultural traits who are dependent on state benefits and/or poorly paid and are therefore locked into disadvantaged circumstances."

Firstly we will discuss the upper class as the notion of an upper class has been around for much longer than that of the underclass.

Marx believed that throughout history man has had various productive forces at his disposal (e.g. land) and the function of these is to provide necessities (e.g. food and clothing). Collectively Marx termed these the means of production (see M.Conforth 1953). Historically Marx noted one class had always monopolised the means of production. This leads to divisions of society into economic classes (Marx, K. & Engels, F. ([1845] 1947).

Although the components of the upper class have changed since Marx first proposed his theory of social class it can be seen that they are a distinct although more diverse group and that the group is self aware of its position and acts to maintain such.

The underclass is a newer concept and was developed in the U.S. in the 1960s to the U.K. in the 1990s. Abercrombie & Ward (2000) as well as the definition above say ...
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