Soca1010 Final Essay

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1: Critically analyse the statement that Australia is a ‘classless society’. Max Weber defines class as any group of people that share a related position in the economic market; these classes are evident in Australian society today (Macionis 2007, pp. 217; Abercrombie, Hill & Turner 2006, pp. 416-418). In Australia class is present with the ruling class running major companies, the middle class managing these and the working class labouring for these companies, this class distinction can also be seen through materialistic items (Evans, Kelley & Kolosi 2002). Although class is less noticeable as well as interchangeable in society the social structure of class is still perpetuating with as Weber describes life chances being compromised (eds. Kuhn & O’Lincoln 1996). This essay will discuss in relation to Marx and Weber’s theories on class how Australia’s past classes and trends have influences our class structure today, how culture in reflects our class and how social structures continue to cause indefinitely our class stratification. It will also discuss why Australia hasn’t achieved a classless society and the alternatives that exist to a classed society. Marxism’s theory explains the structure of inequality in society in relation to economic production, production is a fundamental aspect of survival with the ruling class owning the means of production and need the working class in order to successfully have production (Macionis 2007, pp. 215-216, Abercrombie, Hill & Turner 2006, pp.235-237). In reciprocating this need the working class needs the ruling class for income and production of goods (Macionis 2007, pp. 215-216). Similar to this is the Weberian theory where class reflects your economic resources. Possessing these economic resources as well as marketable skills such as education Weber believes greatly influence your life chances (Macionis 2007, pp. 217). These theories can be applied to Australia’s history of class. Historically Australia has been a classed society with convicts being the working class for the English soldiers, these historic past classes although less apparent is still present in Australian society today (Emmison, Western & Western 1991). While Australia became an industrialised culture the role of the classes became more subtle and interchangeable with the Marxism idea of reciprocation of the ruling class to the working class involving a skilled person known as the middle class (ed. Scott 2006; Abercrombie, Hill & Turner 2006, pp.235237). This reciprocity between these classes has established the basis of the reciprocity that we subtly and do not so subtly see in society today. While class structure does exist in Australia, the opposing view of a classless society is being seen through the interchangeability of classes in society (eds. Lareau & Conley 2008). This interchangeability of classes that was not seen historically in Australia with class often being an indicator of your birth. This indicator of birth is often not seen any more, with job status which is often a direct indicator of your socioeconomic status is more of a modern indicator of class (eds. Lareau & Conley 2008). This status of a person’s class is possible to interchange with education and job opportunities to raise their class level available (Macionis 2007, pp. 217). Materialistic objects can also be seen as an indicator of class in society (Evans, Kelley & Kolosi 2002). Materialistic things are items that people possess such as cars, clothes and electronics (Abercrombie, Hill & Turner 2006). Weber suggests that class is a reflection upon our economic resources that we possess; this idea of possessions is a reflective indicator of class in Australia (Macionis 2007, pp. 217). The ruling class create ideologies around possessions and the status that they behold (Evans, Kelley & Kolosi 2002). These items then are indicated to directly reflect your class, an example of this is the status of your car, someone from the ruling class due to their higher income will be more likely to own a status reflected car like a BMW opposed to someone in the working class where due to their limited income their car will reflect their class such as an older car (eds. Lareau & Conley 2008). These materialistic things reflect the culture that the particular class beholds, this cultural reflection of class is evident in Australia today (Evans, Kelley & Kolosi 2002). While pay schemes, loans and credit are readily available in society to most people in all classes this owed money and possessions can create an untrue reflection of culture thus class and people who are of the lower class can possess the same items as the ruling class (eds. Lareau & Conley 2008; Macionis 2007; Evans, Kelley & Kolosi 2002). This opposes the belief that culture is an indicator of class and supports the argument that Australia is a classless society (eds. Lareau & Conley 2008). Weber suggests that the opportunities that an individual has to improve their quality of life known as life chances are greatly altered by our class positioning in society (Abercrombie, Hill & Turner 2006, pp. 416-418). This difference in life chance is a reflection of the class structure in Australian society today through education (eds. Lareau & Conley 2008). Education for an individual leads to a higher status job which results in higher income and a higher social class, these result in a higher quality of life for the individual and their family (Warr 2006). This higher education such as university is seen more through the higher status classes who’s parents have these degrees themselves, this could be possibly due to the privatisation of schooling, leading to a better education and the understanding of education (Macionis 2007; Warr 2006). While this structure of family cycles is also seen in the working class, this cycle is of lower income, unskilled jobs and lower education is seen among the lower class (eds. Lareau & Conley 2008). This structure can lead to the continuing classes Australia although this cycle is breakable for some individuals. This breaking of the cycle through education for the working and lower class can lead to the interchangeable classes for the individual and this breaking of the classes supports the opposing theory that Australia is a classless society (Evans, Kelley & Kolosi 2002). If Australia was a classless society the individual wouldn’t have to break the cycle to better their class and quality of life. Marx suggested that the working class would overthrow the ruling class and private ownership of production would be abolished and classless society would occur, this prediction by Marx has never occurred (ed. Scott 2006). In order for this classless society to occur production would have to be publicly or government owned which would still require managers and supervisors as well as trained professionals thus still having socioeconomic class distinctions (eds. Kuhn & O’Lincoln 1996). A sociological alterative to make Australia a classless society would be to be to provide everyone with the same life chances in the area of education. This would be by providing everyone with the same quality education as well as providing the working class who statistically have a lower education with the opportunity to gain a higher education to gain skilled employment. Although this fair education does exist in society today social barriers are placed for those of the lower socioeconomic class. These social barriers include a sense of outcast in education settings and not knowing that these opportunities are there. A classless society in Australia would look like education free from barriers (eds. Lareau & Conley 2008). This unbarred classless system in Australia does not exist, thus Australia does have a classed society. In modern day society in Australia socioeconomic status is less of a class indicator then it was pre industrialisation, instead markers such as education and materialistic items have also become indicators of class (eds. Lareau & Conley 2008). This change of class indicators has led to the interchangeability of class as well as the understated role that someone takes on with their class, thus class in Australia is less of a barrier now then it was when class was solely measured upon socioeconomic status (Warr 2006). This breaking down of barriers doesn’t mean that class doesn’t exist in Australia but that class is more interchangeable. Analysis indicates that Australia is not a classless society. References: Abercrombie, N, Hill, S & Turner BS 2006, Dictionary of Sociology, 5th edn, Penguin, England. Baxter, J, Emmison, J, Western, J & Western, M (eds.) 1991, Class analysis and contemporary Australia, Macmillan, Hong Kong. Evans, MDR, Kelley, J & Kolosi, T 2002, ‘Images of class: public perceptions in Hungary and Australia’, American Sociological Review, vol. 57, no. 4, pp. 461-482. Germov, J & Poole, M (eds.) 2011, Public Sociology, 2nd edn, Allen & Unwin, Singapore. Kuhn, R & O’Lincoln, T (eds.) 1996, Class and class conflict in Australia, Longman, Malaysia. Lareau, A & Conley, D (eds.) 2008, Social Class, Russell Sage Foundation, USA. Macionis, JJ 2007, Society: the basics, 9th edn, Pearson, USA. Scott, J (ed.) 2006, Sociology: the key concepts, Routledge, Great Britain. Warr, DJ 2006, ‘Gender, class and the art and craft of social capital’, The Sociological Quarterly, vol. 47, pp. 497-520.