How Class Influences Identities Essay, Research Paper
Describe how class influences identities.
In order to describe how class influences identities, we first need to understand what is meant by class and identity.
Your economic category will have a bearing on your social position known as class. This can be shown in terms of wealth, property ownership or your working and living environment. Identity is formed by two elements, one of which is external influences and experiences such as language, upbringing and the society you live in. The other element of identity you actively participate in shaping, such as social groups in which you mix, with their symbols and characteristics.
Karl Marx (1818 – 1883) and Max Weber (1864 – 1920) both recognised that economic categories played a large part in social class structure. Nineteenth Century history plays an important part in understanding how class influenced identities. The Industrial revolution was changing the structure of the communities, the rich or landowners having a far better standard of living with better education, health care, property ownership and power than the poor. The working class would have a daily struggle to survive. The change in Trade Unions meant that the working class had a voice, helping to push their needs forward, looking for better standards of living and working conditions. Marx’s concept of class was based around the production of goods. The emerging owners of these goods, or capital, were known as the ruling class. Marxism would define only two classes, the ruling class and the working class. The influence on identity of these two class structures would be very relevant in those days. The working class would earn a wage from the production of the goods but the ruling class would sell these for a profit and exploit the workers. The two classes were on two different levels of wealth, property ownership and social standing and they would struggle to mix, they were dependent on each other but the rewards would be unevenly matched.
Weber’s theory also identified economic category as important in defining class structures, but rather than focusing on class divisions he focused on the individual and their opportunities. Weber picks out the significant thing here, that both classes will meet in a market. The ruling or privilege class as purchaser of labour and as a vendor. The working or vulnerable class as someone who must sell his services or starve. The economic environment also sub-divided classes, the skilled verses the unskilled. Both were in the same class but were now at different levels and Weber recognised this as status. Status is a matter of honour or prestige within one group, there could be many levels and this was independent of class position. Weber sought to show that status in society was more influential in identity than class and that status could cut across both classes such as the scientific and medical professionals.
In the present day, the majority of people would consider themselves as working class, but with a greater freedom for social opportunities and personal development, which will continue to influence their identities.
Total 501 words.