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This essay will consider the current social stratification in Britain and its consequences to society. The impact of cultural differences will also be considered. I will then focus on social class according to conflict theories as well as the opposing consensus approach. My view is that the division of classes greatly influence conflict in society, particularly now as the proletariat are recognizing their oppression of the bourgeoisie.
It is often a focus in contemporary Britain to identify the classification between the middle and working class. “This distinction carries moral and cultural, as well as economic, political and social characteristics” (Savage 2015, 45).
The National Statistics socio-economic classification uses analytic classes, operational categories, and sub-categories, which is constantly revised and marks new boundaries of social class.
The conflict approach, propounded by Karl Marx, recognizes existing inequalities in a society of domination and subordination between social groups. Feminism is a conflict theory that identifies the inequalities of gender in a patriarchal society. Marxist Feminism is a sub-type of feminist ideology that acknowledges the role of capitalism in the oppression of women.
Marxist theory disagrees with the view that social order occurs due to consensus but argues that it is maintained by coercion, material inducement or ideological manipulation. The social relations of production are a key concept in Marxism where the bourgeoisie control the means of production and exploit the proletariat as laborers under capitalism. Therefore, the class is defined as a person’s relationship to the forces of production.
This theory can be considered still relevant in contemporary society as there is still an unequal distribution of wealth where the capitalist class extracts surplus value from the proletariat by paying them as little as possible.
In contrast, the consensus approach would argue that through shared norms and values, social equilibrium and stability is maintained. Functionalist theorist Durkheim, explains society as an organic analogy, which refers to different institutions (e.g. family, media) with important functions in likeness to organs in a body. In reference to social class, consensus theorists accept social differentiation as legitimate and necessary.
To conclude, social class shows a divide in society, therefore, the causation of conflict in a system of inequality. This is highlighted in conflict theories dating back to 19, which are still relevant in contemporary society. Despite the consensus approach suggesting social hierarchy as setting standards for the proletariat to conform in order to maintain solidarity and stability, my position is that the division is unhealthy for society.
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