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The Concept of Social Class in Capitalist Reality

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The video of Nickel and Dime was based on a book by the writer Barbara Ehrenreich and researching her bibliography I found an interesting thing that the author of the book was unfairly accused of being crazy for allegedly writing Marxist ravings or trying to introduce the horror of communism into The United States, among other things, because she defended single mothers with families who needed more help than a married woman to raise their children. By observing this act, I could say that this is the typical example of what someone has to face when trying to set a point across, you are considered crazy on trying to provoke to public media.

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This is just a minimal affirmation of a small note in a book where the author recounts her experience as a house cleaner, hotel room attendant, a Wal-Mart employee, a waitress and an assistant in a nursing home. This author not only lived in her own experience of hard work, but also shows us the impossibility of leaving this system receiving a minimum salary of 5 or 6 dollars per hour, taking into account that this income should be deducted from taxes, and that, from there, the rent would have to be paid, not to mention a house loan, and that it would also be necessary to eat 3 times a day. And if you had children you had to feed them, dress them, and educate them. Pay medical bills, which for lack of insurance are extremely expensive, since none of these jobs offered medical insurance. And if by chance they offered you a position by contract, without benefits.

So we can talk about thousands of people like me who have to live this harsh reality, some in rooms of mediocre hotels, unhealthy, or in the home of a family accepting all kinds of criticism and abuse. Praying every day not to get sick or have the strength to go to work even though you would have been incapacitated because of illness, neglecting the children because you had to go to both jobs, going hungry and just sleeping a few hours and unfortunately despite this effort you are still poor. Sociological studies show that most people who are in poverty keep two and three jobs. And if this were not enough, society blames them for living this condition, receiving very little social help. Although the story of the author of this book is very interesting and that helps us to know many aspects of these jobs and the people who perform them and that we did not know about bureaucracy.

My conclusion of these two videos is the help that numbers and data have given us that support the lived history of many people of this same social condition. Showing the current situation of the working class in the United States and that even if we were in a better social condition of other developed and underdeveloped countries, would be alarming numbers on showing the condition of poverty that many people live. It is untenable, the working population can no longer bear breaking their backs and neglecting their families so that the rest can have a better life, at least not from the salary they received in return. Someday we will get tired of receiving crumbs, and we will demand that we be rewarded according to the appropriate salary of each different job and when this happens, strikes will be unleashed and there will be a lot of anger, even breaking the established order. But in the end, the sky will not fall, but they will take us into account for the betterment of all.

Thus, the concept of social classes is of vital importance for the study and understanding of reality in the world we live in. The most common way to classify the different social classes is usually the theories of consensus or conflict. They do not stop surprising me the comments that argue the non-existence of social classes. The validity of the different social classes is still evident and palpable. You are not from a social class like you can be a fan of a particular artist. Social classes are structural classes, a social class is not a category that defines the “nature” of an individual nor its existential condition in society.

The concept of social class is of vital importance for the study and understanding of capitalist reality. The societies in which we live are stratified by the predominate economy, being centered on production. In this way we find poor neighborhoods and rich neighborhoods; people who have to work 12 or more hours a day to survive, and others who only have to sign a few papers to be paid substantially; groups that are discriminated by the color of their skin, and groups that are privileged or groups that are discriminated by their creed or religious. The great sociological theories, such as Marxism, functionalism and structuralism are considered macro-sociological currents, whereas ethnomethodology, or interactionism, is micro-sociology.

We can also say that the problems that we suffer today are due to morality. According to the sociologist Merton, for social order to prevail, it is necessary that groups of people be happy with their fate. Thus, social groups fulfill the same role as an organ of our body. If this organ malfunctions or comes into conflict with another, the problems will be greater and the integrity of the whole in the society will be jeopardized.

The sociologist Merton criticized Parsons of the three fundamental approaches to functionalism, which it referred to the functional unit of society; to universal functionalism; and the need for institutions. He said that social inequalities were fundamentalist and that, if the difference of characters did not exist, it would not force people to better themselves. Being that the life of the people was a constant struggle, walking directly towards more bureaucratic societies where you enter but with difficulty to leave. Symbolic interchange and ethnomethodology, is a theory that is mainly to study social interchange in their everyday life. Mead and Goffman focused on symbols and language, calling human beings endowed with thought and with an ability to analyze. In social interchange people were able to modify, alter the meaning of symbols use in the interchange of the interpretation, we learn the meaning of symbols allowing us a capacity of different exercise thought, allowing the opportunity to interact with ourselves. In conclusion Ethnomethodology is the study of people daily lives.

There are different types of social stratification:

Caste is a system where one belongs through birth and is characterized by having a solid, rigid and immobile system. We can point out the caste system of India in which the society of the country is divided into hierarchical mass. This form of organization divides total population hierarchically into masses of major caste and sub-caste. There are 4 types of social castes based on the Hindu literature: Religious or teachers, Rulers or warriors, Craftsmen or merchants, and workers or servants coming to compose the lowest class of the population.

Meritocracy’s another stratification system based on merit. Hierarchical positions are conquered based on merit, by talent, education, competence or specific aptitude for a given job. Society usually integrates the concept of talent like effort, prevailing the intellectual capacity that an individual possesses.

The system is commonly in administration, specifically in the public one, with the aim of fighting the succession of positions and nepotism, prevailing the powers without being related to plugs or favors, blood relations, among different causes.

Social mobility is another type of social stratification that displaces individuals and groups depending on social position. There are different types of social mobility based on who, how much and how they change their social position, and which direction they are going, with what means they achieve it and what effects these changes have on the life of a person and for society as a whole. Relative mobility is the mobility with comparative probabilities on becoming part of the certain class that people from different social backgrounds have. The Total Rate of Relative Mobility is measured with the odds ratios. Bringing out three types – Structural Effects derived from technological innovation and occupational change, -Procedural Effects derived from the process of meritocratic selection and – Composition Effects derived from changes in the economy.

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Social inequality is a different socioeconomic sphere that prevails from the beginning of the life and even today is the term that has regained special interest when it comes to analyzing international geopolitical relations or incorporating social sectors and for various reasons has been marginalized. Different elements has motivate social inequality are culture, ethnic group, race, religion, nationality, customs, and ideology. When examining the consequences of social difference, it is necessary to named not only the inequality of income and rent that makes this condition but also other factors: Immigration and forced displacement, marginalization and exclusion, these being the two main reasons for people to leave everything behind. The discrimination of a limited social groups will also increase poverty indexes. Preventing to climb on the social pyramid latter isolating a secondary or tertiary sector in society.

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