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Society is divided and stratified by race, gender, sexuality, as well as by class. This stratification is everlasting, generating and repeating, usually leading to inequality. In a rapid and modernised society, social class is an important aspect to be discussed about. In this essay, I will discuss the importance of social class in Singapore. In able to do that, I will first explain the meaning of social class, as well the types of social classes present in Singapore. Secondly, I will briefly try to introduce and explain Karl Max’s theory on social class, his Bourgeois versus Proletariat argument, and the class conflict he was concerned of. Thirdly, I will explore further on the inequalities caused by social class, as well variables such as income growth, social capital and mobility, as well as meritocracy, which might influence one’s social class, and then conclude with an understanding as to what extent does social class matter in today’s Singapore.
According to Ong and Cheung (2016), a person’s general standing in life, based on their influences and status, as well as their opportunities and availability to certain assets, is the meaning of social class in Singapore. Usually, to know an individual’s social class is by identifying their socio-economic status (SES), which consist of specific markers such as education background and salary earned (Ong and Cheung, 2016). Another way is through subjective social status (Ong and Cheung, 2016). Basically, subjective social status refers to a person’s own personal understanding of his or her social positioning (Ong and Cheung, 2016). As stated by Ong and Cheung (2016), an individual can demonstrate his or her general standing via a “stepping stool” of social pecking order, a visual aid used to identify the individual’s subjective observations.
It has been widely known in Singapore that generally there are different types of social classes and this would refer to the upper class, middle class, and lower class. As mentioned earlier, an individual’s education background, the number of languages spoken and literacy level, their economic status, whether they are employed or not, and if so, what is their occupation and gross monthly salary, and type of house they live in, will determine which social class that person will be group to (Singstat, 2018). As stated by Buchanan (1975), Singapore is a class society made up of five different classes. You have “the upper class, the upper middle class, the intermediate middle class, lower middle class and the working class” (Buchanan, 1975). According to Chang (1995), and based on her definition of social class, there are also five different types of classes. Her classification is quite similar to Buchanan’s in regard to the top three classes make up the upper echelon as they have greater income, significant social status, and higher swaying authority, while in addition, the two classes left complete the lower echelon (Chang, 1995).
Be that as it may, it has been argued by Ong and Cheung (2016), that understanding the different social class is important as it will allow Singapore to create a more inclusive and comprehensive society, whereby individuals will regard each other as equals, paying no heed to one’s social class. It is also crucial in allowing us to tackle raging issues such as poverty for example, by looking at Singapore’s government policies in place that either helps or obstructs an individual’s access to his or her socio-economic status (Buchanan, 1975). Not only that, by learning the trends and effects of social classes available, one can hope to improve the class stratification gradually (Chang, 1995). In Singapore, with her augmenting social holes and excessively various levels, it is crucial to work towards a just society where everyone trusts he or she is equivalent to any other person and regarded as such (Ong and Cheung, 2016). Nevertheless, let us now look at Marx social class theory.
According to Rummel (1977), the best way to comprehend Marx social class theory is through his meaning of class. A class is determined by the rightful possession of property, whereby such proprietorship vests a man with the ability to prohibit others from the property and to utilise it for individual purposes (Rummel, 1977). Rummel (1977) also points out that besides the connection to property, there are three important classes of society: the bourgeoisie (who possess the methods for creation, for example, hardware and production line structures, and whose wellspring of pay is benefit), landowners (whose wage is lease), and the working class (who claim their work and offer it for a wage). Class accordingly is controlled by property, not by wage or status, and these are dictated by circulation and utilisation, which itself at last mirrors the creation and power relations of classes (Rummel, 1977). The social states of bourgeoisie creation are characterised by average property; hence, class is in this manner a hypothetical and formal relationship among people (Rummel, 1977).
Rummel (1977) claims that the power changing idle class participation into a battle of classes is known as class interest. Out of comparable class circumstances, people come to act correspondingly, by building up a common reliance, a network, a mutual intrigue interrelated with a typical wage of benefit or of wages (Rummel, 1977). From this, regular interest classes are shaped, and for Marx, people create classes to the degree that their advantages draw in them in a battle with the contrary class (Rummel, 1977). At first, the interests related with proprietorship and lease are not quite the same as those of the bourgeoisie, however, Rummel (1977) points out that as society develops, capital (i.e., the property of generation) and land proprietorship converge, as do the interests of landowners and bourgeoisie. Subsequently, the connection of creation, the normal resistance amongst low class and bourgeoisie, decides every other action (Rummel, 1977).
As Marx saw the advancement of class conflict, the battle between classes was at first bound to singular plants (Rummel, 1977). In the end, given the development of capitalism, the widening divergence between life environment between the bourgeoisie and working class, as well as the expanding homogenisation inside each class, singular battles end up summed up to coalitions crosswise over industrial facilities (Rummel, 1977). Progressively, class conflict is showed at the societal level, meaning class awareness is expanded, basic interests and approaches are composed, and the utilisation of and battle for political power happens, resulting in classes transforming to a political coalition (Rummel, 1977). By and large, there are six components in Marx’s perspective of class conflict (Rummel, 1977). Firstly, classes are expert connections in light of property proprietorship, secondly, class characterises groupings of people with similar life circumstances, hence interests, thirdly, classes are normally adversarial by prudence of their interests. Impending inside present day society is the development of two hostile classes and their battle, which in the long run ingests every social connection, political association and power are an instrumentality of class battle, and ruling thoughts are its appearance, and lastly, structural change is a result of the class battle (Rummel, 1977).
In Singapore’s case, I believe we are able to easily discern who are the bourgeoisie and proletariat, although it is not always black and white. At this moment in time, I will be focusing on the plights of the proletariats, as I am a proletariat myself. I can say this based on my subjective social status, as mentioned earlier by Ong and Cheung (2016). As stated by Kynn (2010), the fascinating attributes of Singapore is that she is meritocratic but then elitist, multicultural but then racially-requested and lastly, dynamic but male centric. Proletariats in Singapore face many alarming issues such as inequality, be it based on one’s education or economic status, social mobility, social capital, and income growth, to name a few. According to the Institute of Policy Studies (2018), inequality and social mobility are discrete yet related difficulties. The previous mirrors an uneven access to assets, while the latter exhibits the level of social equity, reasonableness, and value in a general public. While contrasts in financial conditions are inescapable, social stratification have negative ramifications for social solidness, prosperity, and attachment (Institute of Policy Studies, 2018). Why is this important in Singapore’s context?
Manstead (2018) maintains that based on present-day studies, a person’s social class plays a significant role in affecting his or her individual as well as social markers, and that this in turn will somehow impact both the manner in which he or she ponder and perceive their social condition and vital parts of their social interaction. Also, a recent research by the Institute of Policy Studies (2018), on social capital shows significant disconnect between the different social classes in Singapore. The research methodology was based on two distinctive criteria’s; the type of house you lived in, whether it was private or public housing, and which type of school did you went to, either an elite or non-elite school (Institute of Policy Studies, 2018). The possibility that schools are settings in which social class imbalances are strengthened may at first appear to be confounding, given that schools should be meritocratic situations in which accomplishment is moulded by capacity and exertion, as opposed to by any favourable position presented by class foundation (Manstead, 2018).
Notwithstanding, the educational system replicates social imbalances by advancing standards and qualities that are more commonplace to kids from middle‐class foundations, to the degree that this encourages middle‐class kids to outflank their working‐class peers, the ‘meritocratic’ conviction that such execution contrasts are because of contrasts in capacity as well as exertion will serve to ‘clarify’ and real unequal execution (Manstead, 2018).
Another discovery from the study was that those with a more diverse network are inclined to have more grounded sentiments of national pride and trust towards individuals from different races, religions or nationalities (Institute of Policy Studies, 2018). This is a crucial finding as many countries, not only Singapore, are faced with the potential threat of Xenophobia and Islamophobia.
How will all these impact Singapore in the long run? Widening inequality is connected to worrying health issues, both physically, and mentally, as well as emotionally, on a local and global scale (Kraus, Park, and Tan, 2017). Another health psychology research using objective and subjective social class as markers, has highlighted data of adverse effects on an individual’s well-being and health (Manstead, 2018).
What can be done? To keep up and move past our current state of achievements, our political pioneers and 4G leaders should take note to be totally careful that our current concept of meritocracy must progress into a broader meaning of advance setting, and more than just seeing particular characteristics in different individuals to their liking (Ong and Cheung, 2016). One way is to aim towards a more versatile and diverse holistic based preparation system, giving various approaches to understudies to innovate and grow (Ong and Cheung, 2016). It should be in a manner where it does not have an emphasis on the now but more towards an everlasting and constant learning, with regards to their duties and limits (Ong and Cheung, 2016). We also need to ask ourselves what the possible causes of social mobility and inequality in Singapore are and what kind of policies are are required to help ensure a fair system for all social classes to tackle the challenge of rising inequality and ways to improve their social mobility (Institute of Policy Studies, 2018). The first step would be to focus on our education system and think of ways to improve it and make it more inclusive and fairer as in Singapore, education plays out a twofold capacity – for social change and in addition for social reproduction (Chang, 1995). A decent education and having very taught systems in place make for a ground-breaking blend in meritocracies as the two are exceedingly utilising assets (Chang, 1995).
With that in mind, it is crucial to distinguish that Marx saw the structure of society in connection to its significant classes, and the battle between them as the motor of progress in this structure (Rummel, 1977). His was no harmony or agreement hypothesis. Rummel (1977) also points out that struggle was not deviational inside society’s structure, nor were classes practical components keeping up the framework. The structure itself was a subordinate of and fixing in the battle of classes, as his was a contention perspective of a nineteenth century society (Rummel, 1977). We must also be fully aware that different social class ordinarily have wavering wants and needs, and that the lower class requires more help, but that does not mean the upper class and middle class should be neglected to fend on their own. Taking the necessary measures to improve our education system, increase social mobility, and reduce economic inequality. Not to forget, it is crucial to not take note only on the types of social classes available, but more emphasis towards the different amounts of credible evidence around that can allow one to understand to what extent does social class matter in Singapore and how it should be studied (Jakopovich, 2014).
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