Since the beginning of time, there has always been a division between men. There has always been the leader and the lead, the king and the subjects, the master and the slaves, the rich ands the poor and so on. This means that the idea of equality is a best as a theory because it is not practicable, even in a communist state. This makes be argue that all men are born equal but born into a class or an order in the society. The question then is what is social class? Social class can be defined as the hierarchical divisions of people in a particular society or culture.
Social classification is based on the economic or political position in the society. This is to say that people that fall under a social class either have similarities in their economic conditions or believe in the same political ideology. Social class comes with its implications on very sphere of the individual’s life. For example, the social class that a person belongs to would shape his belief system, mannerism, grooming and reputation that such a person has in the in the society.
In addition to this, social class sets a boundary between individuals in the society and this stratification tends to have an effect on the mind of these people that belong to the same social group. It has been observed that those that belong to the same social class tend to think along the same path (Giddens, 1981). This means that every social class has an identity by which they can be distinguished. This may be the way they talk, their dress code, their values, their way of handling things and their belief system.
There are several determinant factors that add up to decide the social class that a person belongs to. According to Karl Marx, what determines a person’s social class is the part the person plays in the mode of production. Other theorists have also given their views about stratification in societies but they have been linked to this idea that was given by Karl Marx. Social class is derivable from a number of ways. Some scholars have argued that social class is inherited from one’s ancestral lineage. These set of people believe that social class is something that one is born into.
However, some other scholars have questioned this claim saying that while it is true that one can actually be born into a particular social group, it is also possible for a person to alter this by his achievements in the society. This is determined by the individual’s level of education, the income earned or the occupation the person is doing. Apart from this, social class also come with privileges such as the level of authority or influence that the person hold in the society and the way a person is treated in the society.
Another terminology that is connected to social class is what is now called the middleclass. The term could mean different things depending on the context in which it is used. Traditionally, the term middleclass is used in reference to those that fall in-between the social stratification. They are the people that are called the “average man” or the “average American”. They can neither be described as poor nor can they be said to be wealthy. Thus, we can say that those that fall under the middleclass are the section of the society who can be described as ‘comfortable’.
In another sense, the term might mean the working class. Although it might be argued that this does not imply that the working class are lower/higher than other classes, the fact is that about 46% of the total population In America fall under this category of people who get orders from their bosses but are slightly different from the bourgeois as described in the class theory of Karl Marx. Therefore, when we make reference to ourselves as middle class, what we are saying is that we fall under the category of people who, although not rich, are content with the life they are living.
We might not be in the forefront of the nation’s economy but our place can not be taken. We might not be the ones in government but we have the power of influencing the government that comes to power. We are the average man, the average American.
Wright, Erik Olin (1997) Class Counts: Comparative Studies in Class Analysis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Archer, Louise et al. Higher Education and Social Class: Issues of Exclusion and Inclusion (RoutledgeFalmer, 2003) (ISBN 0-4152-7644-6)