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Social Classes - Essay Example

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Social Classes

For example great sociologist Dennis Wrong determines class in two ways - realist and nominalist. The realist definition relies on clear class boundaries to which people adhere in order to create social groupings. They identify themselves with a particular class and interact mainly with people in this class. The nominalist definition of class focuses on the characteristics that people share in a given class - education, occupation, etc. Class is therefore determined not by the group in which you place yourself or the people you interact with, but rather by these common characteristics (Kerbo, 1996, p. 56).
The most important class distinction between the two groups is power. The powerful attempt to cement their own positions in society and maintain their ranking above the powerless. In societies where classes exist, one's class is defined largely by occupation, education and qualifications, income, wealth, including the ownership of land, property, means of production, et cetera; family background and aspirations.
Such fluid notion as race can have widely varying degrees of influence on class standing. Having characteristics of a particular ethnic group may improve one's class status in many societies. However, what is considered "racially superior" in one society can often be exactly the opposite in another. In situations where such factors are an issue, a minority ethnicity has often been hidden, or discreetly ignored if the person in question has otherwise attained the requirements to be of a higher class. Ethnicity is still often the single most overarching issue of class status in some societies. Also we should make a distinction between causation and correlation when it comes to race and class. Many societies have a high correlation between particular classes and race, but this is not necessarily an indication that race is a factor in the determination of class. So the term race can be refered to the concept of dividing people into populations or groups on the basis of various sets of characteristics. Such visible traits as skin color, cranial or facial features and hair texture are the basis for the most widely used human racial categories (Kerbo, 1996, p. 69).
Conceptions of race, as well as specific ways of grouping races, vary by culture and over time, and are often controversial for scientific as well as social and political reasons. Some scientists argue that although "race" is a valid taxonomic concept in other species, it cannot be applied to humans. Many scientists have argued that race definitions are imprecise, arbitrary, derived from custom, have many exceptions, have many gradations, and that the numbers of races delineated vary according to the culture making the racial distinctions; thus they reject the notion that any definition of race pertaining to humans can have taxonomic rigour and validity. Today most scientists study human genotypic and phenotypic variation using concepts such as "population" and "clinal gradation". Many contend that while racial categorizations may be marked by phenotypic or genotypic traits, the idea of race itself, and actual divisions of persons into races, are social constructs.
Speaking about the social structure of the United States we can take as an example the model of contemporary American society:
Upper class: Those with great influence, wealth and prestige. This class makes up about 1% of the population and owns about a third of private wealth.
Upper middle class: The ...Show more

Summary

Social class is the hierarhical distinctions or co-called stratification between individuals or groups in societies or cultures. Individuals are usually assorted into classes according to their economic positions and similar political and economic interests within the particular stratification system…
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