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Concepts of Class, Ethnicity, Religion, and Gender in Functionalism, Conflict Theory, Symbolic Interaction, Critical Theory, and Postmodernism

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Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Class
  3. Functionalism perspective analysis of class
  4. Conflict theory analysis of class
  5. Critical theory analysis of class
  6. Conclusion
  7. References

Introduction

On the grounds of contemporary theory, it is satisfactory that it is perturbed with the understanding of deep structures of such as class, ethnicity, religion, and gender from the functionalism perspective, conflict theory, symbolic interaction, critical theory, and postmodernism perspective. However, as it is obliged by the assignment, the pivotal point of this essay will be on comprehending the deep structure of class from the analysis of functionalism perspective, conflict theory, and critical theory. Therefore, this essay calls for the meaning of class, its analysis from the perspectives of functionalism perspective, conflict theory, and critical theory, and at length an inference appropriate to the essay.

Class

A social class refers to as a set of postulations in the social sciences and political theory occurring mainly on the models of social stratification in which people are clustered into a set of hierarchical social classifications of the upper classes, middle classes, and the lower classes (Abbas, 2012). Class is a thesis of inspection for sociologists, political scientists, anthropologists, and social historians. Nevertheless, there is no concurrence on a definition of class and the phrase has a spacious range of sometimes incompatible meanings (Barry, 2001).

Some people contend that due to social mobility, class boundaries do not prevail. In normal expression, the term social class is usually corresponding with the socio-economic class which is precisely marked as the people having a common social-economic, cultural, political, and educational status for example the working class, an emerging professional class, elite class among others (Kuper, 2004). Even so, academics discern social class and socioeconomic status, with the foregoing alluding to someone's relatively stable socio-cultural background and the later alluding to someone's present-day social and economic situation and accordingly being more varying over and over again (Rubin, et al., 2014).

More so, Encyclopedia Britannica explicates class as a group of individuals inside a society who possess one and the same socio-economic standing (The editors of Encyclopedia Britannica, 2019).

The phrase class is said to have first originated into spacious use in the early 19th century, replacing phrases such as rank, and order among others as elucidations of the paramount hierarchical groupings in society. This terminology reflected changes in the structure of western European societies after the industrial and political revolutions of the late 18th century (Milton, 1949).

Functionalism perspective analysis of class

Functionalism is the theory that claims that every element of society contributes to the stability of the whole society. It maintains that society is more than the sum of its parts rather, each part of society is functional for the stability of the whole. Durkheim related society to an organism, and argues that just like within a body of an organism, each element plays an important role. None can function alone. If one part experiences a crisis or failure, other parts must adapt to fill the vacancies in some way.

On the basis of the analysis of class, functionalism theory assumes that society is a complex system of interdependent parts that cooperate together in order to ensure a society`s survival (Pope, 975). Functionalism exclaims that classes are needed, indispensable as well as inevitable because they provide everyone with a place in society and they all have a role to fulfill for example if one person is in the wrong place, they mess up the class structure and the society does not function correctly (Fletcher, 1956).

Functionalist theorists also equate society with the way the human body works. They look at society as being made up of interrelated parts that must all work in harmony for the larger system to perform. As a lens from which to consider social class then, functionalists highlight the ways in which social classes are functional for society (Kemper, 1976). The Proponents of the functionalism perspective point out that those people in the lower class (poor) also play a central role in society and are necessary for several reasons. They argue that society needs the poor to do the dirty jobs that nobody else wants, particularly given the low wages for working in difficult conditions such as workers in many factories and farms. For example, if everyone in as society would be superfluously rich in the upper class with a lot of money and other material possessions, who would be cleaning their toilets, collecting garbage, guarding them, and cleaning their compounds among others. Consequently, according to the functionalist perspective, social class is inevitable and functional for society because everybody in different classes plays his /her role.

More so, Kingsley Davis and Wilbert Moore, explain on the need for social classes by exclaiming that, in order to function, society must have people working in a variety of professions including physicians, teachers, and politicians among others. Due to the personal ability, extensive training, and advanced degrees required for the more specialized positions, people in those professions are rewarded with increased earnings and higher status than those whose positions require less (Kingsley & Wilbert, 1945). A good example can be grasped from this framework if you finish high school, and then you continue to University, you pursue a law course and then ultimately you become an attorney, your income and status should reflect the skills needed for your profession. In reverse, if you drop out of school and work as a watchman, you would still be making a contribution to society but your contribution would be less important and therefore not deserving of as much income and status as an attorney. Therefore, according to the functionalist perspective, social class is inevitable and functional for society.

Conflict theory analysis of class

Conflict theory is said to have emanated from the works of philosopher Karl Marx, who focused on the causes and consequences of class conflict between the bourgeoisie or the owners of the means of production and the capitalists and the proletariat the working class and the poor highlighting on the economic, social, and political implications of the rise of capitalism in Europe (Polak, 2008). Karl Marx speculated that this system presupposes on the existence of a powerful minority class the bourgeoisie and an oppressed majority class the proletariat, which created class conflict because the interests of the two were clashing, and resources were unjustly distributed among them.

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Conflict theory analyses classes in the ways social groups disagreement, and fight over power and other resources in form of material possession and wealth. Conflict theorists believe that social classes make society dysfunctional because it harms individuals and societies (Hans & Neil, 1992).

Conflict theory focuses on the competition between classes for scarce resources. The upper classes (capitalists) is seen as practicing battle with those under them (workers), in an effort to maintain their power, prestige, and wealth (Erik, 2005). The conflict perspective suggests that the class system is very deep-rooted because the capitalists (haves) control social institutions such as education, religion, politics, and the law and set them up in favor of their positions and values and also because they pass on their spoils to their children. The same also applies for the have-nots, who also pass on what they have to their children unfortunately, this class has little to pass on but a disadvantaged position.

Conflict theorists also point out that many people in unskilled jobs are pushed into that kind of employment because of social class inequality (Jacques & Stathis, 2008). They have not had the educational and other opportunities afforded by those who are better off. Given equal opportunity and support, they argue that many people in low-wage jobs could perform in higher-level positions. The conflict perspective, therefore, characterizes social class as the result of a struggle for scarce resources.

However, Karl Marx lamented that in order for society to be the better of false consciousness, it should be replaced with class consciousness, the awareness of one’s social class in a society instead of existing as a class in itself and the proletariat class must become a class for itself in order to produce social change (Karl & Angels, 1848). Instead of just being an inertness class of a society, the class could become an advocate for social improvements. Only once society entered this state of political consciousness would be ready for a social revolution implying to mean that capitalism characterized by social inequalities, and exploitation among others will have come to an end with the reception of socialism.

Critical theory analysis of class

Critical theory is a school of thought that circumscribes a wider reference to a method of self-conscious critique aimed at altering, liberating, and emancipation through enlightenment which does not clutch emphatically to its own established assumptions (Guess, 1981). It is a social theory oriented towards critiquing and changing society as a whole. It differs from traditional theory, which focuses only on understanding or explaining society. Critical theories aim to dig beneath the surface of social life and uncover the assumptions that keep human beings from a full and true understanding of how the world works (Guess, 1981). The critical theory emerged out of the Marxist tradition and was developed by a group of sociologists at the University of Frankfurt in Germany who referred to themselves as The Frankfurt School of thought (Guess, 1981).

On the issue of class, the critical theory Centre its focuses on social totality than social classes and it maintains that no facet of our life world can be apprehended in isolation, unlike conflict theorists who affirm that classes originate from unequal distribution and control of the means of production or economic capital (Lisa & Adrian, 1997).

More so, the critical theorist's unlike Karl Marx who only suggested class hegemony in the spheres of production, the conflict theorists suggested class hegemony throughout the civil society in unions, schools, churches, a family that the entire system of values, attitudes, beliefs, and morality supporting the dominant order sustained itself (Adamson, 1980).

Critical theorists also assert that a social class passes on core elements of habitus and capital from one generation to the other and discerns itself actively and passively from other clusters. They argue that social classes impasse social mobility and opportunities since social classes are possibly identified by mere observation (Bronner, 1994). Therefore the limits of social mobility and the limits of activities are the limits of a social class.

More so, the critical theory maintains that the division of classes in the legal system is still largely valid in contemporaneous days (Michael J. Thompson, 2017). They explain that the legal system is probably not intentionally designed to oppress the lower classes however, the discrepancies are incorporated, contained in the meaning of the socially accepted symbols, and transmitted from one generation to the next. Formally, all individuals are equal, but their habitus and its evaluation differ according to social class.

Conclusion

In a nutshell, the functionalism perspective analysis on class examines the positive functions of different social classes in a society and points out that classes are not only important but also indispensable as well as inevitable because they provide everyone with a place in society and they all have a role to fulfill. More so, the conflict theorists believe that social class makes society dysfunctional because it harms individuals and societies and analyzed classes on the causes and consequences of class conflict between the bourgeoisie or the owners of the means of production and the capitalists and the proletariat the working class and the poor highlighting on the economic, social, and political implications of the rise of capitalism. Critical theory on the other hand analyses class not only in conflicting spheres but also in aiming at altering, liberating, and emancipation of classes through enlightenment and focuses on the social totality of societies than social classes.

References

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  2. Adamson, W. L. (1980). Hegemony and Revolution: A Study of Antonio Gramsci's Political and Cultural Theory.
  3. Barry, J. R. (2001). Definition of Class,. Routledge Encyclopedia of International Political Economy: , 01.
  4. Bronner, S. E. (1994). critical theory and its Theorists.
  5. Erik, O. W. (2005). Approaches to Class Analysis. Cambridge, Uk: Cambridge University Press.
  6. Fletcher, R. (1956). Functionalism as a Social Theory. The Sociological Review Foundation. doi:https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-954X.1956.tb00976.x
  7. Guess, R. (1981). The idea of A critical Theory, Herbamas and the Frankfurt school. New York, USA: Cambridge University Press.
  8. Hans, H., & Neil, J. S. (1992). Social Change and Modernity. Berkely: UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PRESS. Retrieved from https://publishing.cdlib.org/ucpressebooks/view?docId=ft6000078s;chunk.id=0;doc.view=print
  9. Jacques, B., & Stathis, K. (2008). Critical Companion to Contemporary Marxism (Vol. 16). Leiden, Netherlands: Hotei Publishing,IDC Publishers, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers and VSP. Retrieved from https://www.ssc.wisc.edu/~wright/621-2013/CRITICAL_COMPANION_TO_CONTEMPORARY_MARXISM.pdf
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Concepts of Class, Ethnicity, Religion, and Gender in Functionalism, Conflict Theory, Symbolic Interaction, Critical Theory, and Postmodernism. (2022, October 28). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 5, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/concepts-of-class-ethnicity-religion-and-gender-in-functionalism-conflict-theory-symbolic-interaction-critical-theory-and-postmodernism/
“Concepts of Class, Ethnicity, Religion, and Gender in Functionalism, Conflict Theory, Symbolic Interaction, Critical Theory, and Postmodernism.” Edubirdie, 28 Oct. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/concepts-of-class-ethnicity-religion-and-gender-in-functionalism-conflict-theory-symbolic-interaction-critical-theory-and-postmodernism/
Concepts of Class, Ethnicity, Religion, and Gender in Functionalism, Conflict Theory, Symbolic Interaction, Critical Theory, and Postmodernism. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/concepts-of-class-ethnicity-religion-and-gender-in-functionalism-conflict-theory-symbolic-interaction-critical-theory-and-postmodernism/> [Accessed 5 Mar. 2024].
Concepts of Class, Ethnicity, Religion, and Gender in Functionalism, Conflict Theory, Symbolic Interaction, Critical Theory, and Postmodernism [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Oct 28 [cited 2024 Mar 5]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/concepts-of-class-ethnicity-religion-and-gender-in-functionalism-conflict-theory-symbolic-interaction-critical-theory-and-postmodernism/
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