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What Defines An Individual’s Social Class?

1214 words - 5 pages

What defines an individual’s social class? How many social classes are there and is it possible to move and change the social class that a person is born into? Max Weber, Karl Marx and Robert Purrucci and Earl Wysong have all, to some extent, answered these questions, although in some respects they are different they also share many similarities. Marx and Purrucci and Wysong believe there are only two social classes, while Weber believes there are an intermediate number. There are in fact five social classes that allow mobility among classes, in addition the following will be used to determine an individual’s social class: occupation, income, wealth, education and status.
“People with common occupations, earning approximately similar incomes, constitutes a class.” (Marger 39) “People often speak of their occupation or their job as what they do for a living.”(Purrucci and Wysong 146) Purrucci and Wysong believe that an occupation shows the influence one has on a society’s economy and their relationship to the means of production. Weber pointed out that although people may work in the same place people can have different jobs and have “distinctly different class positions.” (Marger 38) “Class structure is related to his or her occupation but not determined by that occupation,” (Purrucci and Wysong 151) which means that there are other key elements that can influence the social class an individual is considered to be in.
Income “provides people with the means to sustain life.” (Purrucci and Wysong 146) Marx pointed out that “workers have no choice but to continue to work for less than their fair share of the product,” (Marger 31) because in a society “inequality is not only inevitable, but necessary,” (52) for it to run smoothly. An individual’s “amount of compensation varies widely according to how they related to the production process,” (Purrucci and Wysong 146) which explains why the President of McDonalds earns significantly more than the hourly waged worker who works in the restaurant taking orders from the customers. “Income does not confer prestige,” (Davis and Moore 81) because, although income contributes to an individual’s social class, it only has substance if he or she has “a stable job and income.” (Purrucci and Wysong 153) A loss of a job or change in pay can allow a person to move up or down in social class.
“The potential to accumulate wealth is very great among certain segments of professionals.” (Purrucci and Wysong 148) Wealth, like income, attributes to inequality in the United States and the more income an individual makes the more potential they have to have an excess of money, to put away for future endeavors unlike the hourly minimum wage worker. The high up an individual is in the company they are more likely to, “receive substantial salaries and bonuses along with additional opportunities to accumulate wealth.” (147) These individuals are “applying their resources to secure and sustain their place at the...

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