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Soci 1001 - Reflective Memo - Social Stratification

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SOCI 1001: Reflective Memo

Tutorial 7

Chan Joy Lum Ada


Topic: Social Stratification

Word Count: 1025

Which account of class (i.e., functional, Marxist or Weberian) has more relevance in your personal or family life? To what extent do you think your family background affects your change of social mobility?

According to Weber, the idea of class is a function of market power, in which is formed by people ‘who share a similar class position or life chance in the market’. The two dimensions that determine the class structure of a society is: The ownership of material resources and the possession of scare skills and knowledge. There are various theories that can be applied to explain the structure of class, such as Weber and Marx, they proposed different ideas on class regarding the differentiation of class, socioeconomic status of class.

In this reflective essay, I will draw upon my own personal and family background with the theory that have more relevance to it, and later assess how my family background affect my change of social mobility.

Weber’s account of class will be more applicable to the complexity of my personal and family background. By using the composite ranking of socioeconomic status of Weber, my parents can be identified as capitalist, or precisely, petite capitalist (Weber, 1996). My dad owes a small yacht company while my mother is also an owner, whom owes a small fashion boutique. As a merchant, my father not only buy the labour of other people, he also work alongside with his few employee. With the small scale of their company, that do not involve intensive exploitation and commodification of workers, the idea of Marx regarding the bourgeoisie as the oppressor, thus cannot be applied.

Likewise, my other family members, my aunts and uncles, are mostly skilled labour working as white-collar worker in multinational companies. In contrast to that of Marx’s classification of the subject class, my relatives are not propertyless, they have flats and cars while being skilled labour at the same time. Weber theory can truly identify the situation in my family. As class situations can be further differentiated, the service, resulted from different education attainment, that my relatives can offer in the market can mark them in a different position as well. The service offered will have different market value, thus having different bargaining power. Market played an important role in determining one’s value in service, that one’s class situation is determined by the market situation, i.e. The class of my family is determined by the value of their service in the market.

The idea of social mobility are often times refer to how likely where you came from can determine where you will end up in society, and sociologist would use occupation to measure movements in social class position, i.e., how likely the children is going to work in professional job if the parents were professionals (Mascmillan, 2012). Social mobility is often associated with family circumstances, a more affluent background can allow the children to go on to get the top jobs. Education opportunity has been a strong driver of mobility while there is a strong link between family background and educational attainment. In UK, the gap in education attainment between the children from the poorest families and the rich families are getting smaller.

However, this is not the case in Hong Kong. As learning has leaped out of the classroom, foreign exposure and engagement in different extra-curricular activities has gain more importance in determining one’s education and value in market. Learning and education no long stay in textbooks, students are strongly encouraged to step out of the classroom and learn in different circumstances, such as field trips, studying aboard, exchange studies, internships etc. These activities no only widen the horizons of student, they also provide opportunities for student to train their soft skills, which is one of the important factors for their future career. Soft skills include social skills, communications skills, emotional intelligence etc. However, all these extra-curricular activities require strong financial assistance from parents, especially studying aboard. With greater engagement in extra-curricular activities, one can land a better job, have a higher socioeconomic status, thus increasing social mobility.

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