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The Influence of Social Class on Communication

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Ways of Determining Social Class

The determination of social class is a topic which has been the subject of several studies:-

Karl Marx (1818-1883) believed that in all stratified societies, there are two major social groups, a ruling class and a subject class, the bourgeoisies and the proletariat.

These relations involve exploitation and domination of one class over another

(Haralambos 2000 pg 37)

Marx argued that the structure of society was based around ongoing conflict, the more antagonistic the better and he was convinced that Capitalists would collapse under the weight of their own contradiction and would be replaced by Feudalism and Communism. Marxists still

believe that we live in a two class society.

Auguste Comte (1798-1857) was a French Philosopher who believed that society had progressed through a number of evolutionary stages and feared the social integration of pre industrial society was breaking down and wanted to make sure the Capitalist Class remained dominant.


Max Weber (1864-1920) saw class in economic terms between those who own the means of production and those who don’t and that social stratification results from a struggle for scarce resources in society, not only economic resources but prestige and political power as well.

Weber distinguished that there were four class groupings in a capitalist society.

1. The propertied upper class

2. The property less white collared class

3. The petty bourgeoisie [e.g. shopkeepers]

4. Manuel working class

(Haralambos 2000 pg 37)

Weber also observed that there were different status groups within a class:

Weber’s Tripartite Model

Class: economic struggles over interests in the market

Status: groups efforts at closure, exclusion or usurpation, to maximise their prestige

or social standing

Party: Political “party-organised” efforts to wield power by influencing decision

Marx and Weber saw class in economic terms and both recognise the key class division as related to ownership of property. . Some sociologists draw on one or the other but many sociologists find something useful in all of them looking for alternative categories of social stratification.

The Register Generals A-E Classification is the official social classification in the UK this system is widely used to assess the British Population and clearly based on Weberian theology of a multi layered society

A Upper Middle Class

B Middle Class

C1 Lower Middle Class

C2 Skilled Working Class

D Working Class

E Those at lower level of subsidence

(Sweeney/Etherington/Lewis et al (2003) Sociology and Scotland: Introduction Unity Publications)

This now outdated model has been

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