‘In the first half of this course, we have explored the main theoretical approaches in sociology. For this assignment, you will need to compare and contrast two theories across ONE of the following dimensions: motivation to work, exploitation, or status/prestige. You will then need to use these theories to explain concrete patterns of inequality identified in previous research (week 4 readings).’
Social stratification is a significant concept in sociology that is subject to much debate. It exists in many different forms in society, for instance people may be separated into different social groups based on race, gender, age, and class. Karl Marx and Max Weber are two sociologists who are still relevant when attempting to explain inequality in contemporary society. They proposed theories to explain how and why society was divided the way that it was, both with a focus on capitalism and how it can affect segregation in society, for instance, these theorists wrote about such subject matters like class, work exploitation and economic inequality. In this essay, these two theorists will be compared to explain how one aspect of social inequality is how much prestige, or status, an individual has and how this leads to segregation in society. Concrete patterns of inequality in terms of health and social relationships will then be examined through a Marxist and Weberian lens, in an attempt to account for how these theories may still be relevant. Through these examples this essay will conclude that Weber is more applicable for modern society because his theory does not purely focus on economics, like Marx. He gives more credence to the importance of ideas in social life.
The Marxist perspective views the division in society based on prestige as one that is a result of the class division in society. An individual’s status in society is based on their class position. In Karl Marx’s view, society is generally split into two classes based on unequal distribution of wealth and the division of labour (Van Krieken et al. 2001). The main two classes are the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. The proletariat are the class that do not own the means of production. They are the property-less, exploited workers who only sell their labour to the bourgeois because they do not have the means to become masters of the production forces of society (Van Krieken et al. 2001, p. 56). On the other hand, the bourgeoisie are the class that own the means of production and property. They are able to ‘exploit and oppress the subject class’ (Haralambos & Holborn 1995, p. 34). This class struggle allocates people into different economic strata and shapes peoples’ lives depending on which class they fall into (Haralambos & Holborn 1995, p. 35).
The amount of prestige a person has depends on whether you are you are a member of the proletariat or the bourgeoisie. The lower class do not have any social honour due to being exploited and not being in control of society like the bourgeois are. In...