Is class still relevant in Australia? To facilitate this question, the readings of Karl Marx, Fredrick Engels, Max Weber, Helen Marshall, R. W. Connell and T. H. Irving will be considered. Connell & Irving (1992) identify ‘class structure’ in Australia with the ‘ruling class’ owning property/business, and the ‘working class’ in the way of labourers whom ‘act together in resistance to the capitalists’. This is relevant today in Australia with the privileged having majority of the power and wealth. Moreover, exploitation of the ‘working class’ continue to maintain less power within the workplace & less wealth.
Connell & Irving offer an uncomplicated view of class structure, (1992: p 40): ‘Class’ at least is a term with a definite, classic meaning, referring to a particular type of society. When we talk about the “class structure” in Australia, we are saying that the facts of power, privilege and poverty in this country have a definite pattern, one that is familiar over much of the world. Helen Marshall (2005) reveals a simplistic view on what classes are and the inequalities existing within; Marshall. Part 2, (2005: p1 & p6). p1) Broadly speaking, class is about economic and social inequality… (p6) We have a tendency for groups of advanced people to congregate together, and groups of disadvantaged people to congregate so that inequalities persist from generation to generation. Marshall (2005) identifies that “financial inequality” is not the solitary cause of “social inequality”, but it is often related. She suggests education plays a significant role in ‘class stratification’. Marshall (2005: p1), Part 2: Table 1: CHANGES IN INCOME DISTRIBUTION 1968-69 TO 1999-2000 Decile1968-691999-2000 of Total IncomeTop Income% of Total IncomeTop Income 1st2. 2$13,3701. 8$15,912 24. 6$20,5003. 3$21,200 36. 0$24,8004. 6$29,698 46. 9$28,9606. 2$38,500 58. 5$33,2707. 7$47,852 69. 3$37,7309. 4$57,000 710. 6$40,07011. 2$68,000 812. 2$50,52013. 4$82,000 914. 9$63,57016. 3$102,200 1024. 8No limit26. 3No limit (Source: edited from Marshall (2005: p2), Lecture 4 Part 1) Marshall (2005) shows us that income inequality in Australia has increased during the last thirty years. It shows that the bottom half of income earners receive less and the top half more of the income distribution.
However, Marshall hypothesises that people can move between the classes with hard work and the right mindset. Marx (1959) divides class structure into three categories, these being the ‘worker, the capitalist and the rentier’. With each category living in similar milieu; sending their children to similar schools, they are therefore taking ownership of their class; therefore, Marx suggests movement between classes is difficult. Marx (1959: p16). Fredrick Engels (1950) gives an example of the labourer’s exploitation with the worker selling their labour power for wages and the capitalist exploiting it, therefore undoubtedly dividing classes.
Cited in Engels, (1950: p13): … [H]er ability to create three times the amount of money at which her labour is valued in terms of a wage. She has repaid the cost of her production in less than 3 hours and yet works another 5 or more hours for her employer –for which she is paid nothing. Explain Weber divides societies into three class categories, property, commerce, and social position. This has been modified to give the reader an insight to Weber’s class stratification (1968: pp 302-303), which is relevant in Australia today:
Table 2: Status Groups & Classes; Property Class Positively privileged property classes are typically rentiers, receiving income from: a)Men. b)Land. c)Mines. d)Installations – factories and equipment. e)Ships. f)Creditors – of livestock, grain or money. g)Securities. Negatively privileged property classes are typically: a)The unfree. b)The declassed. c)Debtors. d)The paupers. Commercial Class Positively privileged commercial classes are typically entrepreneurs: a)Merchants. b)Ship owners. c)Industrial. d)Agricultural entrepreneurs. e)Bankers and Financier’s. )Professionals with sought after expertise or privileged education. g)Workers with monopolistic qualifications and skills. Negatively privileged classes are typically labourers and varying qualifications: a)Skilled. b)Semi-skilled. c)Unskilled. Social Classes Social classes are: a)The working class as a whole. b)The pretty bourgeoisie. c)The property less intelligentsia and specialists (technicians, various kinds of white colour employees and civil servants). d)The classes privileged through property and education. Sourced from Weber’s work; “Status Groups & Classes” (1968, p302-306)
Weber (1968) offers clear evidence of the breakdown of classes that are relevant in Australia today. Weber agrees ‘class inequalities exist in society’, but suggests we can in fact ‘adjust our classes’. (1968: p17): “According to Weber, class structure in capitalist societies remains relatively complex and class inequalities are not necessarily fixed through time. ” Is class still relevant in Australia? As Marshall stated “class is related to social and income equality” both exist in Australia today and until everyone is on the same social and income threshold class structure will to some degree remain.
There is consensus with Marshall, Weber and to some degree Marx who state that it is possible to change your class although it may take a generation to do so. References Connell, R. W. and Irving, T. H. (1992) Reading 24, Yes Virginia, there is a ruling class’, in T. Jagtenberg and P. D’Alton (eds. ) Four Dimensional Social Space, Artmon Harper Educational, (p 40). Study Guide SGY14 (2006/1) Social Sciences in Australia, School of Arts, Media and Culture Faculty of Arts, Griffith University, Brisbane. Engels, F. (1950) ‘Wage labour and capital: Introduction’, in K.
Marx and F. Engels Selected Works in Two Volumes (Volume 1), Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, pp. 66-73. Unit 2. 2: How do the rich become rich? Reading 2, (p13). Handbook SGY14 (2007/1) Social Sciences in Australia, School of Arts, Media and Culture Faculty of Arts, Griffith University, Brisbane. Marshall, H. 2005, ‘Introduction to Australian Society’, School of Social Science and Planning, RMIT HUSO 1167, sociology 1A, Lecture 4 – Part 1, (p2), RMIT University. http://www. australiasoc. info/lectures/sociology%204%20class. html. Accessed 24th June, 2007). Marshall, H. 2005, ‘Introduction to Australian Society’, School of Social Science and Planning, Lecture 4 – Part 2, (p1), RMIT University. http://www. australiasoc. info/lectures/marshall_05. html. (Accessed 24th June, 2007). Marx, K. (1959) ‘Classes’, Capital (Volume 3), Moscow: Progress Publishers, pp. 885-886. Reading 4 handbook, p 16, p 18); Study Guide SGY14 (2006/1) Social Sciences in Australia, School of Arts, Media and Culture Faculty of Arts, Griffith University, Brisbane. Weber, M. (1968) Reading 5 Status Groups & Classes, in G.
Ross and C. Wittich (eds. ) Economy and Society, Berkeley: University of California Press, (pp 302-307). Study Guide SGY14 (2006/1) Social Sciences in Australia, School of Arts, Media and Culture Faculty of Arts, Griffith University, Brisbane. Weber, M. (1968) Status Groups & Classes, in G. Ross and C. Wittich (eds. ) Economy and Society, Berkeley: University of California Press, (pp 302-307). Handbook SGY14, (2007/1). Social Sciences in Australia, Reading 5 (pp17-18). School of Arts, Media and Culture Faculty of Arts, Griffith University, Brisbane.