Social class can be considered as a stratification of society along economic and cultural lines. This is enhanced by differences in property ownership and wealth. In non-stratified societies, every person has equal opportunities. There is therefore no permanent existence of social status based on power and wealth. The American land known as the land of opportunity has undergone changes that may suggest that it is currently and is increasingly becoming a classless society. This is despite some indicators which may show the reverse to be true. (Grusky)
America may be considered as a social class society considering that it is a capitalist society. In his theory of alienation, Marx states that capitalism inevitably leads to social class. This is because people are forced to work by circumstances thus they do not have control over their lives. (Jon) Their toil promotes the wealth of their employers instead of enhancing the general status of the whole society. It is true that a good number of people in the United States have been forced to work in poor environments under very little remuneration that cannot really improve their economical status hence their social status. The evidence of social class can be easily seen through good and mediocre schools, high-class suburbs and poor dwellings and different modes of dressing that indicate differences in class status.
Some theories on social class suggest that people in the upper classes will do anything to cement their social position thus retaining the existing social classes in a society. A good number of people in America inherit their social status from their families. They inherit wealth, values and the drive to succeed from their families. Well-off families provide their children with the best education which to a large extent determines someone’s social status. Although someone may work hard to better his status, he will often meet many hurdles that may stop him. Difficulty in accessing quality education, lacking networks for employment common in high-class societies and an inability to identify and maximize opportunities are some of these hurdles. (Mahalingam, p.731)
According to a recent study carried out by the Federal Reserve, one percent of American households own about 40 percent of the nation’s wealth. This study also discovered that the top 20 percent of households in the country own about 80 percent of the country’s wealth. This obviously indicates a difference in social status based on wealth and therefore power. Such a situation has occurred in the United States as in most places due to economic benefits enjoyed by the rich. When money is invested wisely, it will create more money and so on. (Mahalingam, p.732)
A person who intends to better his economic capacity and therefore social status will need to be qualified to obtain employment. To start with, he will have to work very hard in mediocre schools unless he gets a scholarship to attend better schools. In case he succeeds, he will lack connections to get employment and would provide information like the Zipcode which would give information about his status. Moreover, in case he succeeds, he will be vulnerable to an employee who will want to exploit him by giving him a lot of work for less pay. This clearly shows that social class does not only exist but it is also perpetuated in our society. (Grusky)
On the other hand, research carried out recently indicates that America is more of a mass society than class society. A recent study carried out by Forbes shows that everyone in the land of opportunity has equal opportunity to succeed and that although one may have low social status, he/she can improve his/her situation. The American society can thus be described as a mass society. (Macionis)
People in a specific social class tend to have the same culture and behavior. In the United States, almost all people share the same kind of culture. They share common beliefs and behavior irrespective of their economic conditions. This could be due to the role played by the media which has given Americans a common cultural outlook. America is therefore a mass society. (Grusky)
Compared with other developed countries America is different in various respects. It is a land of opportunity where people work hard to achieve the American dream. It is, therefore, possible for people to improve their economic status through hard work. This is something that has been done consistently by Americans and people who come to our country to look for economic opportunities. (Macionis)
Moreover, people’s economic condition is not determined by what they inherit but rather it is determined by their education. It can be said with a lot of confidence that this education is readily available and even affordable. There are also many scholarship programs to help the needy. Education is also flexible to people’s needs, capacities, and abilities. Anyone can therefore access this education to take advantage of opportunities that exist. (Mahalingam, p.733)
America provides opportunities for people through various means. Our culture appreciates talents in sports, music among other abilities. While one may not make a fortune through these, one could get scholarships and access other opportunities. Any talent be it in politics or any other thing hardly goes unnoticed. A good number of our leaders are from poor economic backgrounds. (Macionis)
Although people in America could be having some advantages due to a favorable economic status that they have inherited from their families, our society can be generally considered a classless society. This is an observation that is becoming more noticeable on every new day. Education and hard work are two things that are essential for enhancing one’s economic capacity and abilities more than anything else. We averagely believe in the same principles, share a common culture and enjoy equal opportunities to improve our economic capacity.
Jon, Elster. An Introduction to Karl Marx. Cambridge, England, 1986.
Grusky, David B. ed.; Social Stratification: Class, Race, and Gender in Sociological Perspective (2001) scholarly articles
Macionis, J.John.Society, the basics. (6th Ed). Prentice-Hall, 2002. Print.
Mahalingam, Ramaswami; “Essentialism, Culture, and Power: Representations of Social Class” Journal of Social Issues, 59.1 (2003): 733.