In an American society there are large disparities in distribution of wealth, material ownership, status, power and dominance which respectively lead to discrepancies in access to education, healthcare and leisure. Combined together the differences in resources and outcomes constitute the foundation of inequality. When one talk of social class, one refers to that particular group or set of people who inhabit a similar position in the economic system of production. The hierarchical grouping of individuals and groups originating through esteem and prestige attained in the process of economic success and accretion of wealth outlines the formation of social class. The term class in social theory summons the need of understanding the most crucial concept of systems of economic inequality. To analyze social class from the perspective of inequality there are certain core angles which need to be examined in broad strokes to discern its factual implication in sociological theory.
One might ponder;”How is it possible for an individual and group of people to situate and establish themselves and others within the framework of this social structure of inequality?” Here one can see the emergence of a particular approach to define class. The definition of class varies considerably across time and place. “Classes are the social categorization of people sharing subjectively significant characteristics within a classification of economic stratification”. In some contexts these class-as-subjective categorization surrenders to life styles while in others to occupations and income levels. Here class distinction is not dependent upon the objective properties of an individual’s social situation, but rather on the people’s subjective understanding regarding ranks within social inequality.
Class can also be defined on the basis of material standards of living, primarily decided by one’s income or wealth. Class, here is a gradational concept which captures the objective properties of economic inequality, with one belonging to upper class, upper middle class, middle class, or lower class. But it will be unfair to restrict class as just a gradational concept, since it is characteristic to both the Weberian and Marxist traditions of social theory and is contrasted to different determinants, thus becoming a relational explanation of economic life chance. It is very important to dwell upon the characterization and rationalization of the deviation across history in the social grouping of inequalities. Marx and Weber differ on this ideology. According to Marxists the prime feature of historical variation in inequality depends upon the manner in which economic surplus is produced and adjusted, whereas Weber emphasizes on the validation of different dimensions of inequality. Class not only explains about the methodical process of generating economic inequalities, but also provides a visionary platform for the transformation of economic oppression and exploitation.
The various definitions of class time and again bring to attention several relevant and significant queries like, Is inequality inevitable?, Is it, in terms of income and wealth a social problem?, Can political equality and economic inequality coexist?, Can capitalism and democracy go hand in hand?” Though social inequality and economic inequality are interlinked there is a basic difference between the two. Economic inequality occurs as a result of discrepancies in the distribution of income and wealth whereas social inequality is associated to racial, gender, and wealth inequality and exists because the lack of wealth in particular areas hinders its growth and individual groups in a society do not have access to equal social status due to their living circumstances. People perceive inequality in different ways; the issue of encapsulation of ethical concepts within inequality such as the appeal of a particular method of rewards or purely the differences in income has always been the topic of discussions. There is a negative relationship between inequality and growth. Inequality influences and manipulates economic and social outcomes, with citizens with low income having little access to capital, distorting resource allocation within economies. Inequality when evaluated from a political economy perspective-leads to an inefficient tax structure. Furthermore uneven income distribution generates psychological stress, promoting morbidity, mortality, and violence.
Warren E.Buffett, the third richest man in the world is an unpredicted radical and a passionate and zealous capitalist who thoroughly believes in the theory of shared sacrifice. His derision for uncalled extravagance, like private schools for rich children and flamboyant spending by the wealthy, are not unknown. Warren has a strong belief that levying higher taxes on the super-rich, redistribution and relocation of income and wealth, and overhauling of U.S. healthcare system along with government spending more on the rest of the society are the prime solutions for solving the economic problems faced by the Americas. He advocates the need to curb short-termism. Warren emphasis that at this period of late-stage capitalism, until and unless U.S. government comprehends the speedy need of not only imposing higher taxes on the rich, but also adopting an exceedingly progressive European manner consumption tax with fewer ambiguity for corporations and big business organizations , the problem of inequality is going to get worse. According to Warren, “But what I paid was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income — and that’s actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office. Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent and averaged 36 percent (Buffett, 1)”
If the sources of government revenues are closely examined, it would be observed 80% of the revenue is from personal income taxes and payroll taxes, out of which the rich and affluent group contributes just 15% income tax and practically nothing towards the payroll taxes. In contrast, the middle class not only shell out on average 25% of income tax but are also hit with heavy payroll taxes.
Some immediate, real, and substantial actions are called for to deal with Americas fiscal problems. According to Warren speculative-trading gains needs to be taxed at much higher rates. Along with that he emphasises on the pressing demand for a radical transformation in the entire healthcare system of the society, which in his opinion is far more crucial for corporate competitiveness, even more than the taxes. This theory of Buffet’s is in contrast with the Darwinian capitalism adopted by other conformists who stands by the view that economic assets can be shared out only through the prevailing market system. Warren is not opposed to bond traders making high profits but what he just advocates for is a proper, organized tax system that takes equal care of the people who though not well versed in market system but at the same time are contributing usefully to the society.
Buffet’s most investments are focused on American companies’ potentials to maintain exporting free enterprises around the world. Warren stands tall and firm on certain perspectives. He rubbishes the idea that high corporate taxes put American business at a disadvantage against rest of the world and granting companies to send back home profits from overseas tax-free leads to moral vulnerability. He repetitively insists on levying higher taxes on corporate and curtailing speculative gains. People making profits from investments should shell out more money towards taxes than the working class. Warren is very clear on his views that improving public education system and overall healthcare of the country, by making it more accessible to all groups is far more important and beneficial than even the tax system.
Marx and Weber have contributed greatly to sociology in their particular ways, they both concurred that social stratification was disagreeable and detrimental. Both, Marx and Webber, predicted class division as the imperative contributor of social conflict. However, where Marx believed that stratification would only withdraw along with capitalism and private property, Weber was the staunch follower of the theory that the solution is present in providing equal opportunity within a competitive, capitalist system. Weber’s views on social class differed prominently from Marx’s conception as Weber unswervingly believed that social class and political class can never be merged together as a single body.
Webber, though in compliance with Marx regarding the domineering and unfair nature of social stratification, is of the mindset that material ownership and the overall living standard encompass the primary cause of class conflict.
Marx believed that the income and the relationship with the means of production were the prime determinant of class distinction, whereas Weber’s approach was more distinctive and flexible, emphasising that the class was generated on the basis of individualistic abilities and skills which ultimately define their income and status. In today’s sociology the three basic factors, power, wealth, and prestige, as depicted by Marx, still control the class distinction. “Central to every single theory regarding social class within an economic system based on private ownership is that status becomes the foundation upon which to delineate economic empowerment (Sexton, 1)”
The French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, who was actively involved in the work of anthropology, education, religion, and gender relations, was the instigator of the concept of cultural capital that emphasized that economic obstruction and complications could not solely be held responsible for disparities in the access to education for children from different classes. According to him unequal distribution of habits and dispositions creates opportunities for restricted advantages. The concept of cultural capital considers culture to be the mainstay of stratification research. Bourdieu maintains modern educational system is more prone to channelize individuals towards class destination that exhibits their class origin and as such culture is directly implicated in social inequality. Each class demonstrates comparatively an exclusive pattern of tastes and preferences, unfailingly dependent on its particular blend of cultural and economic capital.
Class stratification theory by and large has its foundations in- economic issues covering occupation, wealth, income, and poverty; social contexts of status, association, and social mobility and political implications of power, authority and class awareness. Sociologists, within their configurations of class categorizations endeavour to explain for the workings and the interactions of these variables. Each theorist imparts significant importance on the economic foundations of class hierarchies; Weber and Bourdieu in particular, emphasised on the consequences of sociocultural factors such as lifestyle, eminence, and systems of thought into the social class equation. According to all the theorists, issues of power and subordination in the political area were clearly manifested in the social class. Americans, on average, have a higher tolerance for income inequality than their European counterparts. American attitudes focus on equality of opportunity, while Europeans tend to see fairness in equal outcomes.
“Americans, on average, have a higher tolerance for income inequality than their European counterparts. American attitudes focus on equality of opportunity, while Europeans tend to see fairness in equal outcomes.(Gudrais, 1)”Americans, on average, have a higher tolerance for income inequality than their European counterparts. American attitudes focus on equality of opportunity, while Europeans tend to see fairness in equal outcomes. Americans, on average, have a higher tolerance for income inequality than their European counterparts. American attitudes focus on equality of opportunity, while Europeans tend to see fairness in equal outcomes. Americans, on average, have a higher tolerance for income inequality than their European counterparts. American attitudes focus on equality of opportunity, while Europeans tend to see fairness in equal outcomes.
The gap between the Americans rich and the poor is quiet wide and getting wider as not much is done regarding the redistribution of income, and this holds true both before and after taxes. The extensive disparities amongst the members of the society in all spheres of health, wealth, and education have adverse effects on the general public at large. High inequalities bounce back through societies on multiple levels associating with increased violence, less racial harmony, low level of happiness, poor healthcare, and less public and political participation. The allocation of total national income drawn by the topmost one percent of American earners has crested to 20.3%.
The social class, gender, and race and ethnicity are three major sociology inequalities in America. No significant efforts are being made to guarantee the equality of social reward outcomes. The class one belongs to directly relates to the individual’s life chances. The wealthy and well educated have longer life expectancies and better educational opportunities than the poor who succumb easily to chronic illness due to little access to proper medical care and ignorance and lack of awareness. Reduced access to education, limited social capital, and hindrances to physical abilities are few consequences that result from inequality and accumulation of wealth into fewer hands. It is a known fact that “Today just 400 Americans have more wealth than half of all Americans combined.”
WARREN E. BUFFETT. Stop Coddling the Super-Rich. 2011. < http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/15/opinion/stop-coddling-the-super-rich.html?_r=1>
Timothy Sexton. Karl Marx, Max Weber and Social Class Theory. 2008. < http://voices.yahoo.com/karl-marx-max-weber-social-class-theory-849151.html?cat=4>
Elizabeth Gudrais. Unequal America. 2008. < http://harvardmagazine.com/2008/07/unequal-america-html>