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Social classes and identity

In sociology and political science, the notion of social identity is defined as the way that individuals label themselves as members of particular groups (e. g. nation, social class, subculture, ethnicity gender e. t. c. )It is in this sense that sociologists and historian speak of the national identity or particular country, and feminist and queer theorists speak of gender identity. Symbolic interactions attempts to show how identity can influence and be influenced, by social reality at large.

The notion of identity negotiation may arise from the learning of social roles through personal experience. Identity negotiation is a process in which a person negotiates with society at large regarding the meaning of his or her identity. (Charles and William, 2002) Social classes and identity Social class refers to the hierarchical distinctions between individuals or groups in societies or cultures. Most societies seem to have some notion of social class. However the factors that determine class vary widely from one society to another.

The most basic distinction between the two groups is between the most powerful or lower in social hierarchy and hence it is the status one is which helps to shape ones identity. In the less complex societies, class hierarchies may or may not exist. In societies where they do exist, power may be linked to physical strength, and therefore, age, gender, and physical health are common delineators of class. (Woodward, 2004) Poverty and identity We can think of poverty as a deprivation of identity as stake in a group identity, poverty results from disruption of group life.

If the identity is an individual identity, poverty results from the disruption of an individual life or from inability of the individual to develop or protect his identity. (Woodward, 2004) Marx and Weber view of identity It was in Victorian basin that Karl Marx became the first person to critically attack the privileges not just of a hereditary upper class but on anyone whose labour output could not begin to cover there consumption of luxury. Marx noted class categories as defined by continuing historical process.

Classes in Marxism are not static entities but are regenerated daily through the productive process. He views classes as human social relationships which change overtime. It is through these classes then which makes our intensities i. e. the rich and the poor. Max Weber advanced the interpretation of class and formulated a three component theory of stratification, with class, status and party as subordinate to the ownership of the means of production. (Woodward, 2004) Questioning identity We live in a world where identity matters.

It matters both as a concept, theoretically and as a contested fact of contemporary political life. (Gilroy, 1977) The discussion of identity in this book is organized around three central questions, although each of these questions provokes further lines of enquiry. The first question is how are identities formed? Identities are formed through interactions between people. When people take up different identities, there are different processes taking place as people position themselves, and are positioned in the social world.

These processes include a focus on the personal dimension of the identity equation as well as an interrogation of how these connect to the society in which e live. Casting a spotlight on the social aspects of identity leads us to explore the structures through which our lives are organized. Our identities are shaped by social structures but we also participate in forming our own identities, which are more important of these structures. We suggest that, gender, class and culture (using the example of nation) are particularly important.

Discussing the role of social factors in identity formation raises the second framing question: to what extend can we shape our own identities? The changes which are identified are largely structural: In the economy, in the technologies through migration and ethnic diversity, in the organization of family life and in gender roles. How far do thee structures constrain people and shape there identities and to what extend are people able to reconstruct themselves and there own identity. Class ethnicity

(Gail Lewis and Ann Phoenix) move the spotlight again to address other dimensions of identity that have important historical resonance which is reflected in changes in the contemporary UK. How do race and ethnicity impact upon the formation of identities and what sought of processes are involved in the shaping if identities. Multi-ethnic in the UK explores the relevance of race and ethnicity, for example in how we see ourselves and how were seen by others, including official categories of ethnicity such as those used in the consensus. (Gilroy, 1997)

Identity and gender (Jennifer Gove and Stuart Watt) focus on gender as a key source of identity. Gender might be seen to offer some grounding for identity. Where might we look to find out if been a male or female might offer some basis for understanding the identities which people have? Gender performance in education offers a useful illustration both of change in a particular historical period and of average certainties specifically boys overachievement, been subverted and challenged by girls recent success, for example in public exams.

These recent phenomena more complex that it at first appears, suggests both uncertainty and new opportunities and the possibility of restructuring gender stereotypes and forging new gender identities. They consider the tension between individual agency and social structure especially the constraints of gender stereotypes and categories, in the shaping of gender identities. (Gilroy, 1997)


Gilroy, P. (1997). Diaspora and Detours of identity in Wood ward, K. (Ed). Identity and difference, London; Sage the Open University Gilbert, D. (1997). American class structure in an age of growing inequality; Wadsworth

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