Free Essay On An Evaluation Of The Postmodern Claim That Class Is Dead

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Sociology, Society, Social Class, Theory, Inequality, Social Issues, Notion, Psychology

Pages: 8

Words: 2200

Published: 2023/04/10


The notion of social class, and its function within the various societies throughout the global community, has been well documented throughout time. In fact, this very concept is the very basis of the exhaustive work carried out by Karl Marx throughout his professional endeavors, and continues to be the basis for much conflict throughout society. Many make the effective argument, however, that class is a human construct and, as such, is not necessarily an institution that is endeared to human civilization for all time. Postmodernists, for example, make the content that class is actually dead, giving deference to a more uniform and universal definition of social demographic groups that can be more broadly applied across society. Class has long been used as a mechanism by which humans seek to explain, and perhaps justify, the inequality and divisions that existing throughout society (Grossmann & Varnum 82). While the concept of ‘classness’ might very well be universal in scope, is application, as a practical matter, can only be reflected in the sense of degree to which such inequality exists. As such, this brief paper will explore the basis for the postmodern claim that class, essentially, is dead.
The very notion of social class has been so overused and broadly applied that many sociologists contend it has reverted to a generic construct used to explain inequality and division in society. This generic use of the term is no, in and of itself, a demeaning notion, but it does nevertheless support the postmodern claim that class is dead. This has certainly lead to a debate within the academic arena centering on the death of class argument, which has its roots in an observation made by some sociologists back in the 1950s. In essence, more alternative types of social arrangements have been proposed in subsequent decades designed to better explain that changing nature of the global community, and in a direct response to what many feel is an outdated class theory that has been too liberally applied (Piff et al 4090). To do this, opponents argue that proponents of the post modernist mindset have simply stretched the definition of class, which has only served to diminish the sensitivity given to the social inequality that exists precisely because of the presence of class, conflict, and division that is prevalent in more forms of advanced society.
The very idea of defining class as a generic concept becomes problematic to some degree when the very invocation of the term is based upon specific assumptions taken for the Marxist approach to class theory. The theoretical claim upon which the very concept of class is based essentially assumes that every society is based on a class structure. When universally applied today, this takes away the reality of modernity and the progression of human civilization. In essence, to define class in such a universal manner is to associate it with a paradigm shift that creates a vision by which the socio-economic, cultural, and political divisions of society can be explained by class (Kraus, Cote, & Keltner 1718). This is simply not the case in today’s post-modern society.
At the same time, it should be noted that are few other alternatives to the class theory that have been realistically proposed. The only definitions, as such, would equate to a more utopian or egalitarian view of society, which has long since been rebuffed by the majority of academics. Because of this, there are few who would truly argue that class division does not exist in society today, which does make classness a universal notion, but only to a certain degree. There have been alternate theories of class proposed in recent years, such as those espoused by Weber, de Tocqueville, and Durkhiem. Their though process basically centers on the redefining of class structure and the formation thereof. These theories that lend well into the postmodern mindset correlate to the vision that society can indeed be based upon a system of non-class inequality and stratification.

The Difficulty and Trouble with Class

Structural mechanisms that result in class positions that are unequal and exploitive in most cases. This mechanism ends up often creating divisions and conflicts throughout broader society. The mechanism itself has been almost universally applied to any post-tribal society, particularly in a capitalistic mindset where property and employment options are viewed to be relatively restricted.
Social positions and socioeconomic categories that are unequal. Within and throughout society, certain nominal classes have been created based on categories that are defined by socioeconomic characteristics that are shared amongst respective group members.
Social groups are created based upon a certain degree of demographic identity and closure. This applies to real social classes and grouping that have been defined in modern society. Marx covers this extensively in his theory and supports the notion that social classes enable group members to gain an identity that gives each person a sense of person and ultimate fulfillment.
The role of class actors. This concept involves the idea that there are certain class actors at play throughout society that illustrate the varying degrees of cohesion, organization, and solidarity that is present. The individuals classes, then, will tend to organize themselves, often through the development and participation in class politics to varying degrees (Kraus et al 551).
These four areas demonstrate both the strengths and weaknesses of Marxist based class theory as a whole. To begin, the theory itself does serve to explain the presence of both social inequality and division that has long existed. It also works to develop the idea that social stability and social change often depends upon a class structure in order to delineate and distinguish between duties. Because of this, the analysis of the class has long been important because of the links that Marx has established, and because of the social impact and consequence that a class structure has had on human civilization through the centuries (Kruas, Piff, & Keltner 998).
Among others, postmodernists have raised a series of concerns with the aforementioned class theory, and have went to so far as stating that the four so-called class categories are actually distinct entities in and of themselves. The contention is that social class actually becomes a separate entity given the particular social arena being discussed. An example of this can be reflected by the notion of social distance and proximity. In this sense, class can often be reflected in the manner by which society is stratified to one degree or another, which depends on a certain level of homogeneity within the culture. At the same time, it is noticed that external heterogeneity becomes the natural byproduct of this phenomenon (Savage et al 222). As such, the manner in which wealth and income are distributed between the populace and becomes a mechanism by which social articulation takes place.
These same socioeconomic categories, however, end up morphing into a sociocultural entity, resulting in social groupings that take on a distinct outlook comprised of various values and lifestyles represented throughout society. This notion of sociocultural class is much different than Marx’s class theory espoused. Groups within society tend to form on the basis of shared or common interests, or along national or ethnic origins. This is nothing new and is the fabric of human civilization as we have come to know it. Social class, however, is no long necessarily the glue that holds society together, as most members have long since moved on from this construct. The fall of the Soviet Union and the demise of communism throughout Eastern Europe are two perfect indicators of this truth. To control the masses on the basis of social class simply does not work, as demographic groups and categories tend to based on something must broader in scope and design.
Those who would argue that class is, indeed, dead would base the discussion on the emerging truth that the formation of class today is actually a relatively rare phenomenon. This does not necessarily mean that postmodernists advocating the purging of class from any analysis of contemporary social structure; rather it is meant to further highlight the reality that social class can be used in describing how early societies were formed in relationship to post-industrial ones, such as the one that we find ourselves in now.
There are still others that have worked to extend the actual meaning of class relations to encompass much more than just class maps. Such theorists typically view the concept of class formation as a variable. This enables the reality of class conflict to come to forefront of the discussion and be more broadly applied within a societal context, even in today’s modern era. Along this line of reasoning, social divisions can be seen in the way that the ownership of property is established, how organizations within society are controlled, and the various skills sets that are represented by the various groups in society (Kraus & Tan 108). This is the basis by which many theorists today contend that class is very much alive, as the relationships and divisions that have been established within culture are still present even in today’s central and advanced societies. To be fair, however, such delineations are increasing in their complexity, which simply serves to add fuel to the argument that class is dying, if it is not already dead. Scholars that continue to adhere to the Marxist mindset would look at the very class structure existent in capitalist societies today as a way of explaining how social division and conflict continue to exist. They do not necessarily support the notion that this is how solidarity is established, or even how groups are organized by class, but they do tend to argue that social class continues to undergo a process of recomposition, whereas postmodernists would view this process as decomposing today.

Underlying Assumptions

In recent years, certain problems have arisen that tend to break holes in the long held theory of class. While socioeconomic class does still remain as the most general way of explaining away the inequality that exists in society, includes the pervasive division and conflict that continues in advanced society, there are other relationships that are now utilized to provide a more plausible explanation. Gender is often cited example of this, but there are other socioeconomic indicators to take into consideration as well. These so-called competitors for status within society provide a more consider picture of the inequality present in advanced society, and provide a clearer understanding with analyzing modern forms of societal structure. Marx would contend that a combination of class theory and analysis is the most plausible means of explaining the social inequality and division that exists, whereas the historical often paints a far different picture.
Those who remain skeptical of class theory point to more contemporary causes of social inequality, conflict, and change. These trends continue to emerge, many of which have little to nothing to do with class. One alternative theory has been presented as the Weberian Legacy. This perspective examines the 3 key social resources of property, prestige, and influence as being paramount in class discussion (Spencer & Castano 422). In fact, Weber frequently wrote about class position and division as being determining factors in how property throughout society was distributed. Status within society is largely determined by situations in life, and is largely irrespective of class. These life situations frequently determine one’s lifestyle, and they form the basis for them being recognized within the broader context of society as a whole.


Technology has impacted the way we view class as well. Technology in this age has had a massive impact on our daily lives and how we go about doing our everyday routines. Some of the biggest impacts that it has had on society is making social networking easier to access. Allowing people to keep in touch with friends, relatives and loved ones and being able to share experience they have went through with others. Technology has also brought about massive steps in preventing diseases, cancers allowing people to live longer and healthier. People are using technology to figure out how our bodies work and pushing the limits of what the body is capable of. The Internet since it’s creation has allowed people to educate themselves easier since there is a limitless amount of information you can find on any given subject you are researching (Van der Waal, Achterbeg, & Houtman 412). Defense and safety of the United States of America would not be as good as it is now without state of the art technology and will always require advances to keep us safe. This has been established through satellites, drones, and other uses of technology. However, with all the good technology does there are negative impacts and it should not be relied on for everything we do.

Works Cited

Grossmann, Igor, and Michael E. W. Varnum. "Social Class, Culture, and Cognition." Social Psychological and Personality Science 2.1 (2011): 81-9. Web.
Kraus, Michael W., Stéphane Côté, and Dacher Keltner. "Social Class, Contextualism, and Empathic Accuracy." Psychological Science 21.11 (2010): 1716-23. Web.
Kraus, Michael W., Paul K. Piff, and Dacher Keltner. "Social Class, Sense of Control, and Social Explanation." Journal of personality and social psychology 97.6 (2009): 992-1004. Web.
Kraus, Michael W., et al. "Social Class, Solipsism, and Contextualism: How the Rich are Different from the Poor." Psychological review 119.3 (2012): 546-72. Web.
Michael W Kraus, and Jacinth JX Tan. "Americans Overestimate Social Class Mobility." Journal of experimental social psychology 58 (2015): 101-11. Web.
Mike Savage, et al. "A New Model of Social Class? Findings from the BBC's Great British Class Survey Experiment." Sociology 47.2 (2013): 219-50. Web.
Piff, Paul K., et al. "Higher Social Class Predicts Increased Unethical Behavior." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 109.11 (2012): 4086-91. Web.
Spencer, Bettina, and Emanuele Castano. "Social Class is Dead. Long Live Social Class! Stereotype Threat among Low Socioeconomic Status Individuals." Social Justice Research 20.4 (2007): 418-32. Web.
Tablante, Courtney B., and Susan T. Fiske. "Teaching Social Class." Teaching of Psychology 42.2 (2015): 184-90. Web.
van der Waal, Jeroen, Peter Achterberg, and Dick Houtman. "Class is Not Dead-it has been Buried Alive: Class Voting and Cultural Voting in Postwar Western Societies (1956-1990)." Politics & Society 35.3 (2007): 403-26. Web.

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