EDPS 360 (A2) Fall 2013

Class, Status and Society

In Cooperative Blog Posts, Uncategorized on September 22, 2013 at 11:36 am


Weber was focused on individuals and what some of individuals motivating actions were. He did not focus on creating new governing theories but influenced social theory. Often he was in comparison with Karl Marx and Emil Durkheim.

When you dictionary.com social class and socioeconomic status you receive the following


1. Social Class – a broad group in society who have the same social, economic or educational sates

2. Socioeconomic status-an individual’s positions within hierarchical social structure based on work experience and comparison to others

Through the Weber article he sets aside the word class. Three main points and definitions that stood out to me were:

• Class – a number of people who have in common a specific causal component of their life chances (which is represented by economic interests in the possession of goods and opportunities for income),

• Class Situation – chance for a supply of goods, external living conditions, personal experiences – determined by the amount and kind of power (or lack) to dispose of goods or skills for the sake of income in a given economic order.

• Class – any group of people that is found in the same class situation

Putting all three of those point together this is what I gathered from Weber:

Social honor/prestige may be the basis of power. Power in economics or political ways. This social honor being distributed throughout individuals is social order. Class should be regarded as the opportunity to affect their life changes. His example about the slave clarifies it all: He says, “Men whose fate is not determined by the chance of using goods or services is not a class”. Instead he says slaves are a status group.

To me the difference stands in Socioeconomic status you are compared to a set of expectations in comparison to those around you. Class on the other hand is what opportunities you are given to alter the conditions and power that you hold.

Bourdieu built upon the works of many including the above Weber. He tried to see the influences of external structures and subjective experiences on each individual.

He says: “It is because of constants that we can understand things.”

This sentence leads into his point about inequalities. We can see there is a difference only based on the fact we have a constant to compare it too.

His analysis is one we can relate too. He says the fathers’ transmission of capital will allow his son to reproduce himself. Is that fair? Bourdieu then says, “Whose interest is it in to say inequalities are positive? What are the social reasons for saying that?


Class, capital and status – these are just a few of the concepts which allow individuals to categorize themselves in society today. Since most people have their own interpretation of these terms, it can be difficult to be on the same page when discussing them with others. The readings for this topic have clarified some things in regards to this issue, but I am still left confused in some aspects.

The French sociologist Bourdieu (1930 -2002) started his work studying economic capital and social positioning – a very prevalent idea in the article ‘The Forms of Capital’. The article really got me thinking about the question posed in the reading schedule ‘What is my capital?’. I never even considered that there were different kinds of capital, let alone three like Bourdieu mentions – Cultural, Economic and Social. Before reading this article, the only type I ever thought of was my economic capital. Reflecting on this now, I hope to acquire more social capital as I approach the start of my teaching career. As education is a field where who you know can greatly impact your chances of getting a job, this is the sort of capital that would be most beneficial to myself as I graduate university and am in search of a job. I never imagined that having social connections would be more important than money, but in a place like Edmonton where teaching positions are no easy thing to come by, this is definitely the case.

The article ‘Class, Status, Party” by Weber presented class in a different light that I hadn’t seen before. He says that class influences our ‘chance’ at acquiring a certain ‘supply of goods, external living conditions, and personal life experience. Although this statement is clearly true, when the word chance is used and considered with the roulette example that Bourdieu poses, it makes life seem like a game in which the odds may be stacked for us or against us. However, after reading the article I am confused as to whether there is a difference between the words class and socioeconomic status? In my opinion, there is no difference. What class we are in within society is a direct correlation to our socioeconomic status. Does anyone view these as being two separate ideas?


In Weber’s reading, an individual’s class situation is determined by market situations in three ways but can be broadly defined as any group in the same class position. Weber’s definition of class seems more relational in that teachers, doctors and lawyers are a part of different classes, which is based on their economic status. Class position is guided by market forces of production through competition. Class situation is essentially determined by property, or lack of it. He does not believe class to be affiliated with a sense of community.  On the other hand, Bourdieu distinguishes between three fundamental types of capital that influences one’s class such as economic, cultural and social capital. Bourdieu believes that capital represents the immanent structure of the social world.

In my opinion, I find the definition of class to be very ambiguous as there are multiple theories about class, for example, Marx ,Weber and Bourdieu. I find that class is a more traditional term that would be used in the past. I associate class with a person’s social status, such as working, middle or upper class. This is mainly defined by one’s occupation and education. In our society, it seems like socioeconomic status is the “new” term to use in comparison to social class as it considers more variants, such as individuals who are unemployed.  However, most people use these two terms interchangeably.

I wonder how much of our social class is determined by our human action and/or the social structure. To what extent can human beings control their life conditions? Or is most of what humans do the result of general social forces outside their own control? This can be seen in Bourdieu’s reading on “The three forms of capital.” This nature versus nurture debate in terms of social class fascinates me. Are individuals innately born into a society where they will be considered upper class or does an individual have their own control to influence their future social status?  In my opinion, I believe it a combination of both factors that will influence one’s social status.


One of the prominent thinkers featured in this week’s readings/video was a contemporary French philosopher and sociologist by the name of Pierre Bourdieu. Bourdieu was considered to be one of the world’s most respected sociologists and pioneered ideas such as that of “cultural capital”, specifically in the embodied, objectified and institutionalized states. According to Bourdieu, “…the social world is not in a state of perpetual change …[but rather] there’s stability and inertia.” This is in opposition to many other sociologists who consider society to be constantly “mutating”. This was not how Bourdieu saw society however and contrariwise he stated, “… it is because there are constants that we can understand things.”

Bourdieu explains the root causes of social inequality to be namely transmission of capital in both its economic and cultural form. “Cultural capital” refers to things acquired which are (sometimes) indirectly convertible to economic capital and which are acquired via inheritance from a “cultured” family and environment. Those with a greater accumulation of “cultural capital” are able to reap the profits attached to scarcity of resources such as language, books, stories, art and knowledge in general. However, because the limit to attaining cultural capital is free time available to acquire such capital (ie. time free from economic necessity), it is often those who have accumulated more economic capital who are the ones then able to subsequently inherit more extensive cultural capital as well. In others words, in many ways due to societies inequalities the rich get richer.

In regards to Weber’s piece on class, status and party, he reveals that the structure of every legal order directly influences the distribution of power (economic or otherwise) within its community. Regardless of whether or not this ‘power’ is considered to be solely economic, his thinking goes along with Bourdieu’s in that life is not some giant game of roulette in which one can “quasi-instantaneously” change their social status. Rather, both believe that power/capital is something to be accumulated over time and persists so as to ensure that everything is not equally possible.

I agree with Bourdieu’s views in that I believe cultural capital in a sense is every much as important and valuable as economic capital and that both forms are largely inheritable. This means that societal inequalities are likely to persist due to the fact that the classes (referring to a group of people having a specific casual component of their life chances in common) generally holding the most power, in which people benefit the most from these inequalities, are the least likely to initiate any change to the system.

  1. It seems that the children of teachers by and large either become teachers (they are more likely to become teachers) or they are more likely to succeed in educational institutions. Why might this be?

  2. I think it’s because of all the economic, social, and culture capital that are involved and influenced around the children of teachers. Observance is a key factor in educating and influencing. A lot of these children see their parent as successful interms of both occupation and income as part of their economic capital. They see it as both a stable and successful econmic capital and occupation. Allowing the children of teachers to aspire to partake upon that career later in their life.

    For social capital, it is all about your relationships between other individuals and who and how you interact with them. Social capital benefits those who are well connected with others. This results in receiving job and career opportunities based on your social capital. In society in terms of jobs and careers, its all about who you know instead of what you know. For children of teachers, their social capital is already set upon by their parents. Their parents being teachers most likely are connected with other educators as well as administration. The children of teachers, because of their parents, benefits them in having already have career references. This allowes them to have a head start on finding and being hired as a teacher within a school district. This makes it easier for children of teachers wanting to follow the footsteps of their parents, because for one they know that an educator career is both a stable and succesful economic capital. Also, they can benefit on their parents social capital in possessing refrences to help start their careers. The children already has a well established connections as oppose to choosing a different occupation and attempting to meet and established new connections.

    For cultural capital its all about how you practice it and how it is percieved. Again, children of teachers have an advantage on this aspect than others. Mainly because they have observed and understood the aspects of teaching through their parents. They already know what the job entails as well as how their parents practice the cultural aspect of teaching. This influences the children of teachers to adapt it into their own style in learning or in teaching philosophy.In reality, these children are not really being exposed in a new environment unlike others who are going in to this career field for the first time. These children are already expose in this kind of environment and are fully aware of the expectations of being a teacher. So these children choose to follow the footsteps of their parents because, of the economic, social, and social capital because of a sense of familiarity. People tend to choose familiarity over change or something new.

  3. As the daughter of two teachers, in our home, there was a large push for post-secondary education. My mom has a combined degree in science and education. And my father has bachelor of science, a masters in education and a doctorate in philosophy. University was never an option for me, it was a requirement. However, my parents never pressured me to go to university to seek a career, instead they encouraged me to go to post-secondary as a means of broadening my horizons. I have B.A. in drama. And while I knew I probably wouldn’t leave University and enter a paying drama gig, I left having increased my knowledge in such areas as palaeontology, physics, Italian, criminology, religious studies, critical theory, directing, acting, script writing, collective creation and essay writing. And while I paid for much of my schooling on my own, my parents’ economic capital was certainly a safety net I knew I could rely on in case I ever got in financial trouble. For social and cultural capital, I am at an advantage over those who aren’t children of teachers because my parents can provide insight to me on how the education system works and I have access to educational contacts through them. It was actually the principal of my mom’s school who encouraged me to go back to school and become a drama teacher. I have witnessed, first-hand, the joys of teaching but also the stresses. I know what I’m getting into. It isn’t going to be easy but I’m pretty sure its going to be worth it.

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