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Social structures and social identities

Sociology can be thought of as containing theories of the structure of society and theories of the social construction of individuals and individual identity.

Most major theories of sociology include both.

In these lectures I will be looking at how theorists imagine the structure of society and how they relate their big vision of the whole to their theories of the social interactions that create our personal identities as individuals.

The theorists I discuss include Karl Marx and Friederich Engels (who lived in the 19th century), Emile Durkheim (who died in 1917), Talcott Parsons, who was the major sociology theorist of the mid-twentieth century, and Pierre Bourdieu, who died in 2002,

Other theorists who enter the discussion are William Shakespeare, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Mary Wollstonecraft, John Stuart Mill, whose ideas partly reflect those of his partner, Harriet Taylor, Jean Piaget, Shulamith Firestone, James Fulcher and John Scott, some pre-historic picture theorists, and an anonymous working class folk song. I have also used the theories of Middlesex University students who have studied these subjects.

In relation to education, class and social structure, I discuss the theories of Julienne Ford and concepts she argued over in correspondence with Cyril Burt. This correspondence took place in 1970, one year before Burt died, when Julie Ford was in her mid twenties.

The web page is divided into lectures on:

Socialisation - identity - and interaction

Sex - Gender - Sexuality Related terms

Education Related terms

Inequality - Poverty - Wealth Related terms

Work, Employment and Leisure Related terms

Stratification, Class, Status Related terms

We will begin each lecture by discussing the meaning and use of its main terms in relation to Britain today. We will do this by looking at a report published in 2010 called "How Fair is Britain?"

to Andrew Roberts' web site home page for
society and

Ideas Systems and Academic Theories

Becks Bourdieu
Marx and Engels


Socialisation - identity - and interaction

How fair is Britain?

The bulk of the 2010 "How Fair is Britain?" review is a collection of "data about the chances, choices and outcomes in life of different groups of people. It considers the experience of groups of people who share common characteristics in terms of:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Disability
  • Ethnicity
  • Religion or belief
  • Sexual orientation
  • Transgender status

    All these characteristics relate to the identity of groups and individuals.

    The data in the Review relate to activities across different areas:

  • Life
  • Security
  • Health
  • Education
  • Employment
  • Standard of living
  • Care and support
  • Power and voice

    All these areas can be related to aspects of the social structure of Britain.


    Structure one: Marx and Engels

    In simplified diagrammatic form, Marx and Engels argued that society can be divided into a material base (foundations) and a structure built on top of that (superstructure).


    The superstructure consists of everything else apart from production and reproduction: including law, the state and human consciousness.

    Production and Reproduction

    Production means making things. Marx and Engels wrote about modes of production. These are different ways in which society can be structured to create what it needs to exist.

    We may think of this as different ways of organising the economy. Theorists such as Marx and Engels and John Stuart Mill thought that economics is basic to understanding society. We call this approach to sociology political economy. Marx and Engels called their particular version historical materialism

    In 1846, Marx and Engels wrote

    " The first premise of all human history is, of course, the existence of living human individuals. Thus the first fact to be established is the physical organisation of these individuals and their consequent relation to the rest of nature. "

    " Men... begin to distinguish themselves from animals as soon as they begin to produce their means of subsistence,.. "

    " This mode of production must not be considered simply as being the production of the physical existence of the individuals. Rather it is a definite form of activity of these individuals, a definite form of expressing their life, a definite mode of life on their part. As individuals express their life, so they are. "

    In the 19th and century, and for much of the twentieth century, men in the western world tended to find their identity in their role in production. One of my grandfathers, for example, was a copper-smith in a factory that made railway engines. It was his position in life. He wore blue overalls that smelt of burnt copper, wore a cloth cap like all the other working class men, read the Daily Herald newspaper and was an officer in his Trade Union. When he went on holiday, it was to the local seaside that everyone else went to, wearing a suit and bowler hat for the special occasion.

    The little boy on the donkey is me, Which brings us to the question of

    Reproduction means making more people to take over production. Production means creating the means of existence (the economy) reproduction is used for re-creating the human beings who make the society. This re-creation is not simply biological, it includes the whole process of education (socialisation) through the family and the education system.

    Engels, in 1884, wrote (my emphasis)

    "According to the materialistic conception, the determining factor in history is, in the final instance, the production and reproduction of the immediate essentials of life. This, again, is of a twofold character. On the one side, the production of the means of existence, of articles of food and clothing, dwellings, and of the tools necessary for that production; on the other side, the production of human beings themselves, the propagation of the species. The social organisation under which the people of a particular historical epoch and a particular country live is determined by both kinds of production: by the stage of development of labour on the one hand and of the family on the other.""

    In the 19th and century, and for much of the twentieth century, women in the western world tended to find their identity in their role in re- production.

    Mary Jane Urmston was born in Lancashire in 1854. In 1874 (aged 19) she married John McKenzie (aged 21) who became a "boiler stoker" and "locomotive driver at the Pearson and Knowles Coal and Iron Co. Ltd". Mr McKenzie believed in his wife not knowing what he earned. They had 12 children, of whom 5 were buried before they were two years old. The youngest (my grandmother) was born in 1894.

    Consumption means eating things, using things, buying things. Commodities are things we buy or sell. Marx wrote that commodities are the distinguishing feature of capitalist societies. He argued that they blind us to the real nature of the social structures that make us what we are. This idea is developed by Zygmunt Bauman in many of his writings. He argues that, in the second half of the twentieth century, the western world became on in which people find their identity in commodities.


    The Penguin Dictionary of Sociology says

    "Socialisation may be divided into three stages: the primary stage involves the socialisation of the young child in the family; the secondary stage involves the school; and the third stage is adult socialisation, when actors enter roles for which primary and secondary socialisation may not have prepared them fully (for example, becoming an employee, a husband or wife, a parent)"

    Socialisation 1: Family

    Socialisation 2: School

    Socialisation 3: Society

    Emile Durkheim in Moral Education on the sociology of education.

    This diagram of Durkheim's ideas, drawn by Dina Ibrahim, shows how, at one and the same time:

  • Family and school are firmly part of society

  • Family prepares children for school and society

  • School prepares pupils for society.

    In the first stage of childhood, the child's mind is developed within the family until it has the intellectual foundations to go to school. The family develops the child's consciousness of self and self-confidence.

    In the second stage of childhood, the child goes to school. Here, he or she is not a "special" family member, but learns to be part of a group of equals and to play the game according to general rules. It is the foundation in morality that is necessary for wider society.

    Durkheim's ideas on family, school and society were developed further by Jean Piaget and Talcott Parsons.

  • #

    There are things that interaction in the family can do that school and wider society cannot do.

    There are things that interaction at school can do that the family and wider society cannot do.

    There are things that interaction in the wider can do that the family and school cannot do.

    Durkheim invites us to think about what these things are.


    Identity 1: Woman

    go to history "We thought the figure represented a woman of some kind a because of her voluptuous figure which was full and well rounded. Due to the shape and size of the figure, we identified it as being a fertility symbol and some of us felt that it could be a nursing mother that is also linked to fertility. She has no face." (Middlesex University students, February 2000)

    Identity 2: Scholar

    go to history "We thought this represented the face of a man. Was he a king or a scholar? Our reason for thinking he might be one of these was that the shape of the face was quite elongated with a high forehead that gave the impression of some one quite learned. What was most interesting was that we all presumed that the face was a man and not a woman." (Middlesex University students, February 2000)

    These images are pre-historic. They are before history and so before "western thought".

    Diana Coole argues that, in "western thought" "the female principle, and all it represents - nature, flesh, appetite - is to be subordinated to that of the male, signifying culture, spirit and reason."

    Interaction and social structure

    If we model our ideas on those of Jean Jacques Rousseau we can divide human interaction into voluntary interaction and forced interaction. Emile Durkheim, who in many ways followed Rousseau, makes a similar division. He argues that there are divisions of labour in society that are established by voluntary interaction and forced divisions of labour.

    Here is an example of forced interaction

    A forced contract: "Be my slave or I will blow your brains out"

    Rousseau argued that real human society requires consent and has to be based on reason.

    John Stuart Mill in The Subjection of Women on the sociology of education.

    John Stuart Mill argues that

  • the subordination of me to women rests only on power as force
    " It arose simply from the fact that from the very earliest twilight of human society, every woman (owing to the value attached to her by men, combined with her inferiority in muscular strength) was found in a state of bondage to some man. "

  • In other aspects of western society
    " We now live in a state in which the law of the strongest seems to be entirely abandoned as the regulating principle of the world's affairs: nobody professes it, and, as regards most of the relations between human beings, nobody is permitted to practise it. "

  • Generally, society was moving from government by force to government by laws.

  • Some people argued that this should not apply to men ruling women because this was natural

  • If this is so. Mill wants to know why there were laws (in the nineteenth century) preventing women from having the same rights in marriage, the same education and employment opportunities and the same political rights as men.
    " Nobody thinks it necessary to make a law that only a strong-armed man shall be a blacksmith. Freedom and competition suffice to make blacksmiths strong-armed men "

  • Mill argued that, as women organised, society would, and needed to, move towards equality under the law for men and women.

  • As part of this general move from a society of force to a society of democracy and law, the family would need to become democratic.

  • Mill states his idea of what the ideal relations are between human beings are in any circumstances:

    "the true virtue of human beings is fitness to live together as equals claiming nothing for themselves but what they as freely concede to everyone else..

  • It is an ideal of treating the other person as we would want to be treated ourselves. We can consider this as part of the morality of justice towards which Mill argues society is moving, away from the morality of submission. See above

  • If the morality of justice is to be developed, it must be exercised. The despotic family goes the other way: It exercises the morality of submission.

    To these virtues, nothing in life as at present constituted gives cultivation by exercise. The family is a school of despotism.."

  • Mill says that participating in democratic politics will develop the virtues of equality

    "Citizenship, in free countries, is partly a school of society in equality;

  • But politics only takes up a very small part of most people's lives. The place with the power to train people to be democratic is the family:

    but citizenship fills only a small place in modern life, and does not come near the daily habits or inmost sentiments. The family, justly constituted, would be the real school of the virtues of freedom." ( Mill, J.S. 1869/Dent1985 p.260)

  • Mill suggests that the emotional intimacy of the family makes it particularly powerful in developing despotic or democratic behaviour

  • The other factor that makes the family so effective is that it concerns the "daily habits" and not just the occasional activity of politics.

    Sex - Gender - Sexuality

    How fair is Britain? (2010) surveys the "chances, choices and outcomes in life" of people with different "characteristics" (identities). Two of the identities it talks about are gender and sexual orientation. It relates these to the social structure of English law

    About Gender the 2010 "How Fair is Britain?" review says that:

  • "The gender pay gap has narrowed considerably since the Equal Pay Act 1970 came into force in 1975."

    Comment: Before 1975, it was legal to have different pay scales at work for men and women. A man and a women doing the same work would be paid diffently.

    As we have seen in discussin John Stuart Mill, law used to prevent women from being equal with men. It prevented women from having the same rights in marriage, the same education and employment opportunities and the same political rights as men. In the mid-19th century, being a woman would mean you could not go to university, could not work as a doctor or lawyer, and could not vote.

    About Sexual Orientation the 2010 "How Fair is Britain?" review says that:

  • "A gap of less than 20 years separates the debate about Section 28, a piece of law which stigmatised same-sex relationships, and civil partnerships, a piece of law which gave those relationships legal recognition."

    Comment: Sexual acts between men (male homosexuality) were illegal in Britain between 1885 and 1967. Many men went to prison under this law and many more lived in fear. After being an active homosexual became legal, a campaign for positive "gay" attitudes developed. "Section 28" in 1988 tried to curb that.

  • Theory - Gender and social structure

    In these lectures on social structures and social identities, we are looking

    1) How theorists imagine the structure of society and

    2) how they relate structure to the social interactions that create our personal identities as individuals.

    Two concepts that help us to relate identity to social structure are role and socialisation


    We can use our earlier diagram to think about how gender relates to social structure. The family, school and society outside them are all social structures, and parts of the whole society.

    We think of socialisation as having three stages:

    Primary (first stage) socialisation:

    Secondary (second stage) socialisation:

    Tertiary (third stage) socialisation:

    We can turn to Talcott Parsons to see how these three stages relate to gender. We will look at what he says about socialisation in the family, in school and at that crucial point when society may direct the girl to be a housewife.

    In 1959 Talcott Parsons wrote

    "the only characteristic fundamental to later roles which has been clearly "determined" and psychologically stamped in by" [the time a child goes to school] .. is sex role. The ... child enters the system of formal education clearly categorised as boy or girl, but beyond that his role is not yet differentiated..."

    These "anatomically correct" dolls illustrate the main physical identity that parents look for in their new-born children. Is it a girl, like the one on the left, or a boy, like the one on the right?

    About one in a hundred babies have mixed features, but 99% of babies are clearly a boy or a girl.

    Every baby has a different personality and some of these differences may relate to his or her physical identity as a boy or a girl. However, on the basis of this underlying physical difference, socialisation creates sex roles (gender roles).

    The little girl and boy on the seaside ponies are distinguished by their clothes and by their hairstyle, for example. She wears a dress and has long hair tied by a ribbon, whilst he has short hair, a shirt and short trousers.



    Sex-roles decided in primary socialisation in the family

    Parsons argues that human desires (motivations) are not simply biological, but are produced by the interaction of biology and social experience. That is, our biological needs are given shape by socialisation. All societies need to motivate people to perform their roles. In the social system as a whole, this is done by the family and by socialisation.

    " It is because the human personality is not "born" but must be "made" through the socialisation process that in the first instance families are necessary. They are factories which produce human personalities."

    The family establishes "certain foundations" of what the child will want out of life. But, according to Parsons, the only way in which children are irretrievably made "different" in the family is in sex role. By the time school starts, children have learnt to be boys and girls, and which they are is "stamped" on their personality.

    School directs children to their future

    As far as I know, Parsons doe not discuss girls in school. He did make a study of boys in school and, from this, he argued that the early school largely decides what the child's future status in life will be.

    I am going to speculate that he would have argued that the school also decided (at that stage in American history) that the future of most little girls would be as wives, housewives and mothers.

    female stages This picture is taken from Where Women Have No Doctor - A Health Guide for Women (1997). The text underneath the picture says:

    "In many ways, a woman's body is no different from a man's. For example, women and men both have hearts, kidneys, lungs, and other parts that are the same. But one way they are very different is in their sexual or reproductive parts. These are the parts that allow a man and a woman to make a baby. Many of women's health problems affect these parts of the body. "

    As a child develops, biological differences develop that differentiate girls and boys much more than when they were small children. (See Shakespeare's Seven ages of man Age three the lover)

    Back in the 18th century Jean Jacques Rousseau wrote a guide to educating children that argued that boys and girls should have the same education until their bodies began to alter at adolescence. From then on, the boy should be educated as a citizen, and the girl should be educated to be his wife.

    Mary Wollstonecraft argued against Rousseau about this. She argued (see Vindications of the Rights of Woman) that it is not so much biology that decides what a girl becomes, but her social experience.


    Parsons argued that the differentiation of men and women's personalities may be due to the functional needs of society. Differentiation here means that the "maleness" of boys and the "femaleness" of girls is developed by society, roughly parallel with their body's development, so that they become different in a complementary way.

    In terms of our three stage socialisation model, this means that a child learns his or her gender role in its family, then the school develops separate career paths for the boys and girls in response to the needs that society communicates to it.

    By functional needs Parsons means something necessary to keep the social system working. In other words, American society moulded men and women to meet needs that all social systems have. The interplay of forces we need to analyse is not just between biology and education, but between biology, education and social needs.

    Robert Freed Bales, a student of Parsons, pioneered the study of small groups in an experimental setting. His observations of university volunteers working on group tasks he set, were used to support a theory that all groups have a need for instrumental and affective leadership.

    Affectivity is a state of feeling (pleasurable or painful). In our relationships we have to choose how much feeling we allow ourselves. Parsons argues that when we are seeking goals (instrumental roles), or making moral decisions, we discipline or even renounce our feelings. In "expressive" contexts, however, we indulge our emotions

    However, Parsons and Bales argued, all group tasks require an element of each. The group needs a leader who will focus it on how to achieve its task (instrumental-orientation), but it also needs a leader who will focus it in how to resolve the inter-personal problems that this creates (affective orientation).

    What applies to small groups also applies to societies. Societies need groups where people resolve their emotional problems, as well as groups where they get on with tasks. In mid twentieth century America the emotional unit was, increasingly, the nuclear family, and the emotional leader of the nuclear family was, increasingly, the mother.

    In 1955 Parsons and Bales wrote

    "we argue that probably the importance of the family and its function for society constitutes the primary set of reasons why there is a social as distinguished from purely reproductive differentiation of sex roles."

    "The problem is not why [differentiation] appears ... but why the man takes the more instrumental role, the woman the more expressive, and why ... these roles take particular forms."

    In the years that followed, a new feminist movement developed in America that questioned these very issues. Why does the woman get landed with being the mother, and why does she have to do it in families dominated by, and provided for by, men?

    Parsons was criticised by many faminists, but by prising sex-roles away from biological determination and focusing on the interplay between biology, socialisation and social pressures, he can be seen as preparing the way for the theoretical work of the feminists.

    19.2.1963 The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan published. Read the Wikipedia article.


    The meanings of the terms we use differs from author to author. In the following table I start with the definitions James Fulcher and John Scott give in the textbook Sociology and then draw on my own Social Science Dictionary with a Durkheim bias (Words to describe social reality)

    click for dictionary  

    one meaning in Fulcher and Scott - at least three meanings in common culture

    Fulcher and Scott use this word for "The physical and anatomical differences that are held to distinguish men and women"

    Notice Judith Butler's argument that the human body is socially structured so gender and sex are (for her) social constructions.

    The other main meaning is a short form for sexual intercourse. It is also used for any kind of physical contact between individuals for pleasure of the type that might lead to sexual intercourse. It can also refer to thought and symbols about such things, Fulcher and Scott call these activities sexuality.
    GENDER Fulcher and Scott use this word for "Expectations of the way that men and women are expected to feel, think and behave"
    One's gender can just mean one's sex in the sense of being either male or female. In its richer sense, gender refers to all the characteristics that attach to being male or female, including ones that are of cultural origin.



    Fulcher and Scott say gender role is the "specification of the way in which men and women are expected to feel, think and behave". They say sex-role means the same, but "implies that the behaviour of men and women is shaped by their sex rather than by gendered expectations"
    SEXUALITY Fulcher and Scott: The activity that people find physically arousing and those aspects of identity, lifestyle, and community associated with this activity.
    Sexuality refers to sexual desires in general or to the way people experience sexual feelings. Fulcher and Scott use it instead of sex in order to distinguish "what sex are you?" from "do you like sex?".
    SEXUAL ORIENTATION Sexual orientation is not in Fulcher and Scott's glossary or index. In the text they appear to use sexual identity as an alternative term. They refer (critically) to the concept that people are "heterosexual, homosexual, or possibly bisexual" (pages 165 to 168)



    Man is not in Fulcher and Scott's glossary.
    "Man" can mean human or male. In its gender free sense, it can mean the human species or it can mean a human individual. Or man can mean male, the counterpart to female (woman). Over 2,000 years ago, Aristotle wrote "Out of these two relationships between man and woman, master and slave, the first thing to arise is the family..." (Aristotle 1252b9)
    FAMILY Fulcher and Scott say this is "a much debated term" often defined as "a social group based on marriage, biological descent, and adoption". They offer as a "less exclusive" definition: "a small group of closely related people who share a distinct sense of identity and a responsibility for each other that outweighs commitments to others"
    We tend to think of families as parents and children (See nuclear family). Read the dictionary article to see what a range of groups the word has covered. Talcott Parsons says that the family is an institution around which the structures of kinship, control of sex relations and socialisation tend to cluster.
    MARRIAGE Marriage is not in Fulcher and Scott's glossary.
    Marriage is a religious or civil ceremony that joins a man and a woman in a permanent (until broken) relationship which is usually completed (consummated) by their sexual union. Biology being biology, this usually creates children and makes a nuclear family
    KINSHIP Fulcher and Scott: A network of relatives (kin) who are connected by common descent or marriage
    Kinship is a much wider network of relationships than what we call the nuclear family of parents and children. We might compare it to the idea of an extended family. Like family, it is an important concept in linking personality to social structure . See patriarchal families and democratic or companionship families

    Marx and Engels Marx and Engels on structure

    We used this diagram to show how Marx and Engels argued that society can be divided into a material base (foundations) and a structure built on top of that (superstructure).


    Law, which we discussed at the begining of the lecture, is part of the superstructure. So is culture.

    According to this historical materialist model, all the changes in law and social attitudes to sexuality and gender, should be related to underlying changes in economic and reproductive relations.

    The original (1848) and 1859) model had class struggle and economics as the base. Engels produced the complete model in 1884. Shulamith Firestone's converted it into a chart in 1971

    The evolution of gender structures
    Based on Shulamith Firestone's chart

    (Family) and socilisation
    Early societies existed by gathering wild plants and hunting animals. They were Nomads. About 10,000 years ago, some of these nomadic groups settled down and developed agriculture. They became tillers of the soil.

    Development of private property in land, cattle & slaves.

    Matriarchy (Mother-right) was a system where family lineage was traced through the mother. Following Henry Morgan, Engels argues that such systems reflect an earlier history of the family when women had more respect and honour Gens is government based on family connection instead of territory. It suited a nomadic form of economy.

    Engels defines it as:

    "the form of kinship organisation which prides itself on its common descent...and is bound together by social and religious institutions into a distinct community" (Engels 1884 par. 3.2)
    In Europe, Engels argues, such a family system em of government preceded the establishment of the Greek and Roman States. In Greece and Rome we step directly from the Gens to Civilisation (p. 34) That is, we move from family government to state government (Less than 3,000 years ago)
    Engels argued that the development of private property led to patriarchy: Wealth accumulated outside the home - which was women's domain - and so shifted the power base to men. Men decided they wanted to ensure "their" wealth passed to "their" children. Men, therefore, had to the sexual possession of the women.
    "The overthrow of mother-right was the world historical defeat of the female sex. The man took command in the home also; the woman was degraded and reduced to servitude, she became the slave of his lust and a mere instrument for the production of children."

    "With the patriarchal family, we enter the field of written history"
    as town & country
    merchants develop.

    1. Ancient mode of production based on slavery

    2. Feudal mode of production based on serfdom

    3. Capitalist mode of production based on free labour


    (Descent is traced by the male line)

    takes over as male power is increased by the development of property.

    The family becomes a one-sided monogamy in that women cannot have sexual relations with men other than their husbands whilst men are allowed sex with other women, through prostitution, for example. Engels called this hetaerism


    developed with commerce, because it became necessary to regulate everyone within a given territory, irrespective of family.

    The slave state, feudal state and bourgeois (modern) state were different forms.

    Revolution leads first to:


    Then to:


    The freedom of women becomes possible Under Socialism the state will be used to suppress the old classes. Under Communism the state will wither away.


    The People and ideas article on Engels and gender also discusses the responses of Simone de Beavoir and Shulamith Firestone to Engels' theories.


    The next four lectures are about closely related subjects: Education - Inequality - Poverty - Wealth - Work - Employment - Leisure - Stratification - Class - Status.

    We will relate theories of the structure of society to theories of the social construction of individuals and individual identity.

    I want to start by looking at two individuals whose lives illustrate the interaction of individual identity and vision with broader questions of social structure. Both Babiker Badri, a Sudanese pioneer of women's education and Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan illustrate that education matters to people.

    # Malala Yousafzai, aged 15, was shot and wounded, for working to promote education.

    Babiker Badri
    Babiker Badri (above right) established women's education in the Sudan in 1907. Out of his work developed the Ahfad University for Women. Afhad means "for our grandchildren"

    Do you agree with education for women?

    Agree or disagree, there is no doubt that it will alters the social structure. Identity and structure inter-act. That is why Babiker taught his grandchldren and why Malala was shot.

    How fair is Britain?

    Chapter ten: Education

    "A wealth of evidence shows that education is a key determinant of life chances".

    "As well as being a right in itself, education is an enabling right, allowing individuals to develop the skills, capacity and confidence to secure other rights and economic opportunities".

    "Educational attainment has been transformed in recent years. Around half of young people are now getting good qualifications at 16 (5+ A*-C GCSEs or equivalent including English and Maths), and in 2008/09, 2.4 million students enrolled in higher education in the UK - a considerable change from a time when educational opportunities were only available to a minority of young people".

    What is Education?

    The English word to educate come from Latin words that relate to drawing out a person's potential. So each of us has an inborn growth potential, but it is developed in different direct.ons by society.

    This is one meaning of the concept of education and it is one that links together personal identity and social structure in an easy to understand way.


    Education is an aspect of socialisation

    We think of socialisation as having three stages:

    Primary (first stage) socialisation:

    Secondary (second stage) socialisation:

    Tertiary (third stage) socialisation:

    William Shakespeare wrote of our identity developing in seven stages. In modern terms, four of these seven stages correspond to stage in the education structure

    identity stage education stage
    infancy family and pre-school
    childhood primary
    adolescence secondary
    young adult tertiary: further and/or higher

    The family - primary education

    Marx and Engels, and many others in the mid-19th century, challenged their society to add socialised (school) education to family education. School education should not blind us to the importance of family education, as this extract from Where Women Have No Doctor - A Health Guide for Women (1997). illustrates

    As mothers, we teach our children every day of their lives:

  • When we feed our husbands and sons first, we teach our children that girls' and women's hunger is less important.

    primary education
  • When we send only our sons to school, we teach our children that girls do not deserve the opportunities that come from an education.

  • When we teach our sons that it is manly to be violent, we raise violent men.

  • When we do not speak out against violence in our neighbour's house, we teach our sons that it is acceptable for a man to beat his wife and children.
  • As mothers, we have the power to change who our children will become:

  • We can teach our sons to be kind and compassionate, so they will grow up to be kind and compassionate husbands, fathers, and brothers.

    primary education
  • We can teach our daughters to value themselves, so they will expect the same from others.

  • We can teach our sons to share and take pride in household work, so their sisters, wives and daughters do not suffer the burden of overwork.

  • We can teach our daughters to be more independent by finishing school or learning a skill.

  • We can teach our sons to respect all women and to be responsible sexual partners.

  • We can raise our children for a better world.

  • Schools - socialised education

    Education is not the only function of schools

    I will point out three functions. These functions may be latent (hidden) or manifest

  • education

  • child care

  • selection

    Childcare - A hidden function

    Childcare is an example of a hidden (latent) function. Schools are not intended to free parents from child-care, but they do for a significant portion of the day and this enables parents to do other things, such as going out to work.

    This importance of this latent function is illustrated by the effects of the 1970 Education (Handicapped Children) Act. Until this Act, some handicapped children had been considered "incapable of education". As a consequence of the Act, school education was provided for all children and, as a consequence of that, parents of handicapped children found they could continue looking after their children instead of the children going into an institution. Eventually, the institutions closed.

    Selection - the controversial function

    Selecting which people should have which jobs is the function of schools that reveals most to us about the relation of the school as constructor of identity and the structure of society.

    We can look at this in terms of the role that a person is trained to plays in society.

    Talcott Parsons argues that roles relate identity (who we think we are) to social structures. The role we learn does not just tell us who we are, it also tells us what we may reasonably expect to do in society.

    Social class and education

    History and terminology

    1842 on Acts prohibiting young children working also required working children to be educated

    A series of Acts between 1870 and 1918 made education free and compulsory for children from five years old to ten, then to eleven, then to fourteen. Education provided for the "childhood" period is known as elementary or primary.

    11 plus

    Education provided for the adolescence period is known as secondary Under the UK's 1944 Education Act, secondary education was compulsory and free for (almost) all children from eleven years to fifteen years (from 1947) and then 16 (from 1973).


    School Skills Destiny
    Grammar Academic White collar
    Technical Technical Skilled
    Secondary modern Basic and practical Semi-skilled and manual

    1965 Circular "requesting" a comprehensive system. Comprehensive education was to "end selection at eleven plus and to eliminate separatism in secondary education"

    16 to 18 plus

    The stage beyond secondary education is not compulsory. It can be referred to as tertiary (third level). University level education ("higher" education in the UK) generally begins at 18. It can begin earlier or at any later age.

    1964/1966 The Binary System under which "new polytechnic" would become "education's equivalent of the comprehensive school" (Eric Robinson 1968)

    In the next part of the lecture we will look at the tripartite system and the development of academic, technical and basic secondary education - and also what it meant for further and higher education.

    The "tripartite" system did not emerge new and fully formed from the 1944 Education Act. The education system was evolving and the Act tried to impose some order on the structure that existed. The following story of Fred and Pauline Moore illustrates, amongst other things, how "technical" education in the 1940s bridged secondary and tertiary education.

    A "technical" education in the 1940s

    Fred and Pauline Moore were both 82 in 2012.

    They both went to "Hendon Technical College", and met there when they were thirteen years old. 1943/1944?

    # Hendon Technical College was in what is now the Hendon Campus of Middlesex University.

    A 1939 book said "Middlesex is an important centre of manufacturing industry and commerce, and under these conditions the public system of technical education has acquired an added importance. The County Council's programme of school building contemplates the provision of well- equipped technical colleges in all the important industrial centres in the County."

    The "Technical College" Fred and Pauline attended may have become "Hendon Secondary Technical School" after the 1944 Act. It remained part of the college until 1959.

    When he left school 1945/1946? Fred Moore "got a job at an export company". Shortly afterwards, was employed as a secretary in the same office. Fred and Pauline travelled on the tube together to work and discovered they both enjoyed the theatre and began going to shows together. At 18 1949?, Fred, like all young men at the time, was required to do National Service in the armed forces. He proposed to Pauline when he was de-mobbed 1951? and she married him at St Margaret's Church, in Edgware on 5.9.1952. The wedding reception cost £25 and Fred Moore was earning £4 a week at the time. (Camilla Goodman, Chesham: Your Community website 7.9.2012

    The Binary System

    In the late 1950s and early 1960s, National Service ended and young men were free to think of 18 as an age to aspire for higher education and the possibility of social mobility out of the class they were born into. Even young women could have the same dream - but that was a more radical thought. The secondary school part of technical colleges separated into separate buildings and the technical colleges began to plan for entirely adult education. At the same time, in the secondary modern schools, children were sitting exams that showed that many of them were as capable as children in grammar schools. It was time for an educational revolution and everyone was arguing about the direction it should take. In the 1960s "education" was the fastest growing specialism in sociology.

    Education and selection - Some social statisticians

    Schools do not just educate children, they select who should go into what carers and have what life chances. Is this fair?

    It may be that schools select people on the basis of their ability and fit people into the work that they are best suited for.

    To help you investigate this relationship between education, inequality, work and stratification, I want to introduce you to four social statisticians: four people who played games with numbers about society:

    # # #
    Adolphe Quetelet 1796 - 1874

    Charles Spearman 1863 - 1945

    Cyril Burt 1883 - 1971

    Julienne Ford 1946 -

    In 1970, Julie Ford (aged 24) and Cyril Burt (aged 87) wrote long letters to one another about the relationship of education to class, work, inequality and social structure. They had very different ideas about this, and would never have agreed. Statistics were, in Julie Ford's words the "test" ground on which a "cricket match" between their two world visions was played. The issue between them was the limits of social engineering: Julie Ford believed a a "class-less society" was possible and desirable. Cyril Burt believed it neither possible nor desirable.

    Sociology and the average or normal person

    In 1846. Adolphe Quetelet studied "the chest circumferences of 5738 Scottish soldiers." This is the "data plot", or graph, that he used to illustrate his findings:

    big chests medium chests small chests

    Most of the solders had medium chests, but some had exceptionally large chests and some had exceptionally small chests. Quetelet called the majority in the middle "average" or "normal" - Sociology would be about studying the "normal man" and how some people deviated from that. Later, the curve was described as the "normal curve"

    Sociology and IQ

    How fair is selection?

    What work you do, how much money you earn, and your social status are closely related to your Socio Economic Classification.

    Cyril Burt argued that the education system could make choosing who got what job fair.

    Intelligence Quotients were, he argued, a scientific way of measuring a child's real ability and showing how they fitted the normal curve of ability.

    The eleven plus examination was based on such tests. It was supposed to show (for example) when a working class child had the inner mental ability to do well if given the right education. These children would be selected out of mainstream education and sent to grammar, or possibly technical, schools. In this way social mobility would be facilitated and natural ability and education, rather than class, would decide who got the best jobs.

    Cyril Burt told Julie Ford

    "broadly speaking, occupations requiring an average or medium degree of ability are by far the commonest... those requiring the highest and rarest degree of ability are comparatively few. I suggest therefore that what is needed is ... the matching of each individual's occupational class with his innate abilities"

    In the 1950s and 1960s a re-thinking of theories of intelligence took place centred round the work of the Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget. This suggested that intelligence is not so much an innate (inborn) ability as something that develops in stages, dependent on the environment that the child experiences.

    Julie Ford summarised the arguments against intelligence tests

    "it is now accepted that talent is not a fixed genetic trait, there is no finite 'pool of ability' to be tapped by increasingly sophisticated selection procedures. Talent, rather than being given by birth is, it is now believed, partly produced by school experience". (Ford, J. 1969, p.20)

    Julie Ford cited Robert Faris as evidence

    Talcott Parsons and others had shown that intelligence tests successfully predicted the occupation that children would enter when they left school. This, however, Julie Ford argued, was an illusion:

    "the predictive power of intelligence and aptitude test reflects nothing more than a self-fulfilling prophecy... children learn to limit their achievement to that which is expected of them" (Ford, J. 1969, p.20)

    What this lecture was supposed to do and has not done!: "Look at identity through symbolic interaction. Move on from there to look at structure through the place of education in Durkheim and Marxist theories. Paulo Freire Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Bourdieu on reproduction. Implications for equality and inequality".


    The meanings of the terms we use differs from author to author. In the following table I start with the definitions James Fulcher and John Scott give in the textbook Sociology and then draw on my own Social Science Dictionary with a Durkheim bias (Words to describe social reality)

    click for dictionary  

    Fulcher and Scott

    Fulcher and Scott

    Inequality - Poverty - Wealth

    How fair is Britain?

    The 2010 "How Fair is Britain?" review says that:

  • There are significant differences in life expectancy between members of different socio-economic groups. Men in the highest socio-economic group can expect to live around 7 years longer than men in the lower groups. For women, the comparable gap is similar.


    This relates life-span to Socio-economic group. Socio-economic group's are our most used tool for describing the stratification of a nation's social structure

    Socio-economic group classifies people according to their occupation (socio) and income (economic). The United Kingdom system (as used in the 2001 census) classifies people as

    Higher managerial and professional occupations
    Lower managerial and professional occupations
    Intermediate occupations (clerical, sales, service)
    Small employers and own account workers
    Lower supervisory and technical occupations
    Semi-routine occupations
    Routine occupations
    Never worked and long-term unemployed

    Our system of arranging groups like this is just over one hundred years old - See history

    Measuring people's social class involves making decisions about what it is about a person you need to measure. You could measure how much money they have coming in (income), or how much they own (wealth) or what they do (occupation)

    The United Kingdom system focuses on occupation. The reason for this is related to activities like trying to relate health and life-span to social class.

    In 1928 the man who devised the system, Thomas Stevenson gave a paper on 'The Vital Statistics of Wealth and Poverty' in which he argued that "culture" is more important than material factors [See Marx] in explaining the lower mortality of the "wealthier classes".

    Culture included knowledge of health and hygiene issues. He argued that this was more easily equated to occupation than to income and wealth.

  • In these lectures on social structures and social identities, we are looking at

    1) How theorists imagine the structure of society and

    2) how they relate structure to the social interactions that create our personal identities as individuals

    To do this with inequality, wealth and poverty, let us listen to an anonymous song that British soldiers sang in the trenches in the first world war about the seduction and suicide of a woman who was poor, but honest. The chorus of this is

    "It's the same the whole world over,
    Isn't it a blooming shame?
    It's the rich what gets the pleasure,
    It's the poor what gets the blame."

    Nothing, it may seem, can be more personal and more individual than suicide. Nothing more structural than the distribution of wealth and poverty. The song describes the structure within which the interactions between the rich man and the poor woman takes place. In one verse we see how wealth is related to political power and how poverty might lead a woman to prostitution:

    "See him in the House of Commons,
    Passing laws to combat crime,
    While the victim of his evil,
    Walks the streets at night in shame."

    It seems that structure has determined her personality: she walks the streets "in shame".

    However, the song makes her an active agent in social interaction, even after her death.

    "When they dragged her from the river,
    Water from her clothes they wrung,
    And they thought that she had drownded,
    Till her corpse got up and sung....."

    "It's the same the whole world over,
    Isn't it a blooming shame?
    It's the rich what gets the pleasure,
    It's the poor what gets the blame."

    rich and poor not the same the whole world over


    The concept of inequality is most often associated with images of wealth and poverty. Two distinct images spring easily to mind, the image of wealthy people and poor people in the same society (See Big Issue) , and the starker image of international inequality that comes to us with appeals for famine relief (See Oxfam).

    Why are they different images? A careful reading of Fulcher and Scott reveals that it is because our images of inequality are related to the social reality of society. (See Durkheim).

    There are real societies that we call nations and real inter-relations between them that we call international relations. At the present stage of history, the solidarity within nations is greater than the solidarity across national boundaries.

    Marx argues that economic inequality plays a key role

    When we read about the rich man and the poor woman

    "See him in the House of Commons,
    Passing laws to combat crime,
    While the victim of his evil,
    Walks the streets at night in shame."

    We are reminded of Marx and Engels arguing in the Communist Manifesto (1848) that

    "The bourgeoisie has at last, since the establishment of modern industry and of the world market, conquered for itself, in the modern representative state, exclusive political sway. The executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie."

    inequality, wealth and poverty are not just economic

    The song also reminds us that inequality is not just economic.

    The song is about the relations between a rich man and a poor woman and Marx and Engels (in particular) pointed to the double standards in sexual morality that helped to secure male domination of women. (See hetaerism above)

    Fulcher and Scott speak of "various dimensions" of inequality which include:

  • class inequality

  • ethnic inequality and

  • gender inequality,

    amongst others.

    They relate these structured inequalities to the different "life chances" of the different groups.

    Relative wealth and poverty can also be defined to include more than just economic wealth. This is done by the United Nations in its Human Development Index which combines data on life expectancy, education and the material standard of living into a single statistic. It is also being done by the United Kingdom's Office of National Statistics, which is experimenting with Wellbeing indicators health, personal relationships, work, education, personal finance, political participation and environmental conditions which will be combined into a single statistic to be used, eventually, alongside Gross Domestic Product statistics. See the social science dictionary entry on Wealth


    Robert Merton, a student of Talcott Parsons analysed society in terms of structure and culture. He argued that there could be a strain between the two. The culture could set out ideals that the structure made difficult to achieve.

    A similar idea underlies what Fulcher and Scott say about structured inequality.


    " Universalism involves treating all people in the same way... In a universalistic system , all are free to achieve social goals through their own individual efforts" (Fulcher and Scott 2007") p.724)

    "Universalism has generally been seen as operating most effectively through either a market mechanism or a bureaucratic mechanism" (p.724)

    In England the Conservative Party usually sets out the benefits of the free market and the Labour Party puts more emphasis on the power of the state bureaucracy to achieve the welfare of the people. However, different views

    "agree in ... involving universalitic standards..." (Fulcher and Scott 2007 p.724)


    [MOBILITY - Fulcher and Scott 2007" pages 741-744]

    If the development of the market and the development of bureaucracy are both seen (in our culture) as aiming at greater equality of opportunity, we might expect to see reduction of poverty and the development of an increasingly open society in which people moved up (and sometimes down) the social ladder.

    Fulcher and Scott present evidence to show that in some respects, and from some views, this is what happened in Europe and the United States. However

    1) Studies of social mobility (movement between classes) in Britain showed that "people were more likely to remain where they were born than they were to rise or fall" (Fulcher and Scott 2007 p.741)

    2) In the United States "the effects of universalism... were partially counteratcted by the persistence of racism and of disadvantages linked to ethnicity". (Fulcher and Scott 2007 p.744)

    These conclusions (and others) suggested to the researchers that there are structural features in the societies that are at odds with the cultural ideals. What these structural features might be are matters of debate, but we might suggest that the existing hierarchies of inequality have ways of resisting downward mobility of the people at the top, and upward mobility of people at the bottom.



    We can use our earlier diagram to think about how inequality relates to the social structures of the family, school and society outside them.

    Parsons study of Boston schools showed that children from different classes were assessed on what he considered universalistic criteria. They were not rewarded because of who their parents were, but because of their achievements.

    As a result, many children from lower classes planned to go on to college, and, Parsons says, going to college was the main thing that decide who went into the higher classes.

    Parsons looked at boys from different classes but of similar ability measured by IQ tests meant to tell what a child is capable of. He found that amongst the pupils with the greatest ability

    " the range of college intentions was from 29 per cent for sons of labourers to 89 per cent for major white collar persons "

    If almost a third of the brightest working class boys go to college and change class that certainly suggests some mobility. But there a forces at work in the opposite direct, for almost 90% of the upper class boys go on to college.

    What are the structural forces against mobility? Finance would appear to be one force. Ambition might be another. Discrimination might be another. These are matters for investigation.

    As we have seen, boys from black families were much more unlikely to advance than boys from white families. A reason for this could have been that, on average, black pupils had less innate ability than white pupils. IQ tests seemed to support this finding. In the 1960s, however, researchers suggested that IQ tests did not measure an innate fixed ability, but only a stage of development that a child had reached. It was argued that the family life of many black children (with mainly manual class parents) did not develop their abilities in the way that the life of many white (mainly middle class) families did.


    1963 to 1968 empirical research in French schools

    1979 (in French) Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste

    Argument: Power defines taste.

    "the working-class 'aesthetic' is a dominated 'aesthetic' which is constantly obliged to define itself in terms of the dominant aesthetics"

    The children of different classes learn different habits of mind and behaviour in the family.

    As a result, children expect different things from life.

    A working class child might not expect photography to be an art form, for example. He or she might become a photographer who took straight pictures, whilst a child from an "artistic" home might pursue photography a art school.

    In this way, stratification is perpetuated by the culture we learn at home.


    This table first inter-relates the definitions James Fulcher and John Scott give in the textbook Sociology. It also links this to material in my own Social Science Dictionary with a Durkheim bias (Words to describe social reality)

    click for dictionary  
    EQUALITY Fulcher and Scott: A condition in which all members of a society are equal to one another in one or more measuarable respects. Includes "equality of opportunity", "equality of outset" and "equality of outcome"
    INEQUALITY Fulcher and Scott do not include in their glossary, but say (under "A structure of inequality and domination", p.12) that "some groups benefit more" from societies activities (see life-chances). They say the "various dimensions" of inequality include: class, ethnic, gender, religious and nationality inequalities within nations and international inequalities between nations.

    Three theoretical issues raised by the study of inequality are Stratification, control, and conflict

    POVERTY Fulcher and Scott (page 728) say that poverty and wealth are best defined in relation to one another. Relative to what is "normal for citizens in a particular society", the poor are those who are deprived of, or even exluded from full public life. In a "theory box" they distinguish this concept of relative poverty from the concept of absolute poverty
    ABSOLUTE POVERTY Fulcher and Scott (page 728) say that an absolute view of poverty tries to measure it in terms of a fixed and unchanging baseline. Poverty is seen as defined as physiological subsistence or fixed human needs.
    RELATIVE POVERTY Fulcher and Scott: A condition where people follow a way of life that is deprived relative to the standard of living that is customary or accepted as normal in their society. They are unable to fulfil the rights of citizenship to the full.
    WEALTH Fulcher and Scott: The opposite of poverty (relative poverty). because of their income and asset, the wealthy are able to enjoy life chances and lifestyles that are superior to those that are recognised as normal for citizens in their society. Wealth is the basis of privilege.
    LIFE CHANCES Fulcher and Scott: The opportunities that a person has to acquire income, education, housing, health, and other valued resources. They are the basis of inequalities.

    Fulcher and Scott define equality of opportunity as a condition in which entry to all social positions is governed by criteria of universalism: they are open to all on the basis of merit, rather than being limited by birth or social background

    Fulcher and Scott define equality of outcome as a condition in which all members of a society enjoy the same standard of living and Life-chances

    Fulcher and Scott define equality of outset as a condition in which all start out from similar positions in the competition for advantages, as in a competitive race.

    Work, Employment and Leisure

    How fair is Britain?

    "Work and Wealth:

    "The mean gender pay gap for women and men working full-time in 2009 was 16.4 per cent; and progress today appears to be grinding to a halt. Women aged 40 earn on average 27 per cent less than men of the same age. Women with degrees are estimated to face only a four per cent loss in lifetime earnings as a result of motherhood, while mothers with no qualifications face a 58 per cent loss.

    "By the age of 22-24, figures suggest that 44 per cent of Black people are not in education, employment or training, compared to fewer than 25 per cent of White people. One in four Bangladeshi and Pakistani women work, compared with nearly three in four White British women, and only 47 per cent of Muslim men and 24 per cent of Muslim women are employed.

    "Pakistani and Bangladeshi men's earnings fall 13 per cent and 21 per cent below what might be expected, and Black African Christian and Chinese men experience pay penalties of 13 per cent and 11 per cent.

    Fifty per cent of disabled adults are in work, compared to 79 per cent of non-disabled adults.

    Chapter eleven: Employment

    work - employment

    Context - Industrial society

    Speaking of "industrial society" often involves two ideas

    Industry can be used as a word for part of the economy: Manufacturing and trade as distinct from agriculture and services.




    This idea is joined with the idea of an industrious social order in most concepts of an industrial society. John Stuart Mill, in 1848, for example, spoke of

    "the great social evil of a non-labouring class"

    This might be illustrated by the leisured classes of slave owners or landed aristocracies in pre-industrial societies. Mill said

    "I do not recognise as either just or salutary, a state of society in which there is an 'class' which is not labouring"

    Fordism is one development of industrial society. It refers to a system of mass-production developed by Henry Ford in the car factories he set up in the United States. These became a model for the low-cost production of standard goods for a mass market.

    "Mass production and mass-consumption were interdependent and linked by the advertising provided by the mass media" (Fulcher and Scott 2007, p.693).

    post-industrial society

    As heavy industry has become a less important part of advanced economies, the idea of a post-industrial society has developed. This term was used in a book title by the French sociologist Alain Touraine in 1969 and by the USA sociologist Daniel Bell in 1973.

    hardware and software societies
    solid and liquid modernity

    A similar contrast has been made by Zygmunt Bauman when he distinguishes between "solid modernity" which is related to railways and factories and "liquid modernity" which is related to computers and networks. [See Thinking Sciologically the Bauman and May way]

    Similarities and differences

    Compare the picture of the twenty-first century call-centre below with the picture of an assembly line in 1913 below that. Think about the similarities and the differences.

    Picture of a call centre posted 14.5.2012 by Paul Skeldon in an article on internet retailing

    A Ford assembly line in 1913

    Fulcher and Scott pages 693 following

    Henry Ford was born in 1863 in Michigan, USA. In 1896 he made a self- propelled vehicle which he named the Ford Quadricycle. The photograph below shows Henry and Mrs Ford driving his first "car" it many years later.

    In 1908 he began the manufacture of cars for the general public.

    Henry Ford's Model T automobile.

    A new term in the United States vocabulary that has been traced back to 1914 is assembly line. The journal Engineering said "labour costs may be... reduced... by the use of sliding assembly lines"

    In 1926 the Encyclopedia Britannica included an article on "mass production" over the name of Henry Ford (although he did not write it). The term began to supersede "Fordism" as the popular term for the process using assembly lines. (external link missing). The term Fordism regained currency through the writings of the Italian marxist Antionio Gramsci

    1934 Antionio Gramsci's notes on America and Fordism - But Americans could not read them until 1971.

    Features of Fordism

    A standard product produced cheaply in large numbers for a mass market by mainly semi-skilled workers doing simplified and routine tasks on an assembly line.

    Some key dates in the development of Fordism and post-Fordism

    1492 Christopher Columbus landed on an American island in his search for a way to India. Marx and Engels wrote in 1848

    "Modern industry has established the world market, for which the discovery of America paved the way".

    Manufacture and the division of labour preceded steam by about two hundred years. The splitting of the tasks in needle and pin manufacture is often taken as an example.

    1763 Steam and Machine

    1776 Britain's American colonies declared themselves independent and Adam Smith published his An Inquiry into The Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations

    The United States that became independent were economically relatively advanced parts of America. Parts of the American continents were the source of images of primitive, undeveloped economies. Adam Smith contrasted this with the wealth of European countries and put the difference down to the division of labour between societies, within societies, and within "factories".

    Adam Smith's example of the division of labour within a factory was taken from a French pin-factory in which each step in the making of the pin was a separate stage in a process carried out by different people.

    1836 Bridgewater Foundary

    1908 Henry Ford's Model T automobile

    1934 Gramsci on America and Fordism - Available in English in 1971

    June 1935 Alan Turing tried to envisage a machine that would decide the provability of any mathematical assertion presented to it. His paper "On Computable Numbers..." in January 1937 laid the mathematical foundations for modern computers that can handle complex thought patterns much more complex than older, mechanical, machines. A "computable number" is any number that can be defined by some rule. Turing's imaginary machines linked the world of abstract symbols to the material world of metal and glass. Valves and then silicon chips would later sort out thought at speeds beyond the speed of thought

    December 1943 "Colossus" the first electro-mechanical computer was installed as part of the British war effort. It was top-secret. The technology introduced a previously unimaginable flexibility into what machines could do.

    1984 John Atkinson Flexibility, Uncertainty and Manpower Management

    Flexible Firm Model

    [This section by Malcolm Richardson]

    Until the late 1970s, in most of the industrially developed societies jobs were relatively plentiful, and most people believed they had a relatively secure and prosperous future. Today, it seems, those times have long since gone.

    Politicians and business leaders tell us that we must adapt in a rapidly changing global economy, or suffer painful economic decline. It seems particularly harsh if we are poor, or unemployed, or possess few skills or educational credentials. But, even highly qualified, skilled professionals, face a more insecure future, with frequent changes of job, and unreliable incomes.

    The uncertainties of rapidly changing markets as well as the need to cut labour costs have forced employers to seek new ways of matching the demand for labour with changing market conditions. These include:

    1. Relocating more labour intensive aspects of their business to parts of the globe where labour is cheaper. Examples are the so-called 'sun-belt zones' in the southern USA, or the 'export-processing zones' established by government's in many developing countries, including China.

    2. Global corporations have also sought to match their various labour and technical requirements to the different skills available in various parts of the world. They can do this by dispersing their production, managerial, technical, or administrative departments to different locations, often in different countries across the globe. Everything can be managed and coordinated through global electronic information and communication networks.

    post- Fordism
    Fulcher and Scott pages 693-697
      Fordism Post-Fordism
    Product Standard Diverse
    Priority Cheapness Quality
    Market Mass Segmented/niche
    Work tasks Fragmented and repetitive Multiple and varied
    Skills Mainly semi-skilled work Multi-skilled worker
    Labour force Occupationally divided Integrated and flexible
    Management Centralised Decentralised
    Industrial relations Conflictual Cooperative
    Trade unionism Multiple and independent Singe and integrated

    Gendering of occupations - domestic labour

    man's work woman's work
    These two pictures are taken from Where Women Have No Doctor - A Health Guide for Women (1997). This part of the book is about Sex and Gender Roles and it explains that:

    "Each person is born with either a girl's body or a boy's body. These physical differences determine a person's sex, which does not change overtime.

    A person's gender role refers to the way a community defines what it is to be a woman or a man. Each community expects women and men to think, feel, and act in certain ways, simply because they are women or men. In most communities, for example, women are expected to prepare food, gather water and fuel, and care for their children and partner. Men, however, are often expected to work outside the home to provide for their families and parents in old age, and to defend their families from harm.

    Unlike the physical differences between men and women, gender roles and the activities associated with them are created by the community. Some activities, like preparing food and caring for children, are considered 'women's activities' in many communities. But others vary from place to place - depending on a community's traditions, laws, and religions. Gender roles can even vary within communities, based on how much education a person has, her race, or her age. For example, in some communities women of a certain race are expected to do domestic work, while other women have more choice about the jobs they hold."


    In "developed" Western societies the divisions between men's work and women's work has changed. Compare the following picture with the one's above. What similarities and differences do they suggest between gendered work in different societies? What is the lady doing on the telephone? Could she be running a business from home? If so, what kind of business?

    Radical social theorists in the first half of the nineteenth century argued that industry was liberating women by providing them with paid employment and freeing them from dependence on men. This argument was made by, amongst others, Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx, and Harriette Taylor and John Stuart Mill.

    But, as Marx and Engels pointed out, capitalist industry also undermined the family

    "The bourgeois claptrap about the family and education, about the hallowed co-relation of parent and child, becomes all the more disgusting, the more, by the action of modern industry, all family ties among the proletarians are torn asunder and their children transformed into simple articles of commerce and instruments of labour." (Marx and Engels 1848, paragraph 2.46)

    The Coal Mines Act of 1842 and the Factory Acts from 1844 tried to prevent the destruction of the family by modern industry. We saw, when speaking of education, that they were important in introducing compulsory schooling for working children.

    You can find out more about life for men, women and children in a nineteenth century coal mine by clicking on this link

    Two semi-naked teenagers descend into a 19th century mine by the rope lift. Many illegitimate children were said to be conceived in the mines.
    The coal mines and factory Acts controlled the extent to which women could work in industry. This was controversial and social theorists such as Harriette Taylor argued that it was wrong to treat women as children in order to reinforce motherhood and women working at home.

    Notice that homelife and education can both be regarded, from one perspective, as freedom from work (leisure) and from another perspective as work. Notice also that the different perspectives are related to gender

    feminisation of work

    Read "Growing employment of women" Fulcher and Scott pages 75-78

    Have we stopped identifying ourselves through our employment?

    Henry Ford's cars were made in one size and all painted one colour (black).

    "Car factories now provide a wide range of models, each of many variations in style and engine power, and many optional extras. The decline of mass production was interwoven with the decline of mass consumption, where major changes were also taking place. The decline of class and community as sources of identity and the growth of individualism meant that consumer goods were seen increasingly as an expression of personal identity. This was no longer a matter of the work a person did of the place they came from but of what they wore, what they drove, where they took their holidays." Fulcher and Scott page 694.



    This part of the lecture has not been written, because I was looking at the plants in my garden

    No. This is not me. - It is a friend looking at plants in my garden


    The meanings of the terms we use differs from author to author. In the following table I start with the definitions James Fulcher and John Scott give in the textbook Sociology and then draw on my own Social Science Dictionary with a Durkheim bias (Words to describe social reality)

    click for dictionary  

    Fulcher and Scott
    other main meaning

    Stratification, Class, Status

    Being written

    If I do not finish on time I will bluff

    Like this

    I know what I am talking about and if you cannot understand me it is because you are all upside down!

    How fair is Britain?

    Go back to Inequality

    Mrs Alexander's Hymns for Little Children, first published in 1848, launched the hymn "All Things Bright and Beautiful", in which the natural and social orders are praised as the creation of God:

    All things bright and beautiful,
    All creatures great and small,
    All things wise and wonderful:
    The Lord God made them all.

    Each little flower that opens,
    Each little bird that sings,
    He made their glowing colours,
    He made their tiny wings.

    The rich man in his castle,
    The poor man at his gate,
    He made them, high or lowly,
    And ordered their estate.

    This verse appears to refer to the story of the rich man "Dives" and the poor man "Lazarus"

    Illustration (by Palmer?) to 1871 sheet music "Dives and Lazarus"

    In a story told by Jesus, Dives is a rich man and Lazarus is a poor hungry man who sits at his gate hoping to eat the crumbs that fall from the rich man's table. After death, their situations are reversed and Lazarus is taken care of by Abraham in heaven whilst Dives finds himself in hell. Dives pleads with Abraham to help him. Abraham tells Dives that in life we have the morality of religious law and prophets to guide us towards a caring compassionate society of mutual help. after death, it is too late.

    The social values set out in Mrs Alexander's hymn have been described as paternalism or maternalism or even the granny state. They are the principles of those who are well off (the higher strata) caring and providing for those who are not (the lower strata)

    In The Communist Manifesto, which was also published in 1848. Marx and Engels called ideas like this feudal socialism. They were ideas that wanted to go back to past (feudal) relations of dependency and submission, with social care. Marx and Engels suggested they were just a ploy on the part of the aristocracy to secure the support of the workers

    "The aristocracy, in order to rally the people to them, waved the proletarian alms-bag in front for a banner."

    Also in 1848, and for similar reasons, Harriet Taylor and John Stuart Mill wrote about dependency theory which makes the ruling class responsible for the welfare of the ruled.

    Stratification in geology and society

    The arrangement of society in strata (layers - as in rock formations), is another word for hierarchy.

    In 1706 a dictionary defined strata as "layers or beds of different kind of earthy matter, that lie one over another"

    19th century social theorist began to compare this to the structure of society. In 1850, for example, Thomas Carlyle wrote

    "in the lowest broad strata of the population..are produced men of every kind of genius." (Carlyle, T. 1.4.1850)

    An 1840 cartoon showed social strata as layers in a beehive

    Social stratification used to be used (as by Carlyle above) just in reference to class, but more recently some social theorists have argued that common characteristics such as race/ethnicity and gender also rank people into strata.

    Science in 1848, when Mrs Alexander's Hymn was published, included ideas of geology and class. In both, scientists were interested in how structures change - in what we call evolution.

    Karl Marx and Friederich Engels in The Communist Manifesto (also 1848) wrote that

    "The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles."
    Class struggle was the power that heaved stratas of society into new positions.

    Geology and evolutionary view of world history
    In the 12th century the Chinese philosopher Zhu Xi wrote "I have seen on high mountains conchs and oyster shells, often embedded in the rocks. These rocks in ancient times were earth and mud, and the conchs and .and oysters lived in water, Subsequently everything that was at the bottom came to be at the top, and what was originally soft became solid and hard"

    In 1815, William Smith's map A Delineation of the Strata of England and Wales with part of Scotland was the first geological map to identify the layers of rock based on the fossils they contained rather than on their composition

    Saint Simon and Marx and Engels and evolutionary view of social history.

    Different social strata at different times: slavery, serfdom, domestic and wage labour

    Slavery is a property relationship. The slave is owned. The English word had its origin in a Latin word for "captive", on the basis that people captured in war lost all rights and became the property of their captors.

    This American picture of an agricultural worker in the 19th century reminds us of the slavery we know most about: the slavery of Africans taken as commodities across the Atlantic from the 15th Century.

    However, ancient civilisations, like those of Greece and Rome were made possible by slavery. These slave societies ran from about 800 years before Christ to the time of the prophet Muhammad. The Greeks made slaves of (white) foreigners that they called "barbarians".

    In western Europe this method of production gave way to feudal relations and then to free labour. But, as free labour developed in Europe, Europe developed slave labour abroad.


    Between the slave-owning empires of Ancient Greece ad Rome and modern societies where owners of capital employ free wage earners, was the feudal period. The bottom layer of the feudal system were the serfs

    Serfs were semi-free workers who owed their lord labour on his land and received, in return, the right to work on land where they could grow their own crops.

    This illustration is from a book of Psalms (Psalter) made about 1310-1320. The man with the stick is not a slave-driver. He is the "Reeve" or manager of the Lord's estate. In some manors it was the custom for the serfs themselves to elect the Reeve. The serfs had their own rights to grow crops on strip-fields and graze animals on the common land, but they owed the Lord service fr so many days a year. They could not leave the Lord, so they were not free. But neither were they slaves.

    Serfs escaping and becoming freemen in towns was one of the origins of free-labour.

    Two forms of free labour that we should consider are domestic (home- based) work and wage work, especially the wake work in factories that we discussed under "Fordism"

    Domestic labour

    man's work woman's work

    Wage labour

    Mill and Taylor's comment: the position of women

    Harriet Taylor (1807-1858) provided the ideas for an article "On the Probable Futurity of the Labouring Classes" in a book by John Stuart Mill that was the standard text book on economics in the second half of the 19th century.

    The article argues against paternalism and for self-determination. Paternalism is where a benevolent, but authoritarian, government provides for the welfare of the people. It is the kind of policy associated, at the time, with people like Lord Ashley.

    summary of Mill and Taylor's essay

    Mill and Taylor argued that, after the basic necessities of life have been met, freedom is the most important human need. Freedom meaning, for them, the opportunity to develop one's own life according to one's own values, rather than living, however comfortably, under the control of someone else. The working class, they argued, were rightly taking this power into their own hands.

    Women, they added, should do the same.

    Mill and Taylor presented two models relevant to the position of both labourers (Mill 1848 par 1) and women (Mill 1848 pars 3 and 18). They opposed the theory of dependence and protection (Mill 1848 pars 2-8) and supported that of self-dependence (Mill 1848 pars 9-16).

    Dependency theory makes the ruling class responsible for the welfare of the ruled. According to this approach, the rich should regulate the social environment beneficially, and educate the poor in socially constructive ideas (Mill 1848 par 3).

    Dependency theory also says men should be providers and protectors for their wives (Mill 1848 par 18). This, Mill and Taylor suggest, treats workers and women as children (Mill 1848 pars 12 and 25).

    Mill and Taylor argue that it is both undesirable and too late to treat workers or women as children: The working classes were taking their interests into their own hands (Mill 1848 pars 9-10), leading to an increase in their education and intelligence (Mill 1848 pars 12 following). Some women were beginning to take the same path (Mill 1848 par 25). The process, (taking place for the same reasons in both cases: Mill 1848 par 18), was beneficial because it was essential for self-development (Mill 1848 pars 12-20).


    Mill, 1848, Principles of Political Economy. Section On the Probable Futurity of the Labouring Classes. Paragraph numbers from

    Weber and status

    Max Weber distinguished between status and class. Status can refer to prestige, and this does not need to be related to wealth or class. So, in analysing society, Weber believed we should consider both economic class and social status. An academic, for example, may have status, but be poor. Weber argued that we cannot reduce everything to class or economics.
    Max Weber "Stratificatory status may be based on class status directly or related to it in complex ways. It is not. however, determined by this alone. Property and managerial positions are not as such sufficient to lend their holder a certain social status, though they may well lead to its acquisition. Similarly, poverty is not as such a disqualification for high social status though again it may influence it."

    "Conversely, social status may partly or even wholly determine class status, without, however. being identical with it. The class status of an officer, a civil servant, and a student as determined by their income may he widely different while their social status remains the same, because they adhere to the same mode of life in all relevant respects as a result of their common education."

    Rosemary Crompton in Class and Stratification (2008, p.15) speaks of 'Class', a multifaceted concept

  • 'class' as prestige, status, culture of 'lifestyles'

    Her other two meanings are

  • 'class' as structured social and economic inequality [As when we measure class by indicators such as occupation or income]

  • 'classes' as actual or potential social and political actors [As in Marx's analysis where class structures (modes of production) give rise to particular forms of class consciousness that in turn result in class actions. (Crompton p.16).
  • Identity and class stratification: who do people think they are?

    The class sketch below illustrates the first of her three meanings 'class' as prestige, status, culture of 'lifestyles'

    7.4.1966 BBC "Frost report" comedy sketch on the British class system.
    I look down on them because I am upper class.

    I look up to him because he is upper class but I look down on him because he is lower class. I am middle class.

    I know my place.

    I get a feeling of superiority over them.

    I get a feeling of inferiority to him but a feeling of superiority over him.

    I get a pain in the back of my neck

    In this comedy sketch, John Cleese as the upper class man wears a bowler hat
    "the headgear that once defined British civil servants and bankers" (Telegraph 5.10.2012)

    Ronnie Barker as the middle class man wears a trilby.

    Rene Cutforth (1976) in Later Than We Thought wrote of the trilby hat as "the universal headgear of the middle classes ... By the thirties it had certainly become degenerate ... It was a hat which had lost all aspiration: it had become a mingy hat".

    Ronnie Corbett as the lower class man wears a cloth cap.

    The Oxford English Dictionary defines something as "cloth-cap" if it is "pertaining to or characteristic of the working class"

    Rosemary Crompton and current relevance - Are we all just individuals?

    Rosemary Crompton contrast the above sketch with a BBC2 series in 1996 called Parsons on Class

    "contrasting aristocrats who sent their children to state schools with low-paid workers who paid for private education, keen golf- club members who lived in local authority housing, and self-made men who had brought their own private shooting rights."

    The argument of this, she says, is that

    "particular kinds of consumption practices are no longer tied to particular status groups"

    Tony Parsons meets the

    Gordon-Duff-Pennington family "aristocrats who sent their children to state schools" who own a castle in Cumbria, to see what life is like for the upper classes. This family once owned 23,000 acres of Cumbria but has now been reduced to 1,800. They battle to preserve Muncaster Castle (the ancestral home). Their aristocratic Britain "is gone" "Now it's the successful businessmen who bag the pheasant" (07/03/1996 On Your Uppers)

    The Jones family who live in Maghull, Liverpool, who paid for private education for their children. Talking to them about "about their lives, aspirations and hopes for the future as members of the middle class." (21/03/1996 Keeping up with the Joneses: last programme)

    The Annely family low-paid workers on the Blackbird Leys estate outside Oxford, whose roots are working class but who are upwardly mobile. The working class Annely family have adapted to a middle-class way of life. "The factories have gone and so have the whippets". They are "keen golf-club members who lived in local authority housing". "The red flag is kept flying only over the 18th hole" (14/03/1996 Up with the Workers)

    In the 1966 comedy sketch class was fixed in both the occupations and the clothing of the three individuals. The banker wore a bowler, the shop-keeper wore a trilby and the man in the market wore a cloth cap. In the 1996 documentary occupation and lifestyle are more flexible. The aristocrat saves money by sending his children to state schools, the family with working class roots play golf and bankers aspire to be aristocrats whilst middle class people save money to send their children to private school .

    It could be argued that class has become a style of shopping!

    See individualistation

    2013 Journalist Harry Wallop argues that in our consumer society, class no longer depends so much on how you earn your money as on how you spend it.

    This relates to the idea that identity is replacing class as a significant tool of sociological analysis.

    This is related to a move from Fordism to post-Fordism or post-Industrial society

    Zygmunt Bauman relates it to the move from hardware to software times.

    Work (occupation) used to provide a focus for the development of class- based identities in industrial societies. This was especially so in the case of communities based around employment, such as mining villages, or industrial towns where people worked in local factories.

    But, according to Ulrich Beck and Elisabeth Beck-Gernsheim (2002), increasing insecurity associated with the flexible labour market mean that both class and status are losing their significance. (Crompton p.75).

    Ulrich Beck and Elisabeth Beck-Gernsheim refer to this process as individualistation

    Individualisation is a shift in our social relations from valuing community and inter-connectedness to valuing individualism and autonomy

    Speaking of Western Germany, Urich Beck says that, since the mid 1950s

    "the unstable unity of shared life experiences mediated by the market and shaped by status, which Max Weber brought together in the concept of social class, began to break apart. Its different elements (such as material conditions dependent upon specific market opportunities, the effectiveness of tradition and of precapitalist lifestyles, the consciousness of communal bonds and of barriers to mobility, as well as networks of contact) have slowly disintegrated' (Beck, U. 1986/1992 p.96)

    In the new conditions

    "class biographies, which are somehow ascribed, become transformed into reflexive biographies which depend on the decisions of the actor"

    Which, in plainer English, means that once a person's life was decided by the community (class) they were born into, but now they choose it.

    The last word


    The meanings of the terms we use differs from author to author. In the following table I start with the definitions James Fulcher and John Scott give in the textbook Sociology and then draw on my own Social Science Dictionary with a Durkheim bias (Words to describe social reality)

    click for dictionary  

    Fulcher and Scott
    other main meaning
    STRATIFICATION Fulcher and Scott:
    See stratification and hierarchy and class
    CONTROL Fulcher and Scott:
    CONFLICT Fulcher and Scott:


    © Andrew Roberts

    My referencing suggestion for this page is a bibliography entry:

    Roberts, Andrew 11.2011 - Social structures and social identities Available at

    and intext references to (Roberts, A. 11.2011).

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