Essay on Is Class a Zombie Category?

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Pages: 21

Is class a zombie category? - by Daniel Byrne

‘Talent is 21st century wealth. … It is the nation's only hope of salvation … Not equal incomes. Not uniform lifestyles or taste or culture. But true equality: equal worth, an equal chance of fulfillment, equal access to knowledge and opportunity. Equal rights. Equal responsibilities’ (BBC, 1999). This section of Tony Blair’s speech, given in 1999 during a Labour Party Conference, is one of many ways how one could have introduced this subject. However, this specific one points to something which is taken for granted, namely true democracy. If one works hard at it, this will one day pay off. This could be a starting point for what Ulrich Beck (2000) calls ‘zombie categories’. According to
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As Wright (2003) correctly states, Marx and Weber’s class analysis are essentially the two most influential traditions in sociological theory. However, Weber, in contrast to many other class theorists (Marx, Goldthorpe, Wright), uses, not only a production-based, but also a consumption- based analysis. This is due to the fact that he uses not only occupational and economic indices, but also uses ‘status groups’ as an indication to describe the unequal distribution of power within a community, which he sees as the cause of classes (Weber, 1948). Of course, our main interest in to define class. However, even though Weber makes a clear distinction between ‘class’ and ‘status’, they stand in an important relationship to each other. Hence, the reason for unequal distribution of power, he argues, can be found in three phenomena: ‘class situation’, ‘status’ and ‘parties’ (1948: 181). Each of these manifestations works toward a different distribution of power within a community, which creates or reproduces class categories. Therefore, the first layer of stratification is found between ‘property’ and ‘lack of property’ (Weber, 1948). It is within these categories that further stratification will be found, where ‘class situations are further differentiated’ (1948: 182) between what kind of services the property-less give and how those who have property make use of it. While class situation is entirely based on the market situation in