Importance of Class in Cultural Studies

The academic field that deals with an amalgamation of sociology, political economy anthropology, history and historical events and communication in a certain community is referred to as cultural studies. It often majors on particular observable facts that speak about the matters of philosophy, ethnic group, gender and social class. Those who started the early works in cultural studies wanted to accentuate the necessity to move beyond the canonical rules that defined the text. Cultural studies seek to find the cultural practices in the society which are neglected and make them known, highlighting the ways in which they affect the society. The issue of class inequality was one of the major concerns of the early cultural studies’ scientists. Although it had been neglected, it affects the society in a very conspicuous way. The cultural studies scientists derived from the Marxists models which equated culture to an ideology.

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A social class is a hierarchical classification of persons in a society. The classification can be based on the amount of wealth that person has, political position held by the person or alternatively, one is born into a certain class, for instance when the parents belong to a certain class; the child will automatically be a member of that particular class. One thing we should know is that classes are not universal phenomena. There are certain communities that do not have class systems.

Karl Marx defined social classes as a system in which a certain group dominated the means of production in a society. He criticized the system in Victorian Britain and the privileges that the upper class during these times got, saying that their output could not account for the luxuries that they were living in. He greatly focused on the low class that was given little or no consideration at all. He looked forward to a time when the society would start rewarding individuals for their hard work irregardless of their back ground, bearing in mind that there was possibility of change because the French revolution had shown signs of success in changing this system. According to Marxism, classes existed where there was sufficient extra product. According to him, the war of classes between those who controlled production and those who produced goods and services in the society determines the levels of civilization in the society.

Class is a very important phenomenon in the cultural study. It gives an individual the cultural capital that determines the way someone perceives themselves in relation to the people one socializes with, the dress code, the neighborhood that one lives in and what a view. A person born in a middle-class family might have a problem adjusting to a life higher than the working class level as they might feel like the others still associate them with their former class. Owning to this, in a higher class, such a person may feel humiliated even by the environment because they are not used to it. In addition to this, they may suffer from transfer problems whereby they may be caught up in the habit of transferring habits from their former class level to the new level. This is common in individuals who are born in the middle class but merit to get higher jobs that elevate them to the next class level. That is the reason why the Marxists make sense when they insist that the system should change so that class is determined by the success levels, especially in production. This will eliminate the possibility of there being certain code that a certain class follows and lives by but in real sense they are not even able to cover the cost of their living style.

Social classes are very important in cultural studies. Societies are stratified according to the cultural system, or rather; we can say that cultural studies is a branch of the several class intersections. Through the social classes, we can tell the kind of culture that a certain community has. In defining a social class, we look at the criteria that are used in the differentiation of the particular groups in the society. By determining the criteria, it helps us to easily identify the cultural values of this particular society. The things that the community considers most valuable form the cultural base of such a society. In addition, classes look at the number of groups a particular community can divide its people into. This is also a major player in determining the culture of a particular community. With the information of the number of groups in mind, we are able to derive the economic levels of a certain community, that is, the number of ladders they put for people to climb in order that they reach a certain class level. As we had already seen, class systems is not a universal thing or characteristics of all communities, hence it is a way in which we can group several communities; as those with class systems and those without class systems, putting cultural studies in two major groups- with class systems and without class systems.

Apart from the criteria and the number of groups used in a class system, there is also the level to which the class is recognized in a particular society that practices it. There are communities that are very strict with their class systems than others, for instance, no amount of westernization has been able to strip India of the class system, though be it under massive criticism. This system binds individuals to their particular classes irregardless of the merit in the society. If you are born Brahmin, you remain so until you die. This gives us the highlights of the cultural system of the Indians.

Classes are basically created upon the determination of the strong and the weak in the society. Even Marx asserts that there is the aspect of dominance and control, except that he looks at it in terms of the control of production and its determination of the class system. In cultural studies, some of the things that are looked into are the various lines along which class differences are drawn. This knowledge helps us know whatever it is that determines the strength of a person in the society. Some of the cultural aspects that determine the grouping are amount of wealth a particular person has. Most societies that have class systems started these differentiations based on the fact that some of them saw that they were well off in terms of the material things that they possessed. The amount of wealth considered by different communities vary, for instance, in the African setting, the amount of wealth in communities that had class systems was measured by the number of wives one was able to pay bride wealth for, the number of children one had and was in a position to feed; the higher the number, the most wealthy the person was considered to be. However, this has changed over time and material possessions are given more prominence.

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On the other hand, there are other societies in which class was determined by the family background. For instance, some societies had the ruling class or the aristocrats. This was a superior class in the system and irregardless of what one could, or could not achieve in life, if one was born of aristocrat parents, one automatically became an aristocrat. These are some of the discrepancies that needed to be looked into because the assumption that leaders were born and not made was almost damaging to the society because there were those who were born lower in the ladder but had leadership qualities. Even though the system is still in place in some societies, especially India, many communities have changed and the leaders no longer get into position as easily as they used to but they work hard and are selected on merit, a new culture in society. This was the kind of system that Karl Marx criticized, saying that there had to be some struggle for one to belong to the upper or higher class ion the society. This brought about the changes in most of the systems that set new determinants of class.

Based on the alterations that were been brought in, class determination has shifted from the easy traditional ways to the new system that heavily goes by the [philosophies of the Marxists. The tools that are used by the society to put a person ion a particular group include the educational background and qualifications. Even people born in the families that are well off seek to be educated so that they can be associated with higher class. The professional qualification of a person places him or her in a certain group that he or she can identify with, making him or her be associated with a certain group for instance the doctors are in their own group, the lawyers in their own, the teachers in their own and so on. The amount of wealth that a person has is dictated by the profession that one is in. The process of making almost the whole society a working class society, is the reason why profession makes the differentiation in the classes. In addition to this, there had to be a modification of the behavior so that one could fit in the class that he or she has attained. The behaviors and lifestyles are the cultural capital that places one in a certain class. Marx argued that the working class’s goal was to displace the capitalist’s system with socialism so that the conditions that are put for one to belong to a certain class can be pinned down and eventually, the system would develop communist system in the future. The most important revolution in the Marxism period was the speedy growth of the working class. Private enterprises or self-employment opportunities have decreased leading to the majority joining the working class. Marxists referred to this course of action as proletarianisation, a process that ensured that the working class became the largest groups in the society, especially in the well-to-do nations of the ‘first world.’ The class of peasants has been eliminated due to the disbanding of the peasant- lord relationship that was first in the commercially active and the industrially developing countries and the countries that are less developed in the industrial sector. Only the rural laborers still practice peasantry but at the rural level.

Other cultural aspects that placed one in a certain class include the way one dressed, the conduct especially in public mattered, their choice of items, the places where they shop has to change, the political groups that they are allied to have to change in line with a certain political preference or religious preference. Even with the introduction of the professional classes, language is considered an important feature. In every profession, there is what is referred to as professional jargon, where we have lawyers jargon, doctor’s jargon and others that are applied in the various fields. Once one is associated with a certain class, they are expected to learn this language to fit in these particular groups. To a certain extend, there is need to change the dressing code to fit in the class.

Education and other changes in the society try to bring about transformations in the system so that one’s merit places one in a certain class but the personality issue is paramount. Owing to the fact that class is an objective thing, it sensitively touches the issue of how one identifies oneself, from what point of view you see yourself and how one feels about oneself. As much as the society considers it a great step to say that the ladder for elevating your class is open for contest irregardless of the background, we see that the whole issue is as distressing as any other sensitive issues because the community or the society might not be in a position to adjust that easily. The major problem is the cultural binding. One might find it very difficult to deviate from their culture for a reason like the job has made him or her elevated in the society. Human beings always resist change, be it positive or negative. In addition, we can all agree that while we are looking at the difficulties one goes through in moving up the ladder, it proves even more difficult to move down the ladder if one gets to the point where they have to do so.

In their perspective, Marxists see classes as dynamic social relations among human beings, with a similarity in history that is fashioned through productive processes that are shared. For example, a farm laborer who worked in the seventeenth century farm for daily wages shares a comparable relationship in production to a twenty first century average office worker who is paid on a monthly basis.

In conclusion, we can answer the question-what was so important about Karl Marx? It is not his thinking about the class struggle; after all he was not the only one who did that. The novel thing he did was to point out that classes were directly linked to the production methods and the economic configuration and that with the emergence of the in the era of capitalism had the great capability of killing the culture of class systems, something that has been with many societies for ages. He asserted that the whole society has been struggling from time immemorial against class. As cultural studies advance, we should anticipate a classless culture. With the current trends where almost all the population is turning out to join the working class, we should consider the changing class patterns.

Bibliography

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  6. Karl Marx and Informal Education.
  7. Marx, K, The Class Struggle in France, 1848-1850. Web.
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