An individual’s social class or status is that position that they hold in the society. This position is certainly earned by two ways, which are the achievements one gets during their lifetime defined by the achieved status or by chance whereby one finds himself or herself in certain social class at birth hence the ascribed status.
For instance if one is born in a wealthy family, they will have a wide range of expectations during their growth unlike one born in a poor family. Therefore the social class that one belongs to is a key determinant of the ability of an individual to attain most of the valued ‘things’ of the society as Max Weber described. Such include;
Good Health care – People from the lower social class have difficulty accessing good health care. The main reason being that good health care comes in hand with huge amounts of money to be paid for the service, something that the lower class people can hardly afford. On the contrary, those from the higher social class have access to the best medical facilities just because they can afford to pay for their services.
Longevity – Those coming from the lower social classes have their longevity lowered while those in the middle class have lesser effects on longevity. The people from higher social class enjoy maximum longevity duet to the fact that they have access to good health care, good diet and a lot of leisure time (Marmout, 2004, p. 156). Despite this, birth contributes less to one’s longevity but rather dependent on factors after birth.
Security – Just like the other factors, people from the higher social class have adequate security since they can afford to pay for such services or they are provided for by the government. The lower social class individuals have no one apart from the Almighty to take care of them.
Status – If you are born of a high class family your social status will also be high and vice versa.
Wealth – Most people will inherit the wealth of their parents and such if you come from a wealthy family you will also be wealthy while if you are from a low class poor family there are high chances of you being on the same social class unless one works hard.
Prestige and Power– These go hand in hand as those from high social class hold prestige and have power over the low class people who become their servants.
How life chances may affect an individual’s life goals (positive or negative)
The home where you find yourself after birth plays a great role in determining your future either positively or negatively (Gould, 2002, p. 1152). For instance, an individual may be deprived off some essentials such as education due to their background making them suffer the rest of their lives. On the other hand, a lazy person may continue living a happy high class life just because they come from wealthy families. Therefore life chances have great impacts on the life of an individual.
Ways in which life chances be irrelevant
Life chances may be irrelevant in several cases depending on the achievements one is ready to achieve. A factor such as education and hard work could make one shift from the low social class to the high social class. At the same time those individual who are lazy and of low intelligence may end up being in the low class despite being brought up in high social class families. Other factors that may shape life chances include gender, race, and nationality just to mention but a few.
How the concept of life chances operates in the following systems:
A caste system – In this system, the social class of an individual is determined by heredity such that the children become what their parents were or are. This therefore means that a son or daughter of the King or president will definitely have access to security, wealth, good education and health as well as prestige just because of their parent’s class.
A class system – It is definite that the class that one belongs predicts their life chances greatly. Those in high social class will be subjected to good education, health care, security among others while those from the low social classes will not be in a position to access such services (Gilbert, 1998, p. 94).
A one-party, Communist system (such as China) – In the one-party, communist system, the wealth is shared by all in the community thus those who might have been disadvantaged get a chance of getting facilities and services they would not have got as a result of their background.
Gilbert, D. (1998). The American Class Structure. New York: Wadsworth Publishing.
Gould, R. (2002). The Origins of Status Hierarchy: A Formal Theory and Empirical Test. American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 107, No. 5.
Marmout, M. (2004). The Status Syndrome: How Social Standing Affects Our Health and Longevity, Times Books