Class In the 21st Century: Australia
Critically analyze the following claim: ‘Class is no longer relevant in Australia in the twenty-first century.’ The relevance of social class in Australia has been disputed as to whether it still exists.There are a lot of arguments and opinions on this issue but class inequality is evidently still in force in twenty first Australia.
Contemporary Australian society discriminates the difference of social classes through economic status, education and geographic location.
The power struggle in social class is analyzed in theorist Karl Marx’s “Communist Manifesto” where the Bourgeois (ruling class) and the Proletarians (working class) are discussed as to how classes are shaped in societies which can then be applied in twenty first century Australia. Bill Martin’s “Class” discusses the distinction between working and middle class in Australia today compared to a generation ago in accordance to materials, geographic location and employment.
In Australia, economic status, employment and property ownership refers to what the person earns and owns which are very important factors in determining social classes. A person’s economic status is determined by their employment and employment in Australia is classified in white and blue collar workers. The white collar workers fall into the ruling class category where they obtain degrees, maintain high wage and use their skills/knowledge from the degree to obtain an office job wearing white dress shirts (which is where the word white collar is derived from).
Whereas the blue collar workers fall into the low-middle class category, where the workers are employed as tradesmen or laborers as they have physical work with standard wage which don’t require high qualifications. These two main tiers of collars are implemented in twenty first Australia which is a fundamental aspect of determining social class as the white collar workers have wealth putting them in power of the working class which verifies that there is underlying capitalism.
In relation to economic status, property ownership is another fundamental aspect of determining a person’s class in Australia as it defines the person’s wealth. Property can consist of houses, investments, cars, savings accounts, land and any materials with value. Property ownership was Marx’s main argument in determining social class as, “The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionizing the instruments of production, and hereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society,” (Marx 771) which argues that if the person doesn’t have some form of ownership then they didn’t have resources for production which would classify them as a laborer putting them in the working class. Property ownership distinguishes the two classes from each other in Australia as it is seen through the works of the Labor party as it has a large group of people in the working class leaving them to manage capitalism.
Marx’s infamous quote, “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles,” (Marx 79) makes it clear that class struggle is needed to create the division of classes. Jim Kemeny writes “Australian capitalism highlights the way in which the Australian ruling class is likely to differ from those of other middle-sized capitalist societies,” (Kemeny 103) where the ruling class in Australia is weakly developed in retrospect to the economy.
Capitalists have the capital and the workers own their power to labor which only receives one third of their produce as the other two thirds are taken by the capitalists which keeps the classes separated; this is evident in Australia due to technological advancements where the laborers are being replaced by technology putting people out of jobs which explains how the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
This division of labour in Australia can also be analysed by sociologist Max Weber as he thought Marx’s theory was too simplistic, indeed there were different classes but they were classed according to property, power and prestige (class, power and status). Weber’s theory also applies in Australia as Australians value mateship and children have the opportunity to enter a different class through their manner of speech, respect in the society, education achievements and social leisure habits which can increase their “life chances”.
Power is doing anything you desire while being able to control other people whether they object or not. In Australia, power is exercised by the government, controlling the nation’s rights and keeping the classes separated. Prestige/status is how the person is perceived in the community/society. Property will usually lead to prestige and power but property is mostly held by the people working in white collar jobs. Social welfare is provided by the Australian Government to the working where Centrelink provides economic assistance for the people out of work.
The income support system can help with Austudy Allowance, Carer Allowance, Disability Support, Pension Payment, Orphans Allowance, Newstart Allowance, Maternity Payment, Parenting Payment, Special Benefit Payment and Youth Allowance which are conducted by a means test (which is usually taken advantage of). The article “Welcome to bludgetown” by Caroline Marcus discusses the different nationalities and demographics of certain suburbs that rely on Centrelink classing them in the lower tier.
The geographic location of where people reside has an effect on whether they are categorized into working or ruling class as the suburbs of Greenacre, Punchbowl and Villawood (South-west Sydney) would rather accept Centrelink than find a job. The article reads “Mr Trad said Muslims suffered from discrimination when it came to applying for jobs. ‘I wonder if this gentleman has ever experienced discrimination in the workplace himself,’ he said. ‘Certainly, people with a Muslim-sounding name are not given the same opportunities … s people with an Anglo-sounding name. ’” (Marcus pars. 16-18) Discrimination can be a possible explanation as to why some of these cultural groups are not employed in this multicultural country which ultimately disadvantages their children as they are automatically categorized in the working class but their geographic location has also disadvantaged them because they are influenced by other people from their culture making them reluctant to even apply for employment which leaves them to stay in the working class.
Geographic location can affect a person’s class which is evident in “Class” by Bill Martin which tours around in three shopping centres in Adelaide. Martin identifies the different stores, cars, clothing, education and occupation in regards to three different suburbs. The ruling class is evidently Eastside where most of the stores are upmarket, half the cars in the car park are mostly European, clothes are chosen carefully, their children go to private schools and have a dominant occupation of doctors, lawyers, accountants etc.
Putting them in the ruling class as opposed to Rosedale where there are discount shops through connected malls, most of the cars in the car park are Holdens, Fords and Toyotas, their clothes are old, their children attend public schools that are trying to defeat drug problems with very few that attend university and have a dominant occupation of public servants, delivery drivers and secretaries.
Martin clearly distinguishes between the two suburbs in their two tiers of class. It is evident that the children growing up in Eastside are a lot more likely to become members of the ruling class and the children being raised in Rosedale are more likely to stay in the working class as they are almost destined to carry out the same outcome as their parents and very few follow through to higher education to obtain high wage and status.
In Australia, the media plays an important role in distinguishing between the classes in Australia as stereotypes are portrayed in the media to make it obvious that class is still an existing factor in society. The Australian nation may want to believe that there isn’t class discrimination and that everyone is middle class but this claim is evidently false which can be understood in the article “Whatever happened to the classless society? by Thornton McCamish. The article identifies Australians as an unequal country in reference to class discrimination as McCamish writes about how Australians are portrayed in TV shows such as Summer Heights High where Jamie, a high class ‘snob’ attends a public high school for a semester as opposed to her private girls college and assumes that everyone attending public schools are living in poverty (‘povvo’) classing them in the working class.
This assumption isn’t widely made or accepted among Australians as the TV show exaggerates reality but people watching the series may take that into account and might reassess their social status in terms of school placement but the fact of the matter is working class parents can only afford public schools which have higher risks to drug abuse and teen pregnancy. It shows that Australia went from a very egalitarian country to a country with underlying class discrimination issues, that may not necessarily be evident as to where the dividing line is but it is present in twenty-first century Australia.
The article reads “Ignoring class didn’t make socio-economic divides go away, just harder to get your head around. Especially once the Howard government took to our class structure with a rhetorical Dymo, replacing labels such as ”ruling class” or ”working class” with new ones such as ”elites” and ”battlers” – a category that seemed to embrace anyone with a swinging vote. Meanwhile, our very rich (not part of the ”elites”, puzzlingly) got very much richer. ” (McCamish pars. 6)Masking the names of the ruling or working class doesn’t make class discrimination irrelevant and evidently ignoring the divides doesn’t make class irrelevant either. To conclude, it is obvious that class is still an existing factor in twenty-first century Australia making it relevant especially due to the socio-economic status regarding employment, property ownership and geographic location. Conducted studies by the ABC show that 86% of Australians believe that class is still relevant in Australia.
Theories from centuries ago about social classes are still relevant when comparing social discrimination to Australia’s social classes making it therefore evident that it still exists. WORKS CITED Henslin, James M. Global Stratification, “Essentials of Sociology: A-Down-To-Earth Approach Eighth ed. Boston: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon, 2009. 170-95. Print. Kemeny, J. Capitalism- the Australian way, Arena (Melbourne) 1978. No. 51, 94-103. Print. Marcus, Caroline. “Welcome to Bludgetown, Western Sydney. The Daily Telegraph 10 Jun. 2012. Print. Martin, B. Class, in P. Beilharz and T. Hogan (eds. ) “Sociology: Place, Time and Division”, South Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 2006. pp. 402-405. Print. Marx, Karl – Engels, Friedrich. The Communist Manifesto. United Kingdom: Penguin Books, 2002. Print. McCamish, Thornton. “Whatever happened to the classless society. ” The Age 16 Aug. 2009. Print. Weber, M. The Protestant Ethic and the spirit of Capitalism, Unwin Hyman Limited London- 1985. Print.