Last Updated 26 Jan 2021

The Myth of Meritocracy

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In reality Britain is not a meritocracy, this is due to discrimination and labelling. It is a capitalist economy. The type of stratification system used in Britain is the Class System, which divides society into a hierarchy of unequal social groups based on their occupation this defines whether they are working-class or middle-class. However, the social divisions are not clearly separated.

The class system is an open society, social mobility is possible across the social hierarchy on the basis of personal achievement, from which you can gain achieved status. However, there are obstacles to social mobility including prejudice, labelling, discrimination, racism and sexism. Lack of Educational achievement can also be an obstacle.

Conjugal roles are the roles played by a male and a female in a marriage or cohabiting relationship. The inequalities in social class between the working-class and middle-class exist in the conjugal roles played in the family.

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Traditionally the roles played by the male and female were very different. For example the male did the DIY and the 'manly' jobs and the female took care of the more domestic jobs like housework and looking after the children. They had segregated conjugal roles. These roles are the gender stereotype of what is expected of us even today.

However, we have seen a shift from segregated conjugal roles to joint conjugal roles where the male and female do similar tasks. This idea of joint conjugal roles is called 'The Symmetrical Family' (Young and Willmott).

Statistics have shown that more men are choosing to become 'house-husbands', the 'New Man'. The reversal of the traditional roles normally occurs where the women earn more than the man, and it is financially practical to swap roles. The importance of female partners earnings gives them more equality to men as they agree to the housework and are then encouraged with the housework.

This shift has been seen mainly amongst middle-class couples, other reasons for this are that middle-class men have been encouraged to stay at home by shorter working hours and improvements in living standards and material comforts in the home because they can afford them. Working-class suffer from material deprivation and cannot afford these material comforts. Young and Willmott (1975) argued modern home-centred families have increasingly more joint conjugal roles.

More geographical mobility also meant a decline of the traditional extended family network so there is no longer the pressure of the extended family on the woman to act, as a housewife and stay at home like tradition.

Those couples who moved to new areas because of work and re-housing during industrialisation tend to have joint conjugal roles and have loose-knit social networks. Each male and female are less likely to have their own friends and relatives outside the family. They tend to rely on each other more for support, leisure and spend more time together and share domestic responsibilities.

Those couples who have close-knit social networks (traditional working-class) tend to have segregated conjugal roles. Each partner has their own network of friend and relatives. The man and woman tend to be less socially dependant on each other than middle-class symmetrical families.

Our primary agency of socialisation is our family. Working-class parents are continually teaching their sons and daughter differently to each other, teaching the gender stereotype on conjugal roles through gender role socialisation, so that inequality between men and women continues to exist through future generations.

It could be argued, the middle-class have different values which mean they have different attitudes towards who does what domestic tasks. However, the 'New' working-class (argued by Goldthorpe et al) arguably have become more like the middle-class due to embourgeoisement (Marxist theory devised by Karl Marx) and this includes their attitudes towards conjugal roles.

However, evidence still shows that the majority of women still perform the domestic tasks around the home (the gender stereotype), even though they have paid jobs outside the home. The number of hour's women spend on housework is calculated at around 50-60 hours per week compared to men who do an average of 1.6 hours (newspaper article, sociology review, 'Back to the Future' by Madeline Leonard). Feminists believe that this is a dual burden and there is a role conflict for women. Anne Oakley believes this, she is a feminist she also believes that we live in a patriarchal society. Feminists say that men may appear to be the 'New Man', however they usually perform the more enjoyable side of the domestic work, like playing with the children, instead of the more routine jobs like cooking and cleaning which are performed mainly by the women.

The Myth of Meritocracy essay

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