IS THE CONCEPT OF CLASS WAR STILL VALID?.
'Social stratification' is the term used to describe systematic structures of inequality. In pre-industrial or traditional societies, inequalities and thus social stratification were widely held to be natural. Aristotle stated that 'by nature' there were free men and slaves, yet if inequalities are natural, Crompton suggests there be no need to explain them. The Hindu Caste system, as with the Feudal system of western Europe, both saw inequality as natural, yet it was not until the seventeenth century that, by virtue of their humanity, all humans were thought to be born equal. From this moment the need for a sociological explanation of 'class' arose. In this essay I shall first briefly outline the history of the concept of 'class' and then evaluate this concept in modern terms with specific reference to two key papers, by Pahl (1989) and Goldthorpe and Marshall (1992).
It was the social contract theorists, Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau, who first arrived at explanations of inequality in the eighteenth century. As traditional society gave way to the more modern forms of capitalist industrialism, rationality governed the modern economic order, and the landless labourer was created, an individual with only one commodity to sell, his labour. It was Karl Marx was first scrutinised the 'bourgeois freedoms' created by the English and French revolutions. Marx saw the unfolding of human history to be due to the outcome of economic, rather than merely political conflicts: 'The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle' ( Marx and Engels 1962). .
Marx saw inequality as a reflection of differential access to the means of production and what was produced. For Marx, state power was inseparable from economic power, and capitalism was but a mechanism for the development of the capitalist mode of production. Political equality could exist with material inequality and indeed , by defining the inequalities associated with this dominant system of production and exchange as 'non political, bourgeois ideology served to make them legitimate.