In order to investigate if Irish society is indeed based on class and inequality, it is essential that we understand both the concept of class and inequality.
Class, as conceived by Marx, is defined in terms of economic resources and interests, and for the majority of men, occupation is the best indicator of these. The main distinction in Marxism falls between those who own the means of production and those who sell their labour. Property, income and the source of income are the result of the class structure. Income and property belong to the realm of distribution and consumption. The social relations of consumers determine the use of products, and these social relations themselves rest on the conflict of classes (Macionis & Plummer, 1998).
Inequality is not difference. To say that people are unequal is to say that some are disadvantaged relative to others; inequality is disadvantage in a social context. The main inequalities in society are class, gender, race and inequalities in income and wealth. According to Spicker (1995), the main model used for discussions of class and gender is stratification, where people are ranked in groups, set at different levels.
According to Tovey & Share (2000:131) "All known societies are distinguished by patterns of social inequality and by sets of meanings they seek to explain, justify or obscure such inequality". Over recent decades the structure of Irish society has undergone and indeed continues to undergo many substantial changes. Some of these changes we are only now beginning to realise and understand. Much of the empirical analysis of class and inequality carried out in Ireland has taken place against this backdrop of rapid social change. This essay shall examine the lived experience of class and inequality in Ireland. A fundamental area in which class and inequality are essentially linked is the area of education. .
Educational attainment is directly linked to class and inequality in Ireland.