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Introduction to Sociology

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Introduction to Sociology ­ SOC101
VU
Lesson 25
SOCIAL CLASS AS SUBCULTURE
"The language, beliefs, values, norms, behaviors, and the material objects that are possessed by people and
are passed on from one generation to the next" is the usual definition of culture. Within the broad culture
we also come across subcultures where a group displays distinct patterns of behavior and the related values,
norms, beliefs, and material possessions. These subcultures may relate to an ethnic group, an occupational
group, an age group, and even to a social class. Therefore, it can be assumed that each social class has a
subculture with a system of behavior, a set of values, and a way of life.
The subculture of a social class serves to adapt people to the life style they lead and to prepare their children
to assume their class status. The passing of sub-cultural patterns of behavior and the related values and
norms to the next generation takes place through the process of socialization.
Notwithstanding with some overlapping and some exceptions, it remains true that the average middle class
child has socialization very different from that of the average lower class child. Let us take just one aspect
of socialization ­ those experiences that shape ambition, education, and work habits ­ and see how they
differ between the two social class worlds.
Typical upper middle class children live in a class subculture where they are surrounded by educated
persons who are ambitious, who go to work even when they don't feel like it, and who struggle to attain
success. They are acquainted with the achievements of their ancestors, relatives, and friends. It is normal
for them to assume that they too are going to accomplish something in the world.
When they go to school they find its culture close to their family culture. The teacher speaks similar
language, the material in the books is reflective of their culture, and there are many other aspects of the
environment that are familiar to the child.
"Study hard so you can do well and become a success some day", the advice given by the teachers makes
sense. Their parents echo the same words; meanwhile they see people like themselves (brothers, sisters,
relatives, acquaintances) who are actually completing educations and moving on into promising careers. For
most of the middle class children, to grow up means to complete an advanced education and launch a
career.
Lower class children grow up in a class subculture where scarcely any one is educated, and has a steady job
for long. In their world meals are haphazard and irregular. They marry early in age and usually have large
number of children. Many people sleep three or four in a bed. These children are often not in school and if
they do go to school, they often go unwashed and unfed. In school they are likely to be disoriented by
coming across people coming from middle class families (the students and the teachers). Very soon they
conclude that the school is a prison. They learn little. The school often abandons any serious effort to
teach them by branding them as "discipline problems". They receive little reinforcement for paying
attention to studies. Even in the environment many children may be out of school, either doing nothing or
engaged in some work. For them school may not be a stepping-stone to a career. Since school does not
motivate them to study so they drop out early. The horizon of ambitions seldom extends the next week.
The children in varying social classes grow up in a different human capital as well as cultural capital. From
growing up in a culture of poverty, the poor, in general, learn to accept their poverty. The poor expect
failure, just as people born to affluence expect success.  The expectation of failure can deprive the
impoverished individuals of the confidence they need to spend their human capital. The expectation of
success encourages affluent individuals to maximize their human capital.
As part of the socialization process, social class penetrates our consciousness, shaping our ideas of life and
our proper place in society. When the rich look around, they sense superiority and control over destiny. In
contrast, the poor see defeat, and a buffeting by unpredictable forces. People tend to see the effects of
social class on their lives.
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Introduction to Sociology ­ SOC101
VU
One consequence of facing emergency after emergency and not having enough resources to meet them ­
and seeing the future as more of the same ­ is the lack of deferred gratification, giving up things in the present
for the sake of greater gains in the future. It is difficult to practice this middle class virtue if one does not
have the surplus it requires. Any savings are gobbled up by the emergencies faced by the poor, so any
saving for future was fruitless. The only thing that made sense from this perspective was to enjoy what they
could at the moment. Immediate gratification was not the cause of their poverty, but its consequence.
Cause and consequence loop together, for their immediate gratification, in turn, helped perpetuate their
poverty.
Culture of poverty (concept given by Oscar Lewis in mid sixties) assumes that the values and behaviors of
the poor make them fundamentally different from other people that these factors largely are responsible for
their poverty, and that parents perpetuate poverty across generations by passing these characteristics to their
children. Poor form a subculture in which, as a result of their common experiences, they have developed
certain attitudes and behavior patterns which have been transmitted from parent to child.
Critics of culture of poverty argue that the "expecting to fail" argument amount to blaming the victim. By
blaming the poor for their own poverty, culture of poverty theories divert attention from the social,
structural and cultural conditions that are ultimately responsible for poverty. Critics claim that the poor, in
general tend to be as success-oriented as the affluent, if not for themselves then for their children. The
difference between the poor and the affluent, therefore, lies mainly in their relative access to educational
and occupational opportunities to demonstrate
their human capital.
Look at yourself: Do culture of poverty / culture of affluence theories apply to any of the ways in which
you have been advantaged or disadvantaged in your life choices and the life chances? To what extent has
your social class background led you to expect success or to expect failure?
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Table of Contents:
  1. THE ORIGINS OF SOCIOLOGY:Auguste Comte, The Fields of Sociology
  2. THE SOCIOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE:Society affects what we do
  3. THEORETICAL PARADIGMS:Salient Paradigms, Critical Evaluation
  4. SOCIOLOGY AS SCIENCE:Empirical, Verifiable, Cumulative, Self-Correcting
  5. STEPS IN SOCIOLOGICAL INVESTIGATION:Exploration/Consultation
  6. SOCIAL INTERACTION:Social Status, ROLE, The Social Construction of Reality
  7. SOCIAL GROUPS:Primary and Secondary Groups, Reference Group, Networks
  8. ORGANIZATIONS:Utilitarian Organizations, Coercive Organizations
  9. CULTURE:Universality, Components of Culture, Symbols, Language
  10. CULTURE (continued):Beliefs, Norms, Cultural Diversity
  11. CULTURE (continued):Culture by social class, Multiculturalism, Cultural Lag
  12. SOCIALIZATION: HUMAN DEVELOPMENT, NATURE, Social Isolation
  13. UNDERSTANDING THE SOCIALIZATION PROCESS
  14. AGENTS OF SOCIALIZATION:The Family, The School, Peer Groups, The Mass Media
  15. SOCIALIZATION AND THE LIFE COURSE:CHILDHOOD, ADOLESCENCE
  16. SOCIAL CONTROL AND DEVIANCE:Crime, Deviants, Stigma, Labeling
  17. THE SOCIAL FOUNDATIONS OF DEVIANCE:Cultural relativity of deviance
  18. EXPLANATIONS OF CRIME:Sociological explanations
  19. EXPLANATIONS OF CRIME -- CONTINUED:White-Collar Crime, Conflict Theory
  20. SOCIAL DISTRIBUTION OF CRIME: EXPLANATIONS, Gender and Crime
  21. SOCIAL STRATIFICATION: INTRODUCTION AND SIGNIFICANCE
  22. THEORIES OF CLASS AND STRATIFICATION I:Critical evaluation
  23. THEORIES OF SOCIAL CLASS AND STRATIFICATION II
  24. THEORIES OF CLASS AND SOCIAL STRATIFICATION III
  25. SOCIAL CLASS AS SUBCULTURE
  26. SOCIAL MOBILITY:Structural factors, Individual factors, Costs
  27. THE FAMILY: GLOBAL VARIETY, Marriage Patterns, Patterns of Descent
  28. FUNCTIONS OF FAMILY:Reproduction, Social placement
  29. FAMILY AND MARRIAGE IN TRANSITION:Family is losing functions
  30. GENDER: A SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION, Gender socialization
  31. GENDER SOCIALIZATION:Role of family, Gender Stratification
  32. EXPLANATIONS OF GENDER INEQUALITY:Conflict Explanations, Feminism
  33. FUNCTIONS OF SCHOOLING:Cultural Innovation, School Tracking
  34. ISSUES IN EDUCATION:Low Enrollment, High Dropout, Gender Disparity
  35. POPULATION STUDY AND ITS SIGNIFICANCE:Crude Birth Rate
  36. THEORY OF POPULATION GROWTH:Theory of Demographic Transition
  37. POPULATION PROFILE OF PAKISTAN:World Population Growth
  38. POPULATION PROFILE OF PAKISTAN (Continued):Age Distribution, Sex Composition
  39. IMPLICAIONS OF POPULATION GOWTH:Additional GDP needed per year
  40. POPULATION POLICY:Goals of Population Policy, Objectives, Strategies
  41. ENVIRONMENT AND SOCIETY:Global Dimension, Historical Dimension
  42. ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES:Preserving Clean Water, Clearing the Air
  43. SOCIAL CHANGE:Social change is controversial.
  44. CAUSES OF SOCIAL CHANGE:Culture and Change, Conflict and Change, Modernization
  45. MODERNITY AND POST MODERNITY:Cultural Patterns, Post-modernity