Although Western civilization has improved greatly over the last centuries, it is far from being perfect. People live in democratic societies, but it is still hard to tell whether they are truly free. People feel pressured because of certain social expectations, and they are often stuck within one social class (Scott, & Leonhardt, 2005). Thus, although people theoretically have many possibilities, it is very hard to reach their goals because of difficulties concerning social class system. My own experience shows that people always put a limit on you, and they expect you to reach it otherwise you will be considered nobody. Interestingly, technological innovations and democratic improvements did not eliminate social class differences but only deepened them (Edsall, 2013).
Culture related to social class has a huge influence over identity and pride within certain social classes. For example, it often determines the “privileged social class”. It usually possesses certain characteristics which make it special and distinguish it from the others. Thus, people who belong to that social class feel special and valued more than the others. They may also feel greater appreciation and importance for society than any other people which may cause to closeness of the social class. It means that the members of the privileged social class may become closed toward others, and they would not let “strangers” in. Thus, members will share a strong sense of identity which will be carried on by the next generations. I can tell from my own experience that it is truly hard to make acquaintances or friends with people who belong to such a strong and closed “community” because they are very distrustful toward others. I would like to add that such closeness reduces cultural exchange and separates people from one another.
Culture also determines other social classes and their main characteristics. For example, it determines things which are expected from representatives of certain social classes. It also establishes the goals which should be achieved by people if they do not want to be considered as failures in their social class. Thus, it can be said that culture is one of the key factors which forms people’s views on society and different classes that exist within it. Culture also determines mores which people follow in order to be respected in society, but these expectations put a lot of pressure on people as well.
As it was mentioned before, culture can prevent people from moving between different social classes. For example, people from upper social classes may feel prejudiced toward others and unwilling to let them in their circle. They may create a list of specific requirements in order to let somebody in, but this list may be almost impossible to accomplish. Thus, people stick to their small circle which was established before them by their ancestors, and they do not let anybody join them.
On the other hand, people may also find it difficult to move from one social class to another because of expectations and skepticism others may feel toward them (Herbert, 2005). For example, people may judge those who try to reach upper social class. They would consider them to be upstarts who try to achieve something for selfish reasons. If people fail, others may say it was expected. If people succeed, others may say they did not deserve it. Thus, it can be said that people are the only ones who put the chains on themselves because they have created a set of norms they are obliged to follow.
I think that being a representative of upper social class if not as easy as many may think it is. There are many things and rules representatives of this class have to follow. On the contrary, they also have many benefits that people from lower social classes do not have. That is the reason I think it is harder for people from lower social classes to move to higher social class because of pressure, expectations and difficulties while achieving goals. People from upper social classes have opportunities others do not. Thus, it is much more difficult for lower class representatives to “pass” as an upper class.
Thus, culture and society we live in are the determinants which make people stay in one social class for the entire life. Next generations have more possibilities to move to a different class because they have a chance to start from the very beginning. On the other hand, people often stay in the social class they were born because of education and fear of failure. I think many people with great talents could have achieved much more than they did if they were not afraid to take risks and did not listen to other people’s thoughts that much.
- Edsall, T. B. (June 19, 2013). Our broken social contract. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/06/19/our-broken-social-contract/
- Herbert, B. (June 6, 2005). The mobility myth. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/06/opinion/06herbert.html
- Scott, J., & Leonhardt, D. (May 15, 2005). Shadowy lines that still divide. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/15/national/class/OVERVIEW-FINAL.html?_r=0