THE SOCIAL SYSTEM

Social system

‘England is the most class-ridden society under the sun … it is a land of snobbery and privileges’ (George Orwell’). Is this still the case in 21st century Britain? State your arguments (cf. p. 70f). (pyramid; light bulb)

  • Britain is no longer a land of snobbery and privileges, because the middleclass is growing and therefore we don’t have the traditional dividing in the social class pyramid. These changes have come because of the emergent of the consumer society. More people are getting educated – going from the lower class to the middle class.
  • Besides this the British class system has been impacted by other developments like:
  • Changes in occupational structure.
  • A substantial increase in private homeownership
  • The rise of the upper middle class.
  • It is much easier today to move from one social class to another, to climb up the social ladder. The reasons for this is that there is better access to education, there are more people in managerial and professional jobs, there are fewer people doing manual labour, the improvement of the welfare system (fx the creation of the NHS), and the weakening of the class system.
  • How would you define ‘class’? (consider Marx and Weber; cf class determinants pp. 67f)
  • In terms of Marx the “class” is defined in terms if economic. Class is defined by looking at the level of education and jobs one have. In terms of the use of Medias you can also determine what class someone belongs to. The lower class would be more likely to read The Sun and the Upper class would be more likely to read The Times and The Guardian. In terms of Weber, class is defined by accents, pronunciations, language and so on.
  • The most obvious determiner of class is the accent. It can reveal which part of the country you are from, and by knowing which part of the country you belong to, we can give an estimated guess on what social class a person is part of. If you’re accent is from the northern part of England you will most likely be part of the lower class system, and if you accent tells us, that you are from southern England you will most likely be part of the middle class or higher. This is a very general interpretation.
  • The gap between ‘rich and poor’ is still wide (and widening) in Britain and there is much structural inequality. How do you explain this?
  • One of the reasons for why the gap is widening is because of the recession where many people lost their jobs and homes. This means that 150,000 people are homeless in Britain right now.
  • The high cost of living means that incomes do not go as far as they do in other liberal democracies.
  • What are the attitudes of the major political parties to (structural) inequality?
  • Labour – more against the social inequality (old labour (who introduced the welfare state) more than new labour). Labour: Get on your bike and find a job, but we will provide the bike/opportunity.
  • Conservatives: The gap between rich and poor is natural and necessary (Thatcherism: Get on your bike and find a job)
  • What are the main reasons for the changing structure of families) (Yuppies; dinks; sinks)
  • A trend towards smaller families – children are no longer needed as a workforce or a primary provider (breadwinner).
  • Women are delaying having children in order to focus on their education and career.
  • Changes in attitudes towards marriage
  • Sevenfold increase in divorce rate between 1961 and 1993. Divorce is not frowned upon anymore – with religion fading out.
  • Number of children born outside marriage has increased
  • Number of people living alone has grown
  • Yuppie: Young Urban Professional
    DINK: Dual Income, No Kids
    SINK: Single Income, No Kids
  1. Britain is said to be a welfare state. How would you define a welfare state? When was the British welfare state created? What were its ingredients?A welfare state is about taking care of the ones in need and gives all citizens opportunities to have a good life concerning medical care, education and jobs.

There have been elements of a welfare system in Britain since the sixteenth century as a Poor Law provided limited support for those in need.

Today the welfare state is for all and it provides education, medical care and other social services. It is particularly for the elderly, the sick, the poor, the disabled and the indigent.

  1. The cost of social security (especially the NHS) has soared over the last decades. How have subsequent governments tried to tackle the problem?
  • Thatcher
  • The government promoted the private health-care section in order to both leave the British people with a choice and promote the most effective use of expensive facilities and treatments.
    Blair
  • During the Blair administration a ten-year programme to reform the NHS was initiated. Some of the focuses of the programme was to modernize the service and hiring more staff but overall to achieve the best-performing hospitals and NHS-services.
  • Cameron

In 2011, David Cameron proposed changes to the structure and budget of the NHS. These changes promoted privatization. The changes were shelved after massive criticism.

  1. The cost of social security (especially the NHS) has soared over the last decades. How have subsequent governments tried to tackle the problem?
  • Thatcher
  • Blair
  • Cameron
  • From welfare to workfare (p. 80). What do you know of Blair’s New Deal’?
  • To get people from welfare into work
  • Since 1990 there has been a change away from the attitude that the state must be responsible for providing a safety net. People should benefit from membership of society. The Blair administration encouraged people to join private healthcare systems and to take responsibility for their own retirement, education, and the non-employed should move back in the workplace to reduce the welfare bill.

General questions:

  • Discuss the following quote by former President Clinton: ’Welfare rewards idleness, creates dependency and traps the poor in poverty!’ Do you agree with this statement?
  • We agree to some point J
  • People who depend on welfare and social security from the government are more liable to stay non-employed rather than getting back into workplace. Maybe they accept the income they get from the state and they do not have incentive to
  • When they know that the government is there as a security net, they get lazy and does not want to take the responsibility and make the effort to get back into workplace.
  • But sometimes that is not the case. Some people actually rely on welfare because they are not able to work.
  • What is the difference between ‘universal benefits’ and ‘targeted benefits’? and what are your views on the pros of cons of each?

Universal benefits: is for all citizens – fx NHS

Pro: it is for all people – if you need the help, you can get it

Con: it is very expensive – higher taxes

Targeted benefits: You take an economic test – do they need it and can they live without. Economic position of the citizens. It is target on a specific group who really need the benefits.

Pro: it is not that expensive – not so much waste of money. You only get the help, if you really need it.

Con: there is a possibility that some people get neglected.

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