The core concept of the social class system is hierarchy, by being closer to the top, the more power and autonomy you have with having greater access to resources such as healthcare and education (Montague, 1951). Within this social class system there are often three to four level that one would be placed into, at the top of the “pecking order” a metaphor used to describe the hierarchy of status, is the Upper class this group will be filled with those wealthiest, a graduate degree within a job such as doctor, lawyer or politician for example, those who hold the most power with our society. Then comes the Middle class those who survive off earned incomes without help, often educators, conventional and seen as the everyday Norm. Finally, the lower/working class this group hold the least status in terms of the ladder with lower income, intelligence, fewer assets, access to resources and stigma which does not encourage motivation for transitioning (Fox Et al., 2009).
“Classism refers to stereotypes and prejudice about class position that contributes to discrimination and domination” (Day et al., 2014). The class system is a socially constructed concept built by those who would be at the top, this power based concept grew Classism, which is the attitude and belief system that encourages difference between the classes ensuring that those in the upper class maintain their dominance with however the expense of the lower/middle class by diminishing access and encouraging negative typecasting (Fox Et al., 2009). We are socialized to want power and to look at those with no power or the ability to gain it as undesirable, this occurs through being nurtured by family or friends and how the classes are portrayed through media such as film, T.V, social networks and books, which are often ran or publicised by the elites of society showing only the desired parts of popular culture and ignoring the less desirable, unless it has an admirable story line of ‘rags to ritches’ (Hall, 1982).
However, in reality meritocracy, meaning that through hard work anyone can transfer into the upper class, is filled with greater obstacles than what media and films may portray, it is particularly difficulty for those in the lower class. A poll taken by YouGov for the Economist looked at how well the population in Britain are aware of their social class, results showed that 48% of people over 30 hope to reach further up the ‘ladder’ than their parent, however only 28% feel that they would be able to achieve upward mobility, these statistics show the attitudes toward social mobility as being unlikely, in addition to these pieces of data, the poll also showed the 2 thirds of the 1,995 sample believed that they or any children or future children will be able to move upward of the social class they’re born into (Class, 2006). Classism and social opinion, contribute to the marginalization of the lower class, stopping them from living fulfilled social lives, with no control over expectations of their abilities or resources available to them, decreasing their self-esteem and confidence due to public attitudes which are encouraged by media, showing how this class is oppressed and rejected by society (Prilleltensky, 2008).
In addition to being excluded through social representation and public attitudes, Mainstream psychology also contribute as an influencer to the marginalization of the lower class, as the social science contains attributes and ideas that are in line with the ideologies of the social class system. The role of psychologists is seen as respected and influential in society bringing foreword development, understanding and knowledge. Psychology and practitioners are themselves upper class in the social system, due to the education required as mentioned previously a graduate degree, high intellect and income are socioeconomic indicators of Upper class membership (Rothman, 2017). when receiving treatment from practitioner we trust their support, council and diagnosis, by respecting the qualification or title of Dr understanding that they must know better than us because they have certificates on show to prove it, this shows how psychologist are a part of the hierarchy, by using their knowledge as influence to persuade or guide care users, this indicates that a power dynamic is used between the client and practitioners (Saper, 1970).
Psychology is able to identity abnormal behaviours and personalities as it concentrates on people, cultures and societies, as we’ve observed psychology itself is powered by elitist, therefore it often follows similar views of what characteristics define those who are different or ‘abnormal’ with those in the upper class that reject the working class. Within western culture psychology see ‘normal’ as individuals who are have appropriate behaviours, happiness, health, productive work and being able to rely on one’s self however for those of lower socio economic status their accessibility to higher skilled job, efficient healthcare and in some cases the need for financial assistance, does not fit the psychological model of ‘Normal’ (Maisel, 2012).
Ignoring those who are living below the perceived line of normal, is also seen within research as Psychology see the ideal subject that will be used to generalised in clinical research as a white, male, middle class person, this is an example of how mainstream psychology may exclude other minorities such as race, gender and the lower class (Levesque, 2012). Samples often used within psychological research are often gained from college/university students, this pool of participants will often be representatives of the middle or upper class, as students will often have a higher IQ through gaining education and a degree, putting them into middle class section of the ‘ladder’, this leads to the middle class being over represented in research as the ‘norm’ however then ignoring those in the population who are unable to acquire higher education, meaning the research is not representable or generalised and biased, however these factors are overlooked, further supporting the ideals that lower class member of society are excluded from the norm and considered ‘others’ within the field of research (Fox Et al., 2009).
Psychological research in to social class is often over looked and ignore, though it affects every aspect of the human experience, social class does not show to be a core focus within research (Day et al., 2014). However, when there has been a direct focus on this social construction, the research favours the angle that individuals have the notion of ‘choice’, that poverty can be resolved and anyone can attain social mobility with the myth of meritocracy through changing the individual, not the structure that developed and constructed the rules of normality or negative stigmas for those who deviate from the desired model. A study conducted by Catherine Cozzarelli on attitudes and attributions of the poor, sample taken from Midwestern college, the overall opinion was negative to the poor for example their poverty being the result of their personal failure due to lack of abilities and effort. However, a pattern showing that of a contrasting opinion between those of different ethnic backgrounds, the sample that were middle class, white and male, agreed with mainstream psychology that individuals have control over whether they remain in the lower class, whereas those considered minorities immigrants & females disagreed and highlighted that social structures must also play a part (Cozzarelli et al., 2001). This study supports how mainstream psychology is biased toward the social structure not being the issue, as they are practitioners at the top of the ‘pecking order’, in by doing this psychology ignores and forgets the real life implications of encouraging descriptions such as talentless/effortless therefore encouraging class difference and the negative stigma that the lower class offer nothing to society.
Additionally, mainstream psychology also encourages the stigma, that those of low socio economic status have considerably low IQ in comparison with others. By focusing on the differences between classes in their abilities, cognition and motivation for social mobility comparing these alone encourages class differences in highlight weaknesses of the classes leading to possible discrimination, ensuring there are always dominating and lesser than classes (Day et al., 2014).
American Psychologist Linda Gottfredson, researched the possibilities that lower levels of intelligence is able to explain why and where people are placed on the ‘ladder’, by reviewing literature which offered various views, that IQ is able to predict whether or not individuals will live a successful fulfilled life or not, along wither another view that IQ and status is inherited and maintain from parents nurturing their young to follow their path. Results showed a positive correlation between a father social class which is defined through their occupation and their child’s attained social class matching with their parents, Goffredson also reviews result that display test taken at the age of eleven can also predict the possibility of class transitioning (Gottfredson, 2004). Furthermore, she concluded with this data that all young people are exposed to the same quality/ level of education and expectations no matter the social class, therefore indicating it is down to the child or individual if they are unable to attain success (Gottfredson, 2004).
In addition, this incites the removal of ‘blame’ on the social structures and places it again on the individual, this point is further argued and agreed with by Bernice Lott another American psychologist, she argues that those of low socio economic status aren’t able to access the same quality of education that the wealthy or middle class are granted access to, therefore their IQ would be lower due to lower quality education (Lott,2012). As it would also be if a working class child were able to get middle class schooling, a stigma encouraged by mainstream psychology and society, would follow the child and result in lower expectation due to background, therefore as seen in research previous mentions, younger working class children are then ‘othered’ by the education system, however if the young person showed higher intelligence than what expected, they are celebrated in be able to ‘escape’ the ‘horrid’ working class, rejected by society (Lott,2012)
Along with disempowering the lower class through education and public attitude, Mainstream psychology also regards them as ‘problematic’ when faced with health issues. By being seen as disadvantaged by society, they are stereotyped to have lower health including both mentally and physical, that due to the supposed ‘risky behaviour’ of the lower class with common habits such as smoking, lack of nutrition, drinking and not active enough increases the likelihood of poor health (Miller & Grigg, 1966). However, though the negative stigma that exist around people of lower class that they all make bad life, career and health choices, along with being seen as lazy and vulnerable to addiction, this grouping is incorrect as not all individual apart of the lower class fit this stereotype (Wardle, 2013). Often poor health issues are due to being unable to access efficient and affective healthcare, in terms of the U.S aside from overrun free clinic, healthcare is costly as is the insurance which requires a job with stable income, as for the U.K even with the NHS healthcare accessibilities is decreasing due to financial cuts by the government, which causes waiting times and overworked staff to increase, resulting in care below the standard (Ham, 2005)
After looking at various factors and research conducted within mainstream psychology, clear themes of disempowerment and oppression come to the surface, showing that psychology and practitioner use similar negative language as public attitudes and the media, such as Lazy, Rejected, talentless, lesser than and ignored. This terminology used by people and heard by the lower/working social class incites them to accept these lower expectation, resulting limited unfulfilled social life, facing society and it obstacles alone without the support of even psychological practitioner who only see a way to ‘fix’ the individual, not the problem that is the social class system. However, we now move on to how another strand of social science is able to benefit and redress the issues the working class are faced with.
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