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Class and Social Theory: Qualitative Research’ Role Essay


One of the main assertions concerning qualitative research techniques is that the techniques deviate from logical explanation techniques in view of the necessity to test hypothesis (Bendassolli 2013). In sociology circles, there are emerging new structures of class and gender relations. The emerging configurations are causing greater class and gender polarization (McDowell 2008). Elucidations of the construction of identities are essential to the prevailing debates in gender studies as well as cultural and social philosophy. This is the position taken by Beverly Skeggs (1997). The author believes that class should feature more conspicuously in hypothetical interpretations of femininity and power.

Qualitative research is not concerned with the number of individuals involved. It is concerned with deeper understanding. This deeper understanding was labeled ‘verstehen’ by Weber. It is concerned with really knowing the aspect one is investigating (Bauman 2000). For one to be considered as having acquired verstehen, one must know the subject in its entirety. This study explores class and social theory to determine whether or not sociologists understand it fully in view of qualitative research.

Main Body

What Beverly Skeggs offers in terms of stratification theory

Social stratification has previously been used to educate learners in regard to relations between persons and groups occupying a broader society. It is about designed inequalities between groups. The main categories of stratification include slavery, caste system, social class, and estates including the nobility, the clergy and the commoners. Social class is seen as the extensive grouping of individuals sharing common economic resources (Adkins 2005). In turn, the economic resources and commonality among the group members impact their lifestyle. In social class category of stratification, the individual classes are not dependent on law or spiritual decrees.

Consequently, social classes are more fluid (Giddens 2013). Inherently, class is attained as opposed to being ascribed. Flexibility can hence occur between diverse groups. Importantly, classes are reliant on economic disparity between groupings. This is usually on ownership of material possessions or access to the same. Social class systems are fundamentally detached compared to other forms of stratification. Disparities in social class function at a macro-level through job-related categories (Booth & Janice 2007).

Skeggs recognizes the neglect of class in sociology. She demonstrates how class and gender should be merged together to develop a precise depiction of power relations in contemporary societies. She has a deep understanding of the subject. She is able to bring the different aspects of social class and gender to develop a larger picture for the reader to comprehend the issue of inequality in the development of social class and gender.

The formation of class; can she support her conclusions

In the formation of class, economic status is a determining factor (Cox 2006). According to Skeggs (1997), being a man and the other being a woman are intrinsically unsteady matters. They are constantly affected by uncertainty. Specifically, there is a price tag for each of the identifications. There is apparent loss of identification when one is economically disadvantaged (Hondagneu-Sotelo 2001). The general view of the difference between man and woman is often overshadowed by the economic status of individuals. In her book, Skeggs is more interested in the gender and class formation particularly for women. Her arguments indicate that her perspective is gradually gaining recognition in sociology. She questions the model used for developing hypothetical structures regarding how women live and develop themselves via communal and cultural relations. She ethnographically details research to illustrate the way ‘real’ women dwell in the communal and ethnic circles (Pahl 2000). She explores how individualities are developed through feminism and social theory. Skeggs appear to be well-versed with the issues of gender and inequality in the development of social class system.

Qualitative articles on social class and conceptual insight

The development of qualitative research with regard to class and gender is an essential aspect in sociology (Skeggs 1997). It helps develop verstehen on the development of more enthusiastic communities. This involves the view in which class is viewed as a phenomenon where personal determination, self-perception and flexibility appear to reduce the limit of past categorical inequalities (Beck 2000). Among the articles chosen to explore the subject of the development of qualitative research and whether or not it can support the claim of verstehen is authored by Linda McDowell. The article is appropriately titled The New Economy, Class Condescension and Caring Labor: Changing Formations of Class and Gender.

McDowell conducts qualitative research by exploring the rise rates of women’s labor market involvement in Britain. In examining this, the author analyzes the expansion rates of class and salary inequalities between women. He indicates that previously, women’s salaries distribution was lower compared to men. Women were apparently many in comparatively low-wage employments (Haylett 2001). The qualitative research indicate that due to increasing academic qualifications, competencies and hours of work, there is increased inequalities in living standards between middle class women and the less prosperous working-class women (Machin 2003).

McDowell then explores the argument regarding class and gender. He indicates that many sociologists have perennially neglected the fact that the involvement of women has been increasing. He then ventures into the debate regarding class arrogance involving material and symbolic status as well as inequalities between men and women in diverse class status. He also explores the shifting connotation of motherhood. He eventually examines the repercussions of the identified inequalities from the perspective of child-care provision. The view is particularly from the perspective in which the working-class women offer these services in the homes of the middle-class (Cameron & Moss 2002).

The chapter authored by Anthony Giddens in the Sociology 7th edition by Philip Sutton’s is another article that was found essential for this study. The chapter begins with the detail of the way the idea of social stratification is utilized to educate about relations between individuals and groups. The author then explores some theories of stratification. The examination starts with the most popular absurdity, Marx. The theory is about the works on classes and class conflict during the classical era (Green 2007). Contemporary class involves owners and ownership creating the social class system i.e. the capitalist and the employee (Sayer 2005). According to the author, exploitation is the core perception of social class theory.

The author views Weber as one building on Marx’s approach to class theory albeit with alterations. He indicates that Weber stressed on a compound multidimensional system of stratification as opposed to a separated perspective. He demonstrates his understanding of the subject by indicating that Weber explored class as one that is typically accompanied by the idea of social status and relationships and economic class. Class is economical while status is attained from lifestyle (McRobbie 2002).

Summary of conceptual debate around class

The main indication that a class system entails a population in the working class has been in existence for decades in sociology. During the mid-20th century, new concepts emerged. These included the popularization of the term ‘underclass’ (Steedman 2007). Sociologists of American poverty initiated the popularization. The American journalists subsequently joined in the campaign. The concept of class has been at the center of controversy among sociologists ever since. Meanings and accounts of class have been pursued. These efforts also include suggested resolutions for management and resolving the ‘underclass’ problems (Urry 2004).

These have consumed significant efforts and resources. Additionally despite the term ‘class’ receiving the interest from many academic and social quarters, the term ‘underclass’ still receives significant attention. The term is often questioned. Some sociologists claim that the idea of ‘underclass’ has been malformed into a code word. Intellectuals use it to demonize underprivileged blacks and Latinos in the metropolitan areas of United States (Amin 2002).

Importance of qualitative research regarding verstehen

Typically, qualitative research explores social phenomena. It is founded on induction where subjects and categories are merged using information gathered through different research methodologies. In sociology, qualitative research is essential since it is largely expressive and inconspicuous. The information collected by sociologists is illustrative of the compatibility of the sociologist with the familiarity and importance of the subject at hand (Patton 1990).


Qualitative research is critical in sociology. It involves the ability to understand a subject in depth. Analyzing social themes is challenging since it requires the researcher to possess verstehen – the ability to understand a subject matter comprehensively. Examining the formation of social class and gender requires the researcher to have verstehen given the long and complex history of the subject. It is imperative for further study to be conducted regarding qualitative research in sociology given the continuously changing aspect of inequality, formation of identities, social class and the impact on gender.


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