The society had evolved and shaped into many different types based on its economic function such as (in CliffsNotes.com, 2014):
- hunting and gathering society
- pastoral society
- horticultural society
- agricultural society
- industrial society
- post-industrial society.
Every society is formally structured and organized so that its members shall perform different roles and function efficiently in order to achieve the collective goals. The social structure will have a clearly defined hierarchy of authority that specify individual’s ranking and position in the bureaucratic settings, which we refer to as the social class.
The Oxford Dictionary.com defined social class as “A division of a society based on social and economic status” where as Dictionary.com had coined it as “ocial class refers to the social categories which divides people with similar status, material gain into groups largely determined by the economic status and standard of living.
There are many schools of thought that view social class using different perspectives. For instance, Max Weber saw social class as a product of economic status or market-determined life chances (Wright, 3003; Marks, 2006). The Weberians classified people into the following classes:
- Upper class – Elite, usually the capitalists who own economic assets and the means of production.
- Upper Middle class – The scientific and skilled professionals with high incomes and high social prestige (or social status).
- Lower Middle class – Skill workers that provide supports for the professionals.
- Working class – Workers that have lower social prestige.
- Poor – The full time workers that live in poverty.
(Image source: Beacon Learning Center.com. The Class. http://www.beaconlearningcenter.com/WebLessons/Hardtimes/Pages/classes/class2.html)
On the other hand, Karl Marx saw social class as a result of exploitation and divided the people into two major groups:
- Owner (capitalists, the producer) owns and controls the means of production and have power over the workers.
- Worker – The working class who earns wages. They are constantly being kept under supervision, surveillance, monitoring, and sanctioning by the capitalists.
The Marxist tradition saw the historical and social structures that leads to inequalities in accessing the economic resources as a form of exploitation.
What about the social structure in the Malay society? Does it differ from the Chinese community? How about the Indian community, and other Bumiputras, what could be the similarities and differences? How far does the social structure mentioned above apply in the Malaysian context?