chapter  7
30 Pages

Children's understanding of social class and occupational groupings

If the title of this chapter provides an honest indication of its scope and content, it does not say why the topic, de®ned in this way, is worth addressing. All kinds of reasons could be given, including that the topic is interesting in its own right. For us, however, its interest lies in the light it can shed on more general questions about human societies, the forms they take, and the processes that sustain or modify these forms. We start from the proposition that societies are economic systems, which require the input of energy or ``work'' on the part of their members and which then allocate the fruits of these efforts in some way. There are, of course, many different ways in which the inputs could be arranged and the outcomes distributed. Indeed, one of the most striking features of human, as compared to other animal, societies is the sheer variety of arrangements that have, historically, proved viable at some level. If durability is a relevant test of viability, then the slave economies of the Roman empire, the feudal economies of mediaeval Europe, and the despotic empires of pre-revolutionary China all qualify. Our focus here is upon one such set of arrangements, those found in contemporary capitalist economies. The chapter title relates to two linked features of these arrangements; the distribution of bene®ts, re¯ected in social class divisions, and the organisation of the inputs (or work) around occupations.