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Social class in later life

Social class in later life: Power, identity and lifestyle

Marvin Formosa
Paul Higgs
Copyright Date: 2013
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  • Book Info
    Social class in later life
    Book Description:

    Attention to social class is a major issue confronting the study of ageing in the 21st century, yet it has been significantly overlooked to date. Social class in later life provides the most up-to-date collection of new and emerging research relevant to contemporary debates on the relationship between class, culture, and later life It explores the interface between class dynamics and later life, whilst acting as a critical guide to the ways in which age and class relations 'interlock' and 'intersect' with each other, whilst examining the emergence of new forms of inequalities alongside the interrogation of more traditional divisions. Social class in later life brings together a range of international high profile scholars to develop a more sophisticated, analytical and empirical understanding of class dynamics in later life. It will be of major interest to students and researchers examining the implications of global ageing, and will appeal to scholars concerned with the development of a more critical and engaged gerontology.

    eISBN: 978-1-4473-0948-2
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of tables and figures
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. vii-xii)
    Malcolm Johnson

    Social divisions in human societies have preoccupied social scientists in general, and sociologists in particular, since the beginning of these disciplines. From the original writings of Auguste Comte in the founding of sociology and the great giants of the nineteenth century, Karl Marx, Max Weber and Emile Durkheim, social class became a central and enduring theme. The class struggle characterised by Marx as between the owners of capital and those who sold their labour to them, ran through his entire published work. Weber’s challenge in his seminal essayClass, status and party(1961) to Marx’s dominating bifurcation of societies in...

  5. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xiii)
  6. Notes on contributors
    (pp. xiv-xvi)
  7. ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)
    Marvin Formosa and Paul Higgs

    For many years, the concept of class constituted a fundamental touchstone of gerontological scholarship. This was especially true during the late 1970s and 1980s when the political economy and structured dependency perspectives on ageing argued strongly how class holds a crucial role in determining how people experience retirement and the quality of lives they lead (Townsend, 1981; Walker, 1981). Influenced by neo-Marxism, such standpoints revolved around the role of retirees within the capitalist economy and, therefore, embraced Wright’s (1978) rationale that the best way to deal with class locations in later life is to treat them as ‘parts of class-trajectories’...

  8. TWO Social class structures and social mobility: the background context
    (pp. 15-32)
    Wendy Bottero

    Class analysis is concerned with the patterning of inequality and its consequences on the lives of those who experience it. As we shall see, ‘class’ is a slippery concept, with disagreements about its precise meaning. Where there is agreement is that ‘class’ is a question of advantage and disadvantage – about who gets what, and how. Whether we see this in terms of money, property, occupational position, cultural assets or power and influence, the significance of class resources is in how they give those who possess them greater control over the external forces that affect us all, and open doors...

  9. THREE Ageing and class in a globalised world
    (pp. 33-52)
    Chris Phillipson

    Discussions about the role of social class in the lives of older people have, it might be argued, occupied a tenuous position in social research into ageing. This might seem a surprising statement given the concerns of many researchers with issues focused around financial resources, inequality and social exclusion (Scharf and Keating, 2012). Despite the importance of such themes, the tendency has been to examine these only loosely through the lens of social class, with researchers often preferring to emphasise individual characteristics or life histories, other major social statuses (eg gender and ethnicity), or general features associated with the social...

  10. FOUR Measuring social class in later life
    (pp. 53-72)
    Alexandra Lopes

    The interaction between later life and social class has been measured from two opposite standpoints. The first tends to place ‘old age’ on the side of the independent variables and highlights how retirement arises as a trigger of loss and a factor of downward social mobility. This loss is substantiated in different aspects, not only the loss of income and material security as a direct result of exiting the labour market, but also loss as an indirect result of: growing unmet needs for material resources; declining health and needs for care; rising costs of living coupled with the deterioration of...

  11. FIVE Social class, age and identity in later life
    (pp. 73-94)
    Martin Hyde and Ian Rees Jones

    This chapter will examine social class identity and age identity in later life in the context of social change. As previously noted in the introductory chapter, it is important for research to be sensitive to the subjective as well as the objective elements of social class in later life. Thus, while it is critical to look at how the material structures of class can impact on the life chances and living conditions of those in later life, as has been done by the other contributors to this volume, it is equally important to see whether older people themselves see class...

  12. SIX Class, pensions and old-age security
    (pp. 95-112)
    Elizangela Storelli and John B. Williamson

    Public old-age pension systems were originally introduced to reduce the risk of poverty and income insecurity in old age. Today, most elders in high-income countries¹ are covered by public pensions, and, as a result, in many high-income countries, older adults are less likely than the general population to be living below the national poverty line (Vos et al, 2008). Additionally, old-age inequality rates are significantly lower in countries with well-developed and resourced pensions systems (Barrientos, 2006; ILO, 2010). Such data support theageing-as-levellerhypothesis, with public programmes ‘rising the tide’ of older adults to a more equal playing field with...

  13. SEVEN Class and health inequalities in later life
    (pp. 113-132)
    Ian Rees Jones and Paul Higgs

    For over 60 years, significant research activity has addressed the extent to which the effects of social class over the life course have determined or contributed to an individual’s economic and social fate in old age. This has led to the elaboration and discussion of a whole host of conceptual and measurement issues among a growing body of epidemiological and social researchers. In light of the social changes and accompanying theoretical developments over the same period, to these issues we must add questions about the viability of class as a means of understanding social relations and social inequality in contemporary...

  14. EIGHT Class, care and caring
    (pp. 133-148)
    Christina Victor

    Not all older people enjoy equal chances to experience positive health levels. It remains the case that persons aged 65 years and over experience a variety of chronic conditions, ranging from physical ailments, such as arthritis, respiratory diseases and circulatory problems, to mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression and dementia (Victor, 2010). The prevalence of these conditions and multiple pathologies experienced by older individuals is largely age-related. One consequence of this increase in morbidity with age is that, singly or in combination, these chronic conditions can challenge the ability of older people to live independently in the community by...

  15. NINE Social work, class and later life
    (pp. 149-168)
    Trish Hafford-Letchfield

    Social work with older people in the UK has only relatively recently emerged as a separate and distinct area of expert practice and provision, mostly in response to government reforms, which, in the 1990s, laid the foundations of contemporary policy and practice following the implementation of the National Health and Community Care Act (DH, 1990). This led to the creation of specialist systems of assessment and care management, prior to which older people accessed a wide range of generic social care services. While this gave rise to new optimism and belief that social work could make a positive contribution to...

  16. TEN The changing significance of social class in later life
    (pp. 169-182)
    Paul Higgs and Marvin Formosa

    The theme around which this volume has been organised is the continuing utility of the idea of social class for the understanding of contemporary later life. Within the chapters published in this book, we have seen many different ways in which social class continues to be a valuable concept for researchers, as well as constituting a critical aspect of old age. Elizangela Storelli and John B. Williamson’s chapter on the global implications of changes to pensions policy both in the US and abroad not only demonstrates that pension policies create or maintain class differences in later life, but that different...

  17. Index
    (pp. 183-190)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 191-192)