B885 – Book3 Part1- Social Environment


Part I – Sociological Analysis


1.  Area of study – social trends, social division, how the social environment is structured.

2.  We concentrated on the understanding of societies that are modern and diverse. Such societies change rapidly and are highly differentiated – i.e. people belonging to different social groupings, have distinctive experiences. Different occupational groups, religious groups, age groups and ethnic groups typically have different resources, opportunities, concerns and beliefs.

3.  We focus on the nature and consequences of extensive social differentiation.

4.  What is the culture of the modern societies? What would be the experience of modernity?

5.  The basic for social division and distinctive experience à class, gender, age, generation, status, ethnicity and geographical location à contemporary social change.

6.  Firms operate in a social environment which both constrains their behaviour and offers opportunities for innovation.

7.  Runciman : Sociologistsà

a. report what happened in a series of events, processes or situations, 

b. explain in terms of causes or reasons why these occurred,

c. try to describe how participants interpreted or experienced the phenomena,

d. judge whether the events were desirable or not.

(In short, sociology may be said to report on, explain, describe and evaluated the structure of social relationships.)

8.  Social movements are distinquished from other collective actors, such as political parties and pressure groups, in that they have mass mobilisation, or the threat of mobilisation, as their prime source of social sanction, and hence of power.

9.  Individual decisions are conditioned by the knowledge, aspirations and conventions of people in similar social circumstances, they are also influenced by state policy. The contribution of sociology to anticipating social change is in terms of probabilities and aggregates rather than outcomes for particular individuals. The whole is more than the sum of its parts. People act within structures.


Part 2 – Modern Societies


1.  Sociology distinquishes between modern and traditional societies.

2.  Modern societies have undergone processes of urbanisation, secularisation, demographic transition (especially in terms of extended life expectancy), industrialisation, rationalisation (especially in adopting scientific approach), bureaucratisation, centralisation and democratisation.

3.  These processes occurred in the West from 18C onwards in association with the extension of capitalist economic relations.

4.  Modern society is characterised by having high proportions of people living relatively anonymously in cities, comparatively limited importance of religious belief, a capacity to support large populations, large, efficient, highly productive economic organisations, rational and bureaucratic organisation of firms and the state, a powerful and centralised state, and some degree of popular participation in political decision-making.

5.  Experience of modernityà living in metropolitan cityà everything moves quickly, the streets are full of people, all strangers, there are glittery shops, but also vagrants, new and exciting activities are available.

6.  To be modern is to find ourselves in an environment that promises us adventure, power, joy, growth, transformation of ourselves and the world.

7.  Martin (The Expressive Revolution) à description of the paradoxes of modernity à societies become increasingly complex, experience becomes specialised and fragmented.What it gives is affluence and a new possibility of freedom and individuality; what it takes away is a natural rootedness and automatic structures of belonging.à Voluntary associations – sports clubs, new religious sects, trades unions, neighbourhood community centres are often a way of establishing a sense of belonging in a modern urban society. Contradiction between individuality and belonging became more acute during the 1960s with the onset of what Martin’s calls the expressive revolution. These new values were transmitted through the arts, the underground, youth cultures and rock music.


Part 3 – Sources of Differentiation

1.  One central source originates in economic arrangements. In modern societies, the division of labour is highly specialised, with different people doing different jobs and tasks. These differences occur between occupational groups, between men in factories and women at home, between young junior workers and their more senior colleagues. The specialisation of work has social ramifications: it leads to differences of wealth and power; it means different groups use their time differently; and it means that individuals change their occupational positions during a lifetime.

2.  People do a different job, is the difference in remuneration just?

3.  When interpreted as inequality, diversity may become a basis for social divisions. We will examine the social environment in terms of group differentiation which have in recent decades been sources of conflict.


Part 4 – The shift to post-Fordism

1.  Sociologists are rarely the first to notice signs of change; rather they tend to start from insights of new behaviours reported to specialist practitioners (like advertising agents, management consultants, popular music journalists) or from expressions of discontent by social movement activists (feminists in the 1970s or environmentalists in the 1980s).

2.  Economic adjustment à shift from Fordism ( based on the mass production introduced in car manufacture by Henry Ford) to post-Fordism, from organised to disorganised capitalism, from industrial to post-industrial. (Fordist à Flexible Regime (more flexible technologies, development in ideology and culture, new forms of individualised consumption and postmodernism).

3.  Postmodernism (Dick Hebdige)à it gives a flavour of a world dominated by signs, where difference, expressed through style and symbol, is a key motivation.

4.Some authors would maintain that the features attributed to postmodernism are inherent in modernism. The fragmentation and diversity of contemporary social relations simply continue in the paradoxical mould of modernity, where life experiences are transitory, restless, uncertain and shallow but also full of excitement, promise and opportunities for self-development and transformation. It is often said that postmodernism is a play with a “difference”. Being different, appearing different, experimenting with and altering self-identity are key motivations in postmodern culture.

4.  Challenge to sociology is whether it can satisfactorily explain difference and diversity.


Part 5 – Implications for marketing

Please read Elizabeth Nelson “ Marketing in 1992 and beyond” Book 3 p.29-40


Part 6 – Social Class

1.  Karl Marx’s hypothesis was that modern societies were characterised primarily by class struggles between capital and labour. There were two important classes:

a.  owners of productive property, exploiting the other;

b.  the proletariat who owned nothing but the labour power which it was obliged to sell to survive. (The working class, by dint of its shared material interests and its increasing size, would become a powerful political force).

2.  Class affects the nature of their work and the rewards they receive.

3.  It is the link between position in the mode of production, social identity and political action that is the very core of sociological interest in class.

4.  Max Weber à in capitalist societies, property is the basic unit of class structure, access to which determines people’s chance in life.

5.  How can it be decided to what class any individual belongs?

6.  Many social scientists have argued that class is declining in significance in understanding social and political life.

7.  Offe and Gorz à concentrate on the declining centrality of work for social life in the late 20C. Offe discerns a decline in the subjective importance of work, work is no longer perceived a s a duty, partly because people spend less time at work and are less likely to live in occupational communities.With sufficient income, workers become interested in other things besides wages – the quality of life, sources of happiness that cannot be derived from the purchase of commodities, welfare services.

8.  Since class is based in production and class conflicts revolve around issues of production and distribution, the era of class politics is near its end.

9.  Pahl : remarks on informal work 

a.   includes domestic work in and around the house, carried out without cash payments by household and non-household members – growth of self provisioning work is based on expanding home and car ownership and the availability of new tools and do-it-yourself products à it may or may not save money (painting, decorating, minor building), but provide satisfaction (tasks involve time and effort).

b.  Black economy: with high unemployment more and more people are getting caught up in the web of the underground economy (Parker).

c.   may require social contacts to obtain such work, these households enter a downward spiral.

10.      Pahl : a process of social polarisation

a.  speculates the changing shape of the class structure and emphasises the importance of numbers of workers in a household rather than its class position in determining its fortunes.

11.The role of class in voting behaviour of individuals has declined. Not only has the working class become fragmented, but the same can be said of the middle classes.

12.A new social movement like the Green and the Women’s Movements appear to have turned attention away from issues of material security towards new concerns.

13.Since 1980s people have been more likely to identify themselves socially in terms of their consumption patterns rather than their role at work.

14. Management in general tend to ignore social structures and the effect they have on their own daily lives. In their decisions about markets and customers, they tend to view society, along with its structures, as given. In the short timescales to which most managers work this is understandable, but in the longer term the structural changes studied by socialogists may have dramatic impacts.

15. In short, Pahl’s paper hints at the displacement of the workplace as the prime focus of life. The Henley Centre goes further to suggest that, with inheritance based upon home ownership becoming a major factor in wealth, the importance of work may even diminish as an economic force.


Part 6 – Class Structure

1.  Criteria for allocating people to classes : socio-economic status (employer, self-employed, employee), relative prestige of her or his occupation.

2.  How should we classify those who do not have occupation? (such as housewife, children, the retired )

3.  Class Identity – classes become of sociological interest only at the point where people in the same class behave in similar ways. However, class is of declining significance because paid work is no longer so central to people’s lives gained limited support.

4.  Social mobility and life chance

a.  relationship between class position and various aspects of social privilege and disadvantage:

i.     the higher one’s position in the class hierarchy, the longer one lives on average;

ii. friends are very likely to belong to the same social class;

iii.          a child’s likely educational achievement remains strongly class-based.


b.  Unequal opportunities have been a source of political mobilisation in the past. Such inequalities are transmitted from one generation to the next.

c.  Social mobility concerns movements between social classes. Estimates of social mobility will depend on where boundaries between classes are drawn.

d.  The importance of mobility in understanding class is :

-         first, it raises questions of fairness: whether opportunities exist to move or whether, on the contrary, an individual’s options are restricted by birth;

-         second, it raises questions of class organisation: high level of mobility would reduce the resentment against structured inequality because talent was being rewarded. Low level of mobility might be expected that classes would be more solidaristic because material resources are shared with parents and children across time.

-         Goldthorpe: suggests considerable openness and makes the service class socially very diverse. Most current members have come from lower social backgrounds. Goldthorpe also shows that there has been very little downward mobility.


e. As society becomes more confident and older, there will be less concern with doing things simply because others like us are doing them. Lifestyle branding relating to style and cultural sub-groups may therefore become less important than truly meeting the asset and pleasure needs of people. Authentic quality, tailor-made products and personalised service may all become more important. It is these areas of quality, design and service.


Part 7 - Gender

1.  Gender, age, generation, status, ethnicity and geographical location are basis of differential experience, material condition and social practice, these dimensions are not independent of one another but intersect.

2.  Behaviours associated with masculinity and femininity vary between societies and across time.

3.  Women (constitute half of the world’s population – 1980, the United Nations report) in paid employment:

a. increase in paid employment, though increasingly as part-time workers.

b.  are paid less than men

c.  cluster in a very few industrial sectors and occupational groups (occupational segregation)

d.  segregation has declined since women have sharply improved levels of educational attainment

e.  reducing the time taken out of work after childbirth

f.    political protest from women with consequent changes in legislation


4.  Women in unpaid work – cook, clean, wash, do most childcare tasks

5.  Pahl à as men approach retirement age, women do a declining share of domestic work.

6.  Division of labourà it will normally be financially prudent for the man to do most paid work because he gets higher wages. (Common sense reasoning)

7.  Women’s multiple roles (Book 3, p95-102)

a.  Future business implications:

-         Working women with children will be more affluent and more needy – which will make them a key future target market. They will be looking for products which can save them time, such as healthy convenience foods.

-         There is a considerable growth in the demand for personal services.

-         There will be opportunities for integrating children into adults’ leisure activities – perhaps providing nursery facilities and child-minders at theatres, cinemas, restaurants and sport clubs so that adults can enjoy themselves as they did before they had children.

-         Financial services marketed at women will be a major growth area: demand for savings plans, pensions or life assurance.

-         Advertisers and retailers cannot market goods to the woman as executive in the same way as they do to the woman as mother. ( executive mode vs wife mode)


Part 8 – Other dimension

1.  Age

2.  Generation

3.  Life course stages

4.  Demographics


5.  Status and lifestyles

a.  People seek to distinquish themselves, and can be distinquished by others, in terms of their style of life.

b.  It is associated with a commercial strategy of the marketing and advertising industries ( uniformities progressively decline with (a) changes in technical capacity which allow greater product variety and (b) increasing market fragmentation).

c.  People create images of themselves, their personalities, their identities and their group belonging, usually through the purchase of goods and services.

d.  Status groups are stratified in accordance to the principles of the consumption of goods as represented by special “styles of life”

e.  Please read Article 8.1,p.123 Mike Featherstone, “Lifestyle and Consumer Culture”.


6.  Ethnic Groups and Geographical regions

a.  the concept of race and racial conflict

b.  The international division of labour which allows transnational corporations to organise separate parts of their production processes across many different geographical sites. In some industrial sectors, assembly and other semi-skilled and unskilled labour-intensive processes occur in SE Asia and other parts of the Third World in order to take advantage of low wages, and the products are shipped back to Europe. The organisations, technologies and co-ordination involved in such strategies have created uneven economic development and have considerable implications for the globalisation of culture.

c.  Geographical mobility: international and internal migration

d.  Despite powerful globalising tendencies, local differences seem to persist. On the one hand, international communications, international trade, a world-wide popular culture, and the presence of the same consumer goods in all major capital cities indicate a reduction of spatial diversity. On the other hand, greater awareness and increased possibilities for movement make possible greater discrimination as to where to go (deciding where to live, retire or go on holiday).

e.  People’s possessions and their daily routines may actually be very similar from place to place, while affections for their own locality may be very strong.