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The University of Southampton

SOCI2017 Class Structure and Social Inequality

Module Overview

This module looks at the changing nature of material, social and cultural inequality in British society, and how it affects our everyday lives.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

What are the effects of hierarchy and inequality on our daily lives? How are we to understand and explain inequality and what gives rise to it? To what extent is inequality inevitable? This module looks at how these questions have been answered in some of the key contemporary debates on class structure and social inequality. Looking at change and variation in the amount of economic and social inequality (using comparative and historical data) as well as shifts in academic and popular understandings of class and hierarchy, the course will examine the links between the theory and evidence on class structure and inequality in modern society.

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Identify and compare different theoretical models of the way in which inequality is maintained and reproduced.
  • Critically assess theoretical accounts of inequality with reference to appropriate empirical evidence.
  • Assess the ways in which material, social and cultural inequality in contemporary Britain affects selected aspects of social life.
  • Evaluate current debates over the relative significance of class in relation to other forms of social division.
  • Identify and summarise key information on selected topics.
  • Assess empirical evidence supporting/questioning certain theoretical positions.
  • Contribute to group discussions.
  • Reflect on your own social background and ‘life chances’ in a theoretically informed manner.
  • Critically discuss current affairs by relating the theories and empirical evidence covered in the module to contemporary events.


The module considers such questions as: how does inequality affect our prospects for success and advancement, how does it affect our health and lifestyle, and how far do we to pass on advantage (or disadvantage) to our children? The module explores various theoretical models of how inequality is maintained and reproduced, comparing classical theories which see inequality as the result of class conflict or group struggles with current arguments that class is of declining significance in the light of other social divisions along lines of gender, ethnicity, lifestyle and so on.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Two lectures per week, five seminars

Independent Study125
Total study time150


Assessment Strategy

Seminar attendance is encouraged by awarding 1% per seminar attended. Seminars are designed to contribute to all of the learning outcomes, but place an emphasis on discussion skills (LO7) and self reflection (LO8). The essay plan and essay both contribute to the assessment of learning outcomes 1-6. The current affairs commentary assesses learning outcome 9, critically reflecting on news media items by relating them to theories and empirical data about class inequality. This will also test learning outcomes 1-6.


MethodPercentage contribution
Attendance 5%
Commentary 20%
Essay  (2500 words) 65%
Plan 10%


MethodPercentage contribution
Exam 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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