Class based inequality
‘India lives in her villages, we’re told, in every other sanctimonious public speech. That’s bullshit, just a figleaf. India dies in her villages.’
– Arundhati Roy
“The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas: ie, the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force.”
– Karl Marx
‘[Classes are] large groups of people differing from each other by the place they occupy in a historically determined system of social production, by their relation (in most cases fixed and formulated in law) to the means of production, by their role in the social organization of labor, and, consequently, by the dimensions of the share of social wealth of which they dispose and the mode of acquiring it.’- Vladimir Lenin, A Great Beginning – June, 1919
Routledge Encyclopedia of International Political Economy: Entries A-F:
‘The main body of class analysis is based on Marxist and Weberian approaches. The Marxist conception of class defines it as a group of people with a common relationship to the structure of political and economic power within a particular society. The Weberian perspective views class as a group of individuals who are categorized according to common socioeconomic indicators that are termed ‘life chances’. While the Marxist and Weberian approaches differ in many respects they share three important characteristics. First both approaches hold the control of economic resources as central to class analysis. Second the approaches define a particular class location in relation to its links with other class location in relation to its links with other class locations. Third they both view class as an explanatory factor in determining the means and limitations of an individual’s pursuit of material resources such as income’.
‘We can define class as a large scale grouping of people who share common economic resources, which strongly influence the type of lifestyle they are able to lead. Ownership of wealth together with occupation are the chief bases of class differences’- Anthony Giddens.
Erik Olin Wright:
Three types of classes:
- Control over investment or money capital
- Control over factory and offices
- Control over labour power.
Above 85 percent people of the world belong to third category.
Class according to Max Weber
Max Weber argued that class can be understood by understanding people’s access to economic wealth, social prestige and political power( three-component theory of stratification).
Economic wealth: There are people who own property and there are those don’t. And there are those who own very less.
Social Prestige/status: There are people who are highly respected in society because of their status. For example people who occupy certain position are more respected than people who do not occupy that position. For example a professor who owns no car (economic wealth) is more respected in society than a thief who owns three such cars. This is social prestige.
Political power: Sometimes people with no economic wealth and no social status have more power to influence their will in society than those who have (wealth and status). For example a woman without wealth or status can impose her will as against the will of rich or prestigious male in society because such woman may have support from organized sources such as women’s workers’ union. These organized sources may be religious, ethnic, racial, ideological but it is powerful because it can force society to accept their will. Weber sees class divided into class (economic wealth), status (social prestige) and party (political power).
Karl Marx and the theory of class
For Karl Marx there is only two types of classes. One is called the dominant class and another is the dominated class. The main difference between these two is that the dominant class owns the means of production (factory for example) and the dominated class workers on the means of production to produce (work as a factory worker). For Karl Marx the class that owns the means of production (ie wealth) automatically controls political power and social status.
Marx saw different dominant class in different economic society with different means of production. Here are some examples:
Primitive Communism Society
There are no classes in this society
Slave Master Society
Exploited slave class and the slave owning class called the masters class.
Feudal lords (exploiters – ruling class) who owns the agricultural land and serfs (exploited class) who work in these lands. Bourgeois or traders class destroy feudalism. They free serfs from dependence on lords and thus prepare the ground for capitalistic society.
Exploitation of workers (proletariat) by capitalists (bourgeoisie).
Working class who wants socialism and controls the state and former capitalists who want to go back to capitalistic society.
Class system is different from caste, ethnicity and gender:
- Class system are not based on religious and legal provisions. For example the people of two different classes can marry.
- Individual’s class is achieved and not ascribed.
- Class is fluid that means there can be social mobility upwards or downwards.
- Class differences are based on economic differences between groups or individuals.
Class structure in Nepal
Ownership of housing units: Altogether, 85.26 percent of the households reside in their own house whereas 12.81 percent in rented, 0.63 percent in institutional and 1.30 percent in other arrangements. In urban areas, 40.22 percent live in rented house. Kathmandu district has the highest percentage (58.65) of households living in rented house.
Type of foundation of house: Nearly ten percent (9.94 %) of total households live in houses with the foundation having RCC pillar, 17.57 percent households in house with foundation made up of cement-bonded bricks, 24.9 percent in wooden pillar, 44.21 percent in mud-bonded bricks and 2.33 in other type of foundations. In urban areas, 28.42 percent of the households live in houses with the foundation having RCC pillars ( reinforced concrete column )
Usual fuel for cooking: About two-third of the total households (about 64 percent) use Firewood as the usual source of fuel for cooking followed by LPG (21.03 percent), cow
dung (10.38 percent). Bio-gas and Kerosene is used for cooking by 2.43 and 1.03 percent
of the total households respectively. Very few households (0.08 percent) use Electricity as usual fuel for cooking. In urban areas, more than two third (67.68 percent) of the total households use LPG as their usual fuel for cooking.
Toilet in the house: More than one third (38.17 percent) of the total households do not have a toilet in their houses. Almost all the households without toilet (95.4%) are in rural areas. More than 75 percent of households in Saptari, Siraha, Rolpa and Rautahat districts do not have a toilet in their houses.
Absent member in households: One in every four households (25.42%; 1.38 million households) reported that at least one member of their household is absent or is living out of country. Total number of absent population is found to be 1,921,494 against 0 .76million in 2001. The highest proportion (44.81 percent) of absent population is from the age group 15 to 24 years. Gulmi, Arghakhanchi and Pyuthan districts reported the highest proportion of their population being absent (staying abroad).
Percent of households receiving remittance has increased from 23 percent in 1995/96 to about 56 percent in 2010/11
Food: In NLSS-III, around 8 percent of households reported that they could not afford to eat what they normally eat at one or more times during the past 30 days from the day of enumeration. Most of the households that experienced food shortages tried to overcome the situation by resorting to “borrowing the food or money to buy food”.
Nutrition Status of Children
The proportions of children (less than 5 years of age) who are underweight, stunted and wasted are 31, 42 and 14 percent respectively. The corresponding proportions for severe underweight, stunting and wasting among children are 8, 15 and 3 percent respectively.
About 95 percent of the agricultural households own land and 10 percent rent out some or all of their land to others. On the other hand, 32 percent of households operate at least some land rented-in from others. At the other extreme, 5 percent households do not own any land but operate land owned by others on contractual basis.
*Agriculture Equipment *
A large majority of farmers still use locally made agricultural tools. Mechanization of agriculture is at a very low stage. About 52 percent of farmers own the most basic equipment – a plough or improved type of plough (bikase halo). About 33 percent of farmers use bins and containers for grain storage. Only one percent of farmers own tractor or power tiller.
Overall, 16 percent of the respondents think that food consumption in their households is “less than adequate” (or inadequate), while 82 percent say it is “just adequate” and the remaining 2 percent answer “more than adequate”. The percentage of households reporting “inadequacy” of food consumption is higher in rural areas than in urban areas. The proportion of respondents reporting “inadequacy” is the highest in the far-western region (25 percent) and the lowest in the central region. Among analytic domains, this proportion is the highest in the mountains and the lowest in the Kathmandu valley urban areas,
At the national level, 17 percent of households report to have “inadequate” clothing for their family members while 82 percent report it as “just adequate”. About a third and a fourth of the households in the mid west and the far west development regions respectively report to have less than adequate clothing for their family.
Among the domains, the highest incidence of reported clothing inadequacy is in the mountains (33 percent) followed by the rural mid and far western hills (31 percent) while the lowest incidence is in the Kathmandu valley urban areas (6 percent) followed by the urban Tarai (9 percent). The poorest quintile has the highest proportion of households reporting clothing inadequacy (35 percent) while the top quintile has only 4 percent of households reporting this “inadequacy”.
Overall, 18 percent of households perceive their health care to be “less than adequate”. The percentage of households reporting health care as “just adequate” is 79 percent.
In Nepal, 16 percent of households in the country think that schooling for their children is less than adequate, 70 percent think to be just adequate, and for 13 percent it is “not applicable” (i.e., they don’t have school-age children). The proportion of households reporting less than adequate schooling is roughly one fourth in each of the following regions: the mountains zone, mid and far west development regions, the rural mid and far west hills, and the rural mid and far west Tarai. A similar proportion of households in the poorest household consumption quintile think that schooling for their children is inadequate .
About 49 percent of the households in the country perceive their total income as less than adequate and 50 percent think it to be just adequate. The percentage of households reporting their income as “more than adequate” is around one percent only
In NLSS III, households are asked whether they had experienced any food shortages or shortage of money to buy adequate food for the family in the last 30 days preceding the day of enumeration. They are also asked what coping strategy they had to resort to in case of such shortages. Overall, about 8 percent households in the country report shortage of foods or money to buy foods in the last 30 days; this proportion is double for rural areas than for urban areas. Among the households who experience food shortage, the highest proportion (about 43 percent) faces the shortage for 3 to 5 days and about one-fourth of them face 1 to 2 days of such scarcity. There seems no significant difference between urban and rural areas regarding the proportion of households reporting food shortages for 5 days or less
Stunting Among Children
This is the proportion of children under five that fall below minus two and below minus three standard deviations from median height-for-age of WHO reference population.
Forty-two percent of children under five are stunted and 15 percent are severely stunted. Stunting is slightly higher among females than among males.
This is the proportion of children under five that fall below minus two and below minus three standard deviations from median weight-for-age of WHO reference population25.
Thirty-one percent of children (less than five years of age) are underweight and 8 percent are severely underweight. Both the rates for females are higher than those for males.
Fourteen percent of children are wasted and 3 percent are severely wasted. The wasting rates for females are slightly bigger than those for males.