Social classes essay

Social classes essay DEFAULT

Social Class And Social Inequality

1443 Words6 Pages

Social classes are a form of social stratification that refers to the existence of structured inequalities between individuals and groups in society. A social class is a group of people of comparable status, power and wealth which are usually classified as upper class, middle class, and lower class. For each class, there are some specific opportunities available that influence their social life. We can understand about the particularity of the chances through unequal distribution of these opportunities between individuals in social classes. In here belonging to a social class seems to be an obstacle for some individuals to obtain equal opportunity, unlike upper class people. Therefore, in a stratified society, the individual’s opportunities are always determined by his or her social class. In this essay, I will be arguing that even though mobility exists in the social class system, the opportunity to change status is relatively open for everyone but the distribution of opportunities among the members of a social class is not relatively equal to all. I will demonstrate this point by showing how participation of an individual in a specific social class will decide the opportunities in terms of attaining education and achieving a well-paid job. Education has a significant role in promoting social mobility; it enables people to acquire knowledge and certain skills in order to promote their social status. Nowadays, people believe that societies are based on meritocratic

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Social Class Essay Topics

Social class is a division of society on the basis of social and economic status. Throughout the history of humans, social division remains a constant thing in all every society. Although a layperson may not care to understand how social division affects his or her existence in society, an educated person constantly seeks to understand how social division affects him or her. In the case of students, they acquire knowledge about social class through reading and essay writing. While reading seems to be an easy thing for students, essay writing comes with a few challenges which students must overcome. The major challenge that students face in essays is topic selection. This challenge is common to students because a lot of them find it hard to transform societal issues into essay topics. We like to help students overcome the challenges that they face, so we shall list the best social class essay topics for them. Students should go through the topics and select the one they are most comfortable with. All the social class essay ideas that we listed below are interesting and simple enough for students to work on. By using the topics below, students will both enjoy and learn from their essays.

  1. A Change Of Social Class
  2. Essay: Citizenship And Social Class
  3. How Social Class Affects Happiness
  4. Historical Criticism And Social Class
  5. Social Class: A Large Effect On People
  6. Can Social Class Shape Your Body?
  7. Correlation Between Social Class And Education
  8. Social Class And Family Background
  9. Race, Class, And Gender
  10. Dark Sexuality And Social Class
  11. Social and power class in Past Centuries
  12. Reflection Paper On Social Class
  13. Social Class: A Community Of People Who Exchange Ideas
  14. Family Culture And Social Class
  15. Class Privilege And Where You Live
  16. Social Class And Educational Effects
  17. Social Class And Child Development
  18. Inequalities Of Social Class And Education
  19. Social Class And Gender Relations
  20. The Battle with Social Class
  21. Social Class And Family Life
  22. Social Class And Social Status
  23. How Social Class Affects Education
  24. Social Class And Success
  25. Social Inequalities Of The Middle Class
  26. Class Stratification in the US
  27. Social Stratification And Social Class
  28. The Relation between Education and Social Class
  29. Social Class And Its Effects On Society
  30. Social Class And Patterns Of Health
  31. Social Class And Prosocial Behavior
  32. Structural Diversity And Social Class
  33. Social Class Discrimination On Society
  34. Social Class and Parenting Styles
  35. Social Class and Health
  36. How Social Class Can Lower The Rate Of Divorce In Society
  37. Social Class Starts at Home
  38. Social Class in Great Expectations
  39. Can Social Class Be A Form Of Discrimination?
  40. Quality of Education and Social Class
  41. Social Class Ladder
  42. Social Class in the United States
  43. The Impacts That Social Class Have On Children
  44. What Can Cause A Social Class Conflict?
  45. How Power And Social Class Can Influence The Lives Of Different Individuals
  46. Social Class Is A Diversity Of Humans
  47. Sociological Imagination And Social Class
  48. The Relation Between Social Class And Sports Participation
  49. The Meaning Of Marriage in Regards to Social Class
  50. The Effects Of Social Class And Race
  51. How Social Class Played Some Roles in “The Great Gatsby”
  52. Equality And Social Class
  53. The Theory Of Social Class
  54. Social Stratification And Social Division: Looking At Ethnicity And Class
  55. The Educational System and Social Class
  56. How Social Class Can Lower The Rate Of Sexual Violence In Society
  57. Intercultural Communication And Social Class
  58. The Social Class And Commodity
  59. The Impacts Of Social Class On Literacy
  60. Why Social Class Is Important
  61. Social Class and Society
  62. Video Games And Its Impacts On Social Class
  63. Social Class Distinction in America
  64. Class, Status, Power, And Leadership
  65. How Social Class Can Affect Emotions
  66. Personal Note On Social Class
  67. How Social Class Impact The Quality Of Education
  68. Social Class And Language
  69. How Social Class Affects The Academic Discourse
  70. Is There A Relation Between Social Class And Prejudice
  71. The Relation Between Social Class And Schooling
  72. The Social Theories Of Class Structure
  73. The Relationship Between Delinquency And Social Class
  74. Race, Ethnicity, And Social Class
  75. Social Class And Race
  76. Social Class in Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet
  77. The Social Class System
  78. The Gap Between Lower And Upper Class
  79. How Social Class Affects An Individual’s Happiness
  80. The Social Class Of Middle Class
  81. Social Inequality Regarding Class
  82. Social Structure Of The Upper Class



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What is Social Class?

In sociology, the term ‘social class’ is most often used to refer to the primary system of social stratification found in modern capitalist societies. Social stratification refers to ‘the presence [in society] of distinct social groups which are ranked one above the other in terms of factors such as prestige and wealth’ (Haralambos and Holborn 2004, p.1).  The defining feature of a stratified society, then, is that of inequality in terms of the ‘arrangement of individuals…in a hierarchy of advantaged and disadvantaged life chances’ (Fulcher and Scott 1999, p. 601).

It has been suggested that social inequality is a feature of all human societies (Haralambos and Holborn 2004, p.1; Bilton et al 1994, p.34). Sociologists have identified a number of different forms of stratification systems existing in other societies or historic periods, for example, the caste system in traditional India, slavery and feudalism (Bilton et al 1994, pp. 36-41). From a study of other systems it is clear that not all systems of stratification are organised in terms of social class; the caste system for example was stratified in terms of status. In societies where ‘economic relationships are primary’, however, the division of members into groups in terms of similarities in attitudes, lifestyles and occupations is generally termed divisions of class. (Bilton et al 1994, p.36)

For classic sociologist Karl Marx, an examination of the workings of social strata was essential to an understanding of social inequality. Stratification by class was particularly important to him and he in fact argued that ‘all societies, except for the most primitive and tribal ones, were…class societies’ (Fulcher and Scott 1999, p. 605). Marx further argued that ‘The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles’ (Marx and Engels 1848 in Fulcher and Scott 1999, p. 605).

For Marx there were two distinct classes in society; the capitalist class, who own the means of production, and the working class, who own only their labour power which they sell to the capitalist class, or bourgeoisie, in return for wages. Marx believed that the relationship between the bourgeoisie and the working class was one of exploitation; the bourgeoisie exploit the working class as the wages workers receive for their labour is a fraction of the market value of the products they produce. As owners of the means of production, the bourgeoisie sell the fruit of the working class’s labour for a profit, thus accumulating more money, or capital, at the expense of the labouring class. Marx felt that the conflicts of interest inherent in capitalist societies would eventually lead to its downfall and to the emergence of a communist society. He believed that once the working class realised the true nature of their exploitation they would rise up and overthrow capitalism.

For Marx, then, the formation of social classes in society results from a given society’s economic structure or base. He argued that ‘classes formed the only significant groups in society’ and inequality was the result of a group’s relationship to the means of production (Haralambos and Holborn 2004, p. 14). Another classic sociologist, Max Weber, agreed with Marx that social classes develop when individuals compete in a market economy for economic resources; however he saw other factors as equally important in understanding class composition and divisions in society.

Weber identified four separate classes in capitalist society; the propertied upper class, the propertyless white-collar workers, the petty bourgeoisie and the manual working class (Haralambos and Holborn 2004, p. 12). He agreed with Marx that the major class division was between the capitalists and the working class, but argued that divisions could be identified within ‘both the propertied and propertyless classes’ (Bocock and Thompson 1995, p. 13). For Weber, as Haralambos and Holborn (2004, p. 12) state, ‘factors other than the ownership or non-ownership of property are significant in the formation of classes’. Weber argued that an individual’s ‘market situation’ was one such important factor. An individual’s market situation is determined by the skills s/he can offer in the market place. Different occupations offer different skills, and skills that are highly valued or in demand will lead to greater rewards. In this way, social class may be determined by occupation and skills, as opposed to the relationship of individuals and groups to the means of production, because economic rewards affect lifestyle and life chances.

Weber also saw as important in the formation of social groups the concepts of status and parties. Status groups are groups with similar amounts of social prestige or ‘honour’ and parties are groups with common political interests. Status and party groups may or may not belong to, or serve the interests of, the same social class. In this way, status and party groups may cut across class boundaries and thus have the possibility of ‘creating divisions within classes’ (Haralambos and Holborn 2004, p. 13). This idea is obviously in contrast to the ideas of Marx, who argued that the working class would one day recognise their shared situation of inequality and oppression and come together as a homogeneous group to overthrow the forces of capitalism. Criticisms of Marx and Marxist theories include questions as to why the working class has never become a ‘class for itself’, and, linked to this, why the middle class or classes continued to grow rather than ‘sink’ into the working class as Marx predicted would happen as ‘machinery obliterate[ed]…differences in labour’ (Haralambos and Holborn 2004, p. 12).

Weber’s theories have also been criticised. Marxists argue that Weber placed too much emphasis on market position, neglecting the most important class division between the capitalists and the working class. Marxists have also argued that status divisions are closely linked to class divisions, that is, the class in possession of the greatest proportion of property and wealth will necessarily also possess greater status and power.  

Despite these criticisms, the theories of Marx and Weber have proved an influential basis for most modern sociological theories of class. Modern sociology is concerned with investigating a variety of questions about class in contemporary society, for example, questions relating to the number of classes that may be identified and the means to differentiate between groups, and also whether it can be argued that there remains an elite ‘ruling’ or capitalist class, and whether the concept of class is still a useful one.   

The problems inherent in identifying the number of different social classes in modern society are many and varied and include broad questions of ontology, as well as detailed ones of definitions and boundaries. Occupation is the most common indicator of social class used in present times, but scales vary as to the number of classes identified and the definitions of each class in terms of occupations. Most scales, however, recognise an upper, middle and working class. Within these categories there have been a number of different classifications made, however, again there has been a general agreement that the working class is comprised of workers in manual occupations, the middle class is comprised of workers in non-manual occupations, and the upper class refers to a small group of the very wealthy who own somewhere in the region of ‘7 percent of the nation’s wealth between them’ (Haralambos and Holborn 2004, p.29).

Some sociologists have also identified an ‘underclass’. The underclass is comprised of individuals who are unemployed, or have never worked or who have a particularly weak position in the labour market. Sociologist W.G. Runciman, who developed a seven class model of class structure, defined the underclass as comprising of individuals whose ‘roles place them more or less permanently at the economic level where benefits are paid by the state to those unable to participate in the labour market at all’ (Runciman 1990 in Haralambos and Holborn 2004, p.14). Members of this class include single parents and ethnic minorities, but Runciman argued that it was not their status that placed them in this class but their reliance on state benefits.

Runciman’s model of class structure attempted to incorporate elements of both Marxist and Weberian concepts of class. In general, however, most sociologists have tended to draw on one or other approach and these sociologists are referred to as neo-Marxists or neo-Weberians. Erik Olin Wright’s model of social class can be defined as neo-Marxist. Theories such as Wright’s are concerned with addressing questions such as those outlined earlier regarding criticisms that the working class have not formed a class ‘for itself’ and that the middle class is still very much in evidence and growing. As a neo-Marxist, Wright argues that groups defined by others as distinct social classes, like the professional-managerial class identified by Barbara and John Ehrenreich, in fact occupy ‘a number of strata…and do not have a coherent set of interests of their own’ (Haralambos and Holborn 2004, p. 38). For Wright, the middle class are not a ‘fully developed class’ and capitalist societies ‘remain polarized… between the ruling class and the working class’ (ibid).

Other Marxists and neo-Marxists argue that non-manual routine ‘white-collar’ workers identified formerly as part of the middle class have become ‘proletarianized’, that is, due to the fact that the type of work carried out by this group, and the wages they receive, are not far removed from that of the working classes, this group has effectively merged into the working class. Neo-Weberians such as David Lockwood, however, challenge this view.

Lockwood used Weberian concepts such as market, work and status situation in his study of clerks to argue that, while wages for this group had begun to drop below that of skilled manual labourers, their market position in terms of job security, promotion prospects and benefits still gave them an advantaged position. Since it is argued from a Weberian perspective that social class may be defined in terms of market situation, because, as we have seen, an individual’s market situation affects life chances, the clerks could still be argued to be in a higher social class than the working classes.

Other criticisms of Marxist theories of proletarianization include the theory of embourgeoisement. This theory suggests that, rather than the middle classes sinking into the working class, ‘just the opposite was happening’ (Haralambos and Holborn 2004, p.51). Due to rising living standards among the working class, it was argued, increasing numbers of this group were effectively joining the middle class.

While there are numerous debates surrounding the existence or otherwise of an underclass or a middle class, and even debates as to whether there remains an upper or ruling class in society, one thing most sociologists agree on is that social class is a system of stratification defined by the unequal distribution of social advantage. While the key debate between neo-Marxists and neo-Weberians appears to centre around questions of social class composition, the underlying issues they seek to address are those of class inequality.

Social class, then, is not simply a label applied for convenience in society to differentiate between social groups in terms of similarities and differences in occupation, lifestyle or attitudes; it is, rather, a system of inequality of opportunity. Marxists and Weberians generally agree, despite the claims of other sociologists such functionalists, new right theorists and postmodernists, that there remain substantial inequalities between different social classes. Whether there is, as neo-Weberians suggest, ‘greater plurality of class groupings’ (Bocock and Thompson 1995, p. 14) or, as neo-Marxists suggest, effectively only two significant social classes, the focus of interest for sociologists is to analyse and explain social class as a system of inequality.


  • Bocock, R. and Thompson, K., (eds) 1992.  Social and Cultural Forms of Modernity. Cambridge: Polity Press in association with the Open University.
  • Bilton, T. et al., 1994. Introductory Sociology. 2nd edn. London: Macmillan.
  • Fulcher, J. & Scott, J., 1999. Sociology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Haralambos, M. and Holborn, M., 2004.  Sociology: Themes and Perspectives.  6th edn. London: HarperCollins.
  • Ritzer, G., 1996. Sociological Theory. 4th edn. Singapore: McGraw-Hill

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How To Write An Essay On Social Class

How To Write An Essay On Social Class

Social Class refers to divisions in society based on economic and social status. People in the same social class typically share a similar level of wealth, educational achievement, type of job and income.

Guidelines To Help You Write An Essay About Social Class

  • Define the terms that you intend to work on within your essay. Defining the terms is the important aspect of any essay. Define terms like the meaning social class, how many classes of terms you intend to cover whether you will conduct your study across countries, and many more.  In the introductory part of your essay explain what exactly you are going to cover as you put all these terms in mind.
  • Categorize your essay in the best class theories that you are going to focus on. For example, a basic society is divided into three classes: namely the employed ones the "central" class and the "high" class. For your work to be easier, refer to more than one theory in your social essay, as you base your work on one.
  • Be a bit precise in the manner you approach your essay. Put in mind that there are different classes within different social status.  You need to include these classes to make your essay a stronger one. To strengthen your essays refer your work more to the "lower class" and "skilled or unskilled laborers" instead of putting more emphasis on the employed.
  • Note that society normally shifts class boundaries with time in different levels. The reason behind this is because the society is inherently fluid, with an upward mobility being the contributing force change within social classes. For example a profession which was regarded as "working class" one hundred years ago may be taken as a "center class" now, or the other way round. Never make an assumption like class margins are stagnant all through. The rise of the "middle class” in the developed world improved greatly after the Industrial Revolution.
  • Avoid making general assumption about any specific class; just the same as you would never do the same about race or background so do not make assumptions about social classes.

Now discussing:

Social class

We are aware that there are a variety of different types of stratification however social class is the main area of division in people. A number of different theories have been made to bring together an explanation on the ways social class is viewed and how society notices this effect. I will give comparison of Marx and Weber’s perspectives on social class and inequality will be made, as we know it is quiet debatable on who’s view is correct but I will compare and contrast the similarities and differences finally weighing up a discussion to see both sides of the views.

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The main difference between Marx & Weber is that Marx concentrates on the hardship of class and he sees the economical status and ownership side for example: he sees a variety of differences in status; education, gender, religion or simply just based amongst the skills you have. He believes that class can be judged through how much money you earn & ownership of businesses or properties or both.

According to (H.Bradley 1992), he stated “that classes would never mix due to their internal division. For example again, business and property owners had a similarity in the position of the class than people who were poor and couldn’t afford to keep a property. There was a barrier of these classes mixing due to their difference of their economical view. (H.Bradley (1992) Weber however sees the importance of status with a much more complex view on class as he looks at a range of different social factors such as education, medicine, jobs and hobbies that make an impact on inequality.

It was argued by Marx that there are two main forms of social classes; subject class & ruling class. Marx put across these two classes as the “Bourgeoisie & Proletariat or capitalists and the landless wage workers” (Bilton et al, 1996, pg142). According to Bilton (1996) It was believed by Marx that the bourgeoisie uses an approach of production in the capitalism form to distress the proletariat, were as the production owners bourgeoisie use workers that are proletariat labour for their production of their valued items. The wealthy (bourgeoisie) pay the poor (proletariat) with low paid amount of cash to make their profits of the highest value possible. This means that Marx’s theory depends upon the relationship of the person of the production that makes an outcome of their class in the internal workplace & also the external society. (Leo Bradly Library, Haralambos & Holborn 2002 pg 34) Marx & Weber agree with Biltons ideas but, they also have a concept of contradiction called Mutual dependence and conflicts. The way the society is run both the wealthy and poor benefit and have dependence of one another.

The wealthy depends upon the poor’s labour to increase their value of production & the poor depend upon the wealthy for financial dependence. Having stated this, it doesn’t mean that the wealthy (bourgeoisie) & the poor (proletariat) form equality in status. This could be demonstrated in Marx’s theory through production & ownership in a society which involves capitalism. Weber agreed with the theory of Marx’s class distinction between the wealthy & the poor there was an argument being made that the understanding of social inequality was needed in terms of categories and numbers which cannot be capable of reducing nothing more than to the relation of economic property for example; the person who owns the factories or land is seen as important person in the position they are socially however this is only one way of maintaining social stratification. It was understood that Weber showed more interest in one person individual value of the market, this meant their skills, educational level, how much knowledge they have. Having these skills this one person will have a chance to experience more opportunities to increase their living standard & push their career forward. “Skilled manual workers, for example, will be more highly rewarded then unskilled laborers because of their training & expertise, while the middle- class groupings have various levels of qualification, education & training to offer.”(H Bradley (1992: pg197).

Weber made a significant difference to Marx’s theory; he believed in groups with held a status. class was defined as “unequal distribution of economic rewards” where as a status group was an “unequal distribution of social honor” (Giddens, 1991, pg212) According to Haralambos (2002 pg34) a status group is described as a “group made up of individuals who are awarded a similar amount of social honor and therefore share the same status stratification” (Haralambos & Holborn (2002), pg 37). In the present British Society social class is greatly influential on our everyday lives it affects each day of career, health & housing. In Britain during the 1990’s there wasn’t much of a great change in sources that a trend of class inequality being decreased. According to Haralambos and Holborn (2002) close attention was paid to the ‘closing gap’ of inequality for example the socio-economic group & attributes of employment was influenced by social class for many centuries. Repeatedly the working classes have only been given the chance to work in an unskilled occupation or one which was half skilled, given that their class showed their knowledge & educational level they were unable to move up the socio- economic hierarchy, this matches Marx’s idea of a culture with capitalism involved. There are many ways on how Marx & Weber’s theories are influential in the Modern Century in today’s British Society. Marx’s Social Stratification and class theory played an important part on how we live our lives in this modern society today. Marx’s view was social class is based the things that you own or may not for example you own more than one property you are seen as a upper class.

The nature of people is that if you are from the same classes locate in a similar area, then you may for example attend clubs or educational institutions parents send their children to will be in with the same class this creates a barrier of mixing with other classes as they will be a division of communities. According to Marx he named people who own businesses, capitalists & he named the people who worked for these business owners, proletariat. This shows that Marx judges class by ownership of a resource that is economical. Marx’s view on capitalists & proletariat class can be seen on our living ways in the modern society as the ones who live away from everyone are the rich, this may show inequality in our society. For people from the higher class locate in other areas as they see this division as a preference. People of the working class simply lack affordability to locate in the same areas as the upper class. This brings in the expense of these houses as working class cannot afford it parents will not be able to afford to live in these expensive areas which means they will have to send their children to schools in their surroundings. The parents that can’t afford to live in a decent area are at a disadvantage. (Giddens 1991) Furthermore, Marx gave us a lot of other perspectives & class descriptions; class was used to explain were groups of people located. This theory of location can be seen in modern society, as it is based on the class of people it shows where this person maybe living. Marx also stated that social class is made by economic process & capitalism. Marx’s idea can be seen in today’s society as capitalism plays a vital role in society. If a person owns a business or a property they have more chance of being seen in the upper class. It was also said by Marx that social class can be used in a critical point of view. This idea is applied in this modern time as people are stereotypical and state who’s rich or poor. (Bilton et al 1996) Weber argued that as various classes existed, with social respect or status is the important factor during a decision of the class the people are in. Marx felt that the key factor was wealth when a class is being determined.

Weber agreed on the importance of wealth, however his idea was that Marx’s view was not complex enough & that it was too simplistic. Weber theory was that there was alot more to determining someone’s social class then to purely judge it on their economical status. He felt that respect & power should be considered, & that judging a person on their economical status isn’t enough. (Taylor et al 1997) Marx’s points are useful about class, however Weber’s points were more complex more detail was applied of why we may easily match into one class than the other one. His idea came across as in order to be put in the right direction of judging someone’s class you would have to know more about them other than their ownership. According to Weber, the lifestyle of a person or way they may behave relates to class a lot more. (Giddens 1991) In my opinion I think this theory fits in correctly in how our lives are lived today. Someone’s lifestyle depends upon whether or not they could afford they will experience luxuries for example taking a holiday, having the extra money to spend or even buying something new. When someone sets their lifestyle out this is when they choose to associate with people who have similar or same interests as each other. People who share the same interests are more likely to be friends and locate near each other. It’s like they only associate to that one type of friend.

The concept of close living was in a distance from Marx, but on the other hand this was explored into more detail to make us see that economical status doesn’t only just determine a person’s class. If similar interests are shared then these people are more likely to be around each other, friendship is usually made through what their hobbies are for example, playing trumpet or live concerts etc. Through this inequality is shown between a lot of people because, people might not be able to afford to attend live concerts. Similar interests assume the reason why different classes tend to be around each other more. In Weber’s theory he talks about life chances that people may have or not. These life chances are along the lines of the basis of health care, education, career opportunities etc. The people that experience different life chances are the people that are in a different class. This section of Weber theory is used quite well in today’s modern society especially in the Caribbean due to there are a lot of us who know that we haven’t got the connections of class to help reach a certain educational institute or have a decent job.

On the other hand there are people who have connections within their family who can help them further their future. (Haralambos & Holborn 2002) In conclusion, although Marx and Weber have made useful explanations on class description, I feel that Weber has explained better how people get separated into different classes. This is because Weber talks about a range of different social factors for example; medicine, education, jobs & hobbies that made an explanation on why there is a lot of inequality. Looking at Weber’s theory it seems that inequality is something we might never be able to take away. The reason for this is because, some people set out to start out with an advantage for example living in a wealthy area like kings park with both parents & complete access to education, health care & career opportunities and other people may start out with poverty with a single parent who doesn’t make enough money for survival even with the help of benefits. It is debatable who is correct because Marx wrote he’s theories in the 1860’s and 1870’s and maybe life was judged with the economical status and ownership in the 1800’s. Weber wrote he’s theories in the early 1990’s maybe he started to see that lifestyle point of view that Marx never saw in the 1860’s and 70’s.

Book: Haralambos & Holborn 2002 (Leo Bradly Library)
Anthony Giddens, 1991
William H. Bradley

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