Just Sociology

The Impact of Class Structure and Luck on Success

Class structure and luck are two vital concepts that have a significant impact on individuals’ lives. The former has long-term, foundational impacts that shape our experiences, while the latter can determine life-changing outcomes.

In this article, we will explore the impact of class structure on working-class individuals by using Frances’ dropping out of University of Durham as a case study. We will also analyze this situation using Marxist theory.

Furthermore, we will examine the role of luck in Alana’s victory in The Apprentice 2016 and discuss the myth of meritocracy.

The impact of class structure on working-class individuals

Frances’ dropping out of University of Durham

Frances was a bright student who came from a working-class background. She was the first person in her family to attend university, but she struggled to fit in at the University of Durham due to her material disadvantage and lack of cultural capital.

Frances had grown up in a household with limited resources and access to social and cultural experiences that are common among students from middle-class backgrounds. Therefore, she found it challenging to navigate her way through the university’s elite social circles, which were dominated by middle-class values and norms.

This lack of cultural capital had a significant impact on Frances’ experience at the University of Durham. She felt out of place and struggled to find her place in the university’s social hierarchy.

As a result, Frances was forced to drop out of university, highlighting the material disadvantage that working-class individuals face in elite universities.

Theoretical explanation using Marxist perspective

Using Marxist theory, we can understand Frances’ situation as a form of alienation, anomie, and material disadvantage. According to Marx’s theory, the economic structure of society is the primary determinant of an individual’s experiences.

The means of production, which are controlled by the ruling class, shape the working class’s experiences and limit their opportunities. Marx argues that capitalism divides society into two classes: the bourgeoisie (ruling class) and the proletariat (working class).

The bourgeoisie owns the means of production and therefore controls the working-class individuals by exploiting them. Additionally, Marx suggests that this structure causes anomie, which is a state of normlessness and moral confusion that occurs when individuals cannot find their place in society.

This was the case for Frances, who felt out of place due to her lack of cultural capital and the university’s middle-class values. Furthermore, Marx’s theory emphasizes that the ruling class controls the cultural capital, which is a form of knowledge and habitus that enables individuals to assert their dominance over others.

And because the bourgeoisie controls access to cultural capital, working-class individuals are not adequately prepared to navigate elite social circles, which results in their social exclusion. This was the case for Frances, who lacked the cultural capital necessary to navigate the university and its coveted social circles.

The role of luck in Alana’s victory on The Apprentice 2016

How luck played a part in Alana’s success

In The Apprentice 2016, Alana Spencer, a young entrepreneur from Wales, was crowned as the winner. Alana’s success on the show can be attributed to a combination of luck, chance, and opportunity.

She was fortunate enough to be selected to participate in the show, provided with a conducive environment, and given the chance to demonstrate her skills. Furthermore, Alana was privileged to have access to resources and opportunities that allowed her to develop skills and knowledge necessary for success in the business world.

Her family owned a successful bakery, which helped her develop business acumen from an early age, giving her an upper hand during the competition.

The myth of meritocracy

Alana’s success also highlights the myth of meritocracy, which implies that individuals achieve success based on their hard work, talent, and abilities. However, this is not always the case, as Alana’s story demonstrates.

Studies have shown that social and economic factors such as wealth, privilege, and inequality play a significant role in determining an individual’s success. Alana’s story emphasizes that success often requires access to resources and opportunities.

Therefore, the myth of meritocracy persists since structures that are supposed to level the playing field, such as education, are often rigged in favor of the privileged. In this way, society continues to perpetuate the myth that success is solely the result of merit, when in reality, it is often a combination of chance, privilege, and luck.


Class structure and luck are two integral concepts that impact individuals’ experiences and outcomes. Frances’ situation at the University of Durham demonstrates the material disadvantage and cultural capital limitations that working-class individuals face in elite universities.

Meanwhile, Alana’s success on The Apprentice 2016 highlights the role of privilege and the myth of meritocracy in achieving success. Our understanding of these concepts and their effects on individuals helps us evaluate and critique society’s structures and spot power imbalances.

In conclusion, this article has explored the impact of class structure on working-class individuals using Frances’ dropping out of University of Durham as a case study, examined this situation through a Marxist perspective, and analyzed the role of luck in Alana’s victory on The Apprentice 2016, while also dispelling the myth of meritocracy. Understanding the influence of class structure and luck is essential for comprehending and critiquing societal structures and power imbalances.

It is imperative to recognize the importance of fairness and equal opportunity for all individuals, regardless of their socio-economic background, race, or gender.


– What is class structure?

Class structure refers to the hierarchical arrangement of social and economic classes in society based on factors such as income, wealth, education, and occupation. – What is cultural capital?

Cultural capital refers to the cultural knowledge, skills, behaviors, and attitudes that enable individuals to navigate and succeed in social settings. – What is the myth of meritocracy?

The myth of meritocracy is the belief that everyone has equal opportunities and can achieve upward mobility based on their talents, abilities, and hard work. – What is alienation and anomie?

Alienation refers to the sense of separation and disconnection that occurs when individuals lose control of their work and their lives. Anomie refers to a state of normlessness and moral confusion that occurs when individuals cannot find their place in society.

– How important is luck in determining success? While hard work, talent, and ability are crucial factors in achieving success, luck and opportunities play a significant role as well, particularly in competitive fields.

– What can be done to ensure equal opportunities for all? Policies and programs that provide access to quality education, healthcare, and social services can help level the playing field and ensure equal opportunities for all individuals.

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