Name of Music Video: “Working Class Hero.” The song was written and performed by English singer John Lennon, who achieved fame in the Beatles. The song was released in 1971 and later received several covers from other famous artists – David Bowie, Marilyn Manson, Green Day (London, para. 8-10). Thesis Statement: I argue that although John Lennon comes from the middle class, his song “Working Class Hero” conveys the conflict and inequality between the wealthy bourgeoisie and poor workers presented by the Marxist perspective.
“Working Class Hero” is a composition that criticizes the social stratification of society, in which representatives of the working class are constantly oppressed. The song also emphasizes the difficulties for people to achieve social mobility and go beyond the class in which they were born. Constant pressure and manipulation do not allow people to improve their quality of life and inspire fear. The theory of conflict, taking its origins in the works of Karl Marx, is suitable for analyzing this song. According to this approach, society is divided into the bourgeoisie (owners) and the proletariat (workers), and the first dominate the other group, generating inequality.
Through criticism of the social stratification, “Working Class Hero” draws attention to the inequity problem, arguing that powerful group establishes social rules and relations, making the working class and its oppression, constant phenomena.
Evidence from the song
The song begins with the words, “As soon as you’re born they make you feel small,” indicating class inequality from birth (“Working Class Hero” 00: 06-00: 10). The fourth verse indicates manipulation through television and other measures to make the oppressed think that they are free, but this does not abolish their position as “peasants” (“Working Class Hero” 02:05 – 02:32). The difficulties of social mobility, gaining power, and critiques are transmitted in the sixth verse claiming that it is necessary to change self and learn “how to smile as you kill” to become influential (“Working Class Hero” 02: 46-03: 04).
Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. The German Ideology.
Marx and Engels argue that, although a minority, the ruling class has more power and can use it to suppress workers. At the same time, the ideas of representatives of the authorities become dominant in society since the rich have the opportunity and time to develop them (Marx and Engels 65). Workers, in turn, become passive and receptive because they have less time to create ideas and illusions about themselves.
Joseph A Kotarba. Understanding Society Through Popular Music.
As part of the theory of conflict, sociologists consider music as a measure of a dominant group to keep others subordinate or as a resistance of an oppressed group (Kotarba 5). Considering “Working Class Hero,” the song is a vivid example of protest against economic inequality.
Antony S. R. Manstead. “The Psychology of Social Class: How socioeconomic Status Impacts Thought, Feelings, and Behaviour.”
Manstead (267) argues that class, and accordingly material conditions, where a person is born and grew up affects behavior, ways of thinking, and life. Differences make it difficult for the working class to obtain benefits and opportunities to improve social mobility.
The song “Working Class Hero,” originally released by John Lennon, presents criticism of social stratification and inequality, correlating with the Marxist perspective on conflict theory. “Working Class Hero” emphasizes that the working class is suppressed by the group that has more power. The song also points to manipulation towards society and difficulties in achieving social mobility. The ideas and problems raised in “Working Class Hero” are relevant for modern society and are being investigated by various sociologists.
Kotarba, Joseph A. Understanding Society Through Popular Music. Routledge, 2017.
London, Amanda. “John Lennon’s “Working Class Hero” Lyrics Meaning.” Song Meanings and Facts. 2020. Web.
Manstead, Antony S. R. “The Psychology of Social Class: How socioeconomic Status Impacts Thought, Feelings, and Behaviour.” British Journal of Social Psychology, vol. 57, no. 2, 2018, pp. 267-291.
Marx, Karl, and Frederick Engels. The German Ideology. Edited by C. J. Arthur, Lawrence & Wishart, 1970. Web.
“Working Class Hero. (Ultimate Mix, 2020) – John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band (official music video HD).” YouTube, uploaded by johnlennon. 2016. Web.