Ruling class

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The ruling class is the social class of a given society that decides upon and sets that society's political agenda.

Social class Hierarchical social stratification

A social class is a set of subjectively defined concepts in the social sciences and political theory centered on models of social stratification in which people are grouped into a set of hierarchical social categories, the most common being the upper, middle and lower classes.

Society Social group involved in persistent social interaction

A society is a group of individuals involved in persistent social interaction, or a large social group sharing the same geographical or social territory, typically subject to the same political authority and dominant cultural expectations. Societies are characterized by patterns of relationships between individuals who share a distinctive culture and institutions; a given society may be described as the sum total of such relationships among its constituent of members. In the social sciences, a larger society often exhibits stratification or dominance patterns in subgroups.

A political agenda is a list of subjects or problems to which government officials as well as individuals outside the government are paying serious attention at any given time. It is most often shaped by political and policy elites, but can also be influenced by non-governmental activist groups, private sector lobbyists, think tanks, courts, and world events. Media coverage has also been linked to the success of the rise of political parties and their ability to get their ideas on the agenda. Although the media does often have an effect on the political agenda, these results are not always immediate. When there is a great time difference between decisions and results it is called a political agenda lag.


Sociologist C. Wright Mills (1916–1962) argued that the ruling class differs from the power elite. The latter simply refers to the small group of people with the most political power. Many of them are politicians, hired political managers and/or military leaders. The ruling class are people who directly influence politics, education and government with the use of wealth or power. [1]

Sociology Scientific study of human society and its origins, development, organizations, and institutions

Sociology is the scientific study of society, patterns of social relationships, social interaction, and culture of everyday life. It is a social science that uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about social order, acceptance, and change or social evolution. While some sociologists conduct research that may be applied directly to social policy and welfare, others focus primarily on refining the theoretical understanding of social processes. Subject matter ranges from the micro-sociology level of individual agency and interaction to the macro level of systems and the social structure.

Charles Wright Mills was an American sociologist, and a professor of sociology at Columbia University from 1946 until his death in 1962. Mills was published widely in popular and intellectual journals, and is remembered for several books such as The Power Elite, which introduced that term and describes the relationships and class alliances among the US political, military, and economic elites; White Collar: The American Middle Classes, on the American middle class; and The Sociological Imagination, which presents a model of analysis for the interdependence of subjective experiences within a person's biography, the general social structure, and historical development.


Analogous to the class of the major capitalists, other modes of production give rise to different ruling classes: under feudalism it was the feudal lords while under slavery it was the slave-owners. Under the feudal society, feudal lords had power over the vassals because of their control of the fiefs. This gave them political and military power over the people. In slavery, because complete rights of the person's life belonged to the slave owner, they could and did every implementation that would help the production on the plantation. [2]

Mode of production Marxist economic theory

In the writings of Karl Marx and the Marxist theory of historical materialism, a mode of production is a specific combination of the following:

Feudalism combination of legal and military customs in medieval Europe

Feudalism was a combination of legal and military customs in medieval Europe that flourished between the 9th and 15th centuries. Broadly defined, it was a way of structuring society around relationships derived from the holding of land in exchange for service or labour. Although derived from the Latin word feodum or feudum (fief), then in use, the term feudalism and the system it describes were not conceived of as a formal political system by the people living in the Middle Ages. In its classic definition, by François-Louis Ganshof (1944), feudalism describes a set of reciprocal legal and military obligations among the warrior nobility revolving around the three key concepts of lords, vassals and fiefs.

Slavery System under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work

Slavery is any system in which principles of property law are applied to people, allowing individuals to own, buy and sell other individuals, as a de jure form of property. A slave is unable to withdraw unilaterally from such an arrangement and works without remuneration. Many scholars now use the term chattel slavery to refer to this specific sense of legalised, de jure slavery. In a broader sense, however, the word slavery may also refer to any situation in which an individual is de facto forced to work against their own will. Scholars also use the more generic terms such as unfree labour or forced labour to refer to such situations. However, and especially under slavery in broader senses of the word, slaves may have some rights and protections according to laws or customs.

In his recent studies on elites in contemporary societies, Mattei Dogan has argued that because of their complexity and their heterogeneity and particularly because of the social division of work and the multiple levels of stratification, there is not, or can not be, a coherent ruling class, even if in the past there were solid examples of ruling classes as in the Russian and Ottoman Empires and the more recent totalitarian regimes of the 20th century (Communist and Fascist).

Mattei Dogan French sociologist

Mattei Dogan was a Romanian-born French political sociologist and senior research officer emeritus of the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) and professor emeritus of political science of the University of California, Los Angeles. Over a period of 22 years, he also taught at UCLA, Indiana University, Yale University, the Institute of Statistical Mathematics in Tokyo, the University of Florence, and the Russian Academy of Sciences. He was a foreign honorary member of the Romanian Academy from 1992, and he received the CNRS Silver medal.

Russian Empire Former country, 1721–1917

The Russian Empire, also known as Imperial Russia or simply Russia, was an empire that existed across Eurasia and North America from 1721, following the end of the Great Northern War, until the Republic was proclaimed by the Provisional Government that took power after the February Revolution of 1917.

Ottoman Empire Former empire in Asia, Europe and Africa

The Ottoman Empire, historically known in Western Europe as the Turkish Empire or simply Turkey, was a state that controlled much of Southeast Europe, Western Asia and North Africa between the 14th and early 20th centuries. It was founded at the end of the 13th century in northwestern Anatolia in the town of Söğüt by the Oghuz Turkish tribal leader Osman I. After 1354, the Ottomans crossed into Europe, and with the conquest of the Balkans, the Ottoman beylik was transformed into a transcontinental empire. The Ottomans ended the Byzantine Empire with the 1453 conquest of Constantinople by Mehmed the Conqueror.

Milovan Djilas said that in a Communist regime the nomenklatura form a ruling class, which "benefited from the use, enjoyment, and disposition of material goods", thus controls all of the property and thus all of the wealth of the nation. Furthermore, he argued, the Communist bureaucracy was not an accidental mistake, but the central inherent aspect of the Communist system since a Communist regime would not be possible without the system of bureaucrats. [3]

The nomenklatura were a category of people within the Soviet Union and other Eastern Bloc countries who held various key administrative positions in the bureaucracy, running all spheres of those countries' activity: government, industry, agriculture, education, etc., whose positions were granted only with approval by the communist party of each country or region.

Globalization theorists argue that today a transnational capitalist class has emerged. [4]

Globalization or globalisation is the process of interaction and integration among people, companies, and governments worldwide. As a complex and multifaceted phenomenon, globalization is considered by some as a form of capitalist expansion which entails the integration of local and national economies into a global, unregulated market economy. Globalization has grown due to advances in transportation and communication technology. With the increased global interactions comes the growth of international trade, ideas, and culture. Globalization is primarily an economic process of interaction and integration that's associated with social and cultural aspects. However, conflicts and diplomacy are also large parts of the history of globalization, and modern globalization.

The transnational capitalist class, also known as the transnational capitalist network (TCN), in neo-Gramscian and other Marxian-influenced analyses of international political economy and globalization, is the global social stratum that controls supranational instruments of the global economy such as transnational corporations and political organs such as the World Trade Organization. In other words, it is "that segment of the world bourgeoisie that represents transnational capital". It is characteristically cosmopolitan and unconstrained by national boundaries. The transnational capitalist class is expressed as a global ruling class and essential players of global capitalism by William I. Robinson and Jerry Harris.

In the media

There are several examples of ruling class systems in movies, novels and television shows. The 2005 American independent film The American Ruling Class written by former Harper's Magazine editor Lewis Lapham and directed by John Kirby is a semi-documentary that examines how the American economy is structured and for whom. The 2017 Philippine political crime-suspense epic Wildflower is about a rich influential and corrupt political family the Ardientes ruling over a town where a wave of murders and crimes which they have committed washed over.

Society, in the novel Brave New World , by Aldous Huxley, is eusocial with a genetically engineered caste system. The alpha++ class is the ruling class having been bred as scientists and administrators and control the World State in the novel. This situation can also be found in the George Orwell novel Nineteen Eighty-Four where the inner party as symbolized by the fictitious Big Brother literally controls what everyone in the outer party hears, sees and learns, albeit without genetic engineering and on the model of Stalinist communism having taken over the Anglosphere (Oceania). In Oceania, the ignorant masses ("proles") are relatively free as they pose no threat to oligarchical collectivism ("Big Brother").

Examples in movies include Gattaca , where the genetically-born were superior and the ruling class; and V for Vendetta , which depicted a powerful totalitarian government in Britain. The comedic film The Ruling Class was a satire of British aristocracy, depicting nobility as self-serving and cruel, juxtaposed against an insane relative who believes that he is Jesus Christ, whom they identify as a "bloody Bolshevik".

See also

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  1. Codevilla, Angelo. "America's Ruling Class — And the Perils of Revolution". The American Spectator. 2 (July 2010): 19. Retrieved 14 July 2015.
  2. "Slave Ownership". Archived from the original on 2007-12-03.
  3. Wasserstein, Bernard (12 February 2009). Barbarism and Civilization: A History of Europe in our Time. OUP Oxford. ISBN   9780191622519.
  4. Transnational Capitalist Class Archived 2010-08-16 at the Wayback Machine

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