Social class

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From top-left to bottom-right or from top to bottom (mobile): a samurai and his servant, c. 1846; Udvary The Slave Trader, painting by Géza Udvary, unknown date; a butler places a telephone call, 1922; The Bower Garden, painting by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1859

A social class is a set of 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, [1] the most common being the upper, middle and lower classes.

Social stratification Population with similar characteristics in a society

Social stratification is a kind of social differentiation whereby members of society are grouped into socioeconomic strata, based upon their occupation and income, wealth and social status, or derived power. As such, stratification is the relative social position of persons within a social group, category, geographic region, or social unit.

Dominance hierarchy is a type of social hierarchy that arises when members of a social group interact, to create a ranking system. In social living groups, members are likely to compete for access to limited resources and mating opportunities. Rather than fighting each time they meet, relative rank is established between members of the same sex. Based on repetitive interactions a social order is created that is subject to change each time a dominant animal is challenged by a subordinate one.

The upper class in modern societies is the social class composed of people who hold the highest social status, usually are the wealthiest members of society, and wield the greatest political power. According to this view, the upper class is generally distinguished by immense wealth which is passed on from generation to generation. Prior to the 20th century, the emphasis was on aristocracy, which emphasized generations of inherited noble status, not just recent wealth.

Contents

"Class" is a subject of analysis for sociologists, political scientists, anthropologists and social historians. However, there is not a consensus on a definition of "class" and the term has a wide range of sometimes conflicting meanings. Some people argue that due to social mobility, class boundaries do not exist. In common parlance, the term "social class" is usually synonymous with "socio-economic class", defined as "people having the same social, economic, cultural, political or educational status", e.g., "the working class"; "an emerging professional class". [2] However, academics distinguish social class and socioeconomic status, with the former referring to one's relatively stable sociocultural background and the latter referring to one's current social and economic situation and consequently being more changeable over time. [3]

Social history, often called the new social history, is a field of history that looks at the lived experience of the past. In its "golden age" it was a major growth field in the 1960s and 1970s among scholars, and still is well represented in history departments in Britain, Canada, France, Germany, and the United States. In the two decades from 1975 to 1995, the proportion of professors of history in American universities identifying with social history rose from 31% to 41%, while the proportion of political historians fell from 40% to 30%. In the history departments of British and Irish universities in 2014, of the 3410 faculty members reporting, 878 (26%) identified themselves with social history while political history came next with 841 (25%).

Social mobility is the movement of individuals, families, households, or other categories of people within or between social strata in a society. It is a change in social status relative to one's current social location within a given society.

Socioeconomic status Economic and social measure of a persons affluence and/or influence

Socioeconomic status (SES) is an economic and sociological combined total measure of a person's work experience and of an individual's or family's economic and social position in relation to others, based on household income, earners' education, and occupation are examined, as well as combined income, whereas for an individual's SES only their own attributes are assessed. However, SES is more commonly used to depict an economic difference in society as a whole.

The precise measurements of what determines social class in society have varied over time. Karl Marx thought "class" was defined by one's relationship to the means of production (their relations of production). His simple understanding of classes in modern capitalist society is the proletariat, those who work but do not own the means of production; and the bourgeoisie, those who invest and live off the surplus generated by the proletariat's operation of the means of production. This contrasts with the view of the sociologist Max Weber, who argued "class" is determined by economic position, in contrast to "social status" or "Stand" which is determined by social prestige rather than simply just relations of production. [4] The term "class" is etymologically derived from the Latin classis, which was used by census takers to categorize citizens by wealth in order to determine military service obligations. [5]

Karl Marx German philosopher, economist, historian, sociologist, political theorist and journalist

Karl Marx was a German philosopher, economist, historian, sociologist, political theorist, journalist and socialist revolutionary.

In economics and sociology, the means of production are physical and non-financial inputs used in the production of economic value. These include raw materials, facilities, machinery and tools used in the production of goods and services. In the terminology of classical economics, the means of production are the "factors of production" minus financial and human capital.

Relations of production Concept in Marxism

Relations of production is a concept frequently used by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in their theory of historical materialism and in Das Kapital. It is first explicitly used in Marx's published book The Poverty of Philosophy, although Marx and Engels had already defined the term in The German Ideology.

In the late 18th century, the term "class" began to replace classifications such as estates, rank and orders as the primary means of organizing society into hierarchical divisions. This corresponded to a general decrease in significance ascribed to hereditary characteristics and increase in the significance of wealth and income as indicators of position in the social hierarchy. [6] [7]

Estates of the realm broad social orders of the hierarchically conceived society recognised in the Middle Ages and Early Modern period in Christian Europe

The estates of the realm, or three estates, were the broad orders of social hierarchy used in Christendom from the medieval period to early modern Europe. Different systems for dividing society members into estates developed and evolved over time.

Nobility Official privileged social class

Nobility is a social class normally ranked immediately under royalty and found in some societies that have a formal aristocracy. Nobility possesses more acknowledged privileges and higher social status than most other classes in society. The privileges associated with nobility may constitute substantial advantages over or relative to non-nobles, or may be largely honorary, and vary by country and era. As referred to in the Medieval chivalric motto noblesse oblige, nobles can also carry a lifelong duty to uphold various social responsibilities, such as honorable behavior, customary service, or leadership positions. Membership in the nobility, including rights and responsibilities, is typically hereditary.

A religious order is a lineage of communities and organizations of people who live in some way set apart from society in accordance with their specific religious devotion, usually characterized by the principles of its founder's religious practice. The order is composed of laypeople and, in some orders, clergy. Religious orders exist in many of the world's religions.

History

Burmese nobles and servants Burmese nobles.JPG
Burmese nobles and servants

Historically, social class and behavior were laid down in law. For example, permitted mode of dress in some times and places was strictly regulated, with sumptuous dressing only for the high ranks of society and aristocracy, whereas sumptuary laws stipulated the dress and jewelry appropriate for a person's social rank and station. In Europe, these laws became increasingly commonplace during the Middle Ages. However, these laws were prone to change due to societal changes, and in many cases, these distinctions may either almost disappear, such as the distinction between a patrician and a plebeian being almost erased during the late Roman Republic.

Aristocracy is a form of government that places strength in the hands of a small, privileged ruling class. The term derives from the Greek aristokratia, meaning 'rule of the best'.

Sumptuary law law intended to control consumption, particulary such a law regulating apparel and textiles which may be worn by people of specified social strata

Sumptuary laws are laws that attempt to regulate consumption; Black's Law Dictionary defines them as "Laws made for the purpose of restraining luxury or extravagance, particularly against inordinate expenditures in the matter of apparel, food, furniture, etc." Historically, they were laws that were intended to regulate and reinforce social hierarchies and morals through restrictions, on their permitted clothing, food, and luxury expenditures, often depending upon a person's social rank.

Social status position within social structure

Social status definition means a measurement of a social value. Some writers have also referred to a socially valued role or category a person occupies as a "status". Status is based in beliefs about who members of a society believe holds comparatively more or less social value. By definition, these beliefs are broadly shared among members of a society. As such, people use status hierarchies to allocate resources, leadership positions, and other forms of power. In doing so, these shared cultural beliefs make unequal distributions of resources and power appear natural and fair, supporting systems of social stratification. Status hierarchies appear to be universal across human societies, affording valued benefits to those who occupy the higher rungs, such as better health, social approval, resources, influence, and freedom.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau had a large influence over political ideals of the French Revolution because of his views of inequality and classes. Rousseau saw humans as "naturally pure and good." He believed that social problems arise through the development of society and suppressing the innate pureness of humankind. He also believed that private property, people having sole ownership of a good, is the main reason for social issues in society. Even though his theory predicted if there were no private property then there would be wide spread equality, Rousseau accepted that there will always be social inequality because of how society is run and viewed. [8]

Later Enlightenment thinkers viewed inequality as valuable and crucial to society's development and prosperity. They also acknowledged that private property will ultimately cause inequality because specific resources that are privately owned can be stored and the owners profit off of the deficit of the resource. [9]

Theoretical models

Definitions of social classes reflect a number of sociological perspectives, informed by anthropology, economics, psychology and sociology. The major perspectives historically have been Marxism and structural functionalism. The common stratum model of class divides society into a simple hierarchy of working class, middle class and upper class. Within academia, two broad schools of definitions emerge: those aligned with 20th-century sociological stratum models of class society and those aligned with the 19th-century historical materialist economic models of the Marxists and anarchists. [10] [11] [12]

Another distinction can be drawn between analytical concepts of social class, such as the Marxist and Weberian traditions, as well as the more empirical traditions such as socio-economic status approach, which notes the correlation of income, education and wealth with social outcomes without necessarily implying a particular theory of social structure. [13]

Marxist

"[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 on June 1919

For Marx, class is a combination of objective and subjective factors. Objectively, a class shares a common relationship to the means of production. Subjectively, the members will necessarily have some perception ("class consciousness") of their similarity and common interest. Class consciousness is not simply an awareness of one's own class interest but is also a set of shared views regarding how society should be organized legally, culturally, socially and politically. These class relations are reproduced through time.

In Marxist theory, the class structure of the capitalist mode of production is characterized by the conflict between two main classes: the bourgeoisie, the capitalists who own the means of production and the much larger proletariat (or "working class") who must sell their own labour power (wage labour). This is the fundamental economic structure of work and property, a state of inequality that is normalized and reproduced through cultural ideology.

For Marxists, every person in the process of production has separate social relationships and issues. Along with this, every person is placed into different groups that have similar interests and values that can differ drastically from group to group. Class is special in that does not relate to specifically to a singular person, but to a specific role. [14]

Marxists explain the history of "civilized" societies in terms of a war of classes between those who control production and those who produce the goods or services in society. In the Marxist view of capitalism, this is a conflict between capitalists (bourgeoisie) and wage-workers (the proletariat). For Marxists, class antagonism is rooted in the situation that control over social production necessarily entails control over the class which produces goods—in capitalism this is the exploitation of workers by the bourgeoisie. [15]

Furthermore, "in countries where modern civilisation has become fully developed, a new class of petty bourgeois has been formed". [16] "An industrial army of workmen, under the command of a capitalist, requires, like a real army, officers (managers) and sergeants (foremen, over-lookers) who, while the work is being done, command in the name of the capitalist". [17]

Marx makes the argument that, as the bourgeoisie reach a point of wealth accumulation, they hold enough power as the dominant class to shape political institutions and society according to their own interests. Marx then goes on to claim that the non-elite class, owing to their large numbers, have the power to overthrow the elite and create an equal society. [18]

In The Communist Manifesto , Marx himself argued that it was the goal of the proletariat itself to displace the capitalist system with socialism, changing the social relationships underpinning the class system and then developing into a future communist society in which: "the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all". This would mark the beginning of a classless society in which human needs rather than profit would be motive for production. In a society with democratic control and production for use, there would be no class, no state and no need for financial and banking institutions and money. [19] [20]

These theorists have taken this binary class system and expanded it to include contradictory class locations, the idea that a person can be employed in many different class locations that fall between the two classes of proletariat and bourgeoisie. Erik Olin Wright stated that class definitions are more diverse and elaborate through identifying with multiple classes, having familial ties with people in different a class, or having a temporary leadership role. [21]

Weberian

Max Weber formulated a three-component theory of stratification that saw social class as emerging from an interplay between "class", "status" and "power". Weber believed that class position was determined by a person's relationship to the means of production, while status or "Stand" emerged from estimations of honor or prestige. [22]

Weber views class as a group of people who have common goals and opportunities that are available to them. This means that what separates each class from each other is their value in the marketplace through their own goods and services. This creates a divide between the classes through the assets that they have such as property and expertise. [23]

Weber derived many of his key concepts on social stratification by examining the social structure of many countries. He noted that contrary to Marx's theories, stratification was based on more than simply ownership of capital. Weber pointed out that some members of the aristocracy lack economic wealth yet might nevertheless have political power. Likewise in Europe, many wealthy Jewish families lacked prestige and honor because they were considered members of a "pariah group".

Great British Class Survey

On April 2, 2013, the results of a survey [24] conducted by BBC Lab UK developed in collaboration with academic experts and slated to be published in the journal Sociology were published online. [25] [26] [27] [28] [29] The results released were based on a survey of 160,000 residents of the United Kingdom most of whom lived in England and described themselves as "white". Class was defined and measured according to the amount and kind of economic, cultural and social resources reported. Economic capital was defined as income and assets; cultural capital as amount and type of cultural interests and activities; and social capital as the quantity and social status of their friends, family and personal and business contacts. [28] This theoretical framework was developed by Pierre Bourdieu who first published his theory of social distinction in 1979.

Common three-stratum model

Today, concepts of social class often assume three general categories: a very wealthy and powerful upper class that owns and controls the means of production; a middle class of professional workers, small business owners and low-level managers; and a lower class, who rely on low-paying wage jobs for their livelihood and often experience poverty.

Upper class

A symbolic image of three orders of feudal society in Europe prior to the French Revolution, which shows the rural third estate carrying the clergy and the nobility Troisordres.jpg
A symbolic image of three orders of feudal society in Europe prior to the French Revolution, which shows the rural third estate carrying the clergy and the nobility

The upper class [30] is the social class composed of those who are rich, well-born, powerful, or a combination of those. They usually wield the greatest political power. In some countries, wealth alone is sufficient to allow entry into the upper class. In others, only people who are born or marry into certain aristocratic bloodlines are considered members of the upper class and those who gain great wealth through commercial activity are looked down upon by the aristocracy as nouveau riche . [31] In the United Kingdom, for example, the upper classes are the aristocracy and royalty, with wealth playing a less important role in class status. Many aristocratic peerages or titles have seats attached to them, with the holder of the title (e.g. Earl of Bristol) and his family being the custodians of the house, but not the owners. Many of these require high expenditures, so wealth is typically needed. Many aristocratic peerages and their homes are parts of estates, owned and run by the title holder with moneys generated by the land, rents or other sources of wealth. However, in the United States where there is no aristocracy or royalty, the upper class status belongs to the extremely wealthy, the so-called "super-rich", though there is some tendency even in the United States for those with old family wealth to look down on those who have earned their money in business, the struggle between new money and old money.

The upper class is generally contained within the richest one or two percent of the population. Members of the upper class are often born into it and are distinguished by immense wealth which is passed from generation to generation in the form of estates. [32] Based on some new social and political theories upper class consists of the most wealthy decile group in society which holds nearly 87% of the whole society's wealth. [33]

Middle class

The middle class is the most contested of the three categories, the broad group of people in contemporary society who fall socio-economically between the lower and upper classes. [34] One example of the contest of this term is that in the United States "middle class" is applied very broadly and includes people who would elsewhere be considered working class. Middle-class workers are sometimes called "white-collar workers".

Theorists such as Ralf Dahrendorf have noted the tendency toward an enlarged middle class in modern Western societies, particularly in relation to the necessity of an educated work force in technological economies. [35] Perspectives concerning globalization and neocolonialism, such as dependency theory, suggest this is due to the shift of low-level labour to developing nations and the Third World. [36]

There is a new trend by some scholars which assumes that the size of the middle class in every society is the same. For example in paradox of interest theory, middle class are those who are in 6th-9th decile groups which hold nearly 12% of the whole society's wealth. [37]

Lower class

In the United States the lowest stratum of the working class, the underclass, often lives in urban areas with low-quality civil services Camden NJ poverty.jpg
In the United States the lowest stratum of the working class, the underclass, often lives in urban areas with low-quality civil services

Lower class (occasionally described as working class) are those employed in low-paying wage jobs with very little economic security. The term "lower class" also refers to persons with low income.

The working class is sometimes separated into those who are employed but lacking financial security (the "working poor") and an underclass—those who are long-term unemployed and/or homeless, especially those receiving welfare from the state. The latter is analogous to the Marxist term "lumpenproletariat". [30] Members of the working class are sometimes called blue-collar workers.

Consequences of class position

A person's socioeconomic class has wide-ranging effects. It can impact the schools they are able to attend, their health, the jobs open to them, who they may marry and their treatment by police and the courts. [38] [39] [40] [41] [42] [43] [44] [45]

Angus Deaton and Anne Case have analyzed the mortality rates related to the group of white, middle-aged Americans between the ages of 45 and 54 and its relation to class. There has been a growing number of suicides and deaths by substance abuse in this particular group of middle-class Americans. This group also has been recorded to have an increase in reports of chronic pain and poor general health. Deaton and Case came to the conclusion from these observations that because of the constant stress that these white, middle aged Americans feel fighting poverty and wavering between the middle and lower classes, these strains have taken a toll on these people and affected their whole bodies. [46]

Social classifications can also determine the sporting activities that such classes take part in. It is suggested that those of an upper social class are more likely to take part in sporting activities, whereas those of a lower social background are less likely to participate in sport. However, upper-class people tend to not take part in certain sports that have been commonly known to be linked with the lower class. [47]

Education

A person's social class has a significant impact on their educational opportunities. Not only are upper-class parents able to send their children to exclusive schools that are perceived to be better, but in many places, state-supported schools for children of the upper class are of a much higher quality than those the state provides for children of the lower classes. [48] [49] [50] [51] [52] [53] This lack of good schools is one factor that perpetuates the class divide across generations.

In 1977, British cultural theorist Paul Willis published a study titled "Learning to Labour" in which he investigated the connection between social class and education. In his study, he found that a group of working-class schoolchildren had developed an antipathy towards the acquisition of knowledge as being outside their class and therefore undesirable, perpetuating their presence in the working class. [54]

Health and nutrition

A person's social class has a significant impact on their physical health, their ability to receive adequate medical care and nutrition and their life expectancy. [55] [56] [57]

Lower-class people experience a wide array of health problems as a result of their economic status. They are unable to use health care as often and when they do it is of lower quality, even though they generally tend to experience a much higher rate of health issues. Lower-class families have higher rates of infant mortality, cancer, cardiovascular disease and disabling physical injuries. Additionally, poor people tend to work in much more hazardous conditions, yet generally have much less (if any) health insurance provided for them, as compared to middle- and upper-class workers. [58]

Employment

The conditions at a person's job vary greatly depending on class. Those in the upper-middle class and middle class enjoy greater freedoms in their occupations. They are usually more respected, enjoy more diversity and are able to exhibit some authority. [59] Those in lower classes tend to feel more alienated and have lower work satisfaction overall. The physical conditions of the workplace differ greatly between classes. While middle-class workers may "suffer alienating conditions" or "lack of job satisfaction", blue-collar workers are more apt to suffer alienating, often routine, work with obvious physical health hazards, injury and even death. [60]

A recent United Kingdom government study has suggested that a "glass floor" exists in British society which prevents those who are less able, but who come from wealthier backgrounds, from slipping down the social ladder. This is due to the fact that those from wealthier backgrounds have more opportunities available to them. In fact, the article shows that less able, better-off kids are 35% more likely to become high earners than bright poor kids. [61]

Class conflict

Class conflict, frequently referred to as "class warfare" or "class struggle", is the tension or antagonism which exists in society due to competing socioeconomic interests and desires between people of different classes.

For Marx, the history of class society was a history of class conflict. He pointed to the successful rise of the bourgeoisie and the necessity of revolutionary violence—a heightened form of class conflict—in securing the bourgeoisie rights that supported the capitalist economy.

Marx believed that the exploitation and poverty inherent in capitalism were a pre-existing form of class conflict. Marx believed that wage labourers would need to revolt to bring about a more equitable distribution of wealth and political power. [62] [63]

Classless society

"Classless society" refers to a society in which no one is born into a social class. Distinctions of wealth, income, education, culture or social network might arise and would only be determined by individual experience and achievement in such a society.

Since these distinctions are difficult to avoid, advocates of a classless society (such as anarchists and communists) propose various means to achieve and maintain it and attach varying degrees of importance to it as an end in their overall programs/philosophy.

Relationship between ethnicity and class

Equestrian portrait of Empress Elizabeth of Russia with a Moor servant Elizaveta with Black Servant by Grooth (1743, Hermitage).jpg
Equestrian portrait of Empress Elizabeth of Russia with a Moor servant

Race and other large-scale groupings can also influence class standing. The association of particular ethnic groups with class statuses is common in many societies. As a result of conquest or internal ethnic differentiation, a ruling class is often ethnically homogenous and particular races or ethnic groups in some societies are legally or customarily restricted to occupying particular class positions. Which ethnicities are considered as belonging to high or low classes varies from society to society.

In modern societies, strict legal links between ethnicity and class have been drawn, such as in apartheid, the caste system in Africa, the position of the Burakumin in Japanese society and the casta system in Latin America.[ citation needed ]

See also

Related Research Articles

Bourgeoisie polysemous French term which denotes the wealthy stratum of the middle class that originated during the latter part of the Middle Ages

Bourgeoisie is a polysemous French term that can mean:

The term middle class was coined by James Bradshaw in a 1745 pamphlet Scheme to prevent running Irish Wools to France. The term has had various, even contradictory, meanings. In medieval European feudal society, a "middle class" composed primarily of peasants who formed a new "bourgeoisie" based on the success of their mercantile ventures, eventually overthrew the ruling monarchists of their society and ultimately led to the rise of capitalist societies.

Conflict theories perspectives in sociology and social psychology that emphasize a materialist interpretation of history, dialectical method of analysis, a critical stance toward existing social arrangements, and political program of revolution or, at least, reform

Conflict theories are perspectives in sociology and social psychology that emphasize a materialist interpretation of history, dialectical method of analysis, a critical stance toward existing social arrangements, and political program of revolution or, at least, reform. Conflict theories draw attention to power differentials, such as class conflict, and generally contrast historically dominant ideologies. It is therefore a macro-level analysis of society.

The term social order can be used in two senses. In the first sense, it refers to a particular set or system of linked social structures, institutions, relations, customs, and enforce certain patterns of relating and behaving. Examples are the ancient, the feudal, and the capitalist social order. In the second sense, social order is contrasted to social chaos or disorder and refers to a stable state of society in which the existing social structure is accepted and maintained by its members. The problem of order or Hobbesian problem, which is central to much of sociology, political science and political philosophy, is the question of how and why it is that social orders exist at all.

Dominant ideology

In Marxist philosophy, the term dominant ideology denotes the attitudes, beliefs, values, and morals shared by the majority of the people in a given society. As a mechanism of social control, the dominant ideology frames how the majority of the population thinks about the nature of society, their place in society, and their connection to a social class.

Marxism Economic and sociopolitical worldview based on the works of Karl Marx

Marxism is a method of socioeconomic analysis that views class relations and social conflict using a materialist interpretation of historical development and takes a dialectical view of social transformation. It originates from the works of 19th-century German philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.

Economic determinism

Economic determinism is a socioeconomic theory that economic relationships are the foundation upon which all other societal and political arrangements in society are based. The theory stresses that societies are divided into competing economic classes whose relative political power is determined by the nature of the economic system. In the version associated with Karl Marx, the emphasis is on the proletariat who are considered to be locked in a class struggle with the capitalist class, which will eventually end with the revolutionary overthrow of the capitalist system and the gradual development of socialism. Marxist thinkers have dismissed plain and unilateral economic determinism as a form of "vulgar Marxism", or "economism", nowhere included in Marx's works.

Social conflict struggle for agency or power in society

Social conflict is the struggle for agency or power in society. Social conflict occurs when two or more actors oppose each other in social interaction, each exerts social power with reciprocity in an effort to achieve incompatible goals whilst preventing the other from attaining their own. It is a social relationship wherein action is intentionally oriented to carry out the actor's own will despite the resistance of others.

Class stratification is a form of social stratification in which a society tends to divide into separate classes whose members have different access to resources and power. An economic, natural, cultural, religious, interests and ideal rift usually exists between different classes. People are usually born into their class, though social mobility allows for some individuals to attain a higher-level class or fall to a lower-level one.

Social inequality uneven distribution of resources in a society

Social inequality occurs when resources in a given society are distributed unevenly, typically through norms of allocation, that engender specific patterns along lines of socially defined categories of persons. It is the differentiation preference of access of social goods in the society brought about by power, religion, kinship, prestige, race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, and class. The social rights include labor market, the source of income, health care, and freedom of speech, education, political representation, and participation. Social inequality linked to economic inequality, usually described on the basis of the unequal distribution of income or wealth, is a frequently studied type of social inequality. Although the disciplines of economics and sociology generally use different theoretical approaches to examine and explain economic inequality, both fields are actively involved in researching this inequality. However, social and natural resources other than purely economic resources are also unevenly distributed in most societies and may contribute to social status. Norms of allocation can also affect the distribution of rights and privileges, social power, access to public goods such as education or the judicial system, adequate housing, transportation, credit and financial services such as banking and other social goods and services.

The capitalist state is the state, its functions and the form of organization it takes within capitalist socioeconomic systems. This concept is often used interchangeably with the concept of the modern state, though there are many differences in sociological characteristics among capitalist states despite their common functions.

Marxian class theory asserts that an individual’s position within a class hierarchy is determined by their role in the production process, and argues that political and ideological consciousness is determined by class position. A class is those who share common economic interests, are conscious of those interests, and engage in collective action which advances those interests. Within Marxian class theory, the structure of the production process forms the basis of class construction.

Class consciousness

In political theory and particularly Marxism, class consciousness is the set of beliefs that a person holds regarding their social class or economic rank in society, the structure of their class, and their class interests. According to Karl Marx, it is an awareness that is key to sparking a revolution that would "create a dictatorship of the proletariat, transforming it from a wage-earning, property-less mass into the ruling class".

Working class Social class composed of members of the society employed in lower tier jobs

The working class comprises those engaged in waged or salaried labour, especially in manual-labour occupations and industrial work. Working-class occupations include blue-collar jobs, some white-collar jobs, and most pink-collar jobs. Members of the working class rely for their income exclusively upon their earnings from wage labour; thus, according to the more inclusive definitions, the category can include almost all of the working population of industrialized economies, as well as those employed in the urban areas of non-industrialized economies or in the rural workforce.

Marxist literary criticism

Marxist literary criticism is a loose term describing literary criticism based on socialist and dialectic theories. Marxist criticism views literary works as reflections of the social institutions from which they originate. Most Marxist critics who were writing in what could chronologically be specified as the early period of Marxist literary criticism subscribed to what has come to be called "Vulgar Marxism." In this thinking of the structure of societies, literary texts are one register of the Superstructure, which is determined by the economic Base of any given society. Therefore, literary texts are a reflection of the economic Base rather than "the social institutions from which they originate" for all social institutions, or, more precisely human social relationships, are in the final analysis determined by the economic Base. According to Marxists, even literature itself is a social institution and has a specific ideological function, based on the background and ideology of the author. The English literary critic and cultural theorist Terry Eagleton defines Marxist criticism this way:

Marxist criticism is not merely a 'sociology of literature', concerned with how novels get published and whether they mention the working class. Its aim is to explain the literary work more fully; and this means a sensitive attention to its forms, styles and, meanings. But it also means grasping those forms, styles and meanings as the product of a particular history.

Class conflict tension or antagonism which exists in society due to competing socioeconomic interests

Class conflict is the political tension and economic antagonism that exists in society consequent to socio-economic competition among the social classes.

<i>Das Kapital</i> Book by Karl Marx

Das Kapital, also called Capital. A Critique of Political Economy by Karl Marx is a foundational theoretical text in materialist philosophy, economics and politics. Marx aimed to reveal the economic patterns underpinning the capitalist mode of production in contrast to classical political economists such as Adam Smith, Jean-Baptiste Say, David Ricardo and John Stuart Mill. While Marx did not live to publish the planned second and third parts, they were both completed from his notes and published after his death by his colleague Friedrich Engels. Das Kapital is the most cited book in the social sciences published before 1950.

Proletariat The class of wage-earners in an economic society whose only possession of significant material value is their labour-power

The proletariat is the class of wage-earners in an economic society whose only possession of significant material value is their labour-power. A member of such a class is a proletarian.

Historical materialism Marxist historiography

Historical materialism, also known as the materialist conception of history, is a methodology used by some communist and Marxist historiographers that focuses on human societies and their development through history, arguing that history is the result of material conditions rather than ideas. This was first articulated by Karl Marx (1818–1883) as the "materialist conception of history". It is principally a theory of history which asserts that the material conditions of a society's mode of production or in Marxist terms, the union of a society's productive forces and relations of production, fundamentally determine society's organization and development. Historical materialism is an example of Marx and Engel's scientific socialism, attempting to show that socialism and communism are scientific necessities rather than philosophical ideals.

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Further reading