Upper class in modern societies is the social class composed of people who hold the highest social status, usually are the wealthiest members of class 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.
Because the upper classes of a society may no longer rule the society in which they are living, they are often referred to as the old upper classes, and they are often culturally distinct from the newly rich middle classes that tend to dominate public life in modern social democracies. According to the latter view held by the traditional upper classes, no amount of individual wealth or fame would make a person from an undistinguished background into a member of the upper class as one must be born into a family of that class and raised in a particular manner to understand and share upper class values, traditions, and cultural norms. The term is often used in conjunction with terms like upper-middle class, middle class, and working class as part of a model of social stratification.
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Historically in some cultures, members of an upper class often did not have to work for a living, as they were supported by earned or inherited investments (often real estate), although members of the upper class may have had less actual money than merchants.Upper-class status commonly derived from the social position of one's family and not from one's own achievements or wealth. Much of the population that composed the upper class consisted of aristocrats, ruling families, titled people, and religious hierarchs. These people were usually born into their status and historically there was not much movement across class boundaries.
In many countries, the term "upper class" was intimately associated with hereditary land ownership. Political power was often in the hands of the landowners in many pre-industrial societies despite there being no legal barriers to land ownership for other social classes. Upper-class landowners in Europe were often also members of the titled nobility, though not necessarily: the prevalence of titles of nobility varied widely from country to country. Some upper classes were almost entirely untitled, for example, the Szlachta of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth.[ citation needed ]
In the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland (before and after its secession from the United Kingdom in 1922), the "upper class" traditionally comprised the landed gentry and the aristocracy of noble families with hereditary titles. The vast majority of post-medieval aristocratic families originated in the merchant class and were ennobled between the 14th and 19th centuries while intermarrying with the old nobility and gentry.Since the Second World War , the term has come to encompass rich and powerful members of the managerial and professional classes as well.
In the United States, the upper class, as distinguished from the rich, is often considered to consist of those families that have for many generations enjoyed top social status based on their leadership in society. In this respect, the US differs little from countries such as the UK where membership of the 'upper class' is also dependent on other factors. In the United Kingdom, it has been said that class is relative to where you have come from, similar to the United States where class is more defined by who as opposed to how much; that is, in the UK and the US people are born into the upper class. The American upper class is estimated to constitute less than 1% of the population. By self-identification, according to this 2001–2012 Gallup Poll data, 98% of Americans identify with the 5 other class terms used, 48–50% identifying as "middle class".
The main distinguishing feature of the upper class is its ability to derive enormous incomes from wealth through techniques such as money management and investing, rather than engaging in wage-labor or salaried employment.Successful entrepreneurs, CEOs, politicians, investment bankers, venture capitalists, heirs to fortunes, some lawyers, top-flight physicians, and celebrities are considered members of this class by contemporary sociologists, such as James Henslin or Dennis Gilbert. There may be prestige differences between different upper-class households. An A-list actor, for example, might not be accorded as much prestige as a former U.S. President, yet all members of this class are so influential and wealthy as to be considered members of the upper class. At the pinnacle of U.S wealth, 2004 saw a dramatic increase in the numbers of billionaires. According to Forbes Magazine , there are now 374 U.S. billionaires. The growth in billionaires took a dramatic leap since the early 1980s, when the average net worth of the individuals on the Forbes 400 list was $400 million. Today, the average net worth is $2.8 billion.
Upper-class families... dominate corporate America and have a disproportionate influence over the nation's political, educational, religious, and other institutions. Of all social classes, members of the upper class also have a strong sense of solidarity and 'consciousness of kind' that stretches across the nation and even the globe.
Since the 1970s income inequality in the United States has been increasing, with the top 1% experiencing significantly larger gains in income than the rest of society.Alan Greenspan, former chair of the Federal Reserve, sees it as a problem for society, calling it a "very disturbing trend".
According to the book Who Rules America? by William Domhoff, the distribution of wealth in America is the primary highlight of the influence of the upper class. The top 1% of Americans own around 34% of the wealth in the U.S. while the bottom 80% own only approximately 16% of the wealth. This large disparity displays the unequal distribution of wealth in America in absolute terms.
In 1998, Bob Herbert of The New York Times referred to modern American plutocrats as "The Donor Class"(list of top donors) and defined the class, for the first time, as "a tiny group – just one-quarter of 1 percent of the population – and it is not representative of the rest of the nation. But its money buys plenty of access".
A plutocracy or plutarchy is a society that is ruled or controlled by people of great wealth or income. The first known use of the term in English dates from 1631. Unlike systems such as democracy, liberalism, socialism, communism or anarchism, plutocracy is not rooted in an established political philosophy.
A social class is a set of concepts in the social sciences and political theory centered on models of social stratification which occurs in class society, in which people are grouped into a set of hierarchical social categories, the most common being the upper, middle and lower classes.
White Anglo-Saxon Protestants (WASPs) are upper-class white American Protestants, usually of British descent. WASP elites dominated American society, culture, and politics for most of the history of the United States, maintaining a monopoly through intermarriage, inheritance, and nepotism. Although the social influence of wealthy WASPs has declined since the 1940s, the group continues to dominate some financial and philanthropic fields and politics.
Social class in the United States refers to the idea of grouping Americans by some measure of social status, typically economic, however it could also refer to social status or location. The idea that American society can be divided into social classes is disputed, and there are many competing class systems.
The middle class is a class of people in the middle of a social hierarchy. Its usage has often been vague whether defined in terms of occupation, income, education or social status. The definition by any author is often chosen for political connotations. Writers on the left favor the lower-status term working class. Modern social theorists—and especially economists—have defined and re-defined the term "middle class" in order to serve their particular social or political ends.
Old money is "the inherited wealth of established upper-class families " or "a person, family, or lineage possessing inherited wealth". The term typically describes a social class of the rich who have been able to maintain their wealth over multiple generations, often referring to perceived members of the de facto aristocracy in societies that historically lack an officially established aristocratic class.
Caroline Webster "Lina" Schermerhorn was a prominent American socialite of the second half of the 19th century who led the Four Hundred. Famous for being referred to later in life as "the Mrs. Astor" or simply "Mrs. Astor", she was the wife of businessman, racehorse breeder/owner, and yachtsman William Backhouse Astor Jr.. She was the mother of five children, including Colonel John Jacob Astor IV, who perished on the RMS Titanic. Through her marriage, she was a prominent member of the Astor family and matriarch of the male line of American Astors.
The Social Register is a semi-annual publication in the United States that indexes the members of American high society. First published in the 1880s by newspaper columnist Louis Keller, it was later acquired by Malcolm Forbes. Since 2014, it has been owned by Christopher Wolf.
Nouveau riche is a term used, usually derogatory, to describe those whose wealth has been acquired within their own generation, rather than by familial inheritance. The equivalent English term is the "new rich" or "new money". Sociologically, nouveau riche refers to the person who previously had belonged to a lower social class and economic stratum (rank) within that class; and that the new money, which constitutes his or her wealth, allowed upward social mobility and provided the means for conspicuous consumption, the buying of goods and services that signal membership in an upper class. As a pejorative term, nouveau riche affects distinctions of type, the given stratum within a social class; hence, among the rich people of a social class, nouveau riche describes the vulgarity and ostentation of the newly rich man or woman who lacks the worldly experience and the system of values of "old money", of inherited wealth, such as the patriciate, the nobility, and the gentry.
The landed gentry, or the gentry, is a largely historical British social class of landowners who could live entirely from rental income, or at least had a country estate. While distinct from, and socially below, the British peerage their economic base in land was often similar, although in fact some of the landed gentry were wealthier than some peers, and many gentry were close relatives of peers. It is the British element of the wider European class of gentry. With or without noble title, owning rural land estates often brought with it the legal rights of lord of the manor, and the less formal name or title of squire, in Scotland laird.
Social stratification refers to a society's categorization of its people into groups based on socioeconomic factors like wealth, income, race, education, ethnicity, gender, occupation, 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.
First Families of Virginia (FFV) were those families in Colonial Virginia who were socially prominent and wealthy, but not necessarily the earliest settlers. They descended from English colonists who primarily settled at Jamestown, Williamsburg, The Northern Neck and along the James River and other navigable waters in Virginia during the 17th century. These elite families generally married within their social class for many generations and, as a result, most surnames of First Families date to the colonial period.
A parvenu is a person who is a relative newcomer to a socioeconomic class. The word is borrowed from the French language; it is the past participle of the verb parvenir.
The American upper class is a social group within the United States consisting of people who have the highest social rank, primarily due to economic wealth. The American upper class is distinguished from the rest of the population due to the fact that its primary source of income consists of assets, investments, and capital gains rather than wages and salaries. The American upper class is estimated to include one to two percent of the population.
The social structure of China has an extensive history which begins from the feudal society of Imperial China to the contemporary era. There was a Chinese nobility, beginning with the Zhou dynasty. However, after the Song dynasty, the powerful government offices were not hereditary. Instead they were selected through the imperial examination system, of written examinations based on Confucian thought, thereby undermining the power of the hereditary aristocracy..
The structure of social class in Cambodia has altered several times throughout its history. The traditional hereditary elites were marginalised in the 1970s, when military leaders gained prominence, before the Khmer Rouge attempted to dramatically eliminate existing class structures in the late 1970s. Since the emergence of peace in the early 1990s social inequality has increased in Cambodia.
The aristocracy is a social class that a particular society considers its highest order. In many states, the aristocracy included the upper class of people (aristocrats) with hereditary rank and titles. In some, such as ancient Greece, Rome, or India, aristocratic status came from belonging to a military caste. It has also been common, notably in African societies, for aristocrats to belong to priestly dynasties. Aristocratic status can involve feudal or legal privileges. They are usually below only the monarch of a country or nation in its social hierarchy. In modern European societies, the aristocracy has often coincided with the nobility, a specific class that arose in the Middle Ages, but the term "aristocracy" is sometimes also applied to other elites, and is used as a more generic term when describing earlier and non-European societies.
Gentry are "well-born, genteel and well-bred people" of high social class, especially in the past. Gentry, in its widest connotation, refers to people of good social position connected to landed estates, upper levels of the clergy, and "gentle" families of long descent who in some cases never obtained the official right to bear a coat of arms. The gentry largely consisted of landowners who could live entirely from rental income, or at least had a country estate; some were gentleman farmers. In the United Kingdom, the term gentry refers to the landed gentry, the majority of the land-owning social class who were typically armigerous, but did not have a peerage. The adjective "patrician" describes in comparison other analogous traditional social elite strata based in cities, such as free cities of Italy, and the free imperial cities of Germany, Switzerland, and the Hanseatic League.
"The ton" was Britain's high society during the late Regency and the reign of George IV, and later. The French word ton means, in this context, "manners" or "style" and is pronounced as in French. The full phrase is le bon ton meaning etiquette, "good manners" or "good form" – characteristics held as ideal by the British beau monde.
High society, also called in some contexts simply "society", is the behavior and lifestyle of people with the highest levels of wealth and social status. It includes their related affiliations, social events and practices. Upscale social clubs were open to men based on assessments of their ranking and role within high society. In American high society, the Social Register was traditionally a key resource for identifying qualified members. From a global perspective, see upper class. The quality of housing, clothing, servants and dining were visible marks of membership.
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