Social class

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

Samurai and servant
Udvary The Slave Trader
Bell telephone magazine (1922) (14569859438)
Dante Gabriel Rossetti - The Bower Garden

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,[1] the most common being the upper, middle and lower classes.

"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. 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]

The precise measurements of what determines social class in society has 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 are 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]

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]


Burmese nobles
Burmese nobles and servants

Historically, social class and behavior were laid down in law. For example, permitted mode of dress in sometimes 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.

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.[8][9][10]

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.[11]


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.

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.[12]

Furthermore, "in countries where modern civilisation has become fully developed, a new class of petty bourgeois has been formed".[13] "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".[14]

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.[15]

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.[16][17]


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.[18]

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".

  • Class: A person's economic position in a society. Weber differs from Marx in that he does not see this as the supreme factor in stratification. Weber noted how managers of corporations or industries control firms they do not own.
  • Status: A person's prestige, social honor or popularity in a society. Weber noted that political power was not rooted in capital value solely, but also in one's status. Poets and saints, for example, can possess immense influence on society with often little economic worth.
  • Power: A person's ability to get their way despite the resistance of others. For example, individuals in state jobs, such as an employee of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, or a member of the United States Congress, may hold little property or status, but they still hold immense power.

Great British Class Survey

On April 2, 2013, the results of a survey[19] conducted by BBC Lab UK developed in collaboration with academic experts and slated to be published in the journal Sociology were published online.[20][21][22][23][24] 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.[23] 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

The upper class[25] 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.[26] 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.[27]

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.[28] 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.[29] 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.[30]

Lower class

Camden NJ poverty
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".[25] 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.[31][32][33][34][35][36][37][38]

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.[39]

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.[40]


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.[41][42][43][44][45][46] 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.[47]

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.[48][49][50]

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.[51]


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.[52] 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.[53]

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.[54]

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.[55][56]

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

Elizaveta with Black Servant by Grooth (1743, Hermitage)
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.

See also


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Further reading

  • Archer, Louise et al. Higher Education and Social Class: Issues of Exclusion and Inclusion (RoutledgeFalmer, 2003) (ISBN 0-415-27644-6)
  • Aronowitz, Stanley, How Class Works: Power and Social Movement, Yale University Press, 2003. ISBN 0-300-10504-5
  • Barbrook, Richard (2006). The Class of the New (paperback ed.). London: OpenMute. ISBN 978-0-9550664-7-4.
  • Beckert, Sven, and Julia B. Rosenbaum, eds. The American Bourgeoisie: Distinction and Identity in the Nineteenth Century (Palgrave Macmillan; 2011) 284 pages; Scholarly studies on the habits, manners, networks, institutions, and public roles of the American middle class with a focus on cities in the North.
  • Benschop, Albert. Classes – Transformational Class Analysis (Amsterdam: Spinhuis; 1993/2012).
  • Bertaux, Daniel & Thomson, Paul; Pathways to Social Class: A Qualitative Approach to Social Mobility (Clarendon Press, 1997)
  • Bisson, Thomas N.; Cultures of Power: Lordship, Status, and Process in Twelfth-Century Europe (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1995)
  • Blackledge, Paul (2011). "Why workers can change the world". Socialist Review 364. London. Archived from the original on 10 December 2011.
  • Blau, Peter & Duncan Otis D.; The American Occupational Structure (1967) classic study of structure and mobility
  • Brady, David "Rethinking the Sociological Measurement of Poverty" Social Forces Vol. 81 No.3, (March 2003), pp. 715–51 (abstract online in Project Muse).
  • Broom, Leonard & Jones, F. Lancaster; Opportunity and Attainment in Australia (1977)
  • Cohen, Lizabeth; Consumer's Republic, (Knopf, 2003) (ISBN 0-375-40750-2). (Historical analysis of the working out of class in the United States).
  • de Ste. Croix, Geoffrey (July – August 1984). "Class in Marx's conception of history, ancient and modern". New Left Review. I (146): 94–111. (Good study of Marx's concept.)
  • Dargin, Justin The Birth of Russia's Energy Class, Asia Times (2007) (good study of contemporary class formation in Russia, post communism)
  • Day, Gary; Class, (Routledge, 2001) (ISBN 0-415-18222-0)
  • Domhoff, G. William, Who Rules America? Power, Politics, and Social Change, Englewood Cliffs, NJ : Prentice-Hall, 1967. (Prof. Domhoff's companion site to the book at the University of California, Santa Cruz)
  • Eichar, Douglas M.; Occupation and Class Consciousness in America (Greenwood Press, 1989)
  • Fantasia, Rick; Levine, Rhonda F.; McNall, Scott G., eds.; Bringing Class Back in Contemporary and Historical Perspectives (Westview Press, 1991)
  • Featherman, David L. & Hauser Robert M.; Opportunity and Change (1978).
  • Fotopoulos, Takis, Class Divisions Today: The Inclusive Democracy approach, Democracy & Nature, Vol. 6, No. 2, (July 2000)
  • Fussell, Paul; Class (a painfully accurate guide through the American status system), (1983) (ISBN 0-345-31816-1)
  • Giddens, Anthony; The Class Structure of the Advanced Societies, (London: Hutchinson, 1981).
  • Giddens, Anthony & Mackenzie, Gavin (Eds.), Social Class and the Division of Labour. Essays in Honour of Ilya Neustadt (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982).
  • Goldthorpe, John H. & Erikson Robert; The Constant Flux: A Study of Class Mobility in Industrial Society (1992)
  • Grusky, David B. ed.; Social Stratification: Class, Race, and Gender in Sociological Perspective (2001) scholarly articles
  • Hazelrigg, Lawrence E. & Lopreato, Joseph; Class, Conflict, and Mobility: Theories and Studies of Class Structure (1972).
  • Hymowitz, Kay; Marriage and Caste in America: Separate and Unequal Families in a Post-Marital Age (2006) ISBN 1-56663-709-0
  • Kaeble, Helmut; Social Mobility in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries: Europe and America in Comparative Perspective (1985)
  • Jens Hoff, "The Concept of Class and Public Employees". Acta Sociologica, vol. 28, no. 3, July 1985, pp. 207–26.
  • Mahalingam, Ramaswami; "Essentialism, Culture, and Power: Representations of Social Class" Journal of Social Issues, Vol. 59, (2003), pp. 733+ on India
  • Mahony, Pat & Zmroczek, Christine; Class Matters: 'Working-Class' Women's Perspectives on Social Class (Taylor & Francis, 1997)
  • Manza, Jeff & Brooks, Clem; Social Cleavages and Political Change: Voter Alignments and U.S. Party Coalitions (Oxford University Press, 1999).
  • Manza, Jeff; "Political Sociological Models of the U.S. New Deal" Annual Review of Sociology, (2000) pp. 297+
  • Manza, Jeff; Hout, Michael; Clem, Brooks (1995). "Class Voting in Capitalist Democracies since World War II: Dealignment, Realignment, or Trendless Fluctuation?". Annual Review of Sociology. 21: 137–62. doi:10.1146/annurev.soc.21.1.137.
  • Marmot, Michael; The Status Syndrome: How Social Standing Affects Our Health and Longevity (2004)
  • Marx, Karl & Engels, Frederick; The Communist Manifesto, (1848). (The key statement of class conflict as the driver of historical change).
  • Merriman, John M.; Consciousness and Class Experience in Nineteenth-Century Europe (Holmes & Meier Publishers, 1979)
  • Ostrander, Susan A.; Women of the Upper Class (Temple University Press, 1984).
  • Owensby, Brian P.; Intimate Ironies: Modernity and the Making of Middle-Class Lives in Brazil (Stanford University, 1999).
  • Pakulski, Jan & Waters, Malcolm; The Death of Class (Sage, 1996). (rejection of the relevance of class for modern societies)
  • Payne, Geoff; The Social Mobility of Women: Beyond Male Mobility Models (1990)
  • Savage, Mike; Class Analysis and Social Transformation (London: Open University Press, 2000).
  • Stahl, Garth; "Identity, Neoliberalism and Aspiration: Educating White Working-Class Boys" (London, Routledge, 2015).
  • Sennett, Richard & Cobb, Jonathan; The Hidden Injuries of Class, (Vintage, 1972) (classic study of the subjective experience of class).
  • Siegelbaum, Lewis H. & Suny, Ronald; eds.; Making Workers Soviet: Power, Class, and Identity. (Cornell University Press, 1994). Russia 1870–1940
  • Wlkowitz, Daniel J.; Working with Class: Social Workers and the Politics of Middle-Class Identity (University of North Carolina Press, 1999).
  • Weber, Max. "Class, Status and Party", in e.g. Gerth, Hans and C. Wright Mills, From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology, (Oxford University Press, 1958). (Weber's key statement of the multiple nature of stratification).
  • Weinburg, Mark; "The Social Analysis of Three Early 19th century French liberals: Say, Comte, and Dunoyer", Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol. 2, No. 1, pp. 45–63, (1978).
  • Wood, Ellen Meiksins; The Retreat from Class: A New 'True' Socialism, (Schocken Books, 1986) (ISBN 0-8052-7280-1) and (Verso Classics, January 1999) reprint with new introduction (ISBN 1-85984-270-4).
  • Wood, Ellen Meiksins; "Labor, the State, and Class Struggle", Monthly Review, Vol. 49, No. 3, (1997).
  • Wouters, Cas.; "The Integration of Social Classes". Journal of Social History. Volume 29, Issue 1, (1995). pp 107+. (on social manners)
  • Wright, Erik Olin; The Debate on Classes (Verso, 1990). (neo-Marxist)
  • Wright, Erik Olin; Class Counts: Comparative Studies in Class Analysis (Cambridge University Press, 1997)
  • Wright, Erik Olin ed. Approaches to Class Analysis (2005). (scholarly articles)
  • Zmroczek, Christine & Mahony, Pat (Eds.), Women and Social Class: International Feminist Perspectives. (London: UCL Press 1999)
  • The lower your social class, the ‘wiser’ you are, suggests new study. Science. December 20, 2017.

External links


Bogan ( BOHG-ən) is Australian and New Zealand slang for a person whose speech, clothing, attitude and behaviour are considered unrefined or unsophisticated. Depending on the context, the term can be pejorative or self-deprecating. The prevalence of the term bogan has also been associated with changing social attitudes towards social class in Australia. Specifically, the term has been related to the decline of masculine conceptions of meritocracy in Australia, and a growing ambivalence towards traditional sites of working class culture.Since the 1980s, the bogan has become a very well-recognised subculture, often as an example of bad taste. It has antecedents in the Australian larrikin and ocker, and various localised names exist that describe the same or very similar people to the bogan.


The bourgeoisie (; French: [buʁʒwazi]) is a polysemous French term that can mean:

a sociologically defined class, especially in contemporary times, referring to people with a certain cultural and financial capital belonging to the middle or upper middle class: the upper (haute), middle (moyenne), and petty (petite) bourgeoisie (which are collectively designated "the bourgeoisie"); an affluent and often opulent stratum of the middle class who stand opposite the proletariat class.

originally and generally, "those who live in the borough", that is to say, the people of the city (including merchants and craftsmen), as opposed to those of rural areas; in this sense, the bourgeoisie began to grow in Europe from the 11th century and particularly during the Renaissance of the 12th century (i.e., the onset of the High Middle Ages), with the first developments of rural exodus and urbanization.

a legally defined class of the Middle Ages to the end of the Ancien Régime (Old Regime) in France, that of inhabitants having the rights of citizenship and political rights in a city (comparable to the German term Bürgertum and Bürger; see also "Burgher").The "bourgeoisie" in its original sense is intimately linked to the existence of cities recognized as such by their urban charters (e.g. municipal charter, town privileges, German town law), so there was no bourgeoisie "outside the walls of the city" beyond which the people were "peasants" submitted to the stately courts and manorialism (except for the traveling "fair bourgeoisie" living outside urban territories, who retained their city rights and domicile).

In Marxist philosophy, the bourgeoisie is the social class that came to own the means of production during modern industrialization and whose societal concerns are the value of property and the preservation of capital to ensure the perpetuation of their economic supremacy in society.Joseph Schumpeter saw the incorporation of new elements into an expanding bourgeoisie, particularly entrepreneurs who took risks to bring innovation to industries and the economy through the process of creative destruction, as the driving force behind the capitalist engine.


"Chav" ( CHAV) ("charver" in parts of Northern England) is a pejorative epithet used in the United Kingdom to describe a particular stereotype of anti-social youth dressed in sportswear. The word was popularised in the 2000s by the British mass media to refer to an anti-social youth subculture in the UK. The Oxford English Dictionary defines "chav" as an informal British derogatory, meaning "a young lower-class person who displays brash and loutish behaviour and wears real or imitation designer clothes". The derivative chavette has been used to refer to females, and the adjectives chavvy, chavvish and chavtastic have been used in relation to items designed for or suitable for use by chavs.

Class discrimination

Class discrimination, also known as classism, is prejudice or discrimination on the basis of social class which still occurs in societies around the world today. It includes individual attitudes, behaviors, systems of policies and practices that are set up to benefit the upper class at the expense of the lower class or vice versa.

Social class refers to the grouping of individuals in a hierarchy based on wealth, income, education, occupation, and social network.

High culture

High culture encompasses the cultural objects of aesthetic value, which a society collectively esteem as exemplary art. It may also include intellectual works considered to be of supreme philosophical, historical, or literary value, as well as the education which cultivates such aesthetic and intellectual pursuits. In popular usage, the term high culture identifies the culture of an upper class (an aristocracy) or of a status class (the intelligentsia); and also identifies a society’s common repository of broad-range knowledge and tradition (e.g. folk culture) that transcends the social-class system of the society. Sociologically, the term high culture is contrasted with the term low culture, the forms of popular culture characteristic of the less-educated social classes, such as the barbarians, the Philistines, and hoi polloi (the masses).

Middle class

The middle class is a class of people in the middle of a social hierarchy. The very definition of the term "middle class" is highly political and vigorously contested by various schools of political and economic philosophy. Modern social theorists - and especially economists (with widely divergent open and hidden political motivations behind their arguments) - have defined and re-defined the term "middle class" in order to serve their particular political ends. The definitions of the term "middle class" therefore are the result of the more- or less-scientific methods used when delineating the parameters of what is and isn't "middle class".

In Weberian socioeconomic terms, the middle class is the broad group of people in contemporary society who fall socio-economically between the working class and upper class. The common measures of what constitutes middle class vary significantly among cultures. One of the narrowest definitions limits it to those in the middle fifth of the nation's income ladder. A wider characterization includes everyone but the poorest 20% and the wealthiest 20%.In modern American vernacular usage, the term "middle class" is most often used as a self-description by those persons whom academics and Marxists would otherwise identify as the working class which are below both the upper class and the true middle class, but above those in poverty. This leads to considerable ambiguity over the meaning of the term "middle class" in American usage. Sociologists such as Dennis Gilbert and Joseph Kahl see this American self-described "middle class" (i.e. working class) as the most populous class in the United States.

Nouveau riche

Nouveau riche (French: [nuvo ʁiʃ]; French for "new rich") is a term, 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" (in contrast with "old money"/vieux riche). 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.


A pejorative (also called a derogatory term, a slur, a term of disparagement) is a word or grammatical form expressing a negative connotation or a low opinion of someone or something, showing a lack of respect for someone or something. It is also used to express criticism, hostility, or disregard. Sometimes, a term is regarded as pejorative in some social or ethnic groups but not in others, or may be originally pejorative and eventually be adopted in a non-pejorative sense (or vice versa) in some or all contexts.

Name slurs can also involve an insulting or disparaging innuendo, rather than being a direct pejorative. In some cases, a person's name can be redefined with an unpleasant or insulting meaning, or be applied to a group of people considered by anyone to be inferior or lower in social class, as a group label with a disparaging meaning.


Redneck is a derogatory term chiefly but not exclusively applied to white Americans perceived to be crass and unsophisticated, closely associated with rural whites of the Southern United States. Its usage is similar in meaning to cracker (especially regarding Texas, Georgia, and Florida), hillbilly (especially regarding Appalachia and the Ozarks), and white trash (but without the last term's suggestions of immorality).By the 1970s, the term had become offensive slang, its meaning expanded to include racism, loutishness, and opposition to modern ways.Patrick Huber, in his monograph A Short History of Redneck: The Fashioning of a Southern White Masculine Identity, emphasized the theme of masculinity in the 20th-century expansion of the term, noting, "The redneck has been stereotyped in the media and popular culture as a poor, dirty, uneducated, and racist Southern white man."

Social class in France

The modern social structure of France is complex, but generally similar to that of other European countries. Traditional social classes still have some presence, with a large bourgeoisie and especially petite bourgeoisie, and an unusually large proportion, for modern Europe, of farming smallholders. All these groups, and the remaining industrial working class, have considerable political power, which they are able to flex when required.

Bon chic bon genre is a term for fashionable people of good family ("bon genre"), especially in Paris. Graduates of the École nationale d'administration, or énarques predominate in the upper levels of government and many industries, along with graduates of the other Grandes écoles, specialized state-run institutes of tertiary education. However primary and secondary education is almost entirely at state schools, unlike say England, and a major engine of meritocracy. Cultural capital, a concept from France, is still considered an issue for the many French people in a process of social mobility.

The old french society was divided on the basis of 'etates' and they were as follows:



Common people

Social class in Italy

Social class in Italy began early on in Ancient Rome, and this article comprises more or less how it is today.

Social class in ancient Rome

Social class in ancient Rome was hierarchical, but there were multiple and overlapping social hierarchies, and an individual's relative position in one might be higher or lower than in another. The status of freeborn Romans during the Republic was established by:

ancestry (patrician or plebeian);

census rank (ordo) based on wealth and political privilege, with the senatorial and equestrian ranks elevated above the ordinary citizen;

attainment of honors (the novus homo or self-made man established his family as nobilis (“noble”) and thus there were noble plebeians); and

citizenship, of which there were grades with varying rights and privileges.For example, men who lived in towns outside Rome (such as municipia or colonies) might hold citizenship, but lack the right to vote (see ius Latinum); free-born Roman women were citizens, but could not vote or hold political office.

There were also classes of non-citizens with different legal rights, such as peregrini. Under Roman law, slaves were considered property and had no rights as such. However, some laws regulated slavery and offered slaves protections not extended to other forms of property such as animals. Slaves who had been manumitted were freedmen (liberti), and for the most part enjoyed the same legal rights and protections as free-born citizens.

Roman society was patriarchal in the purest sense; the male head of household (paterfamilias) held special legal powers and privileges that gave him jurisdiction (patria potestas) over all the members of his familia – a more encompassing term than its modern derivative "family" that included adult sons, his wife (but only in Rome's earlier history, when marriage cum manu was practiced), married daughters (in the Classical period of Roman history), various dependent relatives, and slaves. The patron-client relationship (clientela), with the word patronus deriving from pater (“father”), was another way in which Roman society was organized into hierarchical groups, though clientela also functioned as a system of overlapping social networks. A patron could be the client of a socially superior or more powerful patron; a client could have multiple patrons.

Social class in the United Kingdom

The social structure of the United Kingdom has historically been highly influenced by the concept of social class, which continues to affect British society today.British society, like its European neighbours and most societies in world history, was traditionally (before the Industrial Revolution) divided hierarchically within a system that involved the hereditary transmission of occupation, social status and political influence. Since the advent of industrialisation, this system has been in a constant state of revision, and new factors other than birth (for example, education) are now a greater part of creating identity in Britain.

Although definitions of social class in the United Kingdom vary and are highly controversial, most are influenced by factors of wealth, occupation and education. Until the Life Peerages Act 1958, the Parliament of the United Kingdom was organised on a class basis, with the House of Lords representing the hereditary upper-class and the House of Commons representing everybody else. The British monarch is usually viewed as being at the top of the social class structure.

British society has experienced significant change since the Second World War, including an expansion of higher education and home ownership, a shift towards a service-dominated economy, mass immigration, a changing role for women and a more individualistic culture, and these changes have had a considerable impact on the social landscape. However, claims that the UK has become a classless society have frequently been met with scepticism. Research has shown that social status in the United Kingdom is influenced by, although separate from, social class.The biggest current study of social class in the United Kingdom is the Great British Class Survey.

Social class in the United States

Social class in the United States is a controversial issue, having many competing definitions, models, and even disagreements over its very existence. Many Americans believe that in the country there are just three classes: the American rich; the American middle class; the American poor. More complex models that have been proposed describe as many as a dozen class levels; while still others deny the very existence, in the European sense, of social class in American society. Most definitions of class structure group people according to wealth, income, education, type of occupation, and membership in a specific subculture or social network. Most of the social classes entirely ignore the existence of parallel Black, Hispanic and minorities societies.

Sociologists Dennis Gilbert, William Thompson, Joseph Hickey, and James Henslin have proposed class systems with six distinct social classes. These class models feature an upper or capitalist class consisting of the rich and powerful, an upper middle class consisting of highly educated and affluent professionals, a middle class consisting of college-educated individuals employed in white-collar industries, a lower middle class composed of semi-professionals with typically some college education, a working class constituted by clerical and blue collar workers whose work is highly routinized, and a lower class divided between the working poor and the unemployed underclass.

Social mobility

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.

Social structure of Romania

The following is a description of the social structure of Romania divided into three distinct categories.

Upper class

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. 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 so as 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.

White trash

White trash is a derogatory American English slur referring to poor white people, especially in the rural southern United States. The label signifies a social class inside the white population and especially a degraded standard of living. The term has been adopted for people living on the fringes of the social order, who are seen as dangerous because they may be criminal, unpredictable, and without respect for political, legal, or moral authority. While the term is mostly used pejoritavely by urban and middle-class whites as a class signifier, some white entertainers self-identify as "white trash" and celebrate the stereotypes and social marginalization of lower-class whiteness.In common usage, "white trash" overlaps in meaning with "cracker", used of people in the backcountry of the Southern states; "hillbilly", regarding poor people from Appalachia; "Okie" regarding those with origins in Oklahoma; and "redneck", regarding rural origins; especially in the South. The primary difference is that "redneck", "cracker", "Okie", and "hillbilly" emphasize that a person is poor and uneducated and comes from the backwoods with little awareness of and interaction with the modern world, while "white trash" – and the modern term "trailer trash" – emphasizes the person's moral failings.Scholars from the late 19th to the early 21st century explored generations of families who were considered "disreputable", such as The Jukes family and The Kallikak Family, both pseudonyms for real families.


"Yuppie" (short for "young urban professional" or "young, upwardly-mobile professional") is a term coined in the early 1980s for a young professional person working in a city.

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