One of the most widely applicable social science concepts. It refers to a group that has a shared relationship to the labour process and the accumulation of wealth. This means primarily means ownership of productive resources. Such groups have power over the cultural and political spheres of society, in addition to the economic division of labour. Class is one of the most important categories in determining life chances for individuals, and has been refined over the years before and after Marx's time, but has existed from the beginnings of civilization. Unlike socioeconomic status
, it has less to do with income inequality and stratification, as it does power. Some class theorists argue that individuals can share characteristics of multiple classes, or are "in between" classes (the "middle class
"). Classes are not homogeneous, but they share similar basic interests, whether explicitly or implicitly, despite having internal conflicts and differences. They also change based on the division of labour, such as when the "information revolution" transformed work conditions. Class position does not absolutely determine life position, and is affected by ideology
(e.g., the role of the American Dream
) and other systems of inequality (e.g., gender, race/ethnicity).
E.g., the capacity of social class (ownership of money capital) to influence party politics, elections, and policies, which narrows the range of political options available.
E.g., the ownership of major news and media organizations which largely influences public opinion and perceptions, as well as stimulates demand for consumer goods.
E.g., the fact that there is enough food to feed 10x the Earth's current population, while billions in fact starve with less than $1 a day to survive on, indicating a severe concentration of productive resources in few hands.
E.g., the reality that rising cost of living and expected consumer demands has been met with declining wages and almost non-existent union and political representation.