A social class is a population grouping based on economic status and position in a society. The following are the basic characteristics of social class.
CapitalCapital is property that has potential to produce future value such as land, buildings, equipment, machines, vehicles, software and intellectual property. The upper classes of society are primarily defined by their ownership of capital. This allows these classes to support a lavish lifestyle that is not based on the output of their labor but rather returns from capital.
LaborClasses that don't own capital depend on their labor. In many cases, this means working for those who own capital creating a hierarchical power structure in a society.
Disposable IncomeWhere pay for labor is high, workers enjoy disposable income. This is important as it allows families to make improvements in their life and build up capital. Disposable income is the defining characteristic of the middle class.
Leisure ClassHistorically, the upper class had far more leisure time than the other classes as they do not depend on their labor for survival. As such, leisure was associated with wealth with activities such as afternoon tea that intentionally burned the core hours of the day, an unthinkable luxury for the other classes. This pattern persists to this day as the upper and middle class have the expectation of holidays, vacations, hobby time and family time where the working poor may struggle each day just to do the things they need to do to survive.
Quality of LifeGenerally speaking, capital and disposable income allow individuals and families to make improvements in their quality of life. For example, purchasing homes that are further from major sources of air pollution such as highways and ports.
EducationEducation is often the key to sustaining a families position in a social class. For example, elite universities signal inclusion in the upper class. University education is also required to join many middle class professions that generate discretionary income. Likewise, training such as apprenticeships may be a route to the middle class.
Social MobilitySocial mobility is the degree to which a society provides opportunities for people to improve their economic situation such that they may join a higher social class. For example, a society that makes elite universities free and ensures that admissions are based on merit would have higher social mobility than a society where these institutions are expensive with preferred routes of admission for the upper class such as an escalator school.
CultureSocial classes develop their own culture through an ongoing process of shared experience. This can include values, language, norms, expectations, symbols, myths, stories and pastimes that allow people to identify with each other as a class.
Social StatusSocial status is the respect that an individual enjoys from others in a particular context. Adherence to the ideals and norms of a class culture can earn an individual respect from their peers. There are many types of social status and it is a mistake to equate social status and wealth.
Class ConsciousnessClass consciousness is the degree to which individuals identify with their socioeconomic class. In some cases, there is low unity at the class level where people focus on other aspects of identity such as religion, ethnicity, gender, culture and lifestyle.
PoliticsWhere class consciousness is strong the largest classes by population can dominate politics to create policies and direct the resources of a society in ways that benefit them. For example, a social market economy is largely structured to benefit the working and middle class with benefits such as healthcare, education and a social safety net that can theoretically be funded with taxation of the upper class and related entities such as corporations.
This is the complete list of articles we have written about social class.
If you enjoyed this page, please consider bookmarking Simplicable.
The definition of social class with examples.
The definition of middle class with examples.
The definition of working class with examples.
The definition of class consciousness with examples.
The definition of national rights with a list of examples.
The definition of sycophancy with examples.
An overview of the common types of social change.
The definition of an elite with examples.
The definition of sociology with examples.
The definition of society with examples.
The definition of herd mentality with examples.
The definition of credentialism with examples.
The definition of collectivism with examples.
The definition of paternalism with examples.
The definition of ideology with a list of examples.
The common characteristics of ideologies.
The defining characteristics of a democracy.
The definition of political system with examples.
TrendingThe most popular articles on Simplicable in the past day.
Recent posts or updates on Simplicable.
© 2010-2023 Simplicable. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction of materials found on this site, in any form, without explicit permission is prohibited.
View credits & copyrights or citation information for this page.