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7 Characteristics of the Working Class

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The working class is a socioeconomic group that depend on their labor as they have little or no capital. The following are the basic characteristics of the working class.

Discretionary Income

The income of the working class is consumed by basic expenses such as housing, healthcare, education, clothing, food and transportation such that they generate no discretionary income. As such, the working class can't afford to save and accumulate capital.

Capital

Capital is useful property that can be used to generate income such as property, structures, machines, equipment, vehicles and software. The working class do not own or control their own capital and must work for others. For example, a chef who owns their own restaurant is petite bourgeoisie whereas a chef who works for someone else is typically working class.

Employment

The term working class applies to workers and their families who are employed or actively seeking employment. There are a few exceptions to this rule such as working class individuals who retire or who are on a disability pension. Individuals with no capital who never work or who rarely work are known as the lumpenproletariat. This class can be quite large in a society with an attractive welfare system or in a region with chronic unemployment such that people simply give up on finding work.

Working Conditions

The working class is defined by a lack of discretionary income and capital. This can be applied to both blue collar workers who perform physical labor and white collar workers who perform office work. Blue collar or white collar workers who generate discretionary income are middle class. In other words, it is incorrect to think of the working class as being entirely blue collar.

Class Consciousness

Class consciousness is the degree to which people in similar social and economic circumstances identify with each other as a group. People who technically belong to the working class may or may not self-identify as such. In many cases, people identify with a more affluent class or with some other aspect of their identity such as ethnicity.

Politics

Where class consciousness exists, the working class may support political parties and organizations to represent their interests. The working class also have significant potential for revolution, particularly where the capital controlling classes are perceived as villainous and corrupt.

Culture

The working class have a culture in each society based on shared experiences. This can include elements such as norms, expectations, values, language, pastimes, celebrations, symbols, literature, art and film.

Notes

The working class may have social mobility such that they have an opportunity to become middle class, bourgeoisie or upper class through education, entrepreneurship or performance at work. The degree of social mobility in a society depends on factors such as economic growth, access to credit, economic freedoms, social infrastructure and a social safety net.
Overview: Working Class
Type
Definition
A socioeconomic group that depend on their labor as they control little or no capital.
Related Concepts

Working Class

This is the complete list of articles we have written about working class.
American Dream
Blue Collar
Bourgeoisie
Capital
Class Consciousness
Class System
Culture
Discretionary Income
Everyday Life
Middle Class
Norms
Politics
Shared Experiences
Social Infrastructure
Social Mobility
Society
Upper Class
White Collar
Working Conditions
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Class Consciousness

The definition of class consciousness with examples.

Upper Class

The definition of upper class with examples.

Bourgeoisie

The definition of bourgeoisie with examples.

Middle Class

The definition of middle class with examples.

Proletariat

The definition of proletariat with examples.

Social Class

The definition of social class with examples.

White Collar

The definition of white collar with examples.

Blue Collar

The definition of blue collar with examples.

Social Class Characteristics

The basic characteristics of social class.

Society

The definition of society with examples.

Worldview

The definition of worldview with examples.

Culture Lag

The definition of culture lag with examples.

Centralization

The definition of centralization with examples, advantages and disadvantages.

Upward Mobility

The definition of upward mobility with examples of factors that contribute to it.

Group Harmony

The definition of group harmony with examples.

Public Sector

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Herd Mentality

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