A segment of a social network
A segment of a social network (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Class is a sociological concept describing a hierarchical social order based on money, property, commercial goods or quality of character, occupation, lifestyle, and in some instances, physical appearance.

Interesting tidbits from Wikipedia:

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.

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.¹

Karl & his daughter Jenny Marx
Karl & his daughter Jenny Marx (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In classical sociological theory, Karl Marx emphasizes the ownership or non-ownership of the so-called ‘means of production’ as a prime indicator of class. This ownership of the means of production includes land, factories, machines, tools and knowledge about how to be an effective producer of commodities.

Meanwhile, Max Weber stresses the importance of social status, prestige, and political power in addition to Marx’s ideas about ownership of the means of production.

Fairly recent sociological terms relating to class and hierarchical inequality are stratification and disparity.

Although classical sociologists took great pains to delineate just what class is, not too many contemporary thinkers agree on its definition. And some say that class doesn’t really exist. After all, how can we accurately determine a person’s supposed class? By money? knowledge? prestige? power? beauty? goodness? ability? age?

Along these lines, the sociologist Pierre Bourdieu introduced the idea of cultural capital with Jean-Claude Passeron in “Cultural Reproduction and Social Reproduction” (1973). Again from Wikipedia:

Pierre Bourdieu
Pierre Bourdieu (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The term cultural capital refers to non-financial social assets that promote social mobility beyond economic means. Examples can include education, intellect, style of speech, dress, and even physical appearance, et cetera.²

Instead of focusing on the idea of class as some kind of absolute truth in itself, postmoderns like Michel Foucault emphasize the role of social power in determining outcomes among competing discourses. For Foucault, the idea of discourse refers to relative social truths (generated by soft and/or hard power) as well as institutionalized social practices.  For Foucault, society is in constant struggle, so individuals and groups are always in a competitive kind of ‘war,’ even in peacetime.

Most sociological analyses of class overlook the message of many religious traditions, a message that essentially inverts worldly thinking about rank and order:

The worldly rich may be poor in spirit whereas the worldly poor may be rich in spirit (Matthew 6:19-20, Mark 10:21).

However, it seems a common mistake and gross simplification to suppose that all materially wealthy people are spiritually poor and that all materially poor people are spiritually rich (1 Timothy 6:17).

Whether or not the notion of class eventually disappears from our collective vocabulary remains to be seen.

Related Posts » Caste, Status, Party



One comment

  1. Hindu religion devided into four community….but again I m saying to all stupid people who living in india..caste and community only created by mentally sick people and who follow them they have something problem in their mind..four community name are Brahmin,kshatriya,vaishya,shurda…and its surprising we all India dnt know the exactly meaning of these four words..let me explain to you..brahmin means not that who born in high class..koi janam se uncha or nicha nhi hota hai.brahmin mean jo god ko janta hai usko apne samne dekha ho jisse brahma ka pata ho or apne acche karam se jana jaye na ki apni jaat se..agr Brahmin hone pr insaan ke karam gandhe hai toh who insaan ashudh mana jata hai who pavitr aatma nhi hoti hai…Kshatriya ka matlb hota hai weh yodha jo mantvta ki raksha hetu apne angg angg ko katva de..samks praniyon ki raksha ke liye apni jaan kurbaan kr de or apne karam pr ghamand na dikhaye..Vaishya who hote hai jo apne kaam mein emaan dikhaye koi chori chakari na kre..apne kaam ko galat tareeqe se na kre..emaan ki kamai ko khaye haraam ki kamai ko haath na lagaye..Shudra ka matlb hota hao shudh or pavitr aatma….jis band eke ander koi moh, maya, krodh or ahnkaar tak nhi hai jiska aacharn shudh ho or karam shudh ho wohi sacha shudra apne karam par purn vishwaas rake…jiske karam ache nhi man mein ahnkaar hai who shudra nhi mana ja sakta hai..agr tum log shudra ko pero ka sathaan dete ko toh or unhe neecha mante ho toh kanjke pujna bandh kr do unke peron (feet) ko dohna unki puja krna bandh kr do..kisi devi devta ke mandir ja kr natmastak na ho or apne mata pita ke peron ko chook e ashiwadh lena bandh kr do…apne peron ko kaat do or apne lakshya ko or tunde ho kr hi aage bado..


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