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class (social class)

Definition of Class

(noun) An individual’s or group’s position within the social hierarchy, typically based on power, prestige, and wealth.

Examples of Class

Class Pronunciation

Pronunciation Usage Guide

Syllabification: class

Audio Pronunciation

– American English
– British English

Phonetic Spelling

  • American English – /klAs/
  • British English – /klAHs/

International Phonetic Alphabet

  • American English – /klæs/
  • British English – /klɑːs/

Usage Notes

Related Quotations

  • Class boundaries are also maintained by language, speech patterns, and pronunciation. Members of the upper class speak more directly and in a more assured manner than do members of the working and lower classes. Their confident demeanor, in turn, enables upper- and upper-middle-class speakers to project images of credibility, honesty, and competence that are important in all social arenas—especially the workplace” (Thompson and Hickey 2012:221).
  • “For essentialists, race, sex, sexual orientation, disability, and social class identify significant, empirically verifiable differences among people. From the essentialist perspective, each of the these exist apart from any social processes; they are objective categories of real differences among people” (Rosenblum and Travis 2012:3).
  • “If one class in society is obliged to take any price for its services in order to survive, while another can abstain from such action thanks to the resources that it has at its disposal, which are not the result of any social superiority, the second has an unjust legal advantage over the first. In other words, there cannot be rich and poor from birth without there being unjust contracts” (Durkheim [1893] 2004:37).
  • “What are social classes in Marxist theory? They are groups of social agents, of men defined principally but not exclusively by their place in the production process, i.e. by their place in the economic sphere. The economic place of the social agents has a principal role in determining social classes. But from that we cannot conclude that this economic place is sufficient to determine social classes. Marxism states that the economic does indeed have the determinant role in a mode of production or a social formation; but the political and the ideological (the superstructure) also have an important role. For whenever Marx, Engels, Lenin and Mao analyse social classes, far from limiting themselves to the economic criteria alone, they make explicit reference to political and ideological criteria. We can thus say that a social class is defined by its place in the ensemble of social practices, i.e. by its place in the ensemble of the division of labour which includes political and ideological relations. This place corresponds to the structural determination of classes, i.e. the manner in which determination by the structure (relations of production, politico-ideological domination/subordination) operates on class practices – for classes have existence only in the class struggle” (Poulantzas 1973:27).

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Durkheim, Émile. [1893] 2004. “The Division of Labour in Society.” Pp. 19–38 in Readings from Emile Durkheim. Rev. ed., edited and translated by K. Thompson. New York: Routledge.

Poulantzas, Nicos. 1973. “On Social Classes.” New Left Review 78.

Rosenblum, Karen Elaine, and Toni-Michelle Travis. 2012. The Meaning of Difference: American Constructions of Race, Sex and Gender, Social Class, Sexual Orientation, and Disability. 6th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Thompson, William E., and Joseph V. Hickey. 2012. Society in Focus: An Introduction to Sociology. 7th ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

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Cite the Definition of Class

ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “class (social class).” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved September 22, 2020 (https://sociologydictionary.org/class/).

APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)

class (social class). (2013). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from https://sociologydictionary.org/class/

Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “class (social class).” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed September 22, 2020. https://sociologydictionary.org/class/.

MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)

“class (social class).” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2013. Web. 22 Sep. 2020. <https://sociologydictionary.org/class/>.