Definition of Class
Examples of Class
- American English – /klAs/
- British English – /klAHs/
International Phonetic Alphabet
- American English – /klæs/
- British English – /klɑːs/
- Plural: classes
- The terms “class” and “social class” are used interchangeably in a sociological context.
- The term “class” is difficult to define as there is no consensus definition because class can be based on many aspects of an individual or group (e.g., education, occupation, tastes, or wealth).
- Karl Marx (1818–1883) and Max Weber (1864–1920) developed much of the original theoretical arguments on which sociological understanding of class is based.
- Members of a class often share similar behaviors, norms, and values.
- In contrast to class, caste is another stratified system but one that does not permit individual mobility.
- Also called socio-economic class.
- “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  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).
- Economic Sociology Resources – Books, Journals, and Helpful Links
- Word origin of “class” – Online Etymology Dictionary: etymonline.com
- Bendix, Reinhard, ed. 1974. Class, Status and Power. 2nd ed. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
- Chan, Tak Wing, and John H. Goldthorpe. 2007. “Class and Status: The Conceptual Distinction and its Empirical Relevance.” American Sociological Review 72(4):512–32. doi:10.1177/000312240707200402.
- Crompton, Rosemary. 2008. Class & Stratification. 3rd ed. Cambridge: Polity Press.
- Crompton, Rosemary, F. Devine, M. Savage, and J. Scott, eds. 2000. Renewing Class Analysis. Oxford: Blackwell/The Sociological Review.
- Dahrendorf, Ralph. 1959. Class and Class Conflict in Industrial Society. London, Routledge.
- Giddens, Anthony, and David Held, eds. 1982. Classes, Power and Conflict: Classical and Contemporary Debates. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
- Grusky, David B, ed. 2014. Social Stratification: Class, Race and Gender in Sociological Perspective. 4th ed. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
- Kerbo, Harold R. 2012. Social Stratification and Inequality. 8th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill.
- Lee, David., and Bryan S. Turner. 2014. Conflicts about Class: Debating Inequality in Late Industrialism. London: Routledge.
- Mosca, Gaetano.  1939. The Ruling Class. New York: McGraw-Hill.
- Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels.  1988. The Communist Manifesto. New York: Norton.
- Marx, Karl. 1872. Das Kapital. Hamburg, Germany. Verlag von. O. Meissner.
- Pakulski, Jan, and Malcolm Waters. 1996. The Death of Class. London: SAGE.
- Payne, Geoff, ed. 2013. Social Divisions. 3rd ed. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
- Reid, Ivan. 1998. Class in Britain. Cambridge: Polity Press.
- Rubin, Lillian. 1994. Families on the Faultline: America’s Working Class Speaks about the Family, the Economy, Race, and Ethnicity. New York: HarperCollins.
- Scott, John. 1997. Corporate Business and Capitalist Classes. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Smith, D. 1992. Understanding the Underclass. London: Policy Studies Institute.
- Thompson, Edward Palmer. 1963. The Making of the English Working Class. London: Gollancz.
- Vidich, Arthur Joseph, ed. 1995. The New Middle Class: Life-styles, Status Claims and Political Orientations. London: Macmillan.
- Vincent, C., S. J. Ball, and A. Braun. 2008. “‘It’s Like Saying ‘Coloured””: Understanding and Analysing the Urban Working Classes.” Sociological Review 56(1):61–77. doi:10.1111/j.1467-954x.2008.00777.x.
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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/>.