What are Social Classes?
Social classes are a type of socioeconomic classification used to establish the groups into which society is divided, taking into account the characteristics that individuals have in common.
The stratification of social classes emerged from the Industrial Revolution, hence it is a term in common use in modern industrialized countries.
Social classes are formed as the individuals of a society are grouped according to a series of shared criteria regarding the social and economic, such as: wealth, monetary income, employment, access to education, political power, purchasing power, beliefs , values, consumption habits, among others.
Based on these criteria, social classes are established, the differences and similarities that exist between individuals, as well as the opportunities to achieve a better quality of life and scale from one social class to another, are evident.
However, as far as castes and estates are concerned, people do not have the possibility to modify their status because their social position depends on the titles of the nobility or family inheritances.
On the other hand, social classes form the class system, which is not closed and allows people to move from one class to another according to their abilities and successes to overcome or mistakes to lose economic resources.
In this sense, social classes determine both the socio-economic situation of a society and a country because it allows us to analyze what economic distribution is and its scope among citizens. Hence, a classification of social classes has been established as: upper class, middle class and lower class.
Social classes according to Marx and Weber
Sociologists Karl Marx and Max Weber presented different notions about what they considered to be social classes.
For Marx, social classes can be defined in two ways:
- From the relationship that individuals have with the means of production and the way in which they obtain their economic returns.
- The class consciousness that each social group has.
From these notions arises the concept of class struggle with which Marx sought to expose the rivalry between social classes, especially between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, as a consequence of the capitalist system.
For his part, Weber defined social classes based on the relationships and economic possibilities that each individual has to have access to various goods and services.
For Weber, the differences between social classes are not resolved by modifying the economic system but by changing the way in which goods and services can be accessed.
Types of social classes
Below are the types of social classes according to inequalities, mainly of an economic nature and possession of goods.
The upper class is made up of those people who earn more than the estimated income.
This class is made up of businessmen, prestigious professionals, presidents of important associations, celebrities of art and entertainment, renowned athletes, political or financial leaders, among others.
These people are characterized by having a high academic level, having political or economic influences, being part of traditional families, having heritage inherited and increased by several generations, living in luxury residences, among others.
The middle class is the most widespread and predominant in society. There are those who subdivide it into upper-middle class and lower-middle class according to the level of education and income of individuals.
Those who make up this class have access to secondary and higher education, stable and competitive jobs, own their own homes, can access various goods and services, pay for health expenses, among others.
Professionals, small and medium entrepreneurs, merchants, scientists, educators, entrepreneurs, workers, among others, are in this group.
Many individuals who are in the middle class derive from the lower class, as well as many who are in the upper class derive from the middle class after having made a great personal and work effort.
It is made up of people who lack the financial resources to access various basic goods and services, access education and pay for a healthy and balanced diet.
Low-class people do not own their own home or private vehicles; in addition, they usually live in vulnerable areas and with great risks of danger.
In this group are informal workers, domestic employees, workers from various productive sectors, unemployed people, those who do not get stable employment, etc.