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Working class

Working class (or Lower class, Labouring class) is a term used in the social sciences and in ordinary conversation to describe those employed in lower tier jobs (as measured by skill, education and lower incomes), often extending to those in unemployment or otherwise possessing below-average incomes. Working classes are mainly found in industrializedeconomies and in urban areas of non-industrialized economies.

As with many terms describing social class, working class is defined and used in many different ways. When used non-academically, it typically refers to a section of society dependent on physical labor, especially when compensated with an hourly wage. Its use in academic discourse is contentious, especially following the decline of manual labor in postindustrial societies. Some academics question the usefulness of the concept of a working class.

The term is usually contrasted with the Upper classandMiddle class, in general terms of access to economic resources,education and cultural interests. The cut-off between Working class and Middle class is more specifically where a population spends money primarily as a lifestyle rather than for sustenance (for example, on fashion versus merely nutrition and shelter).

Its usage can alternately be derogatory, or can express a sense of pride in those who self-identify as Working class.


Definitions of social classes reflect a number of sociological perspectives, informed by anthropology, economics, psychology and sociology. The major perspectives historically have been Marxism and Functionalism.. The parameters which define working class depend on the scheme used to define social class. For example, a simple stratum model of class might divide society into a simple hierarchy of lower class, middle class and upper class, with working class not specifically designated. Due to the political interest in the working class, there has been debate over the nature of the working class since the early 19th century. Two broad schools of definitions emerge: those aligned with 20th-century sociological stratum models of class society, and those aligned with the 19th-century historical materialism economic models of the Marxists and anarchists. Key points of commonality amongst various ideas include the idea that there is one working class, even though it may be internally divided. The idea of one single working class should be contrasted with 18th-century conceptions of many laboring classes. Sociologists Dennis Gilbert, James Henslin, William Thompson, Joseph Hickey and Thomas Ayling have brought forth class models in which the working class constitutes roughly one third of the population, with the majority of the population being either working or lower class.

Marxist definitions

Karl Marx defined the working class or proletariat as individuals who sell their labor power for wages and who do not own the means of production. He argued that they were responsible for creating the wealth of a society. He asserted that the working class physically build bridges, craft furniture, grow food, and nurse children, but do not own land, or factories. A sub-section of the proletariat, the lumpenproletariat (rag-proletariat), are the extremely poor and unemployed, such as day laborers and homeless people.

In The Communist Manifesto, Marx argued that it was the destiny of the working class to displace thecapitalist system, with the dictatorship of the proletariat, abolishing the social relationships underpinning the class system and then developing into a future communist society in which "the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all." In Capital, Marx dissected the ways in which capital can forestall such a revolutionary extension of the Enlightenment. Some issues in Marxist arguments about working class membership have included:

Middle class

The middle class is any class of people in the middle of a societal hierarchy. In Weberian socio-economic terms, the middle class is the broad group of people in contemporary society who fall socio-economically between the working class and upper class.

The common measures of what constitutes middle class vary significantly between cultures. In urban India, for example, a family is considered middle class if it resides in an owner-occupied property. In the United States, many families where the primary income-earner is employed in a blue collar job consider themselves middle class, when in fact they are working class by the classic Weberian definition.

In the United Kingdom, the term middle class implies those people who typically have had a good education, own a family house, and hold a managerial or professional post. Those holding a senior role in a profession or ownership/directorship of a corporation are regarded as upper middle class. The upper class is generally regarded as the aristocracy and landed gentry; very rich financiers buy country estates in order to qualify.

A persistent source of confusion surrounding the term "middle class" derives predominantly from there being no set criteria for such a definition. From an economic perspective, for example, members of the middle class do not necessarily fall in the middle of a society's income distribution. Instead, middle class salaries tend to be determined by middle class occupations, which in turn are attained by means of middle class values. Thus, individuals who might fall in the middle ground on a societal hierarchy as defined by sociologists do not necessarily fall into a middle ground on an economic hierarchy as defined by economists. As a result, intuitive colloquial and journalistic usage of the term casts a wide net and does not necessarily coincide with an academic sociological or economic definition.

History and evolution of the term

The term "middle class" has a long history and has had several, sometimes contradictory, meanings. It was once defined by exception as an intermediate social class between the nobility and the peasantry of Europe. While the nobility owned the countryside, and the peasantry worked the countryside, a new bourgeoisie (literally "town-dwellers") arose around mercantile functions in the city. Another definition equated the middle class to the original meaning of capitalist: someone with so much capital that they could rival nobles. By this definition, only millionaires and billionaires are middle class in modern times. In fact, to be a capital-owning millionaire was the essential criterion of the middle class in the industrial revolution. In France, the middle classes helped drive the French Revolution.

The modern sociological usage of the term "middle class", however, dates to the 1911 UK Registrar-General's report, in which the statistician T.H.C. Stevenson identified the middle class as that falling between the upper class and the working class. Included as belonging to the middle class are professionals, managers, and senior civil servants. The chief defining characteristic of membership middle class is possession of significant human capital.

Within capitalism, middle class initially referred to the bourgeoisie and petit bourgeoisie. However, with the immiserisation and proletarianisation of much of the petit bourgeois world, and the growth of finance capitalism, middle class came to refer to the combination of labour aristocracy, professionals and white collar workers.

The size of the middle class depends on how it is defined, whether by education, wealth, environment of upbringing, social network, manners or values, etc. These are all related, though far from deterministically dependent. The following factors are often ascribed in modern usage to a "middle class":

  • Achievement of tertiary education.
  • Holding professional qualifications, including academics, lawyers, chartered engineers, politicians and doctors regardless of their leisure or wealth.
  • Belief in bourgeois values, such as high rates of houseownership and jobs which are perceived to be "secure".
  • Lifestyle. In the United Kingdom, social status has historically been linked less directly to wealth than in the United States, and has also been judged by pointers such as accent, manners, place of education, occupation and the class of a person's family, circle of friends and acquaintances.
  • Cultural identification. Often in the United States, the middle class are the most eager participants in pop culture whereas the reverse is true in Britain.

The second generation of new immigrants will often enthusiastically forsake their traditional folk culture as a sign of having arrived in the middle class.

In the United States by the end of the twentieth century, more people identified themselves as middle class than as lower or "working" class (with insignificant numbers identifying themselves as upper class). In contrast, in the United Kingdom, in recent surveys up to two-thirds of Britons identify themselves as working class. The British Labour Party, which grew out of the organized labour move

From Yahoo Answers

Question:I notice in some sociology grids or papers, they will list upper class, upper middle and middle class, working, and lower class. I wonder what factors make a distinction between working and lower? I always would've grouped working class as anything under middle. I know it's probably income, but are there other factors that separate the two categories. Can you give examples of the types of industries and jobs that would fall in the two categories?

Answers:More or less this is simply income. Working class is those people employed in lower tier jobs like garbage men. The lower class have these sorts of jobs but they drift between employment and unemployment often, and usually stay close to the poverty line. Most of the people in these classes are part of the mid 40% of Americans that don't have a college degree. There is also a sort of social distinction in that the lower class is sometimes sort of alienated from the general community but stick together in close groups.

Question:Does the lower class tend to talk about task or goal oriented things more or less than feelings and so on ? Do the upper class tend not to "do" but figure out a way to get someone else to "do"? In communications do the lower class tend to stick to commands or feelings ? In the upper class do they tend to communicate in commands or in feelings Which one of these groups manipulates the emotional state of those around them better - Which one of these groups manipulates the phisical enviourment better ?

Answers:The feelings of the lower class directed towards the upper class are not one of love and well-being. They are of envy and perhaps hatred. ***Do the upper class tend not to "do" but figure out a way to get someone else to "do"?*** Quite right - they live in luxury and never get their hands dirty. They leave that to the lower class to serve them, work for them. ***In communications do the lower class tend to stick to commands or feelings ?*** They are used to obey the commands of the upper class. As to feelings - they despise those who give the commands. ***Which one of these groups manipulates the emotional state of those around them better - Which one of these groups manipulates the physical environment better ?*** It appears quite obvious - those at the top, the upper class is way more sophisticated than the dumb, intimidated lower class which are deliberately kept on a short leach to toil just to make ends meet. That way they don't have any time to think for any solutions out......of their (from above) imposed misery.

Question:I'm a middle class African American and I notice a lot of things about the class differences that we are divided into. Why is it that Upper class African Americans always seem too good to be associated with middle and lower class African American? They may associate with some middle class African Americans but not many. My Next question is, why do lower class African Americans tend to show an additude toward middle class African Americans? Do you think African Americans make it harder for themselves by breaking themselves into social classes?

Answers:Well it's all on the experiences of everyone. I'm not lower class, but I'm not middle class either and definetly not upper class. I don't know how to say this without offending anyone. Some lower and middle class black people think that the upper class and even middle class are spoiled rotten, loved by society, and submit themselves as "Uncle Toms"/Oreos/Coconuts, whichever you want to call it. They feel they may take things for granted, like hot water, cable/satelite, having a car, and having heat in the house. I can answer this because I had these feelings before. I remember in high school, we were doing an activity about making a budget, and I was grouped these two upper middle class girls. I didn't have a problem with them because they were not too bad. Anyway, they were asking me for my input and I told them to add in "a Cable Bill". They told me that a cable bill "was nothing". I'll have to admit, I did think that they were spoiled crapless by them saying that, but that may have been my own ignorance. I also have an experience with an upper classed black man who I was just conversating with while waiting on the bus at college. I forgot how the conversation came up but I said, "You know, I wish that we could help my friends and their families living in the ghetto. I'm not better off myself, but I don't have to worry about drugs or anything that's a harm to my life. They should be able to want a better life without doing it dangerously." (I went to a almost all black high school which is why I didn't say "black friends". Just FYI) And then he said something that shocked the hell out of me...he said, "Yeah. Those "ghetto fabulous" people make me sick sometimes. They should just get a damn job so they can stop complaining and stealing things because they are making people like me and you look bad. They got equal oppourtunity now." So I told him, "I live in (insertsmalltownhere) and lower classed black people aren't all like that. You'd be surprised how many of them go to school, make great grades, and have a ton of community service just to be turned down by jobs just because they didn't come from a productive neighborhood or they don't know anybody that is important." His phone rang after that but it seemed like a wrong number. He didn't talk to me after he got off the phone. ....... I know some people forget where they come from and I know some that are very down to earth. Sorry if this answer is a little boring.

Question:I have noticed that most of the self made upper class African Americans i have met don't see racism as a huge issue at all, now i don't neither and i'm middle lower class but the other folks from where i use to live saw it differently. And if i ever went to the lower class area of my old neighborhood which was predominantly black and asked them they would say racism is a serious and widespread issue. So why such the difference in opinions regarding racism or does financial class relate to how much racism an individual encounters. What do you think?

Answers:They're the exceptions, they don't let themselves depend on welfare handouts

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