We explain what a social class is and why they exist. In addition, what are the different classes that we find today.
Social classes are understood as the different human groups in which a given society is stratified , based on its related social and economic conditions, that distinguish them from other existing classes. These conditions may have to do with their position within the economic pyramid of consumption , their position within the socio-productive dynamics or their location within a bureaucratic structure.
Social classes constitute related and hierarchical segments , often opposed or enmity (see the Class Struggle of Marxism) of society , endowed with common interests and related political aspirations. All of them would be, according to Marxism, in a struggle to assume the leadership of society, by controlling the means of production of goods.
Normally social classes are not closed groups, but there is a mobility of classes that allows the ascent or descent of the hierarchical pyramid of society; but a certain resistance in the upper classes is also accused in the face of the sudden rise of those who do not consider as social equals.
This model of society originated in the West after the fall of the medieval feudal model (from the fifteenth century), in which the social strata were much more immovable, since they were assigned by inheritance or ancestry. That is, it was born in a noble or peasant family, and belonged to that stratum for a lifetime, unless very unique conditions occurred (marriages, wars , etc.).
For the philosophy of Marxism, social classes in the capitalist era are determined by the control of the means of production , since the prevailing bourgeoisie (the old commercial middle classes of the Renaissance ) use them to exploit the working class, buying them their labor force in exchange for a monthly salary .
Marxism explains that this arrangement serves only to maximize the gain ( surplus value ) of the bourgeois, and that eventually the impoverished and exploited masses would understand the need to rebel and change the system, implanting the dictatorship of the proletariat and thus initiating the transition to communism, a society devoid of classes.
This thesis is based on the class struggle , according to which there is a struggle between the sectors of society for the distribution of goods and their political and economic control. For Marxism the classes are three: the bourgeoisie, the proletariat and the lumpen (the unproductive and parasitic sectors).
In today’s consumer society there are three major classes, distinguished by their purchasing power and their role within the financial and productive dynamics of capitalism . The parameters to distinguish one from the other are not, however, usually too uniform. Broadly speaking, we talk about:
- Upper class . The most powerful class that accumulates the highest percentage of economic power (properties, companies , national and international capitals ). They tend to be owners of corporations, landowners, heirs of wealthy families whose prestige position allows a life of comfort, education and opportunities. They usually have a prominent influence on the politics and conduct of societies.
- Middle class . The middle class, whose limits are more diffuse, groups from professional workers, smallholders and small business class. It aims to increase its status and differentiate itself from the lower class, so they are often consumers of status symbols. It is usually classified into lower middle class, middle class and upper middle class, according to their economic income and lifestyle.
- Low class . The working class, working, dispossessed. They do not own property or capital and must work to survive, often without too many educational or personal development opportunities. It is what is commonly called “poor”, although this term is imprecise and even pejorative. The most economically vulnerable sectors, who live in marginal areas or even the destitute and unproductive sectors are also lower class.