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Social Class • Karl Marx

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Western University
Sociology 2105A/B

Measuring Social Class • Karl Marx defined class as all people who share a common relationship to the means of production (e.g., land, factories, machines, tools, raw materials, labor) • Marx argued that there are two fundamental social classes: 1) the bourgeoisie – those who own the means of production (the capitalist class) 2) the proletariat – those who do not own the means of production and are thus compelled to work for the capitalists - These classes have opposite interests and thus their relationship is characterized by inequality, exploitation, and conflict • Max Weber held that class consisted of three interrelated components: 1) Wealth, or economic status 2) Power, or political status 3) Prestige, or social status - An individual may rank highly on one dimension of class membership, but lower on the other two; however, these dimensions tend to be tightly correlated (positively) 1) Wealth – consists of property and income. Property comes in many forms, such as buildings, land, animals, machinery, cars, stocks, bonds, businesses, and bank accounts. Income is money received as wages, rents, interest, royalties, or the proceeds from a business. - Large differences of income and wealth have existed as long as these data have been collected. Wealth is highly concentrated. The majority of wealth, 68 percent, is owned by only 10 percent of the nation’s families. The super-rich, the richest 1 percent of U.S. families, are worth more than the entire bottom 90
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