Types of social classes

The types of social classes are low, middle and high. This general classification is influenced by factors such as income level, the type of economic activity from which this income comes, the level of academic training, access to goods and services, etc.

Social classes are categories based on the productive role of the subjects within the economic dynamics. This includes not only their participation as income generators (or not) but their role as consumers of goods.

A person whose income is minimal will not have access to the same products, services and goods as a wealthy person. These differences have an impact on society and largely determine belonging to a social stratum.

In the past, social categories were rigid strata. Until the Middle Ages, membership in a social class in the West was largely determined by heredity. However, the end of the feudal model and then the Industrial Revolution generated new economic dynamics and social classes, as proposed by Karl Marx and Max Webber in their respective theories.

Although there are currently three large, well-defined strata, they are not static as in the past, but it is possible to change from one social class to another. This is called social mobility.

Lower classMiddle classUpper class
Population typeIt groups together people in situations of economic and social vulnerability.It groups together formal workers, professionals and small and medium-sized entrepreneurs.It groups together the people with the greatest economic power.
Employment situationUnemployed, temporary workers, or low-paid occupations.Fixed jobs with access to work benefits (credit, paid vacations, maternity and midwife leave, etc.).They don’t depend on a job to meet their needs
Income levelTemporary income equal to or less than the minimum wage.Income above the minimum wage.Multiple incomes and well above the average for the population.
Access to basic services (education, health, recreation).Little or no.They use public and private services.They use services of a private nature.
Access to property acquisitionLittle or no.They have the possibility of having some type of property (car, house, own business).They have multiple properties.
Examples 

  • Unskilled laborers.
  • Farm workers.
  • Professionals with university training.
  • Qualified technicians.
  • Employees of large companies.
  • Owners of large companies.
  • People with inherited wealth.
  • Professionals with high-ranking positions (CEO’s, company presidents, regional directors, etc.).

Lower class

They are the people who are in a vulnerable situation due to the absence of stable income or the lack of access to basic services (water, electricity, internet, education, health). These factors make it very difficult to get out of this situation. For those in the lower stratum, access to education is key to achieving social mobility and improving their quality of life.

Examples of the lower class would be people who are unemployed, with temporary jobs or with incomes below the minimum wage in their country.

Middle class

It is made up of the working class. Although they do not have financial freedom since they depend on their income to live, they have a higher standard of living than the lower class and access to the possibility of owning a property (car or house). This is usually due to the fact that their educational background allows them to have access to high-paying jobs or higher benefits (paid vacations, access to mortgage loans, health insurance, etc.).

Examples of members of the middle class are specialized workers or technicians, university professionals, and small and medium-sized merchants.

Upper class

It is the class that has the highest economic level. They have multiple sources of income and do not depend on their job to meet their needs. They have access to excellent quality health and education services, which allows them to perpetuate their quality of life. Due to their privileged position, they tend to influence or participate in the political-economic decisions of the societies in which they live.

Examples of upper-class people are owners of large companies or families with inherited wealth. In some cases, people from other strata manage to move to this social class due to extraordinary circumstances, such as the owners of fast-growing companies, access to managerial positions, sudden riches, etc.

See also:

Social classes according to Marx

For Karl Marx, creator of Marxist theory, capitalism is the economic model generated by the Industrial Revolution. This system, according to Marx, determines the existence of three social classes based on their relationship with the means of production:

The bourgeoisie : it is the ruling class and is made up of the owners of the means of production. They obtain economic benefit through the capital gain or profit added to the products and services they sell.

The proletariat : they are those who work in these means of production. The proletariat exchanges its labor power for a salary that is generally not very proportional to the effort made. This allows them to meet their basic needs, but prevents them from becoming owners of the means of production.

The lumpen or subproletariat : they are those marginalized by the capitalist system since they are neither owners of the means of production nor proletarians. This category includes people in a situation of indigence, unemployed or people who due to their circumstances cannot make any kind of contribution to society.

Webber’s Stratification Theory

Max Webber exposed in his work Economy and Society (1920) his theory of stratification, defined according to the way in which power is distributed in a community or group. According to Webber, power can be economic, political or social.

Based on this, he proposed three strata according to their sphere of influence:

Classes : it is the hierarchy based on the economic power of a society. This determines the ability of its individuals to have access to goods and services. The classes, in turn, have two categories: owners of goods, such as business owners, for example, and non-owners, which would be workers who do not have property of their own, such as a house or their own business.

Estates : it is the hierarchy based on social power, expressed in the formation of status groups based on prestige, reputation, honor, etc. According to Webber, each of these status groups has its own lifestyle and social practices. For example, a group of company executives who meet in certain types of places, use certain brands and play a certain sport.

Parties : this stratum includes people and institutions with influence in political power. Their objective is to exercise power in the community to which they belong and for this they exert influence over it. An example is political parties or organizations.

See also Difference between capitalism and socialism

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