Karl Marx believed that social class is determined by ownership (or non-ownership) of the "means of economic production" - ownership of raw materials, farm land, coal mines, factories, etc. His theory contains the idea of a struggle between two social classes - the Bourgeoisie (the capital owners) and the Proletariat (the non-owner workers).
Like Marx, Max Weber agreed that social class is determined mostly on the basis of unequal distribution of economic power and hence the unequal distribution of opportunity. He also saw that honor, status and social prestige were key factors in determining what social class people belong to. "Life-styles" such as where a person lives and the schools they attend are very important in determining social class. "Life-chances" also determined social class. If a person becomes a respectable member of society it will raise their social class. Party affiliations can also influence social class.
Even though Marx's and Weber's research were both taken into consideration when trying to create an effective means of social stratification, they were not weighted the same. Although the Gilbert model is based on the assumption that class structure develops out of the economic system like the Marxist theory, it is still has much more in common with Weber's more modern theory that dealt with socialism. The aspect that Marxism takes into consideration when referring to the economy is "what a specific person owns determines their class" - a capitalistic viewpoint. If a man owns a factory, he is going to be in a higher social class than someone who works in the factory. In Marxist theory, the middle class is not emphasized or described, but it is clearly present in the Gilbert model. The Gilbert model focuses more on income when referring to how the economic system places people in classes. The income of a person is directly related to a person's educational preparation because better education provides for a better occupation which in turn raises their class level. Weber's model whose ideas suggests that it is not just the economic aspect that determines a person’s class in a stratification system, but it is also highly based on social and political aspects as well that help place people into the class that adequately represents their life. The three main factors that Gilbert used to propose his model were income, education, and occupation.
Six social classes
(over $750,000, mostly from assets) Even though the capitalist class is a very small class of super rich capitalists at the top of the hierarchy, its impact on economy and society is far beyond their numbers. These people contribute their money to political parties and are often owners of newspapers or television stations. They have investments that affect millions of people in the labor force. They tend to only associate with other people from their own class, rarely interacting with people from an inferior class. Even their children are usually segregated attending only the most elite preparatory schools and universities.
Upper middle class
($70,000 or more) The upper middle class is the group in society most shaped by formal education. A college degree is usually required and graduate studies are becoming increasingly required. Most people in this class are technicians, professionals, managers, officials, and proprietors. Children in high school strive to prepare themselves for upper middle class jobs because these type of jobs are symbols of success. Upper-middle-class people are able to purchase status symbols such as cars and homes. They are convinced that they deserve what they have achieved and are mostly satisfied that they have achieved a proper share of the American dream.
Lower middle class
(About $40,000) To attain a middle class job it takes at least a high school diploma. However, many in the middle class have received some form of additional training besides college. The most educated will become semi-professionals, or have low-level managerial jobs. Sales and craft people are also included in this social class. Most Americans consider themselves to be middle class even if they are really not. It is estimated that really about a third of the population is middle class.
(About $25,000) The core of this working class is made up of semi-skilled machine operators. Clerks and salespeople whose tasks are habitual and mechanized and require practically no skill beyond literacy. Brief on the job training can also be considered to be a part of this class. It is estimated that this class includes roughly a third of the population.
(Below $20,000) The working poor class includes unskilled laborers, people in service jobs and some of the lower-paid factory workers. Income is decided on the number of workers in the family and the amount of weeks that they work. The majority of adults have not finished high school. Unable to save money and when retired the working poor depend heavily on their social security pensions to live.
(Below $13,000) These people are under-employed. They suffer from low education, low employability, and/or low income. Some can not work because of their age or they might have a specific disability. Hard times might be magnified because they belong to a minority group who suffers discrimination in the work force
Although the social hierarchy is most obvious at the extremes, it is much harder to either rise or fall from them as well. Differences between classes begin to become blurred when moving away from one of the extremes and towards the center to where the middle and working classes are. It is difficult to get a precise classification.
- Karl Marx (1867). Das Kapital. Retrieved 2009-10-23.
- Reinhard Bendix (1977). Max Weber. pp. 85–87. Retrieved 2009-10-23.
- Dennis Gilbert (2002). The American Class Structure: In An Age of Growing Inequality. Pine Forge Press. ISBN 978-1-4129-5414-3. Retrieved 2009-10-23.
- Gilbert, Dennis, and Joseph A. Kahal. American Class Structure. 4th ed. Belmont: Wadsworth Company, 1992. 1-355.
- Hurst, Charles E. Social Inequality. 6th ed. Boston: Pearson Education, Inc. 1-452.