Since the dawn of humanity, social classes have existed in just about every known culture. While much is made of them in the media and academia alike, they are surprisingly simple to define; a group of individuals with similar socioeconomic backgrounds. While each member’s political views might vary, though normally not to radical extents, all hold a relatively common standard of living. Due to this set standard, they often associate with like minds and consequently have little in common with those in other classes.
This creates, essentially, separate universes within a specific geographic area. For example, an upper class housewife is unlikely to have her children enrolled in a public private school. Therefore, she has no necessity to mingle with the average public school parent, who is typically lower middle to working class. Likewise, a working class male seldom has the spare time to play a round of golf, or money for course membership, so he is left with no need to socialize among his wealthier contemporaries. Such scenarios, and countless more like them, are the reasons for a great deal of society’s cultural clashes. Very few are rooted in the idea of those in opposite groups actively despising one another on an individualistic basis; rather, one group establishes norms which conflict with the other’s. Themes such as ethnicity, race, religion, gender, and most importantly, economics can be counted on to play huge roles here.
Because social classes exist in a seemingly contradictory manner, being easy to define yet complex to describe or analyze, it should come as no surprise that different sociologists have quite different takes on exactly how it is that classes are formed and interact. The most popular perspectives on class differentiation and its relative social stratification can be squarely attributed to two men: Karl Marx and Max Weber. Both agreed on very little, if anything at all, but nonetheless brought serious questions to the table about the core elements of civilization.
Marx, the godfather of revolutionary socialism, was the son of an affluent German-Jewish vineyard owner. Despite initially enjoying the benefits of his family’s wealth, he would grow to viscerally despise capitalism upon studying literature and history. Viewing class differentiation as the reason for all social, financial, and political inequality, he honed in on what he saw as the two competing mega-classes. A combine of businesspersons and aristocrats made the bourgeoisie, and principally non-landowning workers were the proletariat. Marx believed that the proletariat was being badly exploited, and the bourgeoise continuing this would trigger a mass revolution. He hoped that, as a result of this upheaval, the moneyed would be overthrown and replaced by the poor. Then a system of government could be forged that would allow for total equality in the above mentioned senses.