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The first class divisions developed between those who owned and controlled the agricultural land and surplus production and those who were dispossessed of ownership and control i. Prior to the Neolithic period 8, to 10, years ago, there were no classes. Societies were egalitarian and were characterized by equality of condition. For tens of thousands of years, hunter-gatherer societies shared productive property and resources collectively and did not produce economic surpluses.

They could not form class societies. In capitalism, the principle class division is between the capitalist class who live from the proceeds of owning or controlling productive property capital assets like factories and machinery, or capital itself in the form of investments, stocks, and bonds and the working class who live from selling their labour to the capitalists for a wage. In addition, he described the classes of the petite bourgeoisie the little bourgeosie and the lumpenproletariat the sub-proletariat.

The petite bourgeoisie are those like shopkeepers, farmers, and contractors who own some property and perhaps employ a few workers but still rely on their own labour to survive. The lumpenproletariat are the chronically unemployed or irregularly employed who are in and out of the workforce. The relationship to the means of production i. The existence of the bourgeoisie is defined by the economic drive to accumulate capital and increase profit. The key means to achieve this in a competitive marketplace is by reducing the cost of production by lowering the cost of labour by reducing wages, moving production to lower wage areas, or replacing workers with labour-saving technologies.

This contradicts the interests of the proletariat who seek to establish a sustainable standard of living by maintaining the level of their wages and the level of employment in society. It is rare, though not unheard of, for a member of the British royal family to marry a commoner. Kate Middleton had an upper-middle-class upbringing.

Her father was a former flight dispatcher and her mother a former flight attendant. Kate and William met when they were both students at the University of St. Its social hierarchy placed royalty at the top and commoners on the bottom. This was generally a closed system, with people born into positions of nobility. Wealth was passed from generation to generation through primogeniture , a law stating that all property would be inherited by the firstborn son. If the family had no son, the land went to the next closest male relation. Women could not inherit property and their social standing was primarily determined through marriage.

Commoners moved to cities, got jobs, and made better livings. Gradually, people found new opportunities to increase their wealth and power. The long-ago differences between nobility and commoners have blurred, and the modern class system in Britain is similar to that of the United States McKee, Today, the royal family still commands wealth, power, and a great deal of attention. If he abdicates chooses not to become king or dies, the position will go to Prince William.

There is a great deal of social pressure on her not only to behave as a royal but to bear children. The royal family recently changed its succession laws to allow daughters, not just sons, to ascend the throne. Her firstborn son, Prince George, was born on July 22, , so the new succession law is not likely to be tested in the near future. While individual capitalists and individual workers might not see it this way, objectively the class interests clash and define a persistent pattern of management-labour conflict and political cleavage structures in modern, capitalist societies. However, unlike caste systems, class systems are open.

People are at least formally free to gain a different level of education or employment than their parents. They can move up and down within the stratification system. They can also socialize with and marry members of other classes, allowing people to move from one class to another. In other words, individuals can move up and down the class hierarchy, even while the class categories and the class hierarchy itself remain relatively stable.

Though family and other societal models help guide a person toward a career, personal choice plays a role. For example, Ted Rogers Jr. On the other hand, his father Ted Sr. Ted Sr. Most sociologists define social class as a grouping based on similar social factors like wealth, income, education, and occupation. As we note later in the chapter, there is dispute within the discipline about the relative importance of different criteria for characterizing economic position. Whether the Marxist emphasis on property ownership is more important than the Weberian emphasis on gradations of occupational status is a matter for debate.

Either way, the concept of class does imply a shared standard of living based on social factors like wealth, income, education, and occupation. These factors also affect how much power and prestige a person has. In most cases, having more money means having more power or more opportunities. The standard of living is based on factors such as income, employment, class, poverty rates, and affordability of housing. Because standard of living is closely related to quality of life, it can represent factors such as the ability to afford a home, own a car, and take vacations.

Access to a standard of living that enables people to participate on an equal basis in community life is not equally distributed, however. In Canada, a small portion of the population has the means to the highest standard of living. In , the richest 1 percent took In , the median income earner in the top 1 percent earned 10 times more than the median income earner of the other 99 percent Statistics Canada, Wealthy people receive the most schooling, have better health, and consume the most goods and services.

Wealthy people also wield decision-making power. One aspect of their decision-making power comes from their positions as owners or top executives of corporations and banks. They are able to grant themselves salary raises and bonuses. Many people think of Canada as a middle-class society. They think a few people are rich, a few are poor, and most are pretty well off, existing in the middle of the social strata. But as the data above indicate, the distribution of wealth is not even. Millions of women and men struggle to pay rent, buy food, and find work that pays a living wage.

Moreover, the share of the total income claimed by those in the middle-income ranges has been shrinking since the early s, while the share taken by the wealthiest has been growing Osberg, Low income measure: The LIM is defined as half the median family income.


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A person whose income is below that level is said to be in low income. The LIM is adjusted for family size. People are said to be in the low-income group if their income falls below this threshold. The threshold varies by family size and community size, as well as if income is calculated before or after taxes. Market basket measure: The MBM is a measure of the disposable income a family would need to be able to purchase a basket of goods that includes food, clothing, shelter, transportation, and other basic needs.

The dollar value of the MBM varies by family size and composition, as well as community size and location. MBM data are available since only. The three measures produce different results. In , according to each measure, the following numbers of Canadians were living in low income:.

Using the LICO measure results in a decreasing share of people in low income from to , followed by a slight upturn in and The LIM measure results in a share of people in low income that has increased since The news from sociological research into inequality is that the gap in income and wealth between the rich and the poor has been increasing in Canada Osberg, Note: Median income is not the same as average income. This discrepancy does not simply mean that the very rich are increasing their share of the wealth at the expense of the very poor — the middle classes are also losing their share of the wealth.

One way to analyze this trend is to examine the changing distribution of income in Canada over time. In Table 9. Instead, Table 9. Why is this news? For several decades, Lars Osberg notes that the joke was that the study of income inequality was like watching grass grow because nothing ever happened Between and , changes in income inequality were small despite the fact the Canadian economy went through a massive transformation: It transformed from an agricultural base to an industrial base; the population urbanized and doubled in size; the overall production of wealth measured by gross domestic product GDP increased by 4.

As Osberg puts it, the key question was why did economic inequality not change during this period of massive transformation? From until the present, during another period of rapid and extensive economic change in which the overall production of wealth continued to expand, economic inequality has increased dramatically. What happened? Neoliberal policies of reduced state expenditures and tax cuts have been major factors in defining the difference between these two eras. The biggest losers with regard to neoliberal policy, of course, are the very poor.

As Osberg notes, it was not until the s and s that the homeless — those forced to beg in the streets and those dependent on food banks — began to appear in Canada in significant numbers Others have argued that because capitalism is built on the basis of structural inequality, equality of condition is impossible. The idea that equality of opportunity — a meritocracy — actually exists and that it leads to a meaningful access to social mobility — the movement of people from one social position to another — is debatable, as we will see below.

In fact degrees of social inequality vary significantly between jurisdictions. The Gini Index is a measure of income inequality in which zero is absolute equality and one is absolute inequality.

Chinese Translation of The Economics and Ethics of Private Property

This comparison indicates that a much greater equality of condition can exist even under the same pressures of globalization if different social and economic policy models are chosen. If addressing poverty and inequality rather than promoting greater transfers of wealth to the rich is a reasonable goal, a variety of viable policy alternatives are available from which Canadians can choose.

In some countries, like the United Kingdom, class differences can still be gauged by differences in schooling, lifestyle, and even accent. In Canada, however, it is harder to determine class from outward appearances. For sociologists, too, categorizing class is a fluid science. In Marxist class analysis there are, therefore, two dominant classes in capitalism — the working class and the owning class — and any divisions within the classes based on occupation, status, education, etc.

However, class is defined with respect to markets rather than the process of production. This leads to a hierarchical class schema with many gradations. Nevertheless the skill the surgeon sells is valued much more highly in the labour market than that of cable TV technicians because of the relative rarity of the skill, the number of years of education required to learn the skill, and the responsibilities involved in practising the skill. Analyses of class inspired by Weber tend to emphasize gradations of status with regard to a number of variables like wealth, income, education, and occupation.

Based on the Weberian approach, some sociologists talk about upper, middle, and lower classes with many subcategories within them in a way that mixes status categories with class categories. There is an arbitrariness to the division of classes into upper, middle, and lower. Nevertheless it is difficult to see what the life chances of the hockey player have in common with a landscaper or truck driver, despite the fact they might share a common working-class background.

Social class is, therefore, a complex category to analyze. It also has an important subjective component that relates to recognitions of status, distinctions of lifestyle, and ultimately how people perceive their place in the class hierarchy. One way of distinguishing the classes that takes this complexity into account is by focusing on the authority structure.

Classes can be divided according to how much relative power and control members of a class have over their lives. On this basis, we might distinguish between the owning class or bourgeoisie , the middle class, and the traditional working class. In contrast, the traditional working class has little control over their work or lives. Below, we will explore the major divisions of Canadian social class and their key subcategories. Often, Marx and Weber are perceived to be at odds in their approaches to class and social inequality, but it is perhaps better to see them as articulating different styles of analysis.

Thus, Weber provides a multi-dimensional model of social hierarchy. It is important to note that although individuals might be from the same objective class, their position in the social hierarchy might differ according to their status and political influence. For example, women and men might be equal in terms of their class position, but because of the inequality in the status of the genders within each class, women as a group remain lower in the social hierarchy.

With respect to class, Weber also relies on a different definition than Marx. Class is defined with respect to markets rather than the process of production. However, as the value of different types of property e. A skilled tradesman like a pipe welder might enjoy a higher class position and greater life chances in Northern Alberta where such skills are in demand, than a high school teacher in Vancouver or Victoria where the number of qualified teachers exceeds the number of positions available.

If we add the element of status into the picture, the situation becomes even more complex as the educational requirements and social responsibilities of the high school teacher usually confer more social prestige than the requirements and responsibilities of the pipe welder. It has one variable: the relationship to the means of production. If one is a professional hockey player or a clerk in a supermarket, one works for a wage and is therefore a member of the working class. It would seem that hockey players, doctors, lawyers, professors, and business executives have very little in common with grocery clerks, factory or agricultural workers, tradespersons, or low level administrative staff despite the fact that they all depend on being paid by someone.

You will recall the four components of dialectical analysis from Chapter 1: Everything is related; everything changes; change proceeds from the quantitative to the qualitative; and change is the product of the unity and struggle of opposites. The main point of the dialectical analysis of class is that the working class and the owning class have to be understood in relationship to one another. They emerged together out of the old class structure of feudalism, and each exists only because the other exists. In addition, change proceeds from the quantitative to the qualitative in the sense that changes in purely quantitative variables like salary, working conditions, unemployment levels, rates of profitability, etc.

The dialectical approach reveals the underlying logic of class structure as a dynamic system and the potential commonality of interests and subjective experiences that define class-consciousness. As a result, in an era in which the precariousness of many high status jobs has become clearer, the divisions of economic interests between the different segments of the working class becomes less so.

In Canada, the richest 86 people or families account for 0. In terms of income, in the average income of the richest 0. Money provides not just access to material goods, but also access to power. As corporate leaders, their decisions affect the job status of millions of people. As media owners, they shape the collective identity of the nation. They run the major network television stations, radio broadcasts, newspapers, magazines, publishing houses, and sports franchises. As philanthropists, they establish foundations to support social causes they believe in.

They also fund think tanks like the C. Howe Institute and the Fraser Institute that promote the values and interests of business elites. As campaign contributors, they influence politicians and fund campaigns, usually to protect their own economic interests. While both types may have equal net worth, they have traditionally held different social standing. People of old money, firmly situated in the upper class for generations, have held high prestige. Their families have socialized them to know the customs, norms, and expectations that come with wealth. Often, the very wealthy do not work for wages.

Some study business or become lawyers in order to manage the family fortune. New money members of the owning class are not oriented to the customs and mores of the elite. They have not gone to the most exclusive schools. They have not established old-money social ties. People with new money might flaunt their wealth, buying sports cars and mansions, but they might still exhibit behaviours attributed to the middle and lower classes. Many people call themselves middle class, but there are differing ideas about what that means. That helps explain why some sociologists divide the middle class into upper and lower subcategories.

These divisions are based on gradations of status defined by levels of education, types of work, cultural capital, and the lifestyles afforded by income. Professions are occupations that claim high levels of specialized technical and intellectual expertise and are governed and regulated by autonomous professional organizations like the Canadian Medical Association or legal bar associations. Comfort is a key concept to the middle class. Middle-class people work hard and live fairly comfortable lives. Upper-middle-class people tend to pursue careers that earn comfortable incomes. They provide their families with large homes and nice cars.

They may go skiing or boating on vacation. Their children receive quality educations Gilbert, In the lower middle class, people hold jobs supervised by members of the upper middle class. They fill technical, lower-level management or administrative support positions. Compared to traditional working-class work, lower-middle-class jobs carry more prestige and come with slightly higher paycheques. With these incomes, people can afford a decent, mainstream lifestyle, but they struggle to maintain it. They generally do not have enough income to build significant savings.

In addition, their grip on class status is more precarious than in the upper tiers of the class system. When budgets are tight, lower-middle-class people are often the ones to lose their jobs. The traditional working class is sometimes also referred to as being part of the lower class. Just like the middle and upper classes, the lower class can be divided into subsets: the working class, the working poor, and the underclass.

Compared to the middle class, traditional working-class people have less of an educational background and usually earn smaller incomes. While there are many working-class trades that require skill and pay middle-class wages, the majority often work jobs that require little prior skill or experience, doing routine tasks under close supervision. The work is considered blue collar because it is hands-on and often physically demanding. Beneath those in the working class are the working poor.

Like some sections of the working class, they have unskilled, low-paying employment. However, their jobs rarely offer benefits such as retirement planning, and their positions are often seasonal or temporary. They work as migrant farm workers, house cleaners, and day labourers. Some are high school dropouts. Some are illiterate, unable to read job ads. Many do not vote because they do not believe that any politician will help change their situation Beeghley, How can people work full time and still be poor?

Even working full time, more than a million of the working poor earn incomes too meagre to support a family. In , 1. Even for a single person, minimum wage is low. A married couple with children will have a hard time covering expenses. Members of the underclass live mainly in inner cities. Many are unemployed or underemployed. Those who do hold jobs typically perform menial tasks for little pay. Some of the underclass are homeless.

For many, welfare systems provide a much-needed support through food assistance, medical care, housing, and the like. Social mobility refers to the ability to change positions within a social stratification system. When people improve or diminish their economic status in a way that affects social class, they experience social mobility.

A high degree of social mobility, upwards or downwards, would suggest that the stratification system of a society is in fact open i. Upward mobility refers to an increase — or upward shift — in social class. Actor and comedian Jim Carey lived with his family in camper van at one point growing up in Scarborough, Ontario.

Ron Joyce was a beat policemen in Hamilton before he co-founded Tim Hortons. There are many stories of people from modest beginnings rising to fame and fortune. But the truth is that relative to the overall population, the number of people who launch from poverty to wealth is very small. Still, upward mobility is not only about becoming rich and famous.

In Canada, people who earn a university degree, get a job promotion, or marry someone with a good income may move up socially. Some people move downward because of business setbacks, unemployment, or illness. Dropping out of school, losing a job, or becoming divorced may result in a loss of income or status and, therefore, downward social mobility. Intergenerational mobility explains a difference in social class between different generations of a family. For example, an upper-class executive may have parents who belonged to the middle class. In turn, those parents may have been raised in the lower class.

Patterns of intergenerational mobility can reflect long-term societal changes. Intragenerational mobility describes a difference in social class between different members of the same generation. For example, the wealth and prestige experienced by one person may be quite different from that of his or her siblings.


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Structural mobility happens when societal changes enable a whole group of people to move up or down the social class ladder. Structural mobility is attributable to changes in society as a whole, not individual changes. Many people have experienced economic setbacks, creating a wave of downward structural mobility. Many Canadians believe that people move up in class because of individual efforts and move down by their own doing. Others believe that equality of opportunity is a myth designed to keep people motivated to work hard, while getting them to accept social inequality as the legitimate outcome of personal achievement.

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The ideology of equality of opportunity is just a mirage that masks real and permanent structural inequality in society. The rich stay rich, and the poor stay poor. Data that measures social mobility suggest that the truth is a bit of both. Typically social mobility is measured by comparing either the occupational status or the earnings between parents and children.

Some data are available on daughters as well, but it is less common and therefore difficult to use to make cross-national comparisons. The data show that there is a much lower degree of social mobility in the United States than in Canada. While earnings elasticity from data in the United States was 0. This suggests that Canada has a relatively high rate of social mobility and equality of opportunity compared to the United States, where almost 50 percent of sons remain at the same income level as their fathers. The higher degree of social inequality is linked to lower degrees of social mobility.

The main factor that contributes to the difference in the intergenerational earnings elasticity figures is that there is a great degree of intergenerational social immobility at the lower and higher ranges of the income scale in the United States. For example, over 25 percent of sons born to fathers in the top 10 percent of income earners remain in the top 10 percent, compared to about 18 percent in Canada. On the other hand, in the United States, 22 percent of sons born to fathers in the bottom 10 percent of income earners remain in the bottom 10 percent, while another 18 percent only move up to the bottom 10 to 20 percent of income earners.

The figures for Canada are 16 percent and 14 percent respectively Corak et al. For example, the chance that a son born to a father in the 30 to 40 percent or 40 to 50 percent ranges of income earners i. In contrast, a son from the bottom 20 percent of income earners had only a 38 percent chance of moving into the top 50 percent of income earners.

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