Sociology Index


There have been several different approaches to defining the term middle class.

(1) In Karl Marx's (1818-1883) analysis of class, the middle class is the ‘petite bourgeoisie’ who are in small scale independent business or craft or who have special skills that provide an income outside the wage system of employed labour.

Marx assumed that middle class would diminish in number as capitalist enterprises developed, consolidated into larger units and eliminated small-scale competition.

(2) The term middle class can also be used statistically to define a group of individuals who occupy an intermediate position in a society's income strata: for example those who earn between 66% and 133% of a society's average family incomes.

These are attempts to define the middle class objectively, by some standard of measurement, but a more subjective view is possible: the middle class are those individuals who orient themselves to the values and expectations they consider normative for average members of their society.

A phrase suggesting that children and young people from the lower class often find themselves in situations in which they are measured against middle class standards.

The school, for example, rests on the middle class values of reading and writing and the teachers are primarily middle class.

Lower class children often realize they are never going to ‘measure up’ so anticipate failure, become frustrated, or drop out of school.

They may also begin to move towards other marginal students in the school and become engaged in deviant behavior or criminal activity.