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definitions - Middle-class

middle-class (adj.)

1.occupying a socioeconomic position intermediate between those of the lower classes and the wealthy

middle class (n.)

1.the social class between the lower and upper classes

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definition of Wikipedia

synonyms - Middle-class

middle class (n.)

bourgeoisie, citizenry

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see also - Middle-class

middle class (n.)


middle-class (adj.)

low-class, lower-class, upper-class

analogical dictionary

middle class (n.)


Middle class


The middle class is a class of people in the middle of a societal hierarchy. In Weberian socio-economic terms, the middle class is the broad group of people in contemporary society who fall socio-economically between the working class and upper class. The common measures of what constitutes middle class vary significantly between cultures.


  History and evolution of the term

The term "middle class" is first attested in James Bradshaw's 1745 pamphlet Scheme to prevent running Irish Wools to France.[1][2] The term has had several, sometimes contradictory, meanings. It was once defined by exception as an intermediate social class between the nobility and the peasantry of Europe.[by whom?] While the nobility owned the countryside, and the peasantry worked the countryside, a new bourgeoisie (literally "town-dwellers") arose around mercantile functions in the city. Another definition equated the middle class to the original meaning of capitalist: someone with so much capital that they could rival nobles. By this definition, only millionaires and billionaires are middle class in modern times. In fact, to be a capital-owning millionaire was the essential criterion of the middle class in the industrial revolution. In France, the middle classes helped drive the French Revolution.[3]

The modern sociological usage of the term "middle class", however, dates to the 1911 UK Registrar-General's report, in which the statistician T.H.C. Stevenson identified the middle class as that falling between the upper class and the working class. Included as belonging to the middle class are professionals, managers, and senior civil servants. The chief defining characteristic of membership in the middle class is possession of significant human capital.

Within capitalism, middle class initially referred to the bourgeoisie and petite bourgeoisie. However, with the immiserisation and proletarianisation of much of the petit bourgeois world, and the growth of finance capitalism, middle class came to refer to the combination of labour aristocracy, professionals and white collar workers.

The size of the middle class depends on how it is defined, whether by education, wealth, environment of upbringing, social network, manners or values, etc. These are all related, though far from deterministically dependent. The following factors are often ascribed in modern usage to a "middle class":[by whom?]

  • Achievement of tertiary education.
  • Holding professional qualifications, including academics, lawyers, chartered engineers, politicians and doctors regardless of their leisure or wealth.
  • Belief in bourgeois values, such as high rates of house ownership and jobs which are perceived to be "secure".
  • Lifestyle. In the United Kingdom, social status has historically been linked less directly to wealth than in the United States,[4] and has also been judged by pointers such as accent, manners, place of education, occupation and the class of a person's family, circle of friends and acquaintances.[5][6]
  • Cultural identification. Often in the United States, the middle class are the most eager participants in pop culture whereas the reverse is true in Britain.[7]

The second generation of new immigrants will often enthusiastically forsake their traditional folk culture as a sign of having arrived in the middle class.[citation needed]

In the United States by the end of the twentieth century, more people identified themselves as middle class than as lower or "working" class (with insignificant numbers identifying themselves as upper class).[8] The British Labour Party, which grew out of the organized labour movement and originally drew almost all of its support from the working class, reinvented itself under Tony Blair in the 1990s as "New Labour", a party competing with the Conservative Party for the votes of the middle class as well as the working class. By 2011, almost three quarters of British people were also found to identify themselves as Middle Class.[9]


In Marxism, which defines social classes according to their relationship with the means of production, the "middle class" is said to be the class below the ruling class and above the proletariat in the Marxist social schema. Marxist writers have used the term in two distinct but related ways.[10] In the first sense it is used for the bourgeoisie, the urban merchant and professional class that stood between the aristocracy and the proletariat in the Marxist model. However, in modern developed countries, the bourgeoisie is taken to be the class that owns and controls the means of production, and is thus considered the ruling class in capitalist societies. As such, some Marxist writers specify the petite bourgeoisie – owners of small property who may not employ wage labor – as the "middle class" between the ruling and working classes.[10] Marx himself regarded this version of the "middle class" as becoming merged with the working classes.[10] The fact that recent decades have seen a large section of small businessmen (shopkeepers, restaurants) replaced by wage-workers (in supermarkets or chains of restaurants) has led most marxists to theorize an expansion of the working class at the expense of the middle class.

  Recent growth of the global middle class

In February 2009, The Economist announced that over half the world's population now belongs to the middle class, as a result of rapid growth in emerging countries. It characterized the middle class as having a reasonable amount of discretionary income, so that they do not live from hand to mouth as the poor do, and defined it as beginning at the point where people have roughly a third of their income left for discretionary spending after paying for basic food and shelter. This allows people to buy consumer goods, improve their health care, and provide for their children's education. Most of the emerging middle class consists of people who are middle-class by the standards of the developing world but not the rich one, since their money incomes do not match developed country levels, but the percentage of it which is discretionary does. By this definition, the number of middle class people in Asia exceeded that in the West sometime around 2007 or 2008.[11]

The Economist's article pointed out that in many emerging countries the middle class has not grown incrementally, but explosively. The rapid growth results from the fact that the majority of the people fall into the middle of a right-skewed bell-shaped curve, and when the peak of the population curve crosses the threshold into the middle class, the number of people in the middle class grows enormously. In addition, when the curve crosses the threshold, economic forces cause the bulge to become taller as incomes at that level grow faster than incomes in other ranges. The point at which the poor start entering the middle class by the millions is the time when poor countries get the maximum benefit from cheap labour through international trade, before they price themselves out of world markets for cheap goods. It is also a period of rapid urbanization, when subsistence farmers abandon marginal farms to work in factories, resulting in a several-fold increase in their economic productivity before their wages catch up to international levels. That stage was reached in China some time between 1990 and 2005, when the middle class grew from 15% to 62% of the population, and is just being reached in India now.

The Economist predicted that surge across the poverty line should continue for a couple of decades and the global middle class will grow enormously between now and 2030.

As the American middle class is estimated at approximately 45% of the population,[12][13][14] The Economist's article would put the size of the American middle class below the world average. This difference is due to the extreme difference in definitions between The Economist's and many other models.[discuss]

In 2010, a working paper by the OECD estimated that 1.8 billion people were now members of the global middle class.[15]

  Professional-managerial class

In 1977 Barbara Ehrenreich and her then husband John defined a new Marxist class in United States as "salaried mental workers who do not own the means of production and whose major function in the social division of labor...(is)...the reproduction of capitalist culture and capitalist class relations"; the Ehrenreichs named this group the "professional-managerial class".[16] This group of middle-class professionals are distinguished from other social classes by their training and education (typically business qualifications and university degrees),[17] with example occupations including academics and teachers, social workers, engineers, managers, nurses, and middle-level administrators.[18] The Ehrenreichs developed their definition from studies by André Gorz, Serge Mallet, and others, of a "new working class", which, despite education and a perception of themselves as being middle class, were part of the working class because they did not own the means of production, and were wage earners paid to produce a piece of capital.[19] The professional-managerial class seeks higher rank status and salary,[20] and tend to have incomes above the average for their country.[21]

Compare the term "managerial caste".[22]

  See also



  1. ^ "middle class, n. and adj.". OED Online. March 2012. Oxford University Press. 18 May 2012
  2. ^ James Bradshaw (1745). A scheme to prevent the running of Irish wools to France: and Irish woollen goods to foreign countries. By prohibiting the importation of Spanish wools into Ireland, ... Humbly offered to the consideration of Parliament. By a Merchant of London. printed for J. Smith, and G. Faulkner. pp. 4–5. http://books.google.com/books?id=AJdbAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA4. Retrieved 18 May 2012. 
  3. ^ Georges Lefebvre, La Révolution Française, 1951 1957
  4. ^ "Who is the Middle Class?". PBS. 25 June 2004. http://www.pbs.org/now/politics/middleclassoverview.html. Retrieved 19 April 2011. 
  5. ^ "Survey on Class". Ipsos MORI. 19 March 2008. http://ipsos.co.uk/researchpublications/researcharchive/160/Survey-on-Class.aspx. Retrieved 18 April 2011. 
  6. ^ "Perceptions of Social Class (trends)". Ipsos MORI. 19 March 2008. http://ipsos.co.uk/researchpublications/researcharchive/poll.aspx?oItemId=2404&view=wide. Retrieved 18 April 2011. 
  7. ^ http://women.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/women/families/article1955405.ece Discusses middle class snobbery as regards popular culture.
  8. ^ "Room for Debate: Who Should Be the Judge of Middle Class?". The New York Times. 2010-12-23. http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2010/12/22/what-does-middle-class-mean-today/who-should-be-the-judge-of-middle-class. 
  9. ^ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-13626046 Discusses middle class snobbery as regards popular culture.
  10. ^ a b c Communist League Britain, Marxism and Class: Some definitions. undated. http://www.mltranslations.org/Britain/Marxclass.htm at §The 'Middle Class'
  11. ^ Parker, John (2009-02-12). "Special report: Burgeoning bourgeoisie". The Economist. 2009-02-13. http://www.economist.com/specialreports/displayStory.cfm?story_id=13063298&source=hptextfeature. Retrieved 2009-12-13 
  12. ^ Gilbert, D. (2002) The American Class Structure: In An Age of Growing Inequality. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth; Thompson, W. & Hickey, J. (2005).
  13. ^ Society in Focus. Boston, MA: Pearson, Allyn & Bacon; Beeghley, L. (2004).
  14. ^ The Structure of Social Stratification in the United States. Boston, MA: Pearson, Allyn & Bacon.
  15. ^ http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/12/52/44457738.pdf)
  16. ^ Stewart Clegg, Paul Boreham, Geoff Dow; Class, politics, and the economy. Routledge. 1986. ISBN 978-0-7102-0452-3. http://books.google.com/?id=Iu0NAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA158&dq=Professional/Managerial+Class&q=Professional%2FManagerial%20Class. Retrieved 2009-10-04. 
  17. ^ Philip Green, Retrieving democracy: in search of civic equality Rowman & Littlefield. books.google.com. 1985. ISBN 0-8476-7405-3. http://books.google.com/?id=DZJI9IXbLZwC&pg=PA14&dq=Professional/Managerial+Class&q=Professional%2FManagerial%20Class. Retrieved 2009-10-04. 
  18. ^ Hidden Technocrats: The New Class and New Capitalism. Transaction Publishers. 1991. ISBN 1-56000-787-7. http://books.google.com/?id=urStiXomlVsC&pg=PA41&dq=Professional/Managerial+Class&q=Professional%2FManagerial%20Class. Retrieved 2009-10-04. 
  19. ^ Between labor and capital - Google Books. books.google.com. 1979. ISBN 978-0-89608-037-9. http://books.google.com/?id=-LPgx62t86gC&pg=PA5&dq=Professional/Managerial+Class&q=Professional%2FManagerial%20Class. Retrieved 2009-10-04. 
  20. ^ The general theory of ... - Google Books. books.google.com. 1998. ISBN 978-0-521-59006-8. http://books.google.com/?id=TOtOkos1LP8C&pg=PA469&dq=Professional+Managerial+Class+salary&q=Professional%20Managerial%20Class. Retrieved 2009-10-04. 
  21. ^ Gail Paradise Kelly, Sheila Slaughter; Women's higher education in comparative perspective. Springer. 1990. ISBN 0-7923-0800-X. http://books.google.com/?id=V-CKcuRAu8EC&pg=PA254&dq=Professional+Managerial+Class+salary&q=Professional%20Managerial%20Class%20salary. Retrieved 2009-10-04. 
  22. ^ Kay, Geoffrey (1975). Development and underdevelopment: a Marxist analysis. Macmillan. pp. 194. ISBN 0-333-15402-9. http://books.google.com/books?id=UO6xAAAAIAAJ. Retrieved 2011-01-01. "[...] the new managerial caste [...] as a force in capitalist society [...]" 

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