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upper classthe topmost class in any society. In modern British society this class can be said to consist of:
- a core of around 25,000 individuals who exercise strategic control over the economy (Scott, 1982);
- a wider group of individuals and families owning considerable, usually inherited, wealth, and distinguished by a distinctive lifestyle.
Since the numbers of individuals involved is relatively small, networks of relationships (e.g. public-school education, upper-class leisure pursuits) play an important part in sustaining the distinctive lifestyle and high social status, as well as the economic and political power, enjoyed by the upper-class. Persons whose family origins are upper-class are also prominent in élite professions, such as the administrative class of the civil service, the judiciary, and the upper echelons of the military, positions which may be seen as upper-class in their own right.