class, status and party

class, status and party

three ideal-typical (see IDEAL TYPE), partly competing, partly interrelated, key ways in which, according to WEBER (1922), societies can be seen as hierarchically and politically divided.

We may speak of‘class’, says Weber and his interpreters, when:

  1. a number of people have in common ‘a specific causal component of their LIFE CHANCES’;
  2. this component is determined by economic interests in the possession of goods and opportunities for income within commodity or labour markets.

Thus class may also be referred to as market situation. Classes in this sense need not be communities or collectivities; they merely represent ‘possible’, albeit ‘frequent’, bases of collective action. In contrast, for Weber, 'S tatus’ is normally a matter of actual groupings of individuals. As opposed to purely economically determined ‘class situation’, status situation is any typical component’ of the life fate of people that is determined by a ‘specific, positive or negative, social estimation of honour’. While 'S tatus’ can be linked with ‘class’, it need not be, and may also on occasions counteract it.

‘Party’ refers to POLITICAL PARTIES. In the circumstances in which these arise -especially, but not only, in modern societies – they may be based on 'S tatus’ or ‘class’, or both, or neither of these. Thus, for Weber, the analysis of class and social stratification could not be reduced to the simple terms sometimes involved in ‘vulgar’ versions of Marxism and historical materialism. In Webers analysis, though class interests may often be the basis of collective political and social action, there is no general tendency for class interests to lead to simple CLASS POLARIZATION or to REVOLUTIONARY CHANGE. Weber's ideas on ‘class, status and party’ have been widely influential, e.g. see MULTIDIMENSIONAL ANALYSIS OF SOCIAL STRATIFICATION. See also CLASS, SOCIAL STRATIFICATION.

Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000