class boundariesthe more or less clearly defined dividing lines held to exist between CLASSES within a society or particular types of society. Debates have existed particularly about the boundaries between classes in CAPITALIST SOCIETIES.Such debates have been especially important within Marxism, but also have a more general significance, both theoretically (e.g. in relation to assessments of CLASS INTERESTS and likely class action, see EMBOURGEOISEMENT, AFFLUENT WORKERS, CLASS IMAGERY, MULTIDIMENSIONAL ANALYSIS OF SOCIAL STRATIFICATION) or, more mundanely, in the construction of classificatory schemas in connection with analysis and accounts of SOCIAL STRATIFICATION and SOCIOECONOMIC STATUS.
Within Marxism and neo-Marxism, debates have centred not only on the location and the implications of the locations of class boundaries, but also on whether the assumption can be maintained that all individual or collective class positions can be ‘located uniquely within particular classes’, or whether there exist many class locations which in terms of main classes must be seen as CONTRADICTORY CLASS LOCATIONS. Theoretically and politically, a good deal hinges on decisions on the existence and location of class boundaries, e.g. the size, political role, and the centre of gravity and ‘leadership’ of the working class, or the role of INTERMEDIATE CLASSES OR INTERMEDIATE STRATA or the NEW MIDDLE CLASS. Theorists such as Eric Ohlin Wright (1985), for example, argued that groups such as the ‘middle class within capitalist societies’ are ‘constituted by locations which are simultaneously in the capitalist class and the working class’. The implications of this, however, may or may not be seen as indicating a loss of saliency for Marx's basic notions of class (see COLLECTIVE LABOUR, GLOBAL CAPITALIST).