intermediate classes

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Fig. 16 Intermediate class or intermediate strata: the several types of class groupings which under capitalism fall outside the simple Marxist dichotomous model of class and class conflict.

intermediate classes


intermediate strata

(MARXISM) in CAPITALIST SOCIETY, those CLASSES standing intermediate between the capitalist (or bourgeois) class and the PROLETARIAT, and belonging to neither (see Fig. 16). As summarized by Hodges (1961), these class groupings can be seen as consisting of transitional’ classes of four basic types:
  1. ‘artisans’, who employ no-one and are not themselves employed, who because of this might be seen as lying ‘outside the capitalist system’, and hence also outside its system of classes;
  2. the PETTY BOURGEOISIE, i.e. those relatively small employers who are relatively limited users of capital, and are themselves often ‘politically oppressed’ under capitalism;
  3. commercial and supervisory intermediate class groups acting on behalf of capitalists, primarily as the ‘realizers’ rather than producers of SURPLUS VALUE who, while their income derives from the proceeds of the exploitation of the proletariat, are themselves often politically oppressed, and may sometimes be exploited given that they also sometimes produce surplus value;
  4. the ‘NEW MIDDLE CLASS’, i.e. professional, technical experts who, while partly productive in the sense that they produce surplus value, and may themselves be exploited, also receive salaries which in part are the fruits of exploitation. They can also be seen as being denied full power under capitalism, and thus potentially have interests in the replacement of capitalism, although benefiting from it in part.

In the classical Marxist view, these class locations are seen as likely to be transitional under capitalism, though in different ways. Thus (a) and (b) can be held to consist mainly of a survival from precapitalist patterns of class, and as tending to decline in importance, while (c) and (d) are hypothesized to crystallize into capitalist or proletarian positions, given the tendency for CLASS POLARIZATION to occur in capitalist societies. In the main, this process of crystallization was assumed likely to be in the direction of PROLETARIANIZATION, or at least include an increasing recognition by the members of these classes of interests opposed to capitalism. Subsequent empirical patterns of class locations, CLASS CONSCIOUSNESS and class action among intermediate groups, however, suggest a complexity of CLASS INTERESTS, which has lead to a great variety of neo-Marxist and non-Marxist accounts and theories of class within capitalist societies and the place of intermediate class groupings within these. See also CAPITALISM AND CAPITALIST MODE OF PRODUCTION, CLASS BOUNDARIES, MULTIDIMENSIONAL ANALYSIS OF SOCIAL STRATIFICATION, COLLECTIVE LABOUR, CONTRADICTORY CLASS LOCATIONS, DAHRENDORF, INTELLECTUAL LABOUR, NEW CLASS, PROFESSION, SERVICE CLASS, SOCIAL CLOSURE, STATUS CONSISTENCY AND INCONSISTENCY.

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