Political Aspects of Definition of Class and Social Class

In addition to purely economic criteria frequently used to define class or social class, there comes in second place the question of how status is affected by politics. Do Republicans constitute one social class, Democrats another, and Socialists still a third? If a section of the population is unable to exercise the franchise, does it, therefore, constitute a "class"?

Only in some communities does it occur to people directly to identify one's social status with one's political party, as between the two major parties of this country. Limited social discrimination is, however, frequently exercised in some circles against a person because he is a member of the Republican or Democratic party.

But the problem of the radical or workers' party or parties offers much more difficulty. Is not the workers' party, whatever its name, a class party? Does not everyone who votes and works for this party consider himself to be a member of the working class? Is a radical intellectual socially as well as politically a member of the struggling lower orders of society?

Social Status and the class struggle. Is there a direct connection between the social classes and the class struggle? Recently a sociological textbook identified the two. 41 Here the classes are defined as the two competitive groups, capitalists and laborers, in a struggle for economic goods. The authors state: 42

Although we are not quite clear what we mean when we call someone a capitalist and another a worker, yet if J.P. Morgan and John, the ditch digger, were brought together we would have little difficulty in distinguishing the two, not only by their appearance, but, more important for the sociologist, by their attitudes, their stereotyped notions about each other, their prejudices, antipathies, and loyalties. The "working class" man is a part of a culture complex. His place in the economic struggle gives him common interests with others of low income and with others who work in factories and are dependent upon wages paid by the boss. If they are conscious of these common interests and do something about it, such as supporting each other's strikes, they show signs of becoming "class conscious."

Here we are confronted with organizations (whether strictly on the political front or in the field of industrial warfare in this instance being of no consequence), with a community of interests. The differences between organizations, according to Sorokin, 43 create a basis for what is nowadays called class-differentiation, with its class antagonisms and class friction.

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41. Robert L. Sutherland and Julian L. Woodward, Introductory Sociology (Chicago, 1937) pp. 360-361.

42. Loc. cit.

43. Pitirim Sorokin, Social Nobility (New York, 1927) pp. 439-440.