Social Research Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012-18, Social Research Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 24 January, 2018 , © Lee Harvey 2012–2018.


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core definition

Class in social science is a division of a society based on social and economic status, also refered to as social class.

explanatory context


analytical review

Elwell's Glossary of Sociology (undated) defines class thus:

Class: Most sociologists use the term to refer to socioeconomic differences between groups of individuals which create differences in their life chances and power.


Raynet Sociology Glossary (undated):

Class (social class) - A large category or group of people within a system of social stratification who have a similar socioeconomic status in relation to other socioeconomic segments of the society or community. A social class is not necessarily organized (but may become so, as in the case of the Marxian working-class), but the individuals who compose it are relatively similar in political, economic, educational, occupational, and prestige status. Those who are part of the same social class have similar life-chances. Max Weber has defined class in this manner, i.e., in terms of the expectations in life that an individual may have. One's class position yields certain probabilities (or life-chances) as to the fate one may expect in society. Of course, the Marxian definition of social class is in terms of a class's objective position or relation to the means of production in society - thus, not being explicitly concerned with other sociological criteria like occupational status, income, etc.


Richard Schaefer (2017):

Class: A term used by Max Weber to refer to a group of people who have a similar level of wealth and income.

Class system: A social ranking based primarily on economic position in which achieved characteristics can influence mobility.

associated issues


related areas

See also


Elwell's Glossary of Sociology, undated, available at, page not available 20 December 2016.

Raynet Sociology Glossary, undated, available at, no longer available 20 December 2016.

Schaefer, R. T., 2017, 'Glossary' in Sociology: A brief introduction, Fourth Edition, originally c. 2000, McGraw-Hill. Available at, site dated 2017, accessed 11 June 2017.

copyright Lee Harvey 2012–2018

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